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Toliver v. Olmsted

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 28, 2014

ANTHONY TOLIVER, # R-23669, Plaintiff,
C/O OLMSTED, LT. JORDAN, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.



Plaintiff Anthony Toliver, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), brings this action pro se for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that he was deprived of adequate medical care for Bell's palsy during his incarceration at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville") in 2013 (Doc. 1, pp. 5-7). Plaintiff now sues three Pinckneyville officials for exhibiting deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. These officials include Defendants Olmsted (correctional officer), Jordan (lieutenant), and Doe (unidentified male nurse). Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 8).

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

This case is now before the Court for 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). When reviewing the allegations in light of this standard, the Court finds that the complaint survives preliminary review under Section 1915A.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff suffers from Bell's palsy (Doc. 1, p. 5). While incarcerated at Pinckneyville, he began experiencing swelling and severe pain on the left side of his face on July 18, 2013. The same day, Defendant Doe provided Plaintiff with pain medication, but it was ineffective. Late that night, Plaintiff informed Defendant Olmsted that he was diagnosed with Bell's palsy and continued to suffer from severe pain. He asked to see a medical professional immediately. In response, Defendant Olmsted said, "It's just a headache" (Doc. 1, p. 6). Throughout the night, Plaintiff pushed the emergency button in his cell, with no response.

The following morning, Plaintiff approached Defendant Jordan in the chow hall. Plaintiff told her that he was suffering from "constant" pain, and he requested immediate medical attention. Defendant Jordan indicated that she was aware of his condition, and medical staff would not see him until he filled out another sick call slip. She warned Plaintiff that he also would not see medical staff unless he was dying. When Plaintiff repeated his request for immediate medical attention for his "unbearable" pain, Defendant Jordan told him to stop complaining or he would be sent to segregation. Plaintiff did not meet with medical staff until one week later, on July 25, 2013.

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Olmsted, Jordan, and Doe for depriving him of adequate medical care for his Bell's palsy, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. As a result of the inadequate treatment, he suffered from unnecessary pain for a week. He seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 8).


The complaint states a colorable Eighth Amendment medical needs claim (Count 1) against Defendants Olmsted, Jordan, and Doe. 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); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) ( per curiam ). To state a claim, a 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).

The complaint suggests that Plaintiff suffered from an objectively serious medical condition, i.e., Bell's palsy.This condition caused Plaintiff to experience allegedly intolerable pain. A condition that results in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain if left untreated can be serious, even if it is not life threatening. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010). The complaint suggests that Plaintiff's condition, which involved facial swelling and pain from July 18-25, 2013, was objectively serious.

The complaint also suggests that Defendants responded to Plaintiff's complaints of pain with deliberate indifference. Defendant Doe met with Plaintiff and prescribed him pain medication but, according to the complaint, allegedly ignored his subsequent complaints of pain for a week. Defendant Olmsted allegedly refused to provide Plaintiff with any form of pain relief, even after Plaintiff made him aware of the severity of his pain and ineffectiveness of his pain relievers. Finally, Defendant Jordan responded to Plaintiff's request for immediate medical attention by threatening him with segregation for complaining; she also told him that he would not see medical staff unless he was dying. See Brown v. Darnold, 505 Fed.Appx. 584, *3 (7th Cir. 2013) ("A deliberate refusal to treat treatable pain can rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation."). At this early stage, the complaint states sufficient allegations to support a deliberate indifference claim against Defendants.

Based on the foregoing discussion, Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with Count 1 against ...

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