United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. Herndon Judge.
Allen Solano, an inmate currently incarcerated at
Pinckneyville Correctional Center
(“Pinckneyville”), brings this pro se action for
alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that
defendants conspired to violate his Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights by serving him a soy-based diet. He seeks
compensatory and punitive damages, and fees.
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). Upon review of the
complaint, the Court will exercise its authority under §
1915A and summarily dismiss this action.
entered the Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) on April 2, 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He
started eating a soy-based diet at that time, to which he
attributes headaches, constipation, gas, depression, and
other mental injuries. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Plaintiff alleges
that the named defendants conspired to violate
plaintiff's rights when they instituted a policy to serve
inmates a soy-based diet, refused to provide adequate medical
care for the effects of consuming too much soy, refused to
provide adequate nutrition, refused to serve inmates fresh
fruit, and intentionally misplaced grievances. (Doc. 1, p.
5). Plaintiff alleges that the defendants profit off the
soy-based diet. (Doc. 1, p. 6).
on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide
the pro se complaint into the following enumerated
claims. 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 regarding their merit.
Count 1 - Eighth Amendment claim against defendants for
deliberate indifference to plaintiff's health by serving
him a soy diet;
Count 2 - Defendants conspired to serve plaintiff a soy diet
in deliberate indifference to his health in violation of the
Eighth Amendment; and,
Count 3 - Fourteenth Amendment claim against defendants for
failing to respond to grievances regarding the soy diet.
three claims shall be dismissed at this time. As to Count 1,
the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment. U.S.
Const., amend. VIII; see also Berry v. Peterman, 604
F.3d 435 (7th Cir. 2010). Prison conditions that deprive
inmates of basic human needs, such as inadequate nutrition,
health, or safety, may constitute cruel and unusual
punishment. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346
(1981); see also James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d
696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992). Prison officials also violate the
Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment when their conduct demonstrates “deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.”
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A
medical condition need not be life-threatening to be serious;
rather, it can be a condition that would result in further
significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain if not treated. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610,
620 (7th Cir. 2010). The deliberate indifference standard is
satisfied if the plaintiff shows that the prison official
acted or failed to act despite the official's knowledge
of a substantial risk of serious harm. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842, 847 (1994).
number of courts have rejected inmates' claims that a soy
diet puts them at risk of serious harm. In Harris v.
Brown, the court appointed both attorneys and experts
for the plaintiffs, but ultimately concluded after reviewing
the expert reports and noting the ubiquity of soy in the
American diet that “society today simply does not see
soy protein as a risk to the general population, much less a
serious risk.” No. 07-CV-3225, 2014 WL 4948229 at *4
(C.D. Ill. Sept. 30, 2014). The court granted summary
judgment to the defendants, noting that even if it accepted
the plaintiffs' expert opinions, they did not
conclusively establish that soy protein created a risk, only
that “the safety of soy is a topic of current debate
and study.” Id. Other courts have also come to
the same conclusion, albeit on a less developed record.
See Riley-El v. Godinez, No. 13 C 8656, 2015 WL
4572322 at *4 (N.D. Ill. July 27, 2015) (“[T]he alleged
risks posed by consuming a soy-rich diet to not rise to the
level of an Eighth Amendment violation.”); Munson
v. Gaetz, 957 F.Supp.2d 951, 954 (S.D. Ill. 2013)
(finding that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity
because no court has found soy to be harmful); Smith v.
Rector, No. 13-cv-837, 2013 WL 5436371 (S.D. Ill. Sept.
30, 2013)(dismissing claim on vague allegations that prison
meals contained too much soy); Adams v. Talbor, No.
12-2221, 2013 WL 5940630 (C.D. Ill. Nov. 6, 2013) (dismissing
prisoner's claim that a soy based diet caused him to
experience stomach problems).
court in Riley-El v. Godinez took a particularly
nuanced approach: they permitted the plaintiff's claim
that he had a serious medical condition for which soy was
contraindicated to proceed, but dismissed plaintiff's
claim regarding a soy diet as a condition of confinement.
2015 WL 4572322 at *4-*5. Here, plaintiff has only pleaded a
conditions of confinement claim. While he has alleged that he
suffered various medical symptoms, plaintiff has not alleged
that any of the defendants even knew about his symptoms, much
less that they were deliberately indifferent. He has not
alleged that he suffers from any allergy or condition for
which soy is contraindicated. The Court therefore construes
plaintiff's claim strictly as a conditions of confinement
claim. As a conditions of confinement claim, it fails. The
alleged risks of a soy diet do not rise to the level of an
Eighth Amendment violation.
the Court finds that the defendants are entitled to qualified
immunity on the alleged general health risks of consuming
soy. Qualified immunity shields government officials from
liability where “their conduct does not violate
‘clearly established statutory or constitutional rights
of which a reasonable person would have known.'”
Hardaway v. Meyerhoff, 734 F.3d 740, 743 (7th Cir.
2013) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982)). Court use a 2 part test to determine whether a
defendant is entitled to qualified immunity: 1) whether the
conduct complained of violates the constitution; 2) whether
the right was clearly established ...