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Lewis v. Baldwin

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

November 8, 2016

SAMUEL LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BALDWIN, et. al., Defendants.

          MERIT REVIEW OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause is before the Court for merit review of the pro se Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2103). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S., 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(quoted cite omitted).

         ALLEGATIONS

         The Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights were violated at Hill Correctional Center by former Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Director John Baldwin, Warden Stephanie Dorethy, Assistant Warden Allen Henderson, Dietary Manager Dave Windstead, Health Care Administrator Lois Lindorff, Correctional Officer Crouse, and Dr. Kul Sood.

         Plaintiff says Hill Correctional Center Staff were aware of a rodent infestation in the Dietary Department, and Plaintiff claims he had seen mice running underneath the tables. On September 4, 2015, Plaintiff was eating a dinner of rice and soy meat when he found a bone in his food. Plaintiff was sent to the Health Care Unit where a nurse took Plaintiff's vital signs and called Dr. Sood. The medical record supplied by Plaintiff indicates Plaintiff told the nurse he found a “mouse leg” in his food. (Comp., p. 17) Health Care Administrator Lindorff advised Plaintiff they would keep him overnight for observation, and he would see the doctor the next morning.

         A few minutes later, Internal Affairs Officer Crouse came to interview Plaintiff. The officer told Plaintiff another inmate claimed Plaintiff brought the bone to the dietary department and put it in his own food. Plaintiff was threatened with disciplinary action, but Plaintiff told the officer he was telling the truth.

         Plaintiff then asked the nurse and Administrator Lindorff for something for his upset stomach, but he was told there was nothing they could do because of the pending investigation. Plaintiff was then sent back to his housing unit. Plaintiff claims he suffered with stomach pain, nausea and vomiting for an unspecified period of time. He asked Defendant Lindorff for additional medical care, but she ignored his request.

         Plaintiff wrote letters to Warden Dorethy and Assistant Warden Allen Henderson, but he did not receive a response. Plaintiff also filed grievances, but claims IDOC Director Baldwin denied each grievance.

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff has divided his complaint into three “counts” including unsanitary conditions in dietary, denial of medical care, and denial of a healthy diet. In order to demonstrate an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must show that: (1) he was “incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, ” and (2) defendant-officials acted with “deliberate indifference” to that risk. Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 756 (7th Cir.2010); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Plaintiff might be able to demonstrate an Eighth Amendment violation in this case if he can establish Defendants were aware of a widespread rodent infestation in the dietary department, but they refused to take any steps to address it. See Horton v. Sheriff of Cook County, 2012 WL 5838183, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 16, 2012)(extent of rodent infestation which led to discovery of rodent in food is a factual dispute that cannot be resolved on a motion to dismiss).

         However, by itself, “one incident of finding rodent parts in a meal, though most unfortunate, does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.” Jackson v. Lang, 2010 WL 3210762, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug.10, 2010) citing See George v. King, 837 F.2d 705, 707 (7th Cir.1988) (one incident of food poisoning in prison does not state a § 1983 claim of a constitutional violation); see also Hadley v. Dobucki, 1995 WL 364225, at *3 (7th Cir.1995)(“in a large food operation as the prison dietary, oversights such as the presence of crusted food or cigarette ashes on dining room fixtures and utensils on occasion, or even ‘foreign objects' in the food can be expected”); Fountain v. Shaw, 2011 WL 4888874, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 13, 2011)(court grants summary judgment noting finding mouse parts in food on one occasion does not violate constitution); McRoy v. Sheahan, 2004 WL 1375527, *3 (N.D.Ill. Jun.17, 2004)(“Even a dead mouse in an inmate's meal is only a minimal deprivation without a showing of injury”); Wassil v. Casto, 2014 WL 988479, at *11 (S.D. W.Va. March 12, 2014)(“while the presence of a dead rodent in Plaintiffs' food is revolting, this incident does not objectively constitute a denial of the ‘minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'”)

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants Dorethy, Henderson and Windsteadt had “first-hand knowledge of the infestation of mice.” (Comp, p. 10). Therefore, Plaintiff has alleged these three Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment when they were deliberately indifference to a substantial risk of harm. Plaintiff has failed to articulate any other claim based on finding a bone in his food.

         Plaintiff also alleges Defendants Lindorff and Dr. Sood were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition when they sent him back to his cell. However, Plaintiff does not allege he exhibited any symptoms besides an upset stomach in the Health Care Unit. Plaintiff provides copies of letters he claims to have sent to Defendant Lindorff asking for medical care for his additional symptoms. It is not clear whether the Defendant received those letters, or whether Plaintiff requested medical care through the appropriate institutional procedures, or even if Plaintiff suffered from a serious medical condition. Nonetheless, for the purposes of notice pleading, Plaintiff may proceed with his claim against Defendant Lindorff. Plaintiff has not stated how Dr. Sood had any further involvement with his claims beyond receiving a phone call when Plaintiff first arrived at the Health Care Unit. Therefore, the Court will dismiss Defendant Dr. Sood.

         Plaintiff alleges Internal Affairs Officer Crouse knew he had ingested a mouse, but the Defendant threated him with segregation if Plaintiff did not change his story. Plaintiff does not allege he was placed in segregation, nor that he received a disciplinary ticket. And while Plaintiff alleged he found a mouse bone in his food, Defendant Crouse told Plaintiff another inmate reported seeing Plaintiff place the bone in his food. Therefore, the Defendant had reason to investigate ...


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