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Vidlak v. Cox

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 12, 2017

JONATHAN VIDLAK, #25449-047, Plaintiff,
v.
JUSTIN COX, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jonathan Vidlak is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois (“USP-Marion”). He brings this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680. (Doc. 1). In the Complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was exposed to mercury at USP-Marion on September 11 and 14, 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff asserts that the prison's electrical work supervisor, Justin Cox, improperly disposed of fluorescent light bulbs on those dates and took no steps to protect inmates from the risk of heavy metal poisoning. Id. He now sues Supervisor Cox for deliberate indifference under Bivens and for negligence under the FTCA. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         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).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and the supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A. Portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         On September 11, 2015, Plaintiff was assigned to work in USP-Marion's electrical shop. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Justin Cox, the electrical work supervisor, improperly disposed of used and burned out fluorescent light bulbs by breaking them that day. (Id.; Doc. 1-1, p. 9). Supervisor Cox knew or should have known that the bulbs contained mercury. Id. However, he took no steps to protect inmates from the risk that mercury exposure posed to their immediate or future health. Id. Following the initial incident, Supervisor Cox did not evacuate the area or reroute foot traffic. Id. Instead, he ordered inmates, including Plaintiff, to assist in the cleanup. Id.

         On September 14, 2015, Supervisor Cox ordered inmates, Plaintiff included, to improperly dispose of the remaining bulbs by breaking them against the side of a trash can. Id. He did not issue them personal protection equipment. Id. As a result of both incidents, Plaintiff claims that he was exposed to an unnecessary risk of heavy metal poisoning.[1] Id.

         Discussion

         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court has organized the claims in ...


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