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Griggs v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 22, 2015

ROGER A. GRIGGS #XXXXX-XXX, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, and WARDEN WALTON, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Roger Griggs, who is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois ("USP-Marion"), brings this action pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680, and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff claims that he was attacked and brutally beaten by his cellmate in the cell that they shared in USP-Marion's Y Unit on June 23, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 5). On the day of the attack, Plaintiff informed prison officials that his cellmate said he felt like killing someone (Doc. 1, p. 5). Prison officials allegedly disregarded the threat and also failed to monitor the unit while Plaintiff was attacked in his cell that night. Plaintiff now brings this action against the United States, the United States Attorney General, and Warden Walton under the FTCA and Bivens. He seeks monetary damages

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

This case is now before the Court for a 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 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).

For purposes of its preliminary review of this matter, the Court considered three documents, which were all filed together on the same date: the complaint (Doc. 1, pp. 1-6), the exhibits (Doc. 1, pp. 7-18), and a memorandum of law (Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-7). On the face of the complaint, Plaintiff indicates that he is bringing this action against the United States, the United States Attorney General, and Warden Walton pursuant to the FTCA (Doc. 1, p. 1). In the memorandum of law, Plaintiff also invokes Bivens for purposes of bringing Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against specific federal officials (Doc. 1-1, pp. 4, 6). Judges are obligated to liberally construe the pleadings filed by a pro se litigant. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Construing the pleadings liberally, the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated an FTCA claim against the United States and a Bivens claim against two USP-Marion officials.

The Complaint

While housed in USP-Marion's Residential Drug Abuse Program Unit on June 23, 2014, Plaintiff noticed that his cellmate, Rodriguez Ramsy, became agitated and violent following a phone call (Doc. 1, p. 5; Doc. 1-1, p. 1). Ramsy told Plaintiff that he wanted to kill someone. At the time, Ramsy seemed "unstable, overly aggressive, violent and ready to attack" (Id. ). Plaintiff informed the unit manager and unit officer that he was not safe in the cell with Ramsy (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). The officers dismissed Plaintiff's concerns and gave him a direct order to "lock down." Plaintiff complied.

Following a head count of the prisoners at 10:00 p.m., Plaintiff fell asleep on the top bunk. Around midnight, he was awakened by Ramsy, who was using a belt that held a metal combination lock, to beat Plaintiff. Before losing consciousness, Plaintiff screamed for help.

For the next thirty-five minutes, Ramsy beat Plaintiff with the homemade weapon, as inmates in nearby cells screamed for help. They pressed the duress alarm in their cells. But as they "beat and kicked their doors screaming for the unit officer, " Ramsy continued bludgeoning Plaintiff. No officer appeared.

Approximately thirty-five minutes after the attack began, two officers arrived at the unit. They would not enter the cell. Instead, they called for help. While waiting for other officers to arrive, they ordered Ramsy to slide the belt and lock through the slot in the door. Ramsy ignored these orders and continued beating Plaintiff. It was not until a lieutenant and several additional officers arrived several minutes later that Ramsy allowed the officers to handcuff him. By that time, Plaintiff had endured the attack for at least forty minutes (Doc. 1, p. 5; Doc. 1-1, p. 2).

Photographs filed as exhibits to the complaint, though difficult to see, depict a grisly, blood-soaked scene (Doc. 1, pp. 10-18). Plaintiff claims that he sustained numerous injuries (Doc. 1-1, p. 3). He received staples in his head, leg, and wrist. He also suffered "emotional and mental" injuries. He is still haunted by nightmares, anxiety attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder and claims that treatment for these psychological injuries has been denied.

Plaintiff was not issued an incident report following the assault. Prison officials agreed that it was not his fault. Plaintiff blames the assault on the absence of any officers in the area for a period that exceeded thirty-five minutes. He specifically claims that Officer Meyerhoff and Officer Rhodes were not at their assigned posts, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons failed to assign an officer to the Y Unit between midnight and 12:35 a.m. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4). Further, no one conducted the standard midnight head count on the night of Plaintiff's attack. Had the routine head count been completed in a timely manner, the officers could have stopped the assault on Plaintiff sooner or prevented it altogether.

Plaintiff now sues the United States, the United States Attorney General, and Warden Walton. He claims that the conduct set forth above violated his rights under the FTCA, the Eighth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment (Doc. 1-1, p. 5). He seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1-1, p. 7).

Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into three counts. 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: Defendants, by and through the negligence of USP-Marion officials, are liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for Plaintiff's assault and resulting injuries;
Count 2: Defendants failed to protect Plaintiff from an excessive risk of inmate assault, in violation of the Eighth ...

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