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Davis v. Williams

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

October 26, 2016



          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jerrold Davis (“Plaintiff”), an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”), alleges that Defendants, officials at Stateville and the Illinois Department of Corrections, violated his Eighth Amendment rights by subjecting him to cruel and unusual prison conditions. Second Am. Compl. [22]. On August 3, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's case for failure to state a claim. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss [24]. Defendants argue that, viewed objectively, Plaintiff's allegations are not sufficiently serious to establish a constitutional violation. Mem. Supp. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss [25]. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff has been an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center since 2006. Second Am. Compl. [22] ¶ 3, Ex. B. Plaintiff alleges that during his incarceration, Defendants have subjected him to deplorable living conditions that have exacerbated his asthma, increased his risk of bone cancer and fungal diseases, and caused leukemia. Id. ¶¶ 9, 21, 30, 36.

         Specifically, Plaintiff first alleges that Stateville's water supply includes excessive amounts of “microbiotic, ” “inorganic, ” and “radioactive” contaminants; “pesticides and herbicides”; and “organic chemicals.” Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff further claims that the water supply contains radium, alpha emitters, copper, and lead. Id. ¶¶ 21-24. Plaintiff alleges that, due to these impurities, the water “is often dark brown” and “malodorous.” Id. ¶ 25. He asserts that extended radium exposure may cause bone cancer, and that the radium and alpha emitters are the cause and aggravators of his leukemia. Id. ¶¶ 9, 21, 23.

         Plaintiff next alleges that Defendants “have allowed numerous birds to fly freely” throughout the prison's living units and cafeteria. Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff claims that these birds cause communicable and fungal diseases such as histoplasmosis, psittacosis, alveolitis, avian influenza, and campylobacteriosis. Id. ¶¶ 28-30. Additionally, Plaintiff claims that mice “roam in and out of cells regularly” and that there “are massive infestations of roaches and spiders” in the inmates' cells and shower area. Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff alleges that the roach infestation resulted in two roaches being removed from his right ear canal on June 26, 2016, and that he continues to experience “ear pain, interference with sleep and psychological damage.” Id. ¶ 32.

         Third, Plaintiff claims that inadequate ventilation causes the air he breathes to be “thick with dust, hair, pest and bird dander, airborne viruses and wool fibers.” Id. ¶ 35. He further alleges that the vents in numerous cells are covered with steel plates that prevent air circulation. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff maintains that the resultant atmosphere exacerbates symptoms from his asthma. Id. ¶ 36.

         Finally, Plaintiff alleges that his cell is unsanitary due to Defendants' refusal to distribute adequate cleaning supplies on a regular basis. Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiff claims he is provided disinfectant for his cell only once a week and must share the disinfectant with the twenty-nine other cells in his gallery. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. He alleges that, due to these deficiencies, his cell and shower area cannot be adequately cleaned and that the resultant toxic mold can result in neurological damage and cancer. Id. ¶¶ 46-47.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants are aware of the aforementioned conditions but have refused to adequately alleviate the problems. Id. ¶¶ 26, 33-34, 38, 48-49. Plaintiff argues that, combined, these conditions amount to cruel and unusual punishment and that Defendants' knowing disregard for Plaintiff's living situation constitutes deliberate indifference.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). To survive a motion to dismiss, the claim must first comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given “fair notice” of what the claim is “and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

         Second, the complaint must contain “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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). That is, the allegations must raise the possibility of relief above the “speculative level.” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs. Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). A claim has facial plausibility “when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013). The “amount of factual allegations required to state a plausible claim for relief depends on the complexity of the legal theory alleged, ” but “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Vill. of Lemont, 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008). In evaluating the complaint, the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         As to the alleged deprivations of Plaintiff's confinement, to sufficiently plead a claim under the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) the alleged condition, viewed objectively, is sufficiently serious; and (2) Defendants acted with subjective deliberate indifference towards the condition. Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 479-80 (7th Cir. 2005); Delaney v. DeTella, 256 F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2001).

         Regarding the first element, prison conditions may be “harsh and uncomfortable without violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” Dixon v. Godinez,114 F.3d 640, 642 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). The Eighth Amendment “does not require prisons to provide prisoners with more salubrious air, healthier food, or cleaner water than are enjoyed by substantial numbers of free Americans.” Carroll v. DeTella, 255 F.3d 470, 472-73 (7th Cir. 2001). Rather, “extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim.” Turner v. Miller,301 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff must show that the alleged deprivations, viewed ...

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