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White v. Dorthy

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

November 4, 2016

STEPHANIE DORTHY, et. al., Defendants



         This cause is before the Court for merit review of the Plaintiff's complaint. The Court is required by 28 U.S.C. §1915A to “screen” the Plaintiff's complaint, through such process to identify and dismiss any legally insufficient claim, or the entire action if warranted and. A claim is legally insufficient if it “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915A.

         The Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner, has identified five Defendants at the Henry Hill Correctional Center including Warden Stephanie Dorthy, Food Supervisor Hanna, Lieutenant Gibbs, Sergeant Hilgondorff, Correctional Officer Underwood, and Nurse Dee Clark. Plaintiff says he was assigned to work in the Dietary Unit cleaning tables, mopping the floor and restocking condiments. Plaintiff says he had no experience and was not provided any training, but it is unclear whether any specific training was necessary for this job. Plaintiff also says he was not provided gloves or non-slip boots which are issued to the cooks.

         On April 2, 2016, one of the cooks told Plaintiff to fill up an ice bin and dump the water into a kettle. Plaintiff had to step onto a “curb” that was approximately four inches high. (Comp., p. 4) Plaintiff slipped, hit his head on the floor, and was knocked unconscious for a few minutes. Plaintiff notified staff he had fallen and he was taken to Lieutenant Gibbs and Sergeant Hainline. The sergeant was about to call for emergency medical services when Lieutenant Gibb told him it was not necessary, and instead ordered Plaintiff to walk to the Health Care Unit (HCU).

         When he arrived, a nurse examined him and discovered a four inch laceration on his head which needed stiches. Since there was no doctor on duty, the nurse sent him to an outside hospital where he received five staples to his head. Plaintiff was discharged later that evening and told to report specific symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, increased sleepiness, confusion, blurred vision, etc.

         When Plaintiff arrived back at the correctional center, he was kept in the HCU overnight for observation. Plaintiff was discharge the next morning, but during the evening he began to experience headaches, blurred vision and dizziness. The next morning, he returned to HCU so a nurse could check his staples and Plaintiff reported his symptoms. Nurse Dee Clark told him to put in a request for sick call. Plaintiff believes the nurse should have addressed his symptoms during the visit.

         Nonetheless, Plaintiff submitted a sick call request. On April 6, 2016 and April 7, 2016, Plaintiff returned to HCU so a nurse could check his staples. Plaintiff again reported his symptoms and he was told it would be addressed during sick call. Plaintiff was scheduled to see the doctor later on April 7, 2016, but his appointment was canceled without explanation.

         Plaintiff again saw an unidentified nurse on April 10, 2016 to have his staples removed. However, Plaintiff was not seen on sick call until April 16, 2016. At this time, he was given Motrin for thirty days, but it did not help with his blurred vision or dizziness.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance complaining about the delay in medical care, and says unidentified staff members began to retaliate against him. Plaintiff says he lost his job and was denied a replacement job due to his grievance, but he does not state who made either decision.

         Plaintiff also says Lieutenant Gibbs, Sergeant Hilgondorff and Correctional Officer Underwood have constantly harassed him, subjected him to daily searches, and have denied him access to the chow hall due to his grievance. Plaintiff alleges both Defendants have told him they are retaliating based on his grievance.

         Based on his allegations, Plaintiff has listed five “counts.” First, Plaintiff says Defendants Hanna and Dorthy violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they were deliberately indifferent to his health and safety. Plaintiff says he should have been trained and assigned work boots and gloves for his job. Plaintiff also alleges the ice bin and kettle were unsafe. Consequently, Plaintiff says the unsafe conditions led to his fall.

         To demonstrate a constitutional violation, Plaintiff “must establish: (1) that he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of harm and (2) that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his health or safety.” Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 756 (7th Cir. 2010). Mere negligence or inadvertence is not enough. Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 889 (7th Cir. 2006); Eddmonds v. Walker, 317 Fed.Appx. 556, 558 (7th Cir. 2009). In addition, the conditions alleged must be severe. See Carroll v. DeTella, 255 F.3d 470, 472 (7th Cir. 2001). Consequently, Courts have consistently held that slippery floors or slip and fall claims do not implicate the Constitution. See Pyles v. Fahim, 771 F.3d 403 (7th Cir.2014) (stating slippery surfaces do not constitute a hazardous condition of confinement); Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir.2004) (“A ‘protrusive lip' on a Softball field, even if hazardous when a ball hits it in a certain way, does not amount to a condition objectively serious enough to implicate the Eighth Amendment.”); Coleman v. Sweetin, 745 F.3d 756, 764 (5th Cir.2014) (agreeing with district court that, as a matter of law, “prisoner slip-and-fall claims almost never serve as the predicate for constitutional violations, ” thus upholding sua sponte dismissal of deliberate-indifference claim brought by inmate who slipped and fell in shower); LeMaire v. Maass, 12 F.3d 1444, 1457 (9th Cir.1993) (“slippery prison floors ... do not state even an arguable claim for cruel and unusual punishment”); Watkins v. Lancor, 558 Fed.Appx. 662, 665 (7th Cir. 2014)(“if a wet floor is not a sufficiently dangerous condition, then neither could the shortage of protective overshoes for the wet floor support a claim of deliberate indifference.”); Bonds v. Mollenhauer, 2011 WL 2326968, at *1 (N.D.Ind. June 6, 2011)(no constitutional violation although officer took no steps to eliminate standing water on dayroom floor). Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to clearly articulate a constitutional violation based on his fall while working in the dietary unit.

         Plaintiff next alleges Defendants Hanna and Dorthy were “negligent” when they failed to provide a safe work environment, but “a defendant can never be held liable under §1983 for negligence.” Williams v Shaw, 2010 WL 3835852 at 3 (S.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 2010).

         Third, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Gibbs and Clark delayed medical treatment. Plaintiff alleges only that Defendant Gibb told him to walk to HCU, rather than transporting him in some other way. Plaintiff does not allege he was unable to walk, or that walking aggravated his condition in some way. Based on the allegations in his complaint, Plaintiff has failed to articulate a claim against Defendant Gibbs. Plaintiff also alleges one contact with Defendant Nurse Clark. On this occasion, Nurse Clark checked the condition of the staples in Plaintiff's head. When he reported dizziness, blurred vision and headaches, she told him to fill out a sick call ...

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