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Garcia v. Shah

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 14, 2016

BRIAN GARCIA, # M-30182, Plaintiff,
DR. VIPIN SHAH, JOHN R. BALDWIN, and JOHN and/or JANE DOE (#1-?), Defendants.


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief District Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical conditions, and violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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).

         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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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 plaintiff's 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 Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff has been a quadriplegic since 1995, and depends on a wheelchair for mobility. His hands, torso, and lower body are paralyzed, and he has partial paralysis of his arms (Doc. 1, p. 5). He notes that he secured the assistance of another inmate in drafting his complaint.

         Since August 2012, Plaintiff had been housed in the Pinckneyville infirmary, where he had access to health care services and accommodations for his disability, as well as certain devices to assist him in mobility. However, in late June 2015 following a disciplinary incident, Defendant John/Jane Doe #1 ordered Plaintiff to be discharged from the infirmary and moved to an ADA cell in the disciplinary segregation unit. Before Plaintiff was moved, he asked Defendant Shah if arrangements had been made to care for his disability-related needs in his new housing area. Defendant Shah was unable to answer this question.

         Plaintiff's new ADA cell (in 5 House, B-Wing, Cell 14) was designed for disabled inmates with more mobility than Plaintiff has. It was not adequate to meet his needs, and did not have a call button for him to alert staff if he needed assistance. Plaintiff notified the wing officer and a nurse that his cell lacked the equipment he needed to accommodate his disability, but nothing was done. For example, Plaintiff no longer had a “transfer board, ” which was a tool he needed to move from his bed to his wheelchair; did not have his prescribed air mattress, which allowed him to wait longer before needing to have his body repositioned; did not have medical supplies to contain his bodily waste; and was not given his suppositories at the times he normally received them. As a result, he began having bowel movements while in his bed, and was forced to lie in his own waste until someone eventually came to assist him. Furthermore, he developed skin deterioration and pressure ulcers from lying in his own waste urine and not being turned enough (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         On an unspecified date, Plaintiff fell while trying to move from his bed to his wheelchair, and fractured his toe badly enough that the bone broke out through his skin. He had to lie on the floor for hours yelling for help until an officer responded and summoned medical assistance. Plaintiff designates the segregation unit officers who refused to come to his aid on the day he broke his toe as Defendant John/Jane Does (#2-#?), [1] as he does not know their names or how many individuals were on duty (Doc. 1, p. 8). He also refers to officers involved in other incidents in the same manner.

         Plaintiff repeatedly complained to unnamed (Defendant John/Jane Does #2-#?) officers about the problems he was experiencing in the ADA cell, and asked to be moved back to the infirmary. As a result, he was allowed to speak with Defendant Shah, and advised the doctor about the pressure ulcers, toe injury, and the ongoing problem of having to lie in his own waste because of not having his transfer board and having to wait for assistance from staff. Defendant Shah said he would see what he could do, but then did nothing for Plaintiff (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Some time after this, Plaintiff was assigned a cellmate, which prompted him to ask for crisis team intervention to once again request the medical equipment and assistance he needed. He was moved to a different cell with cellmate Owens, in 5 House, C-Wing, Cell 34.

         On August 8, 2015, Plaintiff fell out of his bed (which lacked side rails) while attempting to reposition himself (Doc. 1, p. 7). The next day, his upper left leg and hip were red and swollen. Later on, while Owens helped Plaintiff to transfer to his bunk, they heard a grinding noise. They repeatedly asked for medical help, but none of the John/Jane Doe Officer Defendants (#2-#?) responded. Plaintiff then developed blood in his urine, headaches, and cold sweats. On August 11, 2015, Owens wrote a letter to Warden Lashbrook requesting help for Plaintiff (Doc. 1, p. 20). Defendant Shah examined Plaintiff and saw his pressure ulcers and hip injury. Defendant Shah said he would try to have an x-ray done in a day or so. The next day, Warden Lashbrook toured the wing and saw Plaintiff's injuries. She told Plaintiff she would have him moved back to the infirmary and have an x-ray ordered for his hip.

         On August 12, 2015, Plaintiff had an x-ray, which showed a severe injury to his hip including a displaced bone fracture and internal bleeding. Plaintiff had surgery on August 13, 2015, to repair the hip fracture (Doc. 1, p. 8). He was moved back to the infirmary on an unspecified date (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Plaintiff asserts that the unknown (John/Jane Doe Defendants) who removed him from the infirmary, took away his transfer board and other accommodations, refused to restore those items to him, and denied him adequate staff assistance to meet his disability-related needs, violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. If he had been properly provided with the accommodations he needed, he most likely would not have suffered the falls that led to his broken toe and fractured hip (Doc. 1, p. 10). Likewise, if he had remained in the infirmary, he would have had access to staff assistance and would not have been required to repeatedly lie in his own waste for hours, suffered pressure ulcers, or had to wait for help after falling to the floor without access to a call system.

         Plaintiff includes Defendant Baldwin (IDOC Director) as a party in order for him to respond to discovery requests aimed at identifying the John/Jane Doe Defendants by name (Doc. 1, p. 9). Additionally, he requests injunctive relief pursuant to the ADA to prevent Defendant Baldwin or any of his successors from placing Plaintiff in a disciplinary housing unit unless he is provided the same accommodations and access to medical care as he would receive in the infirmary (Doc. 1, pp. 11, 14).

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the violations of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (Doc. 1, p. 12). He also includes several specific requests for information to assist him in discovering the identities of the John/Jane Doe Defendants (Doc. 1, pp. 12-14).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Shah, for failing to take measures to meet Plaintiff's disability-related medical needs while he remained in Cells 14 and 34 (e.g., treatment for pressure ulcers, transfer board, assistance with bowel hygiene) during June-August 2015, and delaying and/or failing to provide medical care for Plaintiff's fractured hip;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant John/Jane Doe #1, for removing Plaintiff in June 2015 from the infirmary without giving him necessary equipment or access to medical care, which led to Plaintiff's injuries (fractured toe and ...

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