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Johnson v. Larson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 27, 2015

DEBBIE ISAACS, and DR. LARSON, Defendants.


STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Henry Johnson was at all relevant times an inmate housed in Big Muddy River Correctional Center; he has since been released from prison. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights with respect to not being provided a non-soy diet and the resulting loss of weight and ill effects on his health.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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 this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was housed at Big Muddy River Correctional Center from January through May, 2015. Upon his arrival, Plaintiff asked various unidentified nurses for a non-soy diet because he is allergic to soy. According to Plaintiff, his allergy to soy has been noted in his medical records since 2011, and he has been provided a non-soy diet at other prisons.

Plaintiff was never given a non-soy diet while he was housed at Big Muddy. Because soy is a part of the vast majority of the food served, Plaintiff was forced to eat less, consuming substantially fewer calories than normal. Consequently, he became weak, fainted, and suffered other ill effects. Although he was taken to the health care unit after he fainted, he was never seen by a doctor.

Plaintiff saw Dr. Larson in March 2015, and the doctor agreed to provide Plaintiff with a non-soy diet. Nevertheless, Plaintiff never received the special diet, and he never saw Dr. Larson again. Plaintiff then wrote to Healthcare Administrator Debbie Isaacs, who is also a nurse. Isaacs responded that a non-soy diet would not be authorized because she did not find any notation in Plaintiff's medical records about the need for such a diet.

Plaintiff contends that the defendants lied to him-Larson falsely promising the non-soy diet, and Isaacs falsely saying there was no notation in his medical records. Plaintiff also broadly alleges that the healthcare unit, including Larson and Isaacs, were unprofessional and negligent in handling his medical needs. The defendants are sued in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.

Based on the allegations in the complaint and Plaintiff's own legal characterization, the Court construes the complaint as asserting the following single, overarching claim.

Count 1: Defendants Debbie Isaacs and Dr. Larson were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Any intended claims for negligence or medical malpractice should be considered dismissed without prejudice for reasons explained below. Similarly, Plaintiff's general assertions about the unprofessionalism of the entire healthcare unit also fail. No policy and practice is alleged tied to Isaacs, the prison or the Department of Corrections, and no injunctive relief is sought.


The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners from being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. U.S.CONST., amend. VIII. See also Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 439 (7th Cir. 2010). Eighth Amendment protection extends to conditions of confinement that pose a substantial risk of serious harm, including health and safety. See Estate of Miller, ex rel. Bertram v. Tobiasz, 680 F.3d 984 (7th Cir. 2012). Prison officials can violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment when ...

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