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Luera v. Godinez

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 30, 2015

JOSE LUERA, Plaintiff,
SALVADOR A. GODINEZ, et al., Defendants.


ANDREA R. WOOD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jose Luera, a prisoner in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), alleges that prison officials failed to prevent him from being transferred to the Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), where he had "known enemies." Luera claims that after being transferred to Menard he was placed into a cell with a mentally ill prisoner who violently beat him, resulting in substantial physical and mental injuries. He seeks damages and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and he also asserts state law claims for breach of statutory duty and common law negligence. Defendants Salvador Godinez and Tracey Engelson have filed a motion to dismiss Engelson from the case and to transfer the case to the Southern District of Illinois. (Dkt. No. 37.) For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to transfer venue to the Southern District of Illinois is granted. The motion to dismiss Engelson is denied without prejudice so that the issue may be decided by a court in the proper venue.


The following facts are taken from the First Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 32.) On September 9, 2011, Luera was processed into the Northern Reception Center ("NRC").[1] ( Id. ¶ 10.) During the intake process, Luera was not asked any questions about whether he had known enemies in the IDOC. He later learned that he should have been asked about his known enemies and wrote a letter to the superintendent of the NRC, Defendant Engelson, explaining that he had enemies at Menard and that if he was transferred there his life would be in danger. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Engelson forwarded the letter to Defendant Thompson, who then came to re-interview Luera. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Luera alleges that he gave Thompson a list of his known enemies at Menard and that Thompson personally assured him that he would not be sent there. ( Id. ¶ 16.)

On September 29, 20111, however, Luera was transferred to Menard. ( Id. ¶ 17.) Luera claims that he saw Thompson while he was waiting to be transferred and expressed his concerns about Menard again, but she ignored him. ( Id. ¶ 18.) At Menard, Luera was placed in West House with inmate William Thompson. ( Id. ¶ 19.) William Thompson had just completed time in segregation at the Pontiac Correctional Center for assaulting another inmate. ( Id. ) Luera feared for his life, and "was also afraid that his enemies would turn his cellmate against him, which is a common practice in the I.D.O.C." ( Id. ¶ 20.)

While he was housed with William Thompson, Luera noticed hyperactive, erratic, and aggressive behavior from him, and also observed that he was not taking his prescribed psychotropic medication or keeping his appointments with the prison psychiatrist. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Luera informed Defendants Lyerla and Birk that he feared for his safety due to these issues with William Thompson, and again stated that he had enemies at Menard and feared for his life. ( Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) He expressed these concerns to Lyerla and Birk several times, and also requested that they place him in protective custody, which they did not do. ( Id. ¶¶ 24-25.)

On October 23, 2011, around 7:30 a.m., Luera was violently attacked by his cellmate while he was sleeping. William Thompson bludgeoned Luera with his television and then pulled Luera off of the top bunk and violently beat him. ( Id. ¶ 26.) Luera alleges that other prisoners heard the beating taking place and screamed for the gallery officer. ( Id. ¶ 27.) William Thompson wrapped Luera in a blanket towards the front of the cell, where he lay in a pool of blood, comatose, until he was found at 9:30 a.m. when the gallery was being released for lunch. ( Id. ¶¶ 28-29.) Luera suffered a stroke as a result of the attack and medical personnel told him that, on a scale of one to ten, he had a negative one chance of living because of the delay in treatment. ( Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) He suffered "massive head injuries, a right orbital wall fracture, a right maxillary sinus fracture, a left nasal bone fracture, and multiple facial lacerations." ( Id. ¶ 31.)

Luera alleges that Defendants Engelson and Thompson failed to protect him by permitting him to be transferred to Menard even though he had known enemies at the facility. He also alleges that Defendants Lyerla and Birk were repeatedly informed about the issues with his cellmate, yet failed to protect him from being attacked. Luera claims that a few days prior to the assault, he was supposed to be moved to East House, but then Lyerla informed him "that his move was cancelled for reasons unknown to him" and he was placed back in his cell with William Thompson. ( Id. ¶¶ 44-45.) He also alleges that IDOC personnel and medical staff were indifferent to his serious medical needs and that he has made frequent complaints since the assault about, "amongst other things, headaches, nausea, disorientation, pain, urinary and digestive dysfunction, imbalance, difficulty walking, and right-sided numbness and muscle dysfunction." ( Id. ¶ 54.) He claims that his complaints were ignored, that he was not prescribed necessary medications, that appropriate medical tests were delayed or canceled, and that he was denied needed physical therapy. ( Id. ¶ 55.)

Luera did not file a grievance until June 4, 2012, at which point it was found to be untimely by prison officials. ( Id. ¶ 59, Ex. B.) He states that he was unable to file a grievance while he was in the hospital because he was suffering from "ongoing migraine headaches, memory loss, lack of appetite, lack of taste, cold sweats, dizziness, blurred vision, emotional distress, involuntary muscle contractions, and loss of motor skills" which, at times, affected his ability to write. ( Id. ¶ 57.)

With this lawsuit, Luera seeks a declaratory judgment that the policy of housing non-mentally ill prisoners with mentally ill prisoners as well as the specific conduct by Defendants toward Luera violate the Eighth Amendment and also constitute a breach of statutory duty by Defendants. He asks the Court to issue an injunction requiring Defendant Godinez or his agents to (1) stop housing non-mentally ill persons with mentally ill persons immediately, (2) create a policy requiring mentally ill persons who fail to keep their mental health appointments to be put under immediate observation, (3) immediately arrange for him to be given a CT scan and any other needed medical treatment, and (4) immediately arrange for him to see a neurologist to assess needed medical treatment. He is also seeking compensatory and punitive monetary damages against each Defendant.


I. Motion to Transfer Venue

Defendants seek to transfer this case to the Southern District of Illinois. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." To prevail, the moving party must show the following: "(1) venue is proper in this district; (2) venue and jurisdiction are proper in the transferee district; (3) the transferee district is more convenient for both the parties and witnesses; and (4) transfer would serve the interests of justice." Annett Holdings v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, No. 08-cv-1106, 2008 WL 2415299, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 12, 2008). In ruling on a motion under § 1404, the Court considers the relevant factors "in light of all the circumstances of the case, " an analysis that "necessarily involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude, " including the relative weight to give to each of the factors. Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986).

The parties do not dispute that venue is appropriate in both the Northern District of Illinois and the Southern District of Illinois. For a federal civil action, venue is proper in "(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located [or] (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). Here, Luera has named as Defendants two individuals that work at the NRC or Stateville, as well as unnamed John Doe Defendants from Stateville, all of whom are located in the Northern District. He has also alleged conduct at both the NRC and Stateville. So venue is proper in the Northern District. However, other Defendants named in this lawsuit ...

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