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Mershah v. Pulaski County Detention Center

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 15, 2016



          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Naenb Mershah is currently detained at the Pulaski County Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois, seemingly on the orders of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. (Doc. 1 at 2; Doc. 3 at 1-2.) Proceeding pro se, Mershah has filed two Complaints-one initial and one amended-against the Warden of the Pulaski County Detention Center, some of its staff and the center itself, alleging that officials with the center failed to provide proper treatment for his chronic spleen-related issues in mid-2016. (Doc. 3 at 4-6.)[1] Mershah seeks monetary damages for the “pain and suffering” he endured before he received proper treatment. (Id. at 8.)

         This matter is now before the Court for a review of Mershah's Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court shall review a “complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a government entity.” During the § 1915A review, the court “shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, ” if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim” or if it “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune.”


         According to the Amended Complaint, Mershah seems to have been detained on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold at the Pulaski County Detention Center since at least 2016. (Doc. 3 at 2-4.) Because his spleen was removed some time ago, Mershah suffers from some immune-related complications and he alleges that he must receive a “vaccine shot” every year to boost his immune response. (Doc. 3 at 4.) On June 16, 2016, he was taken to the infirmary for a sinus infection and was held there for two days. (Id.) Mershah claims that he was very ill during that time period-he could not sleep or eat and was sensitive to light and sound. (Id.) On June 9, 2016, he submitted a medical request stating that he was told by a prior physician that he needed a “vaccine shot” every year given his spleen history and that he needed one of those shots now. (Id.) He also spoke with Jenna Cornelius, the head nurse at the detention center, and told her that his vaccination was overdue and that he needed to see the “head doctor.” (Id.) Cornelius told Mershah that no vaccination was necessary and gave him antibiotics instead. Mershah was later returned to general population. (Id.)

         Mershah continued to feel ill after his return to general population and his condition deteriorated further in early August 2016. (Id. at 5.) On or around August 9, 2016, he experienced sharp stomach pains, dizziness, and vomiting. (Id.) Three inmates alerted Sergeant Tarah Riddle of his problems for “four hours straight, ” but no imminent action was taken to assist him. (Id.) At approximately 1 AM on August 10, 2016, another officer at the detention center told a nurse of the situation and Mershah was immediately taken to the center's infirmary in a wheelchair. (Id.) The nurse took Mershah's vitals and contacted Dr. Paulius, who ordered the medical staff to place him in a special management housing unit on medical observation. (Id.) No special housing bed was available at the time, so Mershah was transferred to the segregation unit for observation, and his vitals were not watched. (Id.)

         Later on the morning of August 10, 2016, Mershah met with Dr. Paulius, telling him that he needed to go to an emergency room. (Id. at 6.) Dr. Paulius declined to transfer him to the ER, said that Mershah only had reflux issues and gave him an “acid pill.” (Id.)

         Mershah was then returned to general population despite the fact that he was “physically incapable” of walking for the next five days, was having trouble eating and was still vomiting. (Id.) At some point after his return to general population, Mershah told Nurse Tara of his extreme pain, but she took no action. (Id.) On August 15, 2016, Mershah was taken to see Dr. Paulius again and he then ordered Mershah transferred to the Union County Hospital. (Id.) Medical testing at the hospital confirmed that Mershah was suffering from a bowel obstruction and he received treatment. (Id.)

         Mershah claims that he submitted grievances concerning the improper care that he received at the detention center. (Id. at 1.) Unsatisfied with the detention center's response, he filed suit against a number of officials at the center on August 26, 2016. (Doc. 1 at 1.) Before the Court could review his original Complaint, Mershah filed his Amended Complaint on September 22, 2016, alleging the same facts and asserting failure to treat at the detention center. (Doc. 3.)


         The Court begins its § 1915A review with two preliminary matters. First, throughout his Amended Complaint, Mershah refers to the conduct of some individuals not named in his caption or his defendant list: he states that Officer McNeely and Officer Fairless were the officials that took him to the infirmary for treatment in June 2016; that Officer Windings summoned medical assistance for him on August 10, 2016; and that Nurse Shannon and Nurse Tara were involved with his care in August 2016. Because these parties are not listed in the caption by name or by Doe designation, they will not be treated as defendants in this case and any claims against them should be considered dismissed without prejudice. See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005) (defendants must be “specif[ied] in the caption”).

         Second, three of the parties that Mershah has named as defendants, Warden Acuff, Nurse Tina and the Pulaski County Detention Center are only listed in the caption or Mershah's list of defendants-there is nothing substantive in the Amended Complaint to suggest that Warden Acuff or Nurse Tina had a role in Mershah's care or that a policy or practice of the Pulaski County Detention Center contributed to the alleged constitutional violations. A plaintiff cannot state a claim merely by including a defendant's name in the caption, Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998). Therefore, these defendants must also be dismissed without prejudice.

         Turning to the substantive allegations in Mershah's Amended Complaint, the Court finds it proper to divide the complaint into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by the Court.

COUNT 1: Cornelius failed to properly address Mershah's need for immune treatment in June 2016, in violation of ...

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