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Ward v. Tope

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 30, 2014

JOSEPH N. WARD, II, #B-77077, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN HOFFMAN, MR. MORRIS, and MR. TOPE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joseph N. Ward, II, an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). He sues three correctional officers at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard") for using excessive force against him and failing to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks expungement of a disciplinary ticket, a prison transfer, and monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 8).

The Complaint

In the complaint, Plaintiff sues Defendants Hoffman (lieutenant), Morris (officer), and Tope (officer), for events that transpired at Menard on or around June 10, 2012 (Doc. 1, pp. 1-2, 5). On that date, Defendant Hoffman sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray (Doc. 1, p. 5). Defendants Morris and Tope witnessed the incident but failed to intervene and stop Defendant Hoffman from using the pepper spray (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Plaintiff suffers from chronic asthma and, upon inhaling the pepper spray, suffered a severe asthma attack (Doc. 1, p. 5). He collapsed. Menard's medical staff could not revive him. Plaintiff was rushed to Chester Memorial Hospital, where he "awakened" three days later. It was then that he learned what happened after being sprayed. In addition to a severe asthma attack, Plaintiff sustained a bruised left shoulder and left cheek (Doc. 1, p. 7). He continues to suffer short term memory loss and trouble concentrating.

The complaint suggests that Defendants should have known about Plaintiff's asthma (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff alleges that Menard received Plaintiff's medical records when he transferred there in 2008. His medical records describe his diagnosis, treatment, and prescriptions.

Plaintiff now sues Defendant Hoffman for using excessive force against him, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights (Doc. 1, p. 6). He sues Defendants Morris and Tope for failing to intervene and stop Defendant Hoffman from using pepper spray, also in violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff seeks to have his disciplinary record expunged (Doc. 1, p. 7). He also seeks a prison transfer and monetary damages.

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

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint 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 the 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).

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and is subject to dismissal under § 1915A. However, the dismissal shall be without prejudice, and Plaintiff shall be granted leave to file an amended complaint, according to the instructions set forth below.

Discussion

Plaintiff sues all three defendants under the Eighth Amendment. His claim against Defendant Hoffman arises from the use of excessive force, in the form of pepper spray. The claims against Defendant Morris and Tope arise from their failure to stop Defendant Hoffman from using pepper spray.

The Eighth Amendment forbids the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain upon prisoners. It has long been recognized that the "core requirement" of an excessive force claim under the Eighth Amendment is that the defendant "used force not in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, but maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hendrickson v. Cooper, 589 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)). See also Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992); Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 757 (7th Cir. 2010). Factors that guide the Court's analysis of whether an officer's use of excessive force was legitimate or malicious are the need for an application of force, the amount of force used, the threat an officer reasonably perceived, the effort made ...


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