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Matthews v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 23, 2017

JEREL MATTHEWS, #K71403, Plaintiff,
v.
KIM BUTLER, DR. TROST, GAIL WALLS, LT. JOHN DOE, C/O JOHN DOE, and UNKNOWN JOHN AND JANE DOES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, District Judge:

         Plaintiff Jerel Matthews, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff alleges that he was attacked and injured by his cellmate on February 24, 2016. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8). According to the Complaint, the attack could have been avoided or stopped, if the defendants responded to the complaints and warnings of Plaintiff and other inmates. Id. Because they did not, Plaintiff allegedly sustained severe injuries that were inadequately treated by Doctor Trost and Nurse Walls. Id. Plaintiff now sues all of the defendants for violating his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Id. He seeks monetary relief and a prison transfer. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         The Complaint is now subject to preliminary review under 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 screening under this standard and shall receive further review.

         Complaint

         On February 24, 2016, Plaintiff was attacked by his cellmate in Gallery 5 of Menard's North Cell House. (Doc. 1, p. 6). As Plaintiff was using the sink, his cellmate approached him from behind and beat Plaintiff in the head, face, and eyes with an unidentified object. Id. Plaintiff lost consciousness. Id.

         Inmates in Galleries 5 and 7 began screaming for help and shaking their cell bars. (Doc. 1, p. 6). This went on for approximately twenty minutes, but no one responded. Id. Eventually, an inmate worker ran downstairs and summoned a correctional officer to the area. Id.

         By the time prison officials arrived, Plaintiff was seriously injured. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8). He was sent to Chester Memorial Hospital for immediate treatment. Id. His face was badly swollen, and he required twenty-five stitches on his face and head. Id. Plaintiffs treating physician sent him back to the prison with instructions for close monitoring. Id.

         Doctor Trost and Nurse Walls were responsible for Plaintiffs care and treatment at Menard following the attack, and they allegedly failed to ensure that his injuries were properly diagnosed and treated. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff was instead locked in a room in the prison's infirmary, where he was ignored by the prison's medical staff. Id. He was administered pain killers and berated by the correctional officer who worked on the third floor of the infirmary. Id. The correctional officer referred to Plaintiff as “pumpkin head.” Id. He made fun of Plaintiff's injuries in front of the nurses. Id. At times, the nurses joined in the teasing. Id.

         Plaintiff did not see a prison doctor until one day before he returned to the general population. (Doc. 1, p. 8). On that date, the doctor removed Plaintiff's stitches. Id. At no point was Plaintiff examined by a doctor. Id.

         Plaintiff asserts that he suffered from an undiagnosed and untreated concussion that impacted his vision and motor skills. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He suffered from “constant” headaches. Id. He also felt like everything around him was spinning or moving. Id. These symptoms did not resolve until almost a year after the attack. Id. Plaintiff's vision is now normal, and his headaches occur approximately once each month. Id. He filed at least one emergency grievance with the warden seeking further medical treatment, but Warden Butler denied it. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         Plaintiff claims that the attack could have been avoided altogether if Warden Butler addressed the general conditions of Menard's North Cell House. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Unlike other areas of the prison, the North Cell House has no towers or catwalks available for armed guards to monitor inmates. Id. There are not enough correctional officers to monitor inmate activity. Id. The North Cell House also has no panic buttons available to inmates in need of immediate assistance from staff. Id. In addition, correctional officers did not make enough rounds to monitor inmate activity in that area of the prison. Id. Plaintiff was aware of four or five other inmates who lost their lives because of attacks by ...


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