United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
DAVID W. CRITES, #56168, Plaintiff,
CAPTAIN BUNT, LT. HOLLENBOCK, MIKE HARE, SGT. COURT, SGT. DOVER, MADISON COUNTY JAIL STAFF, MEDICAL STAFF, MADISON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT., JOHN J. REKOWSKI, and PUBLIC DEFENDER, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff, who was a pretrial detainee at Madison County Jail ("Jail") on the date he filed this lawsuit,  brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). He sues ten defendants for constitutional claims arising primarily from an inmate assault at the Jail and the staff's subsequent failure to address his medical needs. Among other things, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, repayment of his federal student loans, an apology, plastic surgery, and an order requiring nurses to pass out medication to inmates (Doc. 1, p. 14).
According to the complaint, Plaintiff was assaulted by another inmate around 6:30 p.m. on April 21, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff is epileptic, and the assault triggered a grand mal seizure. He suffered fractured ribs, a hematoma, and facial swelling (Doc. 1, p. 5).
He reported the assault to Officer Nick, who placed the wing on lockdown and took Plaintiff to the "drunk tank" while he investigated the incident (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff was then transferred to the dayroom, where he had a second seizure. When he reported it to Lieutenant Young, Plaintiff was moved a third time to the "attorney-client room." He was given an ice pack at 10:30 p.m. Plaintiff claims that he should have been taken to the hospital, rather than transferred between rooms with concrete floors.
Plaintiff met with a doctor at 9:00 a.m. the following morning. The doctor examined Plaintiff, took his vital signs, and gave him pain killers. The doctor also recommended twenty-four hours of observation, and Plaintiff returned to the drunk tank for this purpose. Although Lieutenant Hollenbock ignored Plaintiff's request for a blanket, Officer Matt Miller provided Plaintiff with ice packs upon request, which Plaintiff "ordered continually" while he was under observation.
Plaintiff is also diabetic (Doc. 1, p. 11). Due to his irregular blood glucose levels, Plaintiff receives two additional "diabetic tray[s]" of food each day. When a nurse mentioned that Plaintiff was not insulin dependent during a medical appointment in April 2014, Sergeant Court stripped Plaintiff of his diabetic slippers, threw him to the ground, and "verbally and physically assaulted" him. Sergeant Court also ordered staff members to refuse all future requests for ice packs, and Sergeant Dover and Hare followed this order. As of May 6, 2014, the date he signed his complaint, Plaintiff had not received a diabetic tray or slippers (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff wrote to Captain Bunt twice and spoke with him directly about these issues, but no action was taken.
The complaint also alleges that jailers typically perform tasks that should be handled by the medical staff. Officers pass out medications. On April 23, 2014, Officer Heck gave Plaintiff pills that were prescribed for Inmate Steve Stevens (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff spit the pills out when he realized the mistake (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff goes on to state, "And, Inmate Steve Stevens 32211 was able to eat them. And, I have a blood disease Hep C" (Doc. 1, p. 13). The complaint further alleges that inmates are "forced to use [the] same razor (electric) as [Plaintiff] with little or no bleach" (Doc. 1, p. 13).
From there, Plaintiff offers a variety of complaints, including a complaint that he was improperly indicted and a complaint that his public defender failed to respond to a letter dated April 22, 2014, on or before May 3, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff also complains about his alleged lack of access to the law library, the cost of haircuts, phone calls, and postage.
Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages (Doc. 1, p. 14). He also seeks plastic surgery. He asks the Court to order Sergeant Court to apologize to Plaintiff and "NOT fire just reprimand" him (Doc. 1, p. 14). He asks that a grievance procedure be put into place at the Jail. Finally, he seeks an order requiring registered nurses to pass out medications.
Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
Accordingly, 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). Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds that several of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants are subject to dismissal under § 1915A.
1. Claims To Be Referred
The events described in the complaint occurred while Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee. Plaintiff's claims therefore arise under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012)). See also Klebanowski v. Sheahan, 540 F.3d 633, 637 (7th Cir. 2008). Most of these events relate to Plaintiff's medical care. Pretrial detainees have a right to adequate medical care under the Fourteenth Amendment, just as convicted prisoners have under the Eighth Amendment. Smith v. Sangamon County Sheriff's Dept., 715 F.3d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 2013); Klebanowski, 540 F.3d at 637; Williams v. Rodriguez, 509 F.3d 392, 401 (7th Cir. 2007). In fact, the Seventh Circuit has "found it convenient and entirely appropriate to apply the same standard to claims arising under the Fourteenth Amendment (detainees) and Eighth Amendment (convicted prisoners) without differentiation.'" Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 n.2 (7th Cir. 1999)).
Relevant to Plaintiff's claims, the Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) ( per curiam ). Deliberate indifference involves a two-part test. The plaintiff must show that: (1) the medical condition was objectively serious, and (2) the state officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs, which is a subjective standard. Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 619 (7th Cir. 2000).
The complaint sets forth two separate medical needs claims, which shall be allowed to proceed: (1) a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claim against Officer Nick, Lieutenant Young, Unknown Doctor, and Captain Bunt, based on their alleged failure to provide Plaintiff with adequate medical care following the assault (Count 1); and (2) a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claim against Sergeant Court and Captain Bunt arising from the denial of Plaintiff's diabetic tray, slippers, and ice packs (Count 2). Plaintiff shall also be allowed to proceed against Defendant Sergeant Court on an excessive force claim (Count 3).
With regard to Count 1, Plaintiff argues that Officer Nick, Lieutenant Young, and the Unknown Doctor should have sent him to the hospital following his assault and grand mal seizure(s), instead of placing him in various rooms with concrete floors and walls. He alleges that Captain Bunt should have assisted Plaintiff in securing necessary medical care.
At this early stage, the complaint describes sufficiently serious injuries to satisfy the objective component of this claim. A medical need is objectively "serious" if it is "one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1371 (7th Cir. 1997). Plaintiff's allegation that he suffered broken ribs, a hematoma, and seizures satisfies the threshold standard.
Turning to the subjective component, the Seventh Circuit has held that non-medical professionals, such as Officer Nick and Lieutenant Young, are "entitled to defer to the judgment of jail health professionals so long as [they] d[o] not ignore [the prisoner]." King v. Kramer, 680 F.3d 1013, 1018 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 440 (7th Cir. 2010)). There is an exception to this rule, however, if "they have a reason to believe (or actual knowledge) that prison doctors or their assistants are mistreating (or not treating) a prisoner." King, 680 F.3d at 1018 (citing Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 527 (7th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted)). Officer Nick and Lieutenant Young were Plaintiff's first contacts following the assault. He told them both about his injuries and his seizure(s). Rather than securing medical treatment for Plaintiff immediately, he was placed in various rooms with ...