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Spears v. Shearing

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 15, 2014

DION SPEARS, # R-21624, Plaintiff,


PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Dion Spears, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Doc. 1). In 2012, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a severe brain stem injury that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak clearly. He claims that Menard officials denied him access to all rehabilitative treatment, in the form of physical and speech therapy, and reasonable accommodations, including a walker and a low gallery/low bunk permit. Plaintiff now sues S. A. Godinez (Illinois Department of Corrections' ("IDOC") director) and three Menard officials, including Dr. Shearing (medical doctor), Dr. Trost (medical director), and Richard Harrington (warden), for violations of the Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and ADA. Plaintiff seeks rehabilitative therapy and reasonable accommodations for his disability.[1] Alternatively, he seeks a medical transfer to another facility.

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

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). After reviewing the allegations in the complaint under this standard, the Court finds that the complaint survives threshold review.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a severe brain stem injury at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") on August 10, 2012 (Doc. 1, p. 10). The injury resulted from a car accident and caused Plaintiff to suffer from "severe paralysis"[2] and "slurred speech."[3] The medical staff at Stateville recommended physical therapy, ordered Plaintiff a walker, and issued him a low gallery and low bunk permit. Plaintiff received physical therapy from October through December 2012.

Plaintiff transferred to Menard on January 16, 2013 (Doc. 1, p. 10). From that point forward, he received no physical therapy or speech therapy. He also received no walker and was forced to rely on other prisoners for assistance (Doc. 1, p. 12). The complaint does not indicate whether he received a low gallery or low bunk permit.

Defendant Shearing met with Plaintiff several times. He did not examine Plaintiff, but nevertheless concluded that Plaintiff would not benefit from additional treatment (Doc. 1, p. 10). Defendant Shearing denied Plaintiff's requests for physical therapy, speech therapy, and a walker. On June 24, 2014, Plaintiff requested a medical transfer to a facility that could meet his needs. His request was denied (Doc. 1, p. 11).

Defendant Trost also denied Plaintiff's requests for treatment and a walker (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff met with Defendant Trost on December 26, 2013. Despite the fact that Plaintiff could not walk without assistance from other inmates at the time, Defendant Trost concluded that Plaintiff would not benefit from physical therapy. Despite acknowledging that Plaintiff might benefit from speech therapy, Defendant Trost also denied Plaintiff's request for it.

Plaintiff filed grievances to address the denial of these requests. Menard's nursing supervisor, who is not named in this action, investigated the matter (Doc. 1, p. 11). Ultimately, she concluded that the decision to discontinue all treatment was supported by a statement in Plaintiff's medical records, indicating that Plaintiff "may benefit" from therapy (Doc. 1, p. 11). Defendants Harrington and Godinez concurred with the decision to discontinue all rehabilitative treatment (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 11-13).

Plaintiff now claims that his condition, particularly his speech, has deteriorated. He sues all four Defendants for depriving him of access to medical care under the Eighth Amendment, denying him equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment, and violating the ADA (Doc. 1, p. 13). In addition, Plaintiff sues Defendants Godinez and Harrington for concurring with the decision of Defendants Shearing and Trost to deny all further treatment (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13).


Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide this pro se action into four counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The ...

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