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Crowder v. Larson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 17, 2015

DARYL M. CROWDER, # K-88903, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNIS LARSON, SHERRY BENTON, DEBORAH J. ISAACS, S. A. GODINEZ, ZACKARY S. ROECHEMAN, JEREMY C. MILLER, and DR.
v.
SHAH, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Daryl Crowder, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the deprivation of his constitutional rights at Big Muddy River Correctional Center ("Big Muddy") and Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"). In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that he suffered permanent injuries from three falls that could have been avoided if officials at Big Muddy and Pinckneyville had issued him a low bunk and lower level permit when he first requested one (Doc. 1, pp. 5-9). He also claims that Big Muddy officials retaliated against him for pursuing legal claims in connection with these injuries, by issuing him a false disciplinary ticket for fighting and transferring him to Pinckneyville. Plaintiff now sues four Big Muddy officials, [1] two Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") officials, [2] and one Pinckneyville official[3] for violating his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and Illinois law. He seeks monetary damages and a prison transfer (Doc. 1, p. 10).

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 Section 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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). The complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

The Complaint

In April 2013, Plaintiff asked Doctor Larson, a physician at Big Muddy, to issue him a permit for a low bunk and for placement on the prison's lower level (Doc. 1, p. 5). At the time, Plaintiff was fifty-one years old and a heart attack survivor. He was also taking medication that caused dizziness and muscle spasms. Doctor Larson did not issue the permit.

As a result, Plaintiff suffered three serious falls. The first two occurred on April 9th and 13th, 2013. Plaintiff fell from his upper bunk. He allegedly experienced "severe and extreme pain and aggravation of a[n] injury that happen[ed two] years prior" (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Then, on November 26, 2013, Plaintiff fell down six stairs, injuring his back and neck. He underwent "several painful and life threatening surgical procedures" (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).

Plaintiff claims that these falls, and the resulting injuries, could have been avoided if the permit was issued when he originally requested it. However, it was only after sustaining permanent injuries from these falls that Doctor Larson and Nurse Isaac agreed to issue Plaintiff a low bunk and lower level permit, along with crutches and a wheelchair (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Several IDOC officials, including Salvador Godinez, learned of Plaintiff's efforts to retain legal counsel and pursue claims against them for these injuries. In concert with Sherry Benton, he denied Plaintiff proper medical care in a therapeutic environment (Doc. 1, p. 7). In retaliation, Plaintiff was allegedly forced to share a cell with an aggressive inmate who attempted to fight him. Plaintiff was issued a false disciplinary ticket for fighting by Officer Miller (Doc. 1, p. 8). He claims that he was only defending himself. Following an allegedly unfair disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff was transferred to Pinckneyville. Big Muddy's warden, Zachary Roecheman, authorized the transfer.

Plaintiff's low bunk and lower level permit did not follow him. Doctor Shah, a Pinckneyville physician, refused to re-issue the permit. Plaintiff went on a hunger strike for four days, from November 24-28, 2014, and received the permit thereafter.

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Larson, Isaacs, Benton, Godinez, Roecheman, Miller and Shah for violating his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and Illinois law (Doc. 1, p. 9). He seeks monetary damages and a prison transfer (Doc. 1, p. 10).

Discussion

The Court finds it convenient to divide the complaint into five counts. The organization of these claims into five counts should not be construed as an opinion regarding the merits of any particular claim. 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.

Count 1: Defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they denied his request for a low bunk and lower level permit;
Count 2: Defendants violated Plaintiff's right to equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment by denying his request for a low bunk permit when prison policy called for the issuance ...

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