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Pegues v. Steber

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 13, 2017

ADAM PEGUES, # R-50721, Plaintiff,
v.
A. STEBER, JANA CARIE, CHAD RAY, C/O SIMPSON, C/O KIDD, C/O ADAMSON, C/O KAMP, C/O CLARY, C/O OCHS, C/O BRANT, C/O LAMPLEY, C/O TRIBBLE, and ELDON L. COOPER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Adam Pegues, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), has filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to excessive force, denied medical attention and that his due process rights were violated in a disciplinary hearing. He also raises a battery claim under state law. The Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On March 30, 2016, Plaintiff, who uses a wheelchair to mobilize due to a disabling spine condition, was called to the health care unit to see Dr. Coe.[1] (Doc. 1, p. 11). The doctor ordered Plaintiff to get out of his wheelchair, but Plaintiff protested that he is unable to walk or stand because of a deteriorating disc in his spine. Dr. Coe stated that he was taking away Plaintiff's wheelchair, and ordered Lt. Ray to make Plaintiff get out of the chair. Plaintiff again said that he was unable to do so. Dr. Coe then ordered Lt. Ray to take Plaintiff to segregation if he did not get out of the wheelchair and walk “as of right now.” Id. Plaintiff believes Dr. Coe acted in this way because Plaintiff has pending lawsuits against him.

         Lt. Ray took Plaintiff to the segregation unit where he “was thrown out of his wheel chair and into the shower.” (Doc. 1, p. 12). Lt. Steber ordered Plaintiff to stand up and walk to the shower door so he could be searched and handcuffed. Plaintiff responded that he could not walk or stand, and needed the wheelchair in order to move to the door. C/O Simpson and C/O Kidd picked Plaintiff up. Steber twisted Plaintiff's arm and wrist to remove his restraints, and Plaintiff was returned to a sitting position on the shower floor. Plaintiff asked Adamson and Kidd for help to undress because of his inability to walk or stand, but they ignored him.

         Steber summoned the tactical team (consisting of Officers Kamp, Clary, Ochs, Brant, Lampley and Tribble). They sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray after he told them that he could not walk or stand. He remained in a sitting position on the floor with his hands in the air. (Doc. 1, p. 13). The tactical team officers then “jumped on” Plaintiff, twisting, pulling, and turning his body, causing him to scream in pain. Id. They also choked him while he lay face down on the floor.

         Plaintiff was then taken to a segregation cell, where he was left lying on the floor with pepper spray chemicals still on his body and in his hair. He asked for medical attention and help to clean off the chemicals from Clary, Brant, Ochs, Lampley, Tribble, Kamp, Simpson, Adamson and Kidd, but they ignored his requests. (Doc. 1, p. 13). During Plaintiff's time in segregation, he was unable to use the shower, attend yard or go to family visits because Simpson, Adamson and Kidd refused to give him his wheelchair.

         As a result of a disciplinary ticket issued against Plaintiff for the events of March 30, 2016, he was punished with 3 months segregation and 3 months C-grade. (Doc. 1, p. 14). He claims that the real reason he was punished was because of his disability and due to retaliation by Cooper and Carie, who conducted the disciplinary hearing. Cooper and Carie denied Plaintiff the right to participate in the hearing and give a statement, because they refused to give him his wheelchair so he could attend. Cooper and Carie found Plaintiff guilty of the charge without him being present.

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction ordering the Defendants not to retaliate against him. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. 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 as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Ray, Steber, Simpson, Kidd, Kamp, Clary, Ochs, Brant, Lampley, and Tribble, for using excessive force while removing Plaintiff from his wheelchair, removing his restraints, spraying him with pepper spray, and battering and choking him on March 30, 2016; (Adamson just refused to help PL undress)
Count 2: State tort battery claim against Ray, Steber, Simpson, Kidd, Kamp, Clary, Ochs, Brant, Lampley, and Tribble, for removing Plaintiff from his wheelchair, removing his restraints, spraying him with pepper spray, and battering and choking him on March 30, 2016;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against Clary, Brant, Ochs, Lampley, Tribble, Kamp, Simpson, Adamson, and Kidd, for refusing to summon medical attention for Plaintiff after he was battered, and refusing to help ...

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