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Willingham v. Graham Correctional Center

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 16, 2014

HOWARD WILLINGHAM, #R-20053, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Howard Willingham, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Vienna Correctional Center, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. According to the complaint, Plaintiff is a right foot amputee, who was stripped of his medically-modified shoes at Graham Correctional Center in July 2013. He did not receive footwear that is adapted for this condition until twenty-one months later at Vienna Correctional Center (Doc. 1, p. 4; Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-2). Even then, he was issued inserts that did not properly function. Plaintiff now sues Vienna Correctional Center, Graham Correctional Center, and the Illinois Department of Corrections for monetary damages and injunctive relief (Doc. 1, p. 5).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff has a partially amputated right foot, which necessitates the use of medically-modified shoes (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff was in possession of the proper shoes when he was taken into custody at Graham Correctional Center ("Graham") in July 2013. However, they were taken from him because they are red. In their place, Plaintiff was issued a pair of boots.

On his first night at Graham, Plaintiff was assigned to the top bunk and, predictably, fell to the floor when descending from the bunk on his partially amputated right foot. The following day, he was assigned to a low bunk in another cell and issued a slow walking pass. He met with a doctor ("Defendant Doe #1")[1] approximately five times about his request for medically-modified shoes, but he did not receive any. And although Plaintiff filed grievances addressing these issues on August 9th, August 16th, and September 16th, they were all denied as meritless. Graham's health care administrator, Susan Griffin, apparently relayed this information to Plaintiff (Doc. 1-1, p. 1).

Plaintiff was transferred to Robinson Correctional Center ("Robinson") in October 2013 (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). When he asked one of Robinson's doctors ("Defendant Doe #2") for medically-modified shoes, the doctor could not find an authorization for the shoes in the Illinois Department of Corrections' ("IDOC") system. Plaintiff later learned that the IDOC had not approved Plaintiff's request for them. Despite Plaintiff's persistent and continuing requests for shoes, the IDOC did not approve the request until February 2014. By that time, Plaintiff's right foot "was bleeding an[d] had soars on it."

Before receiving the shoes, Plaintiff was transferred to Vienna Correctional Center ("Vienna") on March 13, 2014 (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). On April 16th, Plaintiff was issued an insert for his right boot. The insert was not made for use on stairs (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). Therefore, when Plaintiff attempted to walk up a set of stairs, his right boot fell off. On May 13th, Plaintiff met with a doctor ("Defendant Doe #3") at Vienna. The doctor left him on a medical hold and modified his status to "medical unassigned." On June 1st, he was issued a new inmate activity card with a low bunk and low gallery permit. Because of his medical status, however, he was unable to attend school. He was also discouraged from requesting a medical transfer based on his impending release date (Doc. 1-1, p. 2).

Plaintiff specifically seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 5). Construing the complaint liberally, the Court also finds that Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, in the form of an order for the issuance of medically-modified shoes.

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). The complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide this pro se action into two counts.[2] 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 designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: Defendants violated Plaintiff's right to receive adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment when they failed to provide him with medically-modified shoes;
Count 2: Defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and/or Rehabilitation Act ("RA") by failing to provide Plaintiff with ...

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