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Williams v. Collins

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 29, 2015

FRANK WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTON COLLINS, et. al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Frank Williams ("Williams"), presently in state custody at Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this pro se action against Cook County Jail ("CCJ") correctional officers Collins, Richard, Anderson, Aguire, Kniefel, and Carter ("Defendants") under the Civil Rights Act.[1] 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Williams alleges that while he was a pre-trial detainee at the CCJ, Defendants subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. (R. 9, Compl.)

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (R. 18, Def.'s Mot.) In their motion, Defendants argue that the Complaint fails to state a claim for relief because: 1) a lack of running water in a detainee's cell is not an objectively serious deprivation under the Constitution; and 2) Williams does not plausibly allege that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his conditions of confinement.[2] ( Id. at 6-7.) For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. 18]. Defendants are ordered to submit their answer to the Complaint within thirty days of the date of this order. This matter is set for a status hearing on 9/17/2015 at 9:30 a.m.

BACKGROUND

For purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Williams' factual allegations are accepted as true. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Williams, previously a pre-trial detainee in the CCJ, was confined to his cell in Tier 2B for twenty-one hours a day. (R. 9, Compl.) On May 15, 2014, Williams reported to correctional officer Collins that the running water in his cell had stopped working. (R. 22, Pl.'s Reply at 2.) Collins told Williams that a work order was put in to fix the plumbing, but he refused to move Williams to another cell. ( Id. ) When Williams asked the "other officers" in Tier 2B, presumably Defendants Richard, Anderson, Aguire, Kniefel, and Carter, to switch cells or to be let out "to get some water, " they either "ignored" him or responded "no." ( Id. at 2-3.) At some point, Collins responded to one of Williams' requests for water by saying that he "shouldn't have done what [he] did to get locked up." (R. 7, Pl.'s Resp at 4.)

On May 21, 2014, the seventh day without water in his cell, Williams filed an emergency grievance. (R. 7, Ex. A, Pl.'s Resp. at 12.) He received a grievance response from the Cook County Sherriff's Office, which said that his facility-repairs request was "referred" on May 22, 2014, and that a work order to fix his plumbing was submitted on May 27, 2014. (R. 7, Ex. B, Pl.'s Resp. at 13.) During this period, Williams could not "wash up" or "brush his teeth" in his cell. (R. 22, Pl.'s Reply at 7.) He received one meal in the morning with milk, but was given no liquids with lunch or dinner. ( Id. ) According to Williams, he "was not allowed water in [his] cell" for any reason, not even to "hydrate" or to take his "prescribed medication." ( Id. ) These conditions persisted for sixteen days until water was restored to Williams' cell on June 1, 2014. (R. 9, Compl.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Williams' claim has already been screened under Section 1915A in the same manner as the Court now reviews the Complaint for a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Booker-El v. Superintendent, Indiana State Prison, 668 F.3d 896, 899 (7th Cir. 2012). Under federal pleading standards, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion "challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-movant, accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Vesely v. Armslist L.L.C., 762 F.3d 661, 664 (7th Cir. 2014).

Applying this standard, a claim survives a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge when it "contain[s] sufficient factual matter... to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. This plausibility standard does not require detailed factual allegations, but "plaintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). And while "abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action" do not satisfy Rule 8(a)(2), see Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009), the Court must "construe pro se complaints liberally and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, " See Arnett, 658 F.3d at 751 (citation omitted).

DISCUSSION

The Eighth Amendment protects incarcerated individuals from prison conditions that constitute "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain."[3] Hudson v. McMillian, 501 U.S. 1, 5 (1992). To this end, the Constitution entitles incarcerated persons to confinement under humane conditions that provide for their basic human needs. See Childress v. Walker, 787 F.3d 433, 438-39 (7th Cir. 2015). Accordingly, a jail official's deliberate indifference to conditions of confinement that deprive a detainee of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" violates the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1970).

In evaluating a conditions-of-confinement claim, the Court conducts both an objective and subjective inquiry. See Estate of Miller, ex rel. Bertram v. Tobiasz, 680 F.3d 984, 989 (7th Cir. 2012). Here, for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Williams must plausibly allege that 1) his confinement conditions were objectively serious as to deprive him of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities;" and 2) Defendants' acts or omissions in response to those conditions coincided with "a sufficiently culpable state of mind." See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297, 304 (1991); accord Townsend v. Cooper, 759 F.3d 678, 687 (7th Cir. 2014).

To meet the objective prong, Williams must allege a "totality of the conditions of [] confinement" that resulted in an extreme deprivation "of life's necessities." See Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 843 (7th Cir. 2013), Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. The Court views "the cumulative impact" of the alleged confinement conditions to determine its impact on the inmate's "physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being[.]" Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 363 (1981). Of course, ordinary discomfort does not trigger the Eighth Amendment; hardship is "part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society." Id. at 347 (citation omitted); see also Isby v. Clark, 100 F.3d 502, 505 (7th Cir. 1996) ("Prisons, of course, are not Hilton hotels."). But while "[t]he Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons... neither does it permit inhumane ones." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833 (internal quotations marks and citation omitted). Applying the appropriate standard requires the Court to scrutinize prison conditions in the context of the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346.

Defendants first argue that the "lack of running water" in Williams' cell was not objectively serious so as to deprive Williams of a "basic human need" and violate the Eighth Amendment. ( See R.16, Def.'s Mot. at 5.) Indeed, "[n]othing in the Constitution requires that each prisoner be provided with clean, cold, warm, or any other form of running water in his cell[.]" Jelinek v. Roth, No. 93-3316, 1994 WL 447266, at *2 (7th Cir. Aug. 19, 1994). However, courts in the Seventh Circuit have held that inmates are entitled to drinking water; after all, "[w]ater is, undoubtedly, a necessity of life." Dillard v. Washington, No. 96 C 698, 1998 WL 142360, at *3 (N.D. Ill. ...


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