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Riley-El v. State

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 10, 2014

WILLIAM RILEY-EL (#B-03069) Plaintiff,
STATE of ILLINOIS, et al., Defendants.


JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff, William Riley-el, presently in custody at Stateville Correctional Center (hereinafter, "Stateville"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has been subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Stateville because the drinking water is contaminated, that it made him ill, and that he has been unable to obtain adequate medical care for his ailments. Plaintiff names as Defendants the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Salvador Godinez; the former warden of Stateville, Marcus Hardy; Assistant Warden Edwards; former Medical Director Imhotep Carter; and Joe Sheehy.

Presently before the Court is Defendants Godinez, Hardy, and Sheehy's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim [#21]. For the reasons contained in this opinion and order, Defendants' motion is denied.

I. Legal Standard

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). Additionally, it is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 681, 687 (7th Cir. 2006). Pro se submissions are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009).

Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. Put differently, a complaint must contain sufficient factual content "to allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Charleston v. Board of Trs. of Univ. of Ill. at Chicago, 741 F.3d 769, 772 (7th Cir. 2013) ( quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). "In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, [courts] accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true." Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013).

To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff must only state his basic legal claim and provide "some indication... of time and place." Thomson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2004). In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court assumes all factual allegations in the complaint to be true, viewing all facts-as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom-in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Parish v. City of Elkhart, 614 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2010); Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 563 ( citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002)). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556.


Plaintiff alleges the following facts in his complaint, which are accepted as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss. On January 5, 2012, while incarcerated at Stateville, Plaintiff drank water that was tainted with radium. The water was brown in color, and smelled of sewage or rotten eggs. Although he complained multiple times by way of grievances and letters to Defendants on January 15, 2012 (to Medical Director Carter), January 30, 2012 (to Assistant Warden Edwards), February 5, 2012 (to Warden Hardy), and February 15, 2012 (to Director Godinez), no Defendant intervened and made any changes to improve the water quality at Stateville. Plaintiff alleges that because of the contaminated water, he developed headaches, stomach pains, diarrhea, that the conditions lasted for more than sixteen days, and that exposure to the contaminated water could lead to cancer. Plaintiff was limited in his ability to purchase bottled water to three times a month by Stateville rules, and was forced to drink the contaminated water.

Plaintiff alleges that he requested medical assistance from Med Tech Joe Sheehy, who gave him almag and milk of magnesia but his condition worsened and although Plaintiff wrote letters about his medical issues, he was not provided any further assistance. Plaintiff asserts that at the time he filed suit, the water in his cell continued to come out of the faucet brown and, presumably contaminated.


A. Plaintiff has Sufficiently Stated a Claim for Unconstitutional Conditions of Confinement.

The Constitution requires correctional officials to house Plaintiff under "humane conditions" and to provide him with adequate food and water, among other basic needs. Sain v. Budz, No. 05 C 6394, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8271, 2006 WL 539351, *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 2006) (Conlon, J.), citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). There is no question that inmates have a constitutional right to an adequate diet. See, e.g., Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1432 (7th Cir. 1996). "The state must provide an inmate with a healthy, habitable environment.' This includes providing nutritionally adequate food that is prepared and served under conditions which do not present an immediate danger to the health and well being of the inmates who consume it." McRoy v. Aramark Correctional Services, Inc., 268 Fed.Appx. 479, 482 (7th Cir. 2008), quoting French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250, 1255 (7th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted); Jubeh v. Dart, No. 11 C 3873, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137079, 2011 WL 6010267, *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2011). A denial of drinkable water, even for a few days, may be actionable. Atkins v. City of Chicago, 631 F.3d 823, 830 (7th Cir. 2011); see also Truidalle v. Taylor, Case No. 11 C 1170, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148228 *7 (N.D. Ill. December 23, 2011) (Lefkow, J.).

The Eighth Amendment, furthermore, prohibits deliberate indifference to inmates' health and safety. Failure to take reasonable measures in the face of a substantial risk of serious harm violates the Constitution. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 845 (1994); Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 754 (7th Cir. 2011). Prison officials violate an inmate's constitutional rights in conditions-of-confinement cases where the alleged deprivation is "sufficiently serious" (the objective standard) and (2) the officials act with deliberate indifference (the subjective standard). ...

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