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Mann v. Burns

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 9, 2015

JASON W. MANN, # B-89052, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT D. BURNS, UNKNOWN PARTY JOHN/JANE DOE JAIL EMPLOYEES, BLUDWORTH, and JEFF WHITBECK, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at East Moline Correctional Center ("East Moline"), serving a seven-year sentence for arson. He has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose during his imprisonment in the Jackson County Jail ("the Jail") as a pretrial detainee, where he asserts he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, including vermin infestation, inadequate bedding, overcrowding, insufficient food, and poor sanitation and ventilation. He also claims that his legal mail was improperly opened, his personal mail was delayed or stolen, and he was denied access to the law library.

Earlier in 2014, Plaintiff brought a lawsuit against several other Jail officials for failing to protect him from an attack by three other Jail inmates on January 23, 2013, and for deliberate indifference to his medical needs following the beating. Mann v. Gibbs, et al., Case No. 14-cv-421-MJR-SCW. That case is still pending in this Court against five Defendants, including Defendant Bloodworth (who is identified herein as Defendant Bludworth).

According to the complaint, Plaintiff's detention at the Jail began on December 13, 2012. He was placed in general population in "G-Block, " which was filthy and where the ventilation ducts were clogged with dirt (Doc. 1, p. 5). Some detainees in that unit were affiliated with gangs, which led to violence and fights. In January 2013, Plaintiff requested placement in segregation for his own safety. He was housed in segregation until January 20, 2013, when he was moved to a low-security dormitory. In that location, he was forced to sleep on the floor with inadequate bedding and less than 10 square feet of personal space.

On January 23, 2013, Plaintiff was attacked and beaten by three other inmates. He asserts he was targeted because of his race, and that overcrowding was a contributing factor. That incident and the subsequent denial of medical attention are being addressed in Plaintiff's earlier civil action, Case No. 14-cv-421-MJR-SCW (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Plaintiff does not say whether he remained in the same housing area immediately following the attack. However, he states that on February 3, 2013, he was moved back to G-block, where there was inadequate ventilation and an infestation of leeches and gnats. He remained there until the second week of April 2013, when he was moved to the new wing of the Jail (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 5). He states that this move "corrected" the problems in "count I and IV" - however, the complaint does not identify which claims are associated with count I or count IV, nor does he use these designations anywhere in his statement of claim.[1] In addition to the ventilation and vermin problems, Plaintiff complains that the housing area was rancid and filthy, and that he was served inadequate portions of food that did not meet his nutritional needs or provide the minimum amount of calories required to maintain health. Because of these conditions, Plaintiff continues to suffer from chronic and debilitating pain and respiratory problems. He is receiving treatment for these symptoms at East Moline (Doc. 1, p. 5).

In addition, Plaintiff complains that unidentified Jail officers opened his legal mail, delayed delivery of his mail, and stole some of his mail (Doc. 1, p. 4). He claims both that the Jail did not operate a law library, and that he was denied access to the law library between January 24 and August 14, 2013 (Doc. 1, p. 5). He asserts that his First Amendment rights were violated by the Jail's inadequate grievance procedures, which inhibited him from filing and exhausting grievances.[2] Finally, he charges that Defendants were negligent in hiring, training and supervising Jail personnel, and were deliberately indifferent to detainees' safety by failing to control violent inmates and allowing the facility to become overcrowded.

Plaintiff brings all of the above claims against Defendant Burns, whom he describes as the sheriff/warden of the Jail. As to the other named Defendants, Plaintiff states that Defendants Bludworth and Whitbeck are "administrative correctional officer[s]" who are responsible for supervision of other officers, and are responsible for detainees' health and safety (Doc. 1, p. 2). As relief, he seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as an order compelling Defendants to give him proper medical care (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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).

At the outset, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to pursue any claims in this action relating to the January 23, 2013, assault on him, those claims are dismissed from this case as duplicative of the pending claims in his previous lawsuit, Mann v. Gibbs, et al., Case No. 14-cv-421-MJR-SCW. This dismissal includes claims that any Defendant was deliberately indifferent to the risk of violence posed by overcrowded conditions, and that any Defendant failed to control violence-prone inmates.

For the convenience of the Court, Plaintiff's remaining claims shall be designated as follows. 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: Unidentified Jail employees housed Plaintiff under conditions which posed an unconstitutional risk to his health, including filthy, vermin-infested, and inadequately ventilated living areas; inadequate bedding; cramped sleeping quarters of less than ten ...

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