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Palafox v. Unknown Parties (Nurse Jane Doe and Officer John Doe)

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 4, 2014

ANASTACIO B. PALAFOX, #N-33550, Plaintiff,
UNKNOWN PARTIES (Nurse Jane Doe And Officer John Doe), Defendants.


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"). Plaintiff is serving a 45-year sentence for home invasion and a five-year sentence for aggravated battery. He claims that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition.

More specifically, Plaintiff states that while he was in segregation and supposedly under a 30-minute watch after declaring a hunger strike, he fell and struck his head on a steel bunk (Doc. 1, p. 6). For two days prior to this injury, Plaintiff had complained to the Defendants that he felt dizzy and ill, but they refused to get him any medical examination or treatment. After he fell, he lay on the floor bleeding for at least an hour before he was found and medical assistance was summoned (Doc. 1, p. 7).

By way of background, Plaintiff explains that he was placed in segregation on December 26, 2012, after being charged with a disciplinary infraction for sexual misconduct (Doc. 1, p. 5). A female officer had observed Plaintiff in the shower area and claimed he was masturbating. Plaintiff denied this, and stated he was merely putting lotion on his body after showering. He protests that female officers should not be allowed to observe or monitor male prisoners in the shower areas. Upon being moved to segregation, Plaintiff declared his hunger strike to protest the "false charges of sexual misconduct" (Doc. 1, p. 6). He was found guilty of the infraction on December 30, 2012, and was punished with six months in "control segregation" and a transfer to a maximum security prison.

In the complaint, Plaintiff states specifically that he did not bring this lawsuit to challenge the disciplinary action or his punishment, but instead seeks redress only for the injuries he suffered from the fall in segregation before his transfer. Id. At the time he fell, Plaintiff had been on hunger strike for two days. A doctor had ordered the 30-minute watch. Despite making several requests for medical care for his dizziness and sick feeling, the two Jane/John Doe Defendants told Plaintiff, "We don't treat prisoners who go on hunger strikes... you can die for all we care" (Doc. 1, p. 6). They ignored his complaints and the 30-minute watch order. As a result, Plaintiff suffered a head wound, bleeding, and pain. He continues to suffer from headaches. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated a colorable federal cause of action against both Defendants (Jane Doe Nurse and John Doe Officer) for deliberate indifference to his medical needs on or about December 26-28, 2012, in that they ignored the risk to Plaintiff's health from his reported dizziness during the hunger strike, and disregarded the 30-minute watch orders, which delayed discovery of Plaintiff's fall and treatment for his head injury.

"A prisoner's claim for deliberate indifference must establish (1) an objectively serious medical condition; and (2) an official's deliberate indifference to that condition. Deliberate indifference is proven by demonstrating that a prison official knows of a substantial risk of harm to an inmate and either acts or fails to act in disregard of that risk. Delaying treatment may constitute deliberate indifference if such delay exacerbated the injury or unnecessarily prolonged an inmate's pain." Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 865 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal citations and quotations omitted). However, a defendant's inadvertent error, negligence or even ordinary malpractice is insufficient to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment constitutional violation. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001). At this stage of the litigation, Plaintiff has sufficiently pled a deliberate indifference claim against the Jane and John Doe Defendants.

Because Plaintiff does not challenge the events leading to his disciplinary charges or the punishment imposed upon him, those matters shall not be addressed herein. In any case, it does not appear that these facts raise any viable constitutional claim.

In order for Plaintiff to proceed with his deliberate indifference claims against the Unknown Defendants, he must identify them by name in an amended complaint. To this end, the Court shall add the Warden of Pinckneyville Correctional Center as a party to this action, in his official capacity only. See FED. R. CIV. P. 21; FED. R. CIV. P. 17(d); Donald v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 95 F.3d 548, 555-56 (7th Cir. 1996) (collecting cases) (courts may employ various means to assist pro se prisoner in identifying parties who may have violated his rights). Plaintiff may then direct discovery to the Warden.

Plaintiff shall note that although the Warden will be named as a party Defendant at this time, he cannot be held liable as a supervisor for the allegedly unconstitutional acts of his subordinate employees. The doctrine of respondeat superior is not applicable to § 1983 actions. Sanville, 266 F.3d at 740.

Further, Plaintiff is advised that an amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original complaint, rendering the original complaint void. See Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 638 n.1 (7th Cir. 2004). The Court will not accept piecemeal amendments to the original complaint. Thus, an amended complaint must stand on its own, without reference to any other pleading. Any exhibits to the complaint must also be ...

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