United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. ZAGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For
the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted.
Opter Johnson, an Illinois state prisoner, has brought this
pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that he was subjected to cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. At
all relevant times, Plaintiff was an inmate at the Northern
Reception and Classification Center (“NRC”) in
Will County, Illinois. Plaintiff contends that the six
Defendants-all of whom are current or prior Illinois
Department of Corrections (“IDOC”)
officials-violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on
cruel and unusual punishment when the NRC's hot water
went out for approximately two months, which resulted in
Plaintiff taking ice cold showers during that time. At the
time of the events giving rise to this action, Defendant
Salvador Godinez was the Director of IDOC; Defendants Marcus
Hardy and Michael Lemke were each formerly the Warden of
Stateville Correctional Center and the NRC; Defendants Jerry
Lyte and Nikki Robinson were Assistant Wardens at the NRC;
and Defendant Tracy Engleson was the Superintendent of the
entered the NRC on December 3, 2012, and was transferred to
another facility on or around September 25, 2013. Throughout
this ten-month period, Plaintiff was authorized a five-minute
shower once per week. Sometime in July of 2013, the hot water
at the NRC went out. Consequently, Plaintiff was given the
option of either taking a cold shower or having no shower at
all. Plaintiff chose to take ice cold showers on a weekly
basis until his departure from the facility in September.
submitted a grievance communicating this problem to NRC staff
on July 2, 2013. On July 15, 2013, a counselor notified
Plaintiff that a work order had been submitted to correct the
problem. Although it is not clear from the record exactly
when hot water was restored to the NRC, it occurred sometime
before October 17, 2013. According to Plaintiff, the showers
were contaminated with black mold, the spores of which
Plaintiff was forced to breathe while showering. In addition,
Plaintiff alleged that the showers were being used by over
150 inmates on a weekly basis and yet were often cleaned only
bi-weekly, and sometimes only once a month. Plaintiff alleged
that he spoke to Defendants Lyte, Robinson, and Engleson on
three different occasions about these issues but was
disregarded. Plaintiff alleges that these cold showers,
coupled with the fact that the showers were not cleaned
adequately or consistently, led to several medical problems
including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
(“MRSA”), numerous flu-like symptoms, and a foot
infection which caused his skin to itch and flake.
judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To determine whether any genuine fact
issue exists, the court must assess the proof as presented in
the record, including depositions, answers to
interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits, to view the
facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007). The court may not weigh conflicting evidence or
make credibility determinations. Omnicare, Inc. v.
UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir.
2011). If a claim or defense is factually unsupported, the
court should dispose of it at the summary judgment stage.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The party seeking summary
judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no
genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323, 106
S.Ct. 2548. In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on
bare pleadings but must designate specific material facts
showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at
324, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc.,
216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir.2000).
whether an inmate's constitutional rights have been
violated requires a “fact-intensive inquiry under
constitutional standards.” Gillis v. Litscher,
468 F.3d 488, 492 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal citations
omitted). Where, as here, the pain inflicted on an inmate is
not formally apportioned as “punishment” by
either statute or the sentencing judge, the plaintiff must
satisfy a two-prong test. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S.
294, 298, 300 (1991). First, the conditions must be
objectively so serious as to be considered cruel and unusual,
and second, the defendants must have acted with deliberate
indifference toward the plaintiff. Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. at 298. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff
has failed to establish both of these prongs.
state has an obligation to provide its inmates with a
“healthy, habitable environment.” French v.
Owens, 777 F.2d 1250, 1255 (7th Cir. 1985) (internal
citations omitted). At a minimum, this involves providing
prisoners with the “minimal civilized measure[s] of
life's necessities”, which includes showers.
Halmon v. Greer, No. 14 C 3607, 2015 WL 2357632, at
*2 (N.D. Ill. May 14, 2015) (citing Gordon v.
Sheahan, No. 96 C 1784, 1997 WL 136699, at *7 (N.D.Ill.
Mar. 24, 1997)). However, a temporary deprivation of some
necessities is not an automatic Eighth Amendment violation.
Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1236 (7th Cir.
1988) (holding that the denial of hygiene items for ten days
did not constitute an Eighth Amendment violation); Dye v.
Lomen, 40 F. App'x 993, 996 (7th Cir. 2002) (holding
that the denial of toilet paper for several days did not
violate the Eighth Amendment). Instead, the deprivation must
be intolerable to the point that it does not align with
“the evolving standards of decency that mark the
progress of a maturing society.” Harris v.
Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1236 (7th Cir. 1988). Under some
circumstances, cold showers over a prolonged period of time
could become an Eighth Amendment violation. See Halmon v.
Greer, No. 14 C 3607, 2015 WL 2357632, at *2. But,
“[o]cassional cold showers due to plumbing problems are
not a constitutional violation”. Tapia v.
Sheahan, No. 97 C 5737, 1998 WL 919709, at *5 (N.D.
Ill.Dec. 30, 1998) (citing Williams v. DeTella, No.
95 C 6498, 1997 WL 603884) (N.D. Ill. 1997)).
cites a number of cases that find potential Eighth Amendment
violations related to cold temperatures in prisons but those
cases involve materially different circumstances than those
in Plaintiff's allegations. E.g. Dixon v.
Godinez, 114 F.3d 640, 642 (7th Cir. 1997) (concerning
prolonged exposure to a cell so cold that ice formed on the
walls); Chandler v. Baird, 926 F.2d 1057, 1065-66
(11th Cir. 1991) (cold cell); Gaston v. Coughlin 249
F.3d 156 (2nd Cir. 2001) (same); French v. Owens,
777 F.2d 1252, 1255 (7th Cir. 1985) (noting a number of
deplorable living conditions including, inter alia,
a lack of hot water in the cells). In each of those cases,
the length of the exposure was considered important in making
the determination that an Eighth Amendment violation had
occurred. See also Gibson v. Paquin, 590 F.
App'x 635, 636 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 135
S.Ct. 2389 (2015) (“Harm from prolonged exposure to
severe cold in a prison may state an Eighth Amendment
case, however, Plaintiff does not complain of prolonged
exposure to a cold environment. Instead, Plaintiff took
approximately eight showers that lasted approximately five
minutes each. Plaintiff was also not forced to take the cold
showers and was able to clean himself in his cell. Although
the showers were unpleasant, the Eighth Amendment does not
protect against modest, temporary erosions of prisoner
comfort. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 101 S.Ct. 2393, 2400
(1981) (holding that “the Constitution does not mandate
comfortable prisons”). In light of the fact that Eighth
Amendment violations for exposure to cold environments have
generally been found only where the exposure was of a
significant duration, the comparatively brief deprivation of
hot showers at issue here was ...