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Hoffman v. Lakin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 6, 2015

DAVID HOFFMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN LAKIN, GARY BOST, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff David Hoffman, a pretrial detainee at Madison County Jail ("Jail"), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has named nineteen Defendants, all employees of the Jail. ( See Doc. 1). Plaintiff's principal complaint is that Defendants have subjected him to inhumane conditions of confinement in violation of the Constitution.

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

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).

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. At the same time, 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). At this preliminary stage, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint passes threshold review.

The Complaint

Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee, has been detained at the Madison County Jail ("Jail") Housing Unit B-North since March 13, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Since then, he has been exposed to various conditions that he asserts violate his constitutional rights. On three separate occasions (March 18, March 19, and April 26, 2015), Plaintiff was directly exposed to large amounts of raw sewage when the sewer drains and toilets on the unit backed up causing human waste to flow into cells (including Plaintiff's) and the walkways of the housing unit. Id. at 13. Exposure to the waste caused Plaintiff to suffer stomachaches, diarrhea, and severe headaches. He was never offered any medical attention. Id. In addition, the April 26 sewer backup caused damage to some of Plaintiff's personal property, including his legal documents and multiple photos of his children. Id. at 22. The Complaint states that each of the named Defendants was informed of the ongoing inhumane and unsanitary conditions, yet failed to take action to mitigate the risks to Plaintiff's health and safety. Id. Plaintiff maintains that a black mold line has formed four to six inches up the wall and is still visible on the walkway between cells, demonstrating the reach of the sewage, as well as the lack of cleanup. Id.

In addition to the sewage problem, Plaintiff complains that the Jail was infested with ants from April 14 through May 11, 2015. Id. at 16. During that month, Plaintiff suffered ant bites all over his body and was unable to sleep due to the ant infestation. Id. Plaintiff also asserts that convicted inmates are detained in his housing unit, which creates a "stressful environment" and violates Illinois state law. See 730 ILCS 125/11; Doc. 1, p. 14. With respect to the conditions of his confinement, Plaintiff additionally claims that jail officials have adopted a meal schedule that forces detainees to wait 15 hours between dinner, which is served at 4:30 p.m., and breakfast, which is served at 7:30 a.m. Id. at 28. He alleges that the meals are nutritionally inadequate, which causes detainees to suffer both mentally and physically. Id.

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that on April 10, 2015, Defendant Mike Hare threw a milk carton at him, without provocation. Id. at 25. The carton exploded, causing milk to cover Plaintiff's face. Although Plaintiff suffered no physical injury, he maintains that the experience was degrading. Id.

Plaintiff has named the following nineteen Defendants, in their individual and official capacities. For the sake of ease, the following Defendants shall be referred to as "Correctional Defendants": John Lakin (sheriff), Gary Bost (captain), Robert Hallenboch (lieutenant), Tim Walker (deputy), Don McNaughton (deputy), Harley Foster (sergeant), Mike Hare (deputy), Miron Thompson (sergeant), Craig Reichart (deputy), Tom Schmidt (deputy), Mike Tassone (deputy), Robert Hertz (sheriff), Dover (sergeant), and Don Bunt (captain). The remaining Defendants shall be referred to as "Medical Defendants": Robert Blakenship (medical doctor), Barbra Unfried (nurse), Martha Major (nurse), Alicia Rushing (nurse), and Valerie Bassets (nurse). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Legal Standard for Pretrial Detainees

"Incarcerated persons are entitled to confinement under humane conditions which provide for their basic human needs.'" Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Because Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee, his right to be confined under humane conditions is derived from the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment, which is applied to convicted inmates. See Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012)). See also Klebanowski v. Sheahan, 540 F.3d 633, 637 (7th Cir. 2008). The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment also "protects a pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395, n. 10 (1989).

To state a claim challenging the conditions of confinement, a detainee must first allege that he has been subjected to adverse conditions that deny "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (citation omitted); Rice ex rel. Rice, 675 F.3d at 664; Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488 (7th Cir. 2006); Vinning-El v. Long, 482 F.3d 923, 924 (7th Cir. 2007)). This analysis examines whether the conditions of confinement exceeded the contemporary bounds of decency of a mature civilized society. Id. Jail 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).

In addition, a detainee must allege that defendants "purposely or knowingly" acted (or failed to act) or acted with criminal recklessness to create the conditions. See Kingsley v. Hendrickson, No. ...


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