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Hale v. Pate

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 31, 2016

SHANNON ZINN HALE, # B-87242, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court for review of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 12), filed on May 24, 2016. Plaintiff is a state prisoner in the custody of the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center (“SWICC”). Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's claims arose while he was a pretrial detainee being held in the Saline County Detention Center (“SCDC”) on December 21, 2014, shortly after his arrest (Doc. 12, p. 6). Defendant Riden arrested Plaintiff and took him to the SCDC, where he was confronted by Defendants Pate and Walker (jail officers). Defendant Pate ordered Plaintiff to stand against the wall and take off his belt. Plaintiff complied, and reached behind his back to give the belt to Defendant Pate (it appears that Plaintiff was facing the wall at the time). Plaintiff unintentionally made contact with Defendant Pate's shoulder. Defendant Walker grabbed Plaintiff and threw him against the wall so hard that the wind was knocked out of him. Defendant Pate next ordered Plaintiff to take off his shoes, and Plaintiff did so. Defendant Pate picked Plaintiff up and “slammed on [his] head, ” causing Plaintiff to black out (Doc. 12, pp. 6-7).

         Plaintiff awoke in a restraint chair, with blood pouring out of a wound in the left side of his forehead, and running into his eyes, mouth, and nose. Plaintiff was taken to a cell (#110) where no cameras were present. Defendant Officers Boma, Walker, Pate, and Riden were in the room with him. Defendant Boma pulled the straps on the restraint chair so tight that Plaintiff lost circulation and suffered great pain. Plaintiff yelled out in pain and called for help. The four officers then proceeded to beat and hit Plaintiff in his face, chest, and ribs while he remained tied in the restraint chair (Doc. 12, p. 7).

         Plaintiff was eventually taken to the Harrisburg Medical Center, where multiple stitches were used to close his forehead wound. The next day (December 22, 2014), Plaintiff woke up in a cell with no mat, no blanket, and dried blood all over his head, face, and upper chest. His ribs were bruised, he had a cut on his nose, and his blackened eyes were so swollen that a nurse had to guide him to the health care department because he could not see (Doc. 12, p. 8).

         Plaintiff tried to get pain pills from the doctor, but was never given any. He also wrote to the SCDC's Captain Bennett (who is not a named Defendant) asking for medical attention to get his stitches removed, but got no response. Months after the incident, Plaintiff had to remove the stitches himself with a pair of nail clippers. He was left with a permanent scar.

         Plaintiff requests $22 million dollars in damages (Doc. 12, p. 9).

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

         Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. 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. Any other claim that is mentioned in the complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendants Pate, Boma, Walker, and Riden, for using excessive force against ...

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