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Johnson v. Lashbrooke

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 4, 2017

TREMAINE ARRON JOHNSON, R-15625, Plaintiff,
v.
JACKIE LASHBROOKE, C/O CARTER, C/O BUMP, C/O DRABES, JOHN DOE 1, JOHN DOE 2, and JOHN DOE 3, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was attacked and injured by a former cellmate at Menard. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-10). He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff claims that prison officials at Menard failed to protect him from an obvious risk of harm and also denied him adequate medical care and mental health treatment for his resulting injuries. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-10). He names four known defendants (Warden Jackie Lashbrooke, C/O Carter, C/O Bump, and C/O Drabes) and three unknown defendants (John Doe ##1-3) in connection with several federal constitutional and state law claims. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11).

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The Complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

         The Complaint

         On December 27, 2016, Plaintiff was moved into a new cell with an inmate who is classified as an “elevated security risk” (“ESR”). (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). ESR inmates are considered highly dangerous and often have a cellmate restriction because of their classification. Id. Warden Lashbrooke, C/O Carter, and John Doe 1 (placement officer) are responsible for reviewing and updating the ESR chart on a daily basis and distributing the list to staff and facility personnel. (Doc. 1, p. 3). They are also responsible for the review and approval of every cell assignment or inmate movement at Menard. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4).

         Against this backdrop, Plaintiff was approached by an unknown correctional officer and informed that he would be moved from Cell 832 to Cell 239 in Menard's North-2 Cell House. (Doc. 1, p. 4). After Plaintiff packed his belongings, the correctional officer cuffed him and escorted him to his new cell. Id. James Wallace, Jr. (B74589), an “ESR committed person, ” already occupied Cell 239. Id.

         C/O Spiller and another unknown correctional officer ordered Inmate Wallace to cuff up and step outside of the cell so that Plaintiff could enter. Id. While doing so, Inmate Wallace told them, “I should not have a celly and ya'll [meaning the c/o's] know this.” (Doc. 1, p. 4). C/O Spiller responded, “We're just doing what we are told.” Id. Inmate Wallace then stepped away from the cell as C/O Spiller and the unknown officer allowed Plaintiff to enter. Id. When Inmate Wallace stepped back into the cell, both inmates were uncuffed and left alone. Id.

         Plaintiff unpacked his belongings and went to take a shower. (Doc. 1, p. 4). After returning to the cell, he fell asleep. Id. When he awoke, Plaintiff was on the floor in cuffs, asking, “what happened . . . why am I on the floor?” Id. A correctional officer explained that Inmate Wallace tried to kill Plaintiff by choking him as he slept. Id. The correctional officer then stated, “[T]hey should not have put you in there with him, like he [Wallace] told them.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Warden Lashbrooke, Major Carter, and C/O Doe 1 should not have approved the cell assignment, in light of Inmate Wallace's ESR status and cellmate restriction. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Further, John Doe 2 (first shift lieutenant), John Doe 3 (first shift sergeant), and C/O Bump knew that Inmate Wallace was classified as an ESR with a cellmate restriction. Id. Nevertheless, they took no steps to protect Plaintiff from the “high risk” of a “physical encounter” between the two inmates. Id. All lower ranking officers should have reviewed the ESR chart and consulted with C/O Bump or another superior about Plaintiff's placement with Inmate Wallace. Id.

         As a result of the attack, Plaintiff suffered injuries to his left rib cage, right foot and ankle, and the back of his head. (Doc. 1, p. 5). C/O Bump and two unknown correctional officers accompanied him to Menard's Health Care Unit for medical treatment following the attack. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Although Plaintiff cannot recall who treated him, he recalls C/O Bump describing the reason for his injuries as being a seizure. Id. For this reason, Plaintiff was placed in an overnight cell for observation. Id.

         The doctor did “nothing” to treat Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He was given Tylenol and some other form of pain medication. Id. However, neither medication stopped the pain. Id.

         Plaintiff was also questioned by the Illinois State Police during his overnight stay. (Doc. 1, p. 6). At the time, he could not walk without assistance because his gait was unsteady. Id. He required an escort from the overnight cell to the interview room. Id.

         Plaintiff was then placed in a wheelchair and taken to Cell 221 in North-2 Cell House. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He was given no sheets or a blanket the first night. Id. Plaintiff also could not stand. Id.

         He began having a panic attack and requested help from C/O Drabes. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff told the officer that he could not breathe, and the walls felt like they were “closing in.” Id. He informed the officer that he had passed out twice, and felt like his head was “spinning.” Id. In response, C/O Drabes told him to “tough it out.” Id. The officer went on to explain that a call for help would only result in Plaintiff's placement in a cell “with nothing, ” including no clothing or underwear. Id. He would be treated the same as if he was on suicide watch. Id. Plaintiff pleaded with C/O Drabes to contact someone who could help him understand why he was feeling this way. Id. The officer just walked away and did not return. Id.

         An unknown officer apparently wrote a letter to Lieutenant Doe 2 and Sergeant Doe 3 about Plaintiff's request for mental health treatment. (Doc. 1, p. 7). In response, they told Plaintiff that no one was around because of the upcoming holiday. Id. For “days, ” Plaintiff continued requesting help. Id. He did not eat and regularly passed out. Id. Each time, he woke up feeling as though he was being choked in his sleep. Id. He felt like he was dying. Id. He could not trust the prison officials to protect him. Id.

         On January 2, 2017, Plaintiff was seen by Jacob Weatherfur who works in mental health. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff described his symptoms to Weatherfur and explained that he felt like taking his own life rather than suffer from them. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He wanted to understand why he was feeling this way. Id.

         Weatherfur told Plaintiff that he was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He recommended a counseling referral. Id. Plaintiff then met with Ms. Mayer, who worked in mental health, “shortly thereafter.” Id.

         Plaintiff filed emergency grievances with Warden Lashbrooke and others to complain about the delay in medical and mental health treatment. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-10). The grievances were dated January 1st, January 16th, and February 1st. Id. The ...


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