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Malik v. Rankin

United States District Court, Southern District of Illinois

March 4, 2015

ROBERT MALIK, No. K64407, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM RANKIN, et al., Defendants.


STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge

By Order dated February 6, 2015, the 111-page complaint in the present action, Case No. 15-84-SMY-PMF, was severed into four cases: Malik v. Warning, 15-84-SMY-PMF; Malik v. Rankin, 15-136-NJR; Malik v. Reed, 15-137-JPG; Malik v. Caldwell, 15-138-JPG. Each case pertains to events at a different prison. While the Court was awaiting Plaintiff's decision regarding whether he wanted to proceed with the newly severed cases (two of which were subject to transfer to a different judicial district), Plaintiff filed a "Response" to the severance order (Case No. 15-84-SMY, Doc. 19). Plaintiff informs the Court that Defendant Dr. Larson practices at Big Muddy River Correctional Center, not Vandalia Correctional Center. Therefore, the Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Larson belongs in Malik v. Warning, 15-84-SMY- PMF, and not in Malik v. Caldwell, 15-138-JPG. Accordingly, the severance order (Case No. 15-84-SMY, Doc. 11) is AMENDED as follows. A copy of the amended order will be filed in each of the four cases. The amendment will not require any action on Plaintiff's part.

Preliminary Review

Plaintiff Robert Malik, an inmate currently housed in Big Muddy River Correctional Center within this judicial district, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights. He contends he has been denied proper medical care for multiple medical ailments since December 2011, when he entered the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), continuing to the present. The allegations pertain to five different prisons and fourteen defendants. By order dated January 29, 2014, a separate motion for a temporary restraining order was denied, while ruling on a companion motion for preliminary injunction was deferred.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

a. Screening.– The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
b. Grounds for Dismissal.– On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint–
1. is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
2. seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Moreover, "[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct." Id . 8(d)(1). The complaint is 111 pages long[1], and it is accompanied by three volumes of documentary support, measuring 4" thick. Nevertheless, undue length alone ordinarily does not justify the dismissal of an otherwise valid complaint. Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 797-98 (7th Cir. 2011). "Fat in a complaint can be ignored, confusion or ambiguity dealt with by means other than dismissal." Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516, 518 (7th Cir. 1998). Consequently, the voluminous documentary support will be ignored, as it is not organized in a meaningful way relative to the complaint. The Court cannot be expected to comb though voluminous "group exhibits" in search of specific documents that support a given proposition.

The complaint is drafted in the style of a diary and is summarized as follows. In discussing the viability of the complaint, citations will be to both the pages as numbered by Plaintiff, and to the page numbers in the electronic Court record.

Upon conviction and transfer to the custody of the IDOC, Plaintiff was sent to Stateville Correctional Center in the Northern District of Illinois on December 6, 2011. Plaintiff disclosed his medical history, which included having bullet fragments in his right ankle since 2009. He immediately sought medical care for pain, elevated blood pressure, headaches, stomach pain, sweaty palms, an irregular feeling in his bladder, and right ankle pain. Before being afforded any treatment, Plaintiff was transferred to East Moline Correctional Center in the Central District of Illinois. No claims are asserted relative to Plaintiff's time at Stateville, and none of the defendants worked at Stateville.

Upon arrival at East Moline, Plaintiff was sought medical attention for his ailments, particularly his gastrointestinal and ankle issues. A physician opined that Plaintiff was exaggerating his concerns, but noted that Plaintiff could have a hernia or infection. Plaintiff developed severe constipation, hemorrhoids and abdominal pain, and he had blood in his stool, so he sought further treatment in March 2012. After only verbal questioning, the doctor told Plaintiff he would be fine and no treatment was offered. Plaintiff's condition worsened during the following six months, but he was not afforded any treatment; rather, he was repeatedly told he was fine. In mid-September 2012 emergency treatment was sought. Plaintiff's bladder had to be catheterized, and he was diagnosed with a bladder infection. The doctor asked Plaintiff when he was getting out of prison and then prescribed an ineffective medication. Even after filing administrative grievances, Plaintiff did not receive any effective treatment. A nurse described Plaintiff's condition as "chronic" and "serious, " and further opined that the doctor may not have afforded proper treatment.

In February 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Jacksonville Correctional Center in the Central District of Illinois. Again, he immediately and repeatedly sought effective medical treatment. His mother, brother and sister even began writing and calling prison officials and the corporation that provides medical services for the IDOC-all to no avail. Plaintiff's ailments worsened. His left testicle swelled to the size of tennis ball, and puss began oozing from the scar over the bullet fragments in his ankle. Again, medical personnel asked when Plaintiff would be released from prison, as though that dictated treatment decisions. No efficacious medical treatment was offered. Instead, Plaintiff was evaluated by a psychologist who diagnosed Plaintiff as having an adjustment disorder with anxiety, and could not rule out anxiety somatization (mental illness causing real physical symptoms, often leading to a vicious cycle of concern and dissatisfaction with a lack of medical treatment, and escalating anxiety (see

In December 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Vandalia Correctional Center in the Southern District of Illinois. Plaintiff sought immediate treatment for his ailments. The physician who initially examined Plaintiff at Vandalia was rude and rushed, and he tossed Plaintiff out of the health care unit. Nevertheless, Plaintiff's ankle was x-rayed two days later. Upon follow-up, the physician said he had spoken with the physician at Jacksonville. Again, Plaintiff was not offered any treatment for his ailments. According to Plaintiff, even correctional officers noticed swelling and discoloration in his ankle, which was not acknowledged by medical personnel.

In January 2014, Plaintiff went on a hunger strike in order to secure proper diagnosis and treatment, and the return of a confiscated electronic device. The warden told Plaintiff to file grievances. The warden also said he would speak to the prison doctor, but thought it was not likely to do any good because "they" did not want to spend any money to treat Plaintiff. Other correctional officers expressed a similar view that Plaintiff would not receive proper medical treatment until he was released from prison. As the hunger strike stretch on, Plaintiff was placed in an isolation cell and shackled to the bed, which only exacerbated Plaintiff's ankle injury. (When the hunger strike ended is unclear).

In February 2014, Plaintiff was transferred to Big Muddy River Correctional Center in the Southern District of Illinois. He immediately sought medical care. The nurse who examined Plaintiff upon intake noted edema and possible infection in Plaintiff's right ankle, caused by the bullet fragments. Plaintiff went unseen by a physician, and the warden walked off when Plaintiff attempted to explain his need for help. A nurse did prescribe ibuprofen, which was ineffective. Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance, but his situation was not considered an emergency and he consequently received a disciplinary report-which he thinks was designed to intimidate him into giving up his quest for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Plaintiff was finally seen by a doctor in March 2014, and blood work was ordered. Plaintiff perceived that the doctor was attempting a cover-up, so he filed a grievance. The doctor failed to see Plaintiff in a week, as promised. Although a nurse explained that the doctor was running behind schedule, Plaintiff filed another grievance. The doctor eventually informed Plaintiff that the blood work was all normal and that there was no infection. Acetaminophen was prescribed, but was ineffective. Another grievance was filed.

In April 2014, over Plaintiff's objection, physical therapy was prescribed for Plaintiff's ankle pain. The therapist thought that massage would relieve the golf ball-sized cyst on Plaintiff's ankle, but it only caused pain and opened the scar so that puss was oozing out. ...

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