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Smith v. Cardwell

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 20, 2014

BYRON SMITH, #B-12234, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES LUTH, OFFICER SMITH, and DR. CARDWELL, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Byron Smith, an inmate currently incarcerated at Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's claims against each Defendant are related to an incident which occurred on January 20, 2014, when Plaintiff fell while walking on ice, and the medical treatment he received for a back injury resulting from the fall.

Plaintiff filed this action on September 19, 2014, in the Northern District of Illinois. On September 24, the case was transferred from the Northern District of Illinois to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Doc. 5).

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). Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A and dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

The Complaint

On the afternoon of January 20, 2014, Plaintiff was outside walking to the commissary when Defendant Smith "advised" all inmates to walk on a road that was covered in ice. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff moved from the walkway (where there was no ice) to the road and proceeded to slip and fall on the ice. Id.

Initially, Plaintiff did not believe he was hurt, but later that day his wrist and back began to hurt. Id. Plaintiff was put on a waiting list to see the doctor and was given Motrin in the meantime. Id. Around January 25-28, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by a doctor who prescribed muscle relaxers for seven days. After taking the prescribed muscle relaxers, Plaintiff was still experiencing back pain, particularly with climbing up to his bunk. Id. He went back to the healthcare unit to request a lower bunk permit. Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Dr. Cardwell. Defendant Cardwell prescribed 600 mg of ibuprofen (with six refills on the prescription) to address Plaintiff's back pain, but he denied Plaintiff's request for a lower bunk permit, explaining that lower bunk permits were only authorized in a limited number of circumstances. Id.

Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant Luth, the warden at Vandalia, appealing Defendant Cardwell's denial of his request for a lower bunk permit. Id. Defendant Luth responded that Defendant Cardwell did not believe that Plaintiff needed a lower bunk permit at that time. Id. at 6-7. Plaintiff continued to suffer back pain and request medical treatment, but he asserts that his requests were denied. Id. at 7. Eventually, however, Plaintiff's back was x-rayed. Plaintiff states that the x-ray revealed "some[thing] wrong with my back but I don't understand." Id. At the time the complaint was filed, Plaintiff was continuing to take ibuprofen and muscle relaxers. Id. Plaintiff maintains that he is still in severe pain and that his back stiffens up when he stands or sits for long periods of time, which has interfered with his sleep. Id. at 7. He seeks $200, 000 in monetary relief. Id. at 8.

Discussion

Plaintiff has named three Defendants, but he has not explicitly connected these Defendants to specific claims. The Court will proceed under the assumption that Plaintiff seeks to hold the various Defendants liable only for the claims in which they were involved. Plaintiff charges that Defendant Smith was negligent, but only with regard to Plaintiff's fall (Count 1). Likewise, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Cardwell was indifferent to his medical needs following the fall (Count 2). Plaintiff makes a general assertion that Defendant Luth was negligent. However, Plaintiff provides no facts related to Defendant Luth, other than that Plaintiff wrote Luth to request a lower bunk permit after he had been denied one by Defendant Cardwell.

A civil rights action against state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is "a cause of action based upon personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, liability does not attach unless the individual defendant caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation." Sheik-Abdi v. McClellan, 37 F.3d 1240, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994) (citing Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983)); see also Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809, 810 (7th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff has offered no facts suggesting that Defendant Luth caused or participated in the conduct that Plaintiff alleges amounted to a constitutional deprivation. The fact that Defendant Luth was warden at the time and affirmed Dr. Cardwell's decision denying Plaintiff's request for a lower ...


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