United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE, United States District Judge.
Dennis Riley, an individual who is currently on parole,
brings this pro se action for alleged violations of
his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc.
1). Plaintiff claims that Defendant, Steven Kwiatkowski, a
correctional officer at Vienna Correctional Center
("Vienna"), deliberately refused him access to
medical care for a serious medical condition, in violation of
the Eighth Amendment (Id. at 5). Specifically,
Plaintiff alleges that as a result of Defendant's refusal
to give him access to medical care, he was forced to undergo
an emergency tracheotomy. In connection with this claim, the
Plaintiff seeks a written apology from the defendant,
punitive damages and for the Illinois Department of
Corrections ("IDOC") to conduct training of
employees regarding medical emergencies.
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
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 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).
alleges that on or around July 20, 2015, while housed at
Vienna, he began to feel extremely ill (Doc. 1 at 5). He
approached Defendant Kwiatkowski and asked to be sent to the
medical unit (Id.). He reportedly told Kwiatkowski
that he was having trouble breathing, but Kwiatkowski denied
him access to medical treatment (Id.). Plaintiff
went to his cell to rest and did not awaken until the next
again approached Kwiatkowski for care because the pain in his
body was worse (Id. at 5-6). Kwiatkowski again
denied care, telling him, "you don't look
sick." (Id.). Plaintiff returned to his bunk to
rest (Id.). When he awoke his neck was swollen to
the size of a balloon and his airway was closing
(Id.). He approached a correctional officer, the
medical unit responded, he received an emergency steroid shot
and was transported to a hospital (Id.). At the
hospital he had three to four surgeries which included a
tracheotomy and the insertion of a peg tube into his stomach
(Id.). He allegedly grieved the denial of care at
Vienna but received no response (Id.).
on the allegations, the Court finds it appropriate to treat
the Plaintiffs Complaint as setting forth a single claim of
Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference. The Eighth
Amendment to the United States Constitution protects
prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment. See
U.S. CONST, amend. VIII. The Supreme Court has held that
"deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of
prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); see
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) (per curiam).
To state a medical claim under the Eighth Amendment, a
plaintiff must show that his condition "was objectively
serious, " and that officials acted with the requisite
intent-deliberate indifference-towards that condition.
Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 610 (7th Cir.
2000). Put differently, a plaintiff must make a two part
showing-(1) that his condition is objectively serious, and
that, (2) subjectively, the treating physician intentionally
and deliberately failed to provide adequate care. See
Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1369 (7th Cir.
an injury is serious enough is a very fact specific
inquiry-seriousness may be shown if an ordinary doctor opined
an injury warranted treatment, if an injury significantly
impacted an individual's daily activities, or if an
injury caused chronic or substantial pain, among other
things. Id. As to the subjective component, an
official "must both be aware of facts from which the
inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious
harm exists, and he must also draw the inference."
Jackson v. Ill. Medi-Car, Inc., 300 F.3d 760, 765
(7th Cir. 2002). If an official reasonably responds to a
risk, even if harm was not averted, deliberate indifference
does not exist. Id. A claim for medical negligence
does not amount to deliberate indifference.
Gutierrez, 111 F.3d at l369.
Plaintiffs alleged conditions-extreme pain and a closing
airway-are objectively serious for purposes of an Eighth
Amendment claim. See Id. at 1373. However, the
Plaintiffs claim does pass the subjective hurdle based upon
the limited facts presented. Plaintiff claims that he asked
Kwiatkowski for medical care on two occasions, that
Kwiatkowski said he did not look sick, and that when his
airway ultimately was closing, his neck was visibly swollen
like a balloon. The critical link that is missing however is
whether Kwiatkowski was actually able to observe any physical
indicia of distress, or if he had any reason to know of
Plaintiff s physical ailments. Absent such a showing,
Plaintiff has not provided evidence that Kwiatkowski
personally was aware of the fact that there was a serious
medical condition and that he intentionally chose to
disregard that condition. See Pepper v. Village of Oak
Park, 430 F.3d 805, 810 (7th Cir. 2005) ("to be
liable under [Section] 1983, an individual defendant must
have caused or participated in a constitutional
deprivation"). Accordingly, at this juncture, Plaintiffs
Complaint must be dismissed without prejudice for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
has filed two identical Motions for Leave to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis (Docs. 2, 3). Ruling on the motions will
be deferred if and until the Plaintiff files his First
Amended Complaint. The Court cannot grant In Forma
Pauperis status if the Plaintiffs complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See
Lucien v. Roegner, 682 F.2d 625, 626 (7th Cir. 1982)
(when assessing an IFP motion, a district court should
inquire into the merits of the plaintiffs claims, and if the
court finds them to be frivolous or meritless, it should deny
leave to proceed IFP). In light of the opportunity to amend,
it is appropriate to defer ruling.
also has a motion pending for appointment of counsel (Doc.
4). Ruling on this motion will be deferred if and until the
Plaintiff files his First Amended Complaint.