United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Jeramy Green, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that he was assaulted by several members of the "orange crush tactical team" at Menard (Doc. 1, p. 6). He now sues the correctional officers (Defendants John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and Jane Doe) for using excessive force against him, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. He also sues one of Menard's nurses (Defendant Walker) for failing to provide him with medical treatment until thirty-eight days after the assault, also in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 7).
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).
According to the complaint, Plaintiff was assaulted by several unknown members of Menard's "orange crush tactical team" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff identifies the correctional officers as Defendants John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and Jane Doe. Each Defendant allegedly "used excessive force against Plaintiff, striking Plaintiff in the head and ribs, violating the Eighth Amendment[, even though] Plaintiff violated no rules" (Doc. 1, p. 6).
A grievance attached to the complaint is dated April 25, 2014, and indicates that the incident occurred on April 15, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 8). The grievance also states that Plaintiff was struck in the stomach and ribs "numerous times" by the tactical team. He was also struck in the head "multiple times." As a result, he "spit blood" and suffered from severe headaches (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff placed "several sick calls in the unit sick call box" without receiving treatment (Doc. 1, p. 8). The complaint further alleges that Menard's nurse, Defendant Walker, was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs following the assault for "[r]efus[ing] to give medical treatment for 38 days" (Doc. 1, p. 6).
Plaintiff now sues Defendants John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and Jane Doe for using excessive force against him, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. He sues Defendant Walker for failing to provide him with medical treatment following the assault, also in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from Defendants (Doc. 1, p. 7).
After carefully reviewing the complaint, the Court finds that it states a cognizable Eighth Amendment excessive force claim (Count 1) against Defendants John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and Jane Doe. The intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and is actionable under § 1983. See Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34 (2010); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). To state an excessive force claim, an inmate must show that an assault occurred, and that "it was carried out maliciously and sadistically' rather than as part of a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline.'" Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 40 (citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992)). The allegations in the complaint, combined with statements in Plaintiff's grievance, suggest that Defendants acted maliciously and sadistically when they struck Plaintiff in the ribs and head "multiple times" without provocation on or around April 15, 2014. Accordingly, Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with Count 1 against Defendants John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and Jane Doe. Plaintiff has not raised this claim against Defendant Walker.
However, the complaint fails to state a cognizable Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claim (Count 2) against Defendant Walker. The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) ( per curiam ). To state a claim, "[t]he 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).
As for the objective prong, the statement of claim mentions no medical condition at all. While the grievance indicates that Plaintiff "spit blood" and "suffer[ed] from severe headaches, " no information is offered about the genesis, frequency, or duration of these conditions (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 8). Without this basic information, the Court cannot assess the objective seriousness of Plaintiff's injuries.
As for the subjective prong, Plaintiff "must demonstrate that prison officials acted with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind.'" Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991)). Officials must "know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health" by being "aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists'" and "draw[ing] the inference.'" Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653 (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). Plaintiff is not required to establish that the officials "intended or desired the harm that transpired, " but to instead show that they "knew of a substantial risk of harm... and disregarded it." Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653.
Here, again, the complaint is fatally flawed because it does not suggest that Defendant Walker was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs. The complaint and exhibits do not allege that Plaintiff directed a single request for medical care to Defendant Walker. They do not allege that Plaintiff submitted a verbal request for medical care following the assault. By all indications, Defendant Walker had no clue that Plaintiff requested or needed medical care. Without ...