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Smith v. Cunningham

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 12, 2016

VINCENT E. SMITH, #R11677, Plaintiff,

          Vincent E. Smith, Plaintiff, Pro Se.


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

         Plaintiff Vincent E. Smith, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), brings this pro se action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). He alleges that the conduct giving rise to his claims occurred at Lawrence. Smith's claims appear to potentially stem from two distinct issues-a beating by prison guards, and deliberate indifference to a medical condition. Smith makes numerous claims in relation to these two issues, all falling within the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. In connection with these claims, he names John Doe 1 (orange crush officer), John Doe 2 (orange crush officer), John Coe (doctor), Martin Phillips (health care administrator), Anne Tredway (assistant warden), Steve Duncan (warden), and Lorie Cunningham (health care director of nursing). Plaintiff seeks both monetary compensation, and injunctive relief ordering the prison to provide him with adequate medical care.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 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).

         As a part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits. In George v. Smith, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that the practice of serverance is important, "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 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Severed counts will be divided into new actions, given new case numbers, and assessed filing fees.

         The Complaint

         The Plaintiff alleges that in July 2014, John Doe 1, an officer participating on an orange crush tactical team, came to his cell and began beating him (Doc. 1 at 6). John Doe 1 slammed the Plaintiff's head into the concrete wall multiple times ( Id. ). Meanwhile, John Doe 2 merely looked on and failed to attempt to stop the abuse ( Id. ). After the assault, Plaintiff was given ice for the lump on his head and accompanying headache ( Id. at 7). Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that, prior to the assault, he never had head pain ( Id. ).

         He subsequently visited the medical unit on numerous occasions to treat head pain and vision issues ( Id. at 7-11). Initially, in September 2014, a doctor opined that the head pain could be caused by an ingrown hair ( Id. at 7). Plaintiff grieved this diagnosis because he felt it was incorrect ( Id. ). In September 2014, he experienced head pain, dizziness, blurry vision, and pressure in his head and chest, for which he pressed the emergency button in his cell ( Id. ).

         According to the Complaint, in October 2014, Plaintiff saw Defendant Doctor Coe and informed him that he was suffering head pain as a result of John Doe 1's assault ( Id. at 7-8). Plaintiff alleges that Coe's ongoing course of treatment for his head pain was unsuccessful (Doc.

         1 at 9-11). He saw Coe on numerous occasions for pain and pressure in his head, as well as accompanying vision impairment ( Id. ). Coe investigated the symptoms by pressing on the side of Plaintiff's head and face and by shinning a light in his eyes on multiple occasions ( Id. ). Each time, Coe stated that the head pain was likely the result of a swollen artery in the Plaintiff's head ( Id. ). Coe attempted to triage the condition by prescribing a variety of medications, which Plaintiff continued to report were not working ( Id. ). On one visit, Coe told Plaintiff that due to budget he could not organize an MRI or other examination, but that once the Plaintiff was out of custody he should seek a functional MRI-the only way to apparently detect the underlying problem (Doc. 1-1 at 25-26). Coe indicated that absent such a scan, the best he could do was to provide relief from the symptoms with medication ( Id. ). Coe then asked the Plaintiff what type of medication he would like ( Id. ). At some points, the course of treatment included medication and a permit to have ice packs for his head (Doc. 1 at 9-11). Plaintiff mentioned that Coe recorded incorrect information in his medical record, and that he sought to correct it ( Id. at 7-8).

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Duncan was aware of the lack of proper care he was receiving via written grievances and a verbal conversation ( Id. at 7, 10). Despite being on notice of the ongoing issue, Duncan did not take any actions to ensure that the Plaintiff received more comprehensive care ( Id. ). Likewise, Defendant Cunningham was aware of the lack of adequate care because Plaintiff filed a written grievance directed to her ( Id. at 10). However, she did not respond ( Id. ). Plaintiff verbally notified Defendant Tredway of his medical issues and Tredway averred that she would look in to the problem, but Plaintiff opined that no action was ever taken ( Id. at 11).

         Plaintiff also alleges that he sent a written grievance to Phillip Shicker, the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") medical director, but received no response ( Id. ). Further, he submitted grievances seeking the names of John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, but was denied access to that information ( Id. ).


         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se Complaint into the following enumerated 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. ...

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