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Cardenas-Uriarte v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 23, 2014

CIPRIANO CARDENAS-URIARTE, No. 81361-208, Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Cipriano Cardenas-Uriarte, an inmate in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, housed at USP-Marion, brings suit under Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680, the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq ., and the Eighth Amendment.[1] Plaintiff, who has been affected by polio since childhood, wears leg braces and currently uses crutches to ambulate. He alleges multiple incidents of negligence, deliberate indifference and the denial of access to government programs, all related to his disability.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening. - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, since 2012 Plaintiff has been unable to ambulate without the aid of crutches. Before arriving at USP-Marion ("Marion") in July 2013, other federal correctional institutions had permitted him to be housed in first-floor cells. Upon arrival at Marion, Unit Manager Robin Bryson authorized Plaintiff to be placed in a first-floor cell, but later initiated or approved Plaintiff being moved to a second-floor cell (cell 232). Plaintiff's counselor and case manager did not respond to requests to move Plaintiff back to a first-floor cell. Eventually Plaintiff was moved, but not before he had to endure the difficulty of navigating the stairs with his crutches.

In December 2013, Plaintiff was moved to another unit and housed in a second-floor cell. Plaintiff contends that the move was either initiated or approved by Unit Manager Bryson. Days later, while trying to negotiate the stairway to his cell, Plaintiff fell down 14 stairs, injuring his neck, back, hips and left leg, requiring a trip to the emergency room of a local hospital.

When Plaintiff returned from the hospital, C/O Howard elected to wheel Plaintiff's wheelchair up a steep ramp into the prison, rather than using another available ramp that had a gentler slope. C/O Howard took a running start toward the steep ramp, only to dump Plaintiff out of the wheelchair. Because he was handcuffed, Plaintiff was unable to break his fall and he sustained injuries to his face, hands, back and leg.

Health Services Administrator Winklemeier evaluated Plaintiff after the wheelchair incident. Plaintiff explained that it was painful and difficult for him to use crutches, and that doctors at the hospital had just diagnosed Plaintiff with a spinal deformity. Winklemeier issued Plaintiff a wheelchair, but only for three days. Consequently, Plaintiff still must use crutches, which is causing him excruciating pain. The pain and difficulty of using crutches restricts Plaintiff's access to meals because he cannot carry his tray and other inmates are not always willing to help. Similarly, he cannot stay on his unit and use the microwave because he cannot carry his food. He also limits using the shower due to the danger of his crutches slipping on the wet floor. Plaintiff further contends that because using crutches is excruciatingly painful, his access to recreational, educational and religious programs has been reduced. Mr. Winklemeier has refused requests for a wheelchair, and for a referral to a specialist or physical therapist.

According to the complaint, Warden Jeffrey S. Walton is aware of Plaintiff's situation by way of emails and administrative grievances. Walton has failed to intervene, asserting that Plaintiff's medical condition does not necessitate using a wheelchair.

It appears that Plaintiff is currently housed in a first-floor cell, but he asserts that he "remains vulnerable to being placed in an upper-floor cell again." (Doc. 1, p. 8).

The complaint presents the following seven claims:

Count 1: The United States of America, by and through its employees, negligently caused Plaintiff to fall down the stairs, in violation of the Federal Tort ...

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