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Chico v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 2, 2014

MANUEL A. CHICO, #M15445, Plaintiff,
v.
S.A. GODINEZ, DONALD GAETZ, ROBERT J. BRADLEY, J. FALLERT, T. MURRAY, LISA KREBS, WENDY HOLTON, GREG SCHWARTZ, MAJOR MOCABY, MARK A. BURTON, STEPHEN A. JOHNSON, and UNKNOWN DEFENDANT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff Manuel Chico's second amended complaint (Doc. 16). The Court dismissed Plaintiff's original complaint (Doc. 1) on February 13, 2014 (Doc. 8), after determining that it violated the pleading requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. However, the dismissal was without prejudice, and Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended complaint by March 20, 2014 (Doc. 8, p. 6). Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint (Doc. 11) and a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (Doc. 15) before the deadline.[1] Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 15) is timely and is hereby GRANTED. The Clerk shall file the proposed pleading as Plaintiff's "Second Amended Complaint."

The second amended complaint is now ripe for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff sues twelve prison officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that Defendants, [2] who are all employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") and/or Centralia Correctional Center ("Centralia"), failed to protect him from an inmate attack in July 2013 and then subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in segregation that placed his health at risk. Plaintiff sues Defendants for numerous Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. He seeks monetary damages and release from prison[3] (p. 18).

C\ Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of a complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Second Amended Complaint

According to the second amended complaint, all of the events giving rise to this action took place at Centralia in 2013. On July 12th, an inmate allegedly entered Plaintiff's cell and punched him in the head (p. 8). Plaintiff sustained a bloody nose and blunt force trauma to his head.

The same day, Plaintiff reported the assault to prison officials in his housing unit (p. 9). A confidential source who witnessed the assault reported it two days later on July 14th. The perpetrator even admitted hitting Plaintiff in the nose and head. Despite these reports, nothing was done to punish the perpetrator. Defendants Godinez, Gaetz, Bradley, Fallert, Holton, Schwartz, Mocaby, Johnson, and Burton allegedly "responded by ignoring and condoning the physical assault" (p. 8). Instead, Plaintiff was handcuffed and taken to Centralia's health care unit for treatment of his injuries. He was then placed in segregation, pending an investigation of the incident.

At an adjustment committee hearing on July 17th, Plaintiff described the events surrounding his assault (p. 10). Defendant Johnson, Defendant Burton, and Unknown Defendant, who presided over the hearing, refused Plaintiff's request to present a written statement, to submit other supporting documentation, or to call witnesses. In doing so, these defendants allegedly "flagrantly ignored and condoned the assault, " in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (p. 10).

Plaintiff blames Defendants Godinez, Gaetz, and Bradley for failing to prevent the assault in the first place. These defendants allegedly took no steps to enact policies aimed at curbing inmate violence (p. 9). In addition, they failed to implement a policy for reporting physical assaults. Their failure to espouse policies aimed at protecting inmates from physical assault allegedly violated the Eighth Amendment.

Plaintiff also blames Defendants Godinez, Gaetz, and Bradley for conditions he encountered in segregation. These defendants condoned the placement of two inmates in a cell meant for single occupancy ("double celling") (p. 15). The practice allegedly placed inmates, including Plaintiff, at risk of serious physical and emotional harm (pp. 15-16).

Plaintiff claims that he suffered harm as a result of double celling. On July 26th, Defendant Bradley placed an inmate in Plaintiff's cell who was suffering from scabies (p. 11). Scabies is contagious, and Plaintiff is allergic to an ingredient in the ointment his cellmate used to treat the condition (i.e., lanolin). Although his cellmate was removed from the cell the following day, Plaintiff was not spared the consequences of this cell assignment.

On July 27th, Defendant Bradley transferred another inmate into Plaintiff's cell (p. 12). The inmate required a colostomy bag, which allegedly smelled and placed Plaintiff's health at risk. In addition, the inmate had a low bunk permit. Plaintiff was forced to sleep in the top bunk that was previously occupied by the cellmate with scabies.

On July 31st, Plaintiff noticed "a reaction on [his] leg" (p. 12). He put in a sick call request for what he thought was scabies on August 1st. Defendant Krebs responded by visiting his cell on August 3rd. Without examining him, Defendant Krebs disagreed with Plaintiff's assessment. She provided Plaintiff with an antifungal cream.

Plaintiff reported itchiness to a correctional officer on August 5th (p. 13). The correctional officer agreed to bring Plaintiff a different ointment. A day later, hydrocortisone cream arrived. Plaintiff was charged for the ointment. Defendants Murray and Bradley denied his request for reimbursement. Plaintiff now believes that the "reaction" resulted from his allergy to the lanolin in his cellmate's ointment.

Based on the foregoing events, Plaintiff sues Defendants for failing to protect him from an inmate assault, subjecting him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and placing his health at risk, all in violation of the Eighth Amendment. He sues Defendant Burton, Defendant Johnson, and Unknown Defendant for denying him due process of law at the adjustment committee hearing, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Murray and Bradley should have reimbursed him for the hydrocortisone cream that was charged to his account. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and immediate release from prison.

Discussion

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the complaint into five counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim for failure to protect Plaintiff from an inmate attack.
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious ...

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