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Kirby v. Cantina Food Service

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 4, 2015

ARTHUR KIRBY, # N-54069 Plaintiff,


STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also invokes the Americans with Disabilities Act in connection with his claim. Plaintiff suffers from Type I diabetes. He claims that the two-meal-per-day policy and the high soy content of the food served at Pinckneyville have deprived him of adequate nutrition and harmed his health. Additionally, he states that the eye doctor intentionally gave him the wrong medication.

According to the complaint, Defendants Cantina Food Services (which provides food for the prison), Warden Spiller, Food Service Administrator Bailey, Deputy Corrections Director Bates, and Wexford Medical Sources (the prison medical provider) conspired to institute a policy denying breakfast to Pinckneyville inmates (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff asserts that the reasons for this policy are related to Pinckneyville's status as a "disciplinary" prison. Because of this policy, inmates must either wait 18 hours between meals, or must spend thousands of dollars to buy food at the prison commissary, which he claims overcharges for the items sold. The policy forces inmates to be severely undernourished, and serves to "line the bank accounts/pockets of [the] co-conspirators" (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Specific to his individual situation, Plaintiff states that as a Type I diabetic, he has a medical need for three nourishing meals every day (Doc. 1, p. 7). While he was in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") from November 20, 2014, to January 16, 2015, he was served breakfast as well as two other meals each day (Doc. 1, p. 6). However, since his January 16, 2015, transfer to Pinckneyville, he has not been given breakfast. Instead, the two daily meals consist of a "brunch" and dinner. Brunch is made up of a lunch, to which a small serving of oatmeal (4-5 spoonfuls) has been added. The evening meal is "a small TV-dinner" (Doc. 1, p. 7). He claims these two meals contain only 1600 calories, far too low for a highly active person such as Plaintiff. The absence of breakfast and the many hours that he must go without food between dinner and the following day's brunch has caused problems for Plaintiff because of his diabetic condition. He suffers from severe stomach pain, severe headaches, erratic weight changes, and dangerously low sugar counts. He has also had a blackout. Furthermore, because of his diabetes, he should not eat white rice, potatoes, or pasta, but is often served these foods.

Plaintiff has repeatedly written letters to Defendants Bates, Bailey, and Spiller complaining about the diet plan and its effects on him. He never received any response from these parties. He has also filed grievances, which likewise have yielded no response.

Plaintiff's second claim focuses on the soy content of the prison diet. Again, he characterizes this claim as a "conspiracy" between Defendants Spiller, Bates, Bailey, the IDOC, and Cantina Food Services to feed him soy products which he contends are harmful. As a result of consuming the soy foods, Plaintiff has experienced severe stomach pain, constipation, lethargy, headaches, erratic weight gains and losses, problems with urination, and depression. He also fears the soy diet has put him at risk for cancer (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). At one point in late 2014, he was unable to move his bowels for six full days, and his abdominal pain was so bad that he had to remain flat on his back in bed. Plaintiff complained to Defendant Shah, [1] a medical provider, but obtained no treatment. Defendant Shah refused to give Plaintiff a stool softener or anything for his pain, instead telling him to drink more water (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff wrote several grievances over the soy content in the diet, but never got any response.

Finally, Plaintiff claims that the Unknown Defendant Eye Doctor treated him for a severe eye infection some time in 2014[2] by intentionally using ear drop medication instead of the proper eye drop medication (Doc. 1, pp. 9, 13).[3] The Defendant Doctor placed the ear drops into Plaintiff's eyes, which caused painful burning. At the time the Defendant Doctor gave Plaintiff the wrong medicine, Plaintiff told the doctor that he planned to file a grievance. Plaintiff continued to use the drops in his eyes for some time as directed by the eye doctor, and noticed that the burning got worse. Eventually, he was given the correct eye drop medication. However, he claims he has suffered partial loss of vision and continuing eye pain from the improper use of the ear drops.

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts, which correspond to Plaintiff's designation of his claims. 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: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Cantina Food Services, Spiller, Bailey, Bates, and Wexford Medical Sources, for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's need for adequate food to manage his diabetic condition, avoid painful symptoms, and to meet his nutritional needs;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Shah, IDOC, Spiller, Bailey, Bates, and Cantina Food Services, for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious physical symptoms caused by his adverse reaction to the soy content of the prison diet;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against the Unknown Defendant Eye Doctor, for intentionally treating Plaintiff with the wrong medication for his eye infection.

Counts 1 and 2 shall proceed for further review in this action against some of the named Defendants; other Defendants are subject to dismissal. Taking Plaintiff's allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), Count 3 also survives threshold review under § 1915A.

However, Count 3 involves a claim that has no connection to the claims in Counts 1 and 2, and does not implicate any of the Defendants named in those Counts. Therefore, Count 3 cannot proceed in the same action. In George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007), the Seventh Circuit emphasized that unrelated claims against different defendants belong in separate lawsuits, "not only to prevent the sort of morass" produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits "but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees" under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. George, 507 F.3d at 607 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b), (g)).

Consistent with the George decision and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21, the Court shall sever Count 3 of Plaintiff's complaint, and shall open a new case with a newly-assigned case number for that claim. However, Plaintiff shall have an opportunity to voluntarily dismiss the newly severed case if he does not wish to proceed on those claims or incur the additional filing fee.

Count 1 - Deliberate Indifference to Nutritional Needs

The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment forbids unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, and punishment grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). Prison conditions that deprive inmates of basic human needs - food, medical care, sanitation, or physical safety - may violate the Eighth ...

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