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House v. Isaacs

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 3, 2015

KEVIN HOUSE, Plaintiff,
v.
DEBORAH ISAACS, DR. LARSON, WEXFORD MEDICAL CO., SALVADOR GODINEZ, and TORRY WOJATOWICZ, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Kevin House brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA")[1], 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. based on events that occurred while he was incarcerated at Big Muddy Correctional Center ("Big Muddy"). (Doc. 1). Plaintiff, who is confined to a wheelchair, asserts that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from Defendants.

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Plaintiff filed this action on June 3, 2014 in the Central District of Illinois. On

January 28, 2015, the case was transferred from the Central District of Illinois to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Doc. 10). At the time Plaintiff filed the complaint, he was an inmate at Big Muddy, but the record indicates that he has since been released. ( See Doc. 8). The Complaint comes now before the Court for a preliminary review 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. Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011); Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, district 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 reviewing the allegations in the complaint under this standard, the Court finds that the complaint survives threshold review.

The Complaint

Plaintiff asserts that he is disabled and his "primary means of mobility is via wheelchair." (Doc. 1, p. 2). In the weeks leading up to September 18, 2013, he began to notice that his wheelchair needed repairs. Id. at 3. Specifically, the foot rest support pedals were not operating properly and one of the wheels was malfunctioning. On September 18, 2013, Plaintiff spoke with Defendant Wojatowicz and informed her that his wheelchair was in need of repairs. Id. Wojatowicz oversees the upkeep of medical equipment at Big Muddy. Id. at 2. Defendant Wojatowicz responded, "It ain't my problem if you want the wheelchair fixed and your foot rest adjusted - put in a sick-call slip to see Dr. Larson." Id. Plaintiff attempted to explain that he believed the wheelchair needed immediate attention and that he was concerned that he might suffer some injury if the wheelchair was not repaired. Id. To which Defendant Wojatowicz replied, "Look, I ain't got time for this sh_t, I'm going on my smoke break." Id.

The next day, Plaintiff was told to turn over his wheelchair to Defendant Wojatowicz. While waiting to do so, Plaintiff alleges that he overheard Defendant Wojatowicz tell a co-worker in the health care unit that she was not going to submit Plaintiff's wheelchair for repairs and that she had helped to fabricate a disciplinary report against Plaintiff. Id.

Two days later, on September 21, 2013, Plaintiff received a loaner wheelchair approved by Defendant Wojatowicz, but it exhibited similar problems to his original wheelchair, which was now undergoing repairs. Id. at 4. On "several occasions, " Plaintiff's feet slipped off the foot-rests, but he was able to recover control of the wheelchair without injury. Id. However, on October 3, 2013, Plaintiff was on his way to the chow hall when "the Plaintiff somehow completely lost his balance as well as control of the wheelchair" and he fell out of the chair onto the pavement below. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff was taken to the infirmary and treated for a week for a number of ailments, including hip, neck, and back injuries. Id. at 5. He continues to suffer pain and muscle spasms periodically. Id. In February 2014, he received two weeks of therapy to address ongoing back problems.[2] Id.

After receiving the loaner wheelchair, but prior to his accident, Plaintiff filed grievances and written requests to Dr. Larson, a medical doctor on staff at Big Muddy, complaining about the state of his wheelchair. Id. Plaintiff maintains that his complaints were ignored.[3] Id. Although Plaintiff states in the Complaint that he is still at risk of being injured by the malfunctioning wheelchairs, he has since been released from Big Muddy. In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id. at 8.

Discussion

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must do at this preliminary stage, the Court finds that the complaint sets forth an actionable claim of deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment.

Count 1: Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's health and safety, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, when they failed to ...


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