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Ward v. Hoffman

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 5, 2014

JOSEPH N. WARD, II, #B-77077, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 10), which he filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on June 27, 2014. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's original complaint on May 30, 2014 (Doc. 6), because it failed to state a colorable claim under § 1983. However, the dismissal was without prejudice, and Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended complaint by July 7, 2014 (Doc. 6, pp. 6-7). The amended complaint is timely and is now subject to review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

The Amended Complaint

Plaintiff is currently confined at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") (Doc. 1, p. 1). The events giving rise to his claims occurred in June 2012 at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard") and Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"). Plaintiff sues three Menard officials, Defendants Hoffman, Morris, and Tope, in connection with these events.

According to the amended complaint, Plaintiff and his cellmate were involved in a verbal altercation at Menard on June 10, 2012 (Doc. 10, p. 7). A Menard staff member ordered both inmates to "cuff up." They complied.

At the time, Plaintiff was suffering from shortness of breath and reached for his asthma inhaler. When he did so, Lieutenant Hoffman asked Plaintiff what he was doing. Plaintiff explained, "I've got asthma. I'm reaching for my asthma pump" (Doc. 10, p. 7). In response, Lieutenant Hoffman stated, "I don't care what you're fu**in' reaching for. Stop fu**in' movin' around" (Doc. 10, p. 7).

An argument ensued, and Lieutenant Hoffman sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray (Doc. 10, pp. 7-8). Lieutenant Hoffman, Officer Morris, and Officer Tope then "manhandled" Plaintiff and placed him in a chokehold (Doc. 10, pp. 7, 9). Plaintiff lost consciousness and fell, handcuffed, to the floor (Doc. 10, p. 7).

Plaintiff suffers from chronic asthma. Upon inhaling the pepper spray, he suffered a severe asthma attack (Doc. 10, pp. 8-9). He was rushed to Chester Memorial Hospital, where he lay in a coma for three days. When he regained consciousness on June 13, 2012, Plaintiff learned what happened after he was pepper-sprayed. In addition to a severe asthma attack, Plaintiff sustained a bruised right shoulder and left cheek (Doc. 10, pp. 7, 9, 12). He continues to suffer from short term memory loss and trouble concentrating (Doc. 10, p. 12).

After he was released from the hospital on June 13, 2012, Plaintiff transferred to Pontiac (Doc. 10, p. 9). There, he was placed under observation for eight days in Pontiac's health care unit. Just two hours after his release from the health care unit, Plaintiff was required to attend an adjustment committee hearing on a disciplinary ticket he received in connection with the June 10, 2012, incident (Doc. 10, p. 10). The disciplinary ticket allegedly contained false charges based on contradictory written statements. Plaintiff was found guilty of the charged misconduct following a hearing, [1] in which he said, "I can't take pepper spray. I got asthma!" (Doc. 10, p. 10). According to the amended complaint, this statement warranted a continuance of the hearing because it demonstrated that Plaintiff was "still disoriented." Plaintiff appealed the adjustment committee's decision unsuccessfully.

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Hoffman, Morris, and Tope under the Eighth Amendment, for using excessive force against him and failing to protect him (Doc. 10, pp. 10-11). Plaintiff also raises a due process claim in connection with a false disciplinary ticket he received. He seeks monetary damages, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief (Doc. 10, pp. 6, 13-14). Plaintiff requests a transfer to Pontiac's medium security unit (Doc. 10, p. 13). He also seeks to have his disciplinary record expunged (Doc. 10, pp. 11, 13).

Merits Review 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 amended 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). Under this standard, the Court now finds that the amended complaint survives preliminary review.


Plaintiff now sues Defendants Hoffman, Morris, and Tope for their use of excessive force (Count 1) against him and/or their failure to protect (Count 2) him from its use, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Court previously articulated the applicable legal standard for each of these claims in its initial dismissal order (Doc. 6, pp. 3-5). At the time, the Court could not adequately assess either claim, based on the limited factual allegations in the complaint pertaining to each. The Court now finds that the amended complaint satisfies the threshold standard for each claim, based in part on Plaintiff's allegation that the use of pepper spray and physical force were unprovoked. While the Court takes ...

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