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Swarms v. Lay

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 2, 2014

AVERY A. SWARMS, # S-03769, Plaintiff,
v.
AARON L. LAY and J. D. VIEREGGE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Avery Swarms, an inmate at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to excessive force during his detention at Fayette County Jail in Fayette County, Illinois (Doc. 1, p. 5). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on the night of October 31, 2013, he was blindfolded and strapped into a high security restraint chair for five hours, while officers repeatedly used a taser gun to quiet him. Plaintiff allegedly sustained permanent injuries. He now sues Sheriff Aaron Lay and Jail Administrator J. D. Vieregge for Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. The complaint also names Deputies Jake Etchison and Cody Meachum in connection with these claims. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Merits Review Pursuant to 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 Section 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 carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint survives preliminary review under Section 1915A.

The Complaint

In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to excessive force during his detention at Fayette County Jail in 2013 (Doc. 1, p. 5). At the time, he was under the care of a psychiatrist, who was treating him for anxiety and paranoia. The combination of psychotropic medication(s) and his condition caused him to talk excessively.

To quiet him, several Fayette County deputies placed Plaintiff in a high security restraint chair from 10:00 p.m. on October 31st until 3:00 a.m. on November 1st. They secured an elastic strap around Plaintiff's eyes and head, so that he could not see. Twice during the night, officers used a taser gun on Plaintiff. He claims that he did not resist the officers, he complied with all orders, and he made no threatening comments.

As a result of the incident, Plaintiff suffered extreme pain and injuries. The taser gun caused nerve and muscle damage to his right arm. He lost right arm strength. Although Plaintiff underwent physical therapy, his physical therapist opined that the damage is permanent. His motor movements are now unpredictable. Plaintiff maintains that his physical limitations also limit his ability to work.

Plaintiff names four individuals in connection with his excessive force claim. These individuals include Sheriff Aaron Lay and Jail Administrator J. D. Vieregge, who are both identified as Defendants in this action. Plaintiff also lists Deputies Jake Etchison and Cody Meachum, who have not been named as Defendants but shall be added as parties (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Plaintiff sues all four individuals for violating his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Discussion

Count 1 - Excessive Force

The constitutional source of Plaintiff's excessive force claim (Count 1) depends on his status as a pretrial detainee or a prisoner at the time force was applied. The Seventh Circuit discussed the applicable legal standard for excessive force claims, as follows:

A claim of excessive force... is, at bottom, one that seeks to impose liability for physically abusive governmental conduct.' Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989). The right to be free from such abuse derives from various provisions of the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment affords protection to the person in the context of a seizure, id. ; the Eighth Amendment applies when, following the constitutional guarantees of our criminal process, there has been an adjudication of guilt and an imposition of sentence, Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 671 n. 40 (1977). Between the status of arrestee and sentenced prisoner is the intermediate status of the detainee, who similarly is entitled to protection from physically abusive government ...

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