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Adams v. Harrington

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 31, 2017

BYRON E. ADAMS, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Currently pending before the Court is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Richard Harrington on August 29, 2016 (Doc. 110). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff Byron Adams is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who was formerly incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center. He alleges that he suffered second degree burns on the bottoms of his feet from the floor of his cell, which was dangerously hot because of deteriorating steam pipes that ran underneath the floor. Adams asserted claims against Richard Harrington, the former warden at Menard, for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and for unconstitutional conditions of confinement (Doc. 34). Adams sued Warden Harrington in both his individual and official capacities (Doc. 34).

         The conditions of confinement claim was later dismissed because Adams failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit (Doc. 78). Warden Harrington has now moved for summary judgment on the deliberate indifference claim (Doc. 110). Adams concedes that summary judgment should be granted on the portion of the claim directed at Warden Harrington in his official capacity, because any claim for money damages is barred by sovereign immunity, and the request for injunctive relief is moot (Doc. 115, p. 2, n.1). Thus the only issue before the Court is whether summary judgment is appropriate on the deliberate indifference claim against Warden Harrington in his individual capacity.

         Factual Background

         The following facts are undisputed except where noted. Byron Adams was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center from January 9, 2013 to June 11, 2014 (Doc. 111-1). For most of that time period, Defendant Richard Harrington was the warden (Doc. 111-2).[1]

         Menard uses a steam heating system to heat the prison in the winter (Doc. 115-1). Some of the pipes that carry the steam run underneath the concrete floors of the South Lowers Cell House at Menard (Doc. 115; Doc. 115-1). Those pipes have deteriorated, which allows steam to escape (Doc. 115; Doc. 115-1). Because there is no insulation in the floors of the South Lowers, the steam makes the floors hot during the winter months, particularly in gallery one, where Adams was housed (Doc. 115; Doc. 115-1; Doc. 115-2). According to Adams, the floor of his cell were extremely hot-“hot enough to cook a pot of beans on” or to heat water (Doc. 111-1). In evidence previously submitted to the Court, another inmate named Ronald Turner corroborated Adams's statements (Doc. 111-1; Doc. 54-3). Mr. Turner also stated that inmates in gallery one had to put their food in bags and hang them on the wall along with their laundry bags so that their belongings were not damaged (Doc. 54-3). He also stated that officers in charge of gallery one previously distributed fans, to help the inmates cope with the heat, and blankets, so the inmates could move around their cells and prop up their property boxes to prevent their belongings from being ruined (Id.). Finally, he stated that other inmates have been burned by the floors and have filed grievances about the temperature of the floors (Id.). Prison officials deny knowledge of these claims (Doc. 111-3; Doc. 115-2).

         In November 2013, the Chief Stationary Engineer at Menard began to consider a large scale maintenance project to replace the plumbing and porcelain fixtures in the South Lowers and to fully repair the condensate piping (Doc. 115; Doc. 115-1). Given the scope of the project and the estimated cost-$5.7 million-the warden's approval was required for the project (Doc. 115; Doc. 115-1). The project was expected to begin in October 2014, but was put on hold because of the Illinois budget crisis (Doc. 115; Doc. 115-1). Instead, as a temporary fix, the Chief Stationary Engineer shut off the steam flowing through the condensate piping in late 2014 or early 2015, which remains off to this day (Doc. 115; Doc. 115-1).

         That fix, however, came too late for Adams. Sometime in January 2014, Adams was transferred to cell 118 of the South Lowers (Doc. 111-1). Unfortunately, Adams has diabetes and suffers from various medical complications as a result of that disease, including diabetic neuropathy (Doc. 111-1).[2] Because of the neuropathy, Adams was unable to feel the temperature of the floor through his feet (Id.). On January 27th, while watching TV in his cell, Adams noticed blood and pus in his socks (Id.). The next morning when he took his sock off, Adams saw “a big blister on the bottom of my foot and the skin was hanging off” (Id.). His cellmate called for help, a medtech and a lieutenant responded, and they immediately took Adams to the Health Care Unit (Id.). Adams was diagnosed with second degree burns (Doc. 130). Adams testified that he told a nurse in the Health Care Unit that the “floors burnt my feet” (Doc. 111-1). He spent a total of thirty-seven days in the Health Care Unit being treated for his burns (Doc. 130).

         Adams was discharged from the Health Care Unit on March 5, 2014, and taken back to the South Lowers and placed in cell 114 (Doc. 111-1). He claims the floor in cell 114 was as hot as the floor in his previous cell (Doc. 111-1). Within a couple of days, he had again burned his feet on the floor (Id.). He returned to the Health Care Unit for treatment on March 11th and remained there until he was transferred out of Menard in June 2014 (Id.).

         Following the January incident, an incident report was filled out indicating that Adams was taken to the Health Care Unit with burns on his feet (Doc. 111-2). Warden Harrington admitted that he signed the incident report (Id.). Warden Harrington claims the incident report did not mention Adams's claim that the burns came from the floor of his cell (Doc. 111, pp. 4, 7).[3] Regardless, Adams testified that a day or two after he was admitted to the Health Care Unit, an Internal Affairs officer came to speak to him about his injury, which Warden Harrington does not dispute (see Doc. 111). Adams testified that he told the officer that he burned his feet on the floor of his cell, and the officer then went to the cell to check the floor himself (Id.). Adams said the officer returned to the Health Care Unit and confirmed that the floor was, in fact, very hot (Id.)

         Adams also testified that following the January incident he wrote three or four letters to Warden Harrington (Doc. 111, p. 4 ¶28; Doc. 111-1, p. 48). In these letters, Adams talked about the burns to his feet and the incident involving Defendant Bradley Stirnaman (Doc. 111-1, p. 49). He also mentioned that he was diabetic (Id.). Warden Harrington, of course, denied seeing these letters (Doc. 111-2).

         Adams also submitted an emergency grievance on March 18, 2014 (Doc. 1-1, p. 3; Doc. 111, p. 5 ¶30; Doc. 115, p. 6 ¶21). Under the IDOC's grievance procedures, an emergency grievance is supposed to go straight to the warden (Doc. 111-2). The grievance states that he burned his feet on the hot floor in cell 118 on January 27, 2014, that he is a diabetic and has neuropathy, and that he burned his feet again in cell 114 on March 5, 2014 (Doc. 1-1, pp. 3-4). Adams requested “a special shoe to wear” and to be taken ...

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