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Jenningss v. Ashley

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 10, 2017

BRIAN JENNINGS, Plaintiff,
v.
NURSE ASHLEY, OFFICER YOUNG, SUE FUNKHOUSER, CHET SHAFFER, and MEAGAN DIUGUID, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff submitted his pro se civil rights complaint, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, while he was incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). He has since been released from custody. (Doc. 1, pp. 1, 6; Doc. 1-1). Plaintiff claims that he was housed with hostile inmates who attacked him, and he was not given prompt medical care for his injuries. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This screening requirement (as well as the fee-payment requirement in § 1915(b)) applies to Plaintiff's case because he was still a prisoner at the time he brought this action.

         The determination of a plaintiff's status as a prisoner or non-prisoner, and thus the applicability of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) must be made as of the date the lawsuit is brought. Kerr v. Puckett, 138 F.3d 321, 323 (7th Cir. 1998). Under the “mailbox rule, ” a court document submitted by a prisoner to jail officials for placement in the U.S. mail is considered “filed” at the moment it is delivered to jail authorities, rather than on the date it ultimately arrives at the court. See Edwards v. United States, 266 F.3d 756, 758 (7th Cir. 2001). (citing Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988)). Plaintiff signed his Complaint on February 17, 2017, and noted that “after 2/17/17” his address would be a post office box in Valier, Illinois. (Doc. 1, pp. 1, 6). He included a cover letter stating that he should be released on February 18, 2017. (Doc. 1-1). The envelope shows that the Complaint was mailed from the jail. (Doc. 1, p. 8). These facts demonstrate that Plaintiff must still have been a prisoner when he submitted the document for mailing. Thus, his suit was “brought” during his imprisonment and the PLRA, including § 1915A, applies to his case.

         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 Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff was arrested and booked into the Franklin County Jail on August 5, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 5). At intake, Plaintiff told Officer Young that he “had problems” with some other jail inmates who had stolen some property from Plaintiff's house. Young, however, told Plaintiff that he did not get to pick where he was housed, and place Plaintiff into the same cell block with the inmates who posed a danger to him. Young smiled, and told Plaintiff to “enjoy [his] stay here.” Id.

         Plaintiff “made it” to August 10, 2016, but on that day, he was “jumped” and beaten by the inmates that he warned Young about. Id. After the beating, Young and Officer Diuguid conducted 4 safety checks, but did not remove Plaintiff from the cell block (Block “C”) until 4 hours after he was injured. Young and Diuguid moved Plaintiff to holding cell #1 across from the nurse's station, however, the nurse was not called to check on Plaintiff's injuries until the following day (August 11).

         Nurse Ashley told Plaintiff that his injuries were not serious enough to require medical treatment. Officer Funkhouser told Plaintiff that he would be kept in the holding cell across from the nurse's station until his injuries healed up. Plaintiff repeatedly asked for medical attention but was refused. He told Lt. Shaffer that he could not see out of his right eye and was having serious headaches, and asked to be taken to the hospital. Shaffer told Plaintiff to tough it up, and if he gets around to it, he would go.

         After about 24 hours in the holding cell, Plaintiff called his family. He was finally taken to the Franklin County Emergency Room, where he was transferred to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana. Doctors there diagnosed Plaintiff with a fractured orbital bone around his right eye. Plaintiff states that he still cannot see out of his right eye where the fracture occurred.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

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

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the prose 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 ...


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