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Walker v. Lakin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 4, 2015

KEITH WALKER, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Keith Walker, who is currently detained at Madison County Jail, brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that jail officials subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement and inadequate medical care (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8). He seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 9).

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 § 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). The complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

The Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that he was exposed to human waste as a result of two sewer backups that occurred in Housing Unit B-North at Madison County Jail ("Jail"). The first incident occurred on December 27, 2014, when raw sewage backed up in the drains and toilets and spilled onto the floor. This continued for a period of twenty-four hours. Plaintiff was allegedly locked down in his cell with "raw sewage completely everywhere on the floor" (Doc. 1, p. 6). At the same time, Sergeant Dover shut off all fresh drinking water.

The second incident occurred on March 18, 2015 (Doc. 1, p. 7). During this incident, "sewer, drains, [and] toilets began to back up producing raw sewage waste" (Doc. 1, p. 7). The duration of this second backup is not disclosed.

Plaintiff was also denied access to his medication on March 30, 2015. On that date, Defendant Blankenship, Plaintiff's medical doctor, allegedly "allowed" Defendants Hare and Foster to remove Plaintiff's "much needed medication" from the medication cart (Doc. 1, p. 7). The complaint provides no details regarding the type of medication, the medical condition it treated, or the duration of the deprivation.

Plaintiff now sues the following Jail officials, in their individual and official capacities, in connection with these events: John Lakin (sheriff), Gary Bost (captain), Mike Hare (deputy), Harley Foster (sergeant), and Robert Blankenship (doctor). He claims that Defendants violated his rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments by exposing him to inhumane conditions of confinement and depriving him of his medication.[1] Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.


The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs claims for unconstitutional conditions of confinement (Count 1) and denial of medical care (Count 2) brought by pretrial detainees. See Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012); Forest v. Prine, 620 F.3d 739, 744-45 (7th Cir. 2010); Klebanowski v. Sheahan, 540 F.3d 633, 637 (7th Cir. 2008). The Eighth Amendment governs claims for inmates. Id. Despite these distinctions, the Seventh Circuit has "found it convenient and entirely appropriate to apply the same standard to claims arising under the Fourteenth Amendment (detainees) and Eighth Amendment (convicted prisoners) without differentiation.'" Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1999)). Against this backdrop, the Court will discuss each of Plaintiff's claims below.

Count 1 - Conditions of Confinement

Jail officials violate the Eighth Amendment (and Fourteenth Amendment) when they are deliberately indifferent to adverse conditions that deny "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, " including sanitation. Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834-35 (1994)). All conditions of confinement claims, even those brought by pretrial detainees, have an objective and a subjective component. McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302 (1991). The objective component focuses on the nature of the acts or practices alleged to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Jackson v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir. 1992). Prison conditions that deprive inmates of basic human needs-food, medical care, sanitation, or physical safety-may violate constitutional norms. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981); see also James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992).

The conditions described in the complaint support Plaintiff's conditions of confinement claim at this early stage. These conditions include exposure to raw sewage coupled with a denial of access to clean water. The Seventh Circuit has specifically held that "unhygienic conditions, when combined with the jail's failure to provide detainees with a way to clean for themselves with running water or other supplies, state a claim for relief." See Budd, 711 F.3d at 842 (citing Vinning-El v. Long, 482 F.3d 923, 924-25 (reversing summary judgment where prisoner was held for six days without sanitation items in cell contaminated with human waste and in which sink and toilet did not work); Johnson v. Pelker, 891 F.2d 136, 139-40 (7th Cir. 1989) (reversing summary judgment where prisoner denied cleaning supplies and confined for three days to cell that was smeared with human waste and lacked running water)). See also Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir. 2004) (internal citations ...

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