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Coleman v. Vinson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 7, 2016

DWAINE COLEMAN, #B62923, Plaintiff,


          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge

         This matter is now before the Court for consideration of the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 16) filed on behalf of Plaintiff Dwaine Coleman by his attorney, Michael J. Hickey. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center. He brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against four officials at Vienna Correctional Center ("Vienna") who allegedly subjected him to the unauthorized use of excessive force, retaliation and/or the denial of access to the courts during his incarceration at Vienna in 2014-15 (Doc. 16, pp. 1-12). These officials include Lieutenant Vinson, Lieutenant Mitchell, Lieutenant Harrison and C/O Blessing (id.). In connection with these claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief (id. at 11).

         Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Second Amended 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 Second Amended 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). 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 plaintiffs 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 Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The Second Amended Complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

         Second Amended Complaint

         In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has a long history of severe back pain (Doc. 16, pp. 3-8). More recently, he has begun to experience pain in his genitals as well (id. at 3). During his incarceration at Vienna in 2014 and 2015, he submitted numerous written requests for medical treatment for both conditions. He was consistently told to "eat well and exercise more" (id.). Occasionally, he was given ibuprofen for pain. Plaintiff considered this treatment to be inadequate, so he resorted to other tactics for obtaining medical care[1] (id).

         On November 17, 2014, Plaintiff requested crisis intervention and threatened to file a grievance when prison officials allegedly interfered with his ability to take "some medication" (id. at 4). Lieutenant Mitchell warned Plaintiff that he would be placed in segregation if he filed a grievance. Plaintiff ignored this warning and filed one anyway. He was placed in segregation and his grievance was ignored. As a result, Plaintiff continued to suffer from unrelenting and untreated pain in his back and genitals (id.).

         On December 1, 2014, Plaintiff submitted an emergency grievance to complain of "excruciating pain" in his back and genitals (id. at 3). He reported being in "extreme pain for months" (id.). Plaintiff received no response to this grievance until it was denied almost three months later (id.).

         On December 11, 2014, he sent a letter demanding that Lieutenant Harrison respond to his grievance and his request for medical care. Plaintiff threatened to file a civil rights action against the lieutenant if he failed to act in accordance with Plaintiffs demands (id. at 4-5). In response, Lieutenant Harrison "wrongfully retaliated" against Plaintiff and denied him access to the courts by placing Plaintiff in segregation and charging him with "making a threat, engaging in intimidation and acting with insolence" (id. at 5). Plaintiff subsequently filed a grievance to complain about the incident and it too was denied (id. at 5, n. 3).

         Desperate for medical treatment, Plaintiff resorted to more extreme measures. He flooded his cell on December 31, 2014 (id. at 5). Lieutenant Vinson responded and acted "viciously and inappropriately" by dumping all of Plaintiff s personal property on the wet floor, resulting in the destruction of some of the property and legal paperwork. Lieutenant Vinson then attempted to assault Plaintiff, but another officer prevented him from doing so. Instead, Plaintiff was left handcuffed in the prison shower for at least two hours before being isolated from other inmates in segregation (id.).

         The same day, Plaintiff expressed suicidal ideations and was moved to a crisis cell. During the routine physical assessment that coincided with his placement in the crisis cell, Lieutenant Vinson again tried to strike Plaintiff (id. at 6). The lieutenant was prevented from doing so by another officer, who intervened and told him that "[i]t isn't worth it" (id.). Nevertheless, the officer made it clear that "they" could do anything they wanted to Plaintiff.

         On January 3, 2015, Plaintiff went on a hunger strike (id.). He knew that the prison followed "certain protocols" for inmates who declared a hunger strike, including a physical assessment by a heath provider. Defendants Vinson and Blessing escorted Plaintiff to the location where the physical assessment was to be performed. Plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Vinson "interfer[ed], " during the assessment, but he does not explain how. Plaintiff told the lieutenant that his "present role was to provide security" (id.). Plaintiffs comment angered the nurse, who refused to complete the assessment, even after Plaintiff informed the nurse that doing so violated hunger strike protocol and warranted another grievance (id. at 7).

         Lieutenant Vinson became angry when he heard Plaintiffs comments and dragged Plaintiff back to his cell by his handcuffs (id.). Once there, the lieutenant "slammed Plaintiffs face into the doorway of the cell, which chipped Plaintiffs tooth and caused a head injury" (id.). Lieutenant Vinson then "reared back to kick Plaintiff, but another officer stopped Vinson" from doing so (id.). When the door of the crisis cell closed, Lieutenant Vinson instructed Plaintiff to back up to the "chuck hold" so that he could remove Plaintiffs handcuffs. Plaintiff did so, and Lieutenant Vinson "violently twisted Plaintiffs arms causing him to scream in pain" (id.).

         Following this incident, Plaintiff attempted to obtain medical treatment for his injuries. When he requested medical care, C/O Blessing grabbed Plaintiff around the throat and choked him. Lieutenant Vinson then grabbed Plaintiff s jaw so hard that Plaintiff could not speak to the nurse (id.). Plaintiff filed a grievance to complain about the incident. It was denied (id. at 7, n. 4).

         On January 4, 2015, Plaintiff was moved to a cell in the prison's health care unit. The cell lacked running water and was extremely cold and uncomfortable. He complained and was interviewed by Warden Hilliard the next day. When the warden asked Plaintiff what he wanted, Plaintiff said that he wanted to be released from segregation and transferred to another prison. Plaintiffs request was ...

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