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Knox v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 31, 2017

TED KNOX, # N-92676, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN BUTLER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ted Knox is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). On May 10, 2017, Knox filed this pro se civil rights action against 17 defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts claims of excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs and retaliation, arising from a shakedown at Menard carried out by “Orange Crush” officers on April 14, 2014. He includes an additional claim that his health was endangered by his conditions of confinement at Menard between February 2015 and December 2016.

         Knox filed his First Amended Complaint on May 24, 2017 raising yet another claim and adding 20 new defendants. The new claim is for deliberate indifference to a serious dental condition that developed on April 23, 2017, and which is still affecting him. Knox also filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 8) seeking relief in connection with the dental problem. The First Amended 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). Initially, however, the Court shall consider whether all of Plaintiff's diverse claims against the 37 Defendants may appropriately proceed together in the same case. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007), (unrelated claims against different defendants belong in separate lawsuits); Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a); 20(b); 21.

         The First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7)

         Knox's lengthy, but well-organized pleading sets forth 5 distinct claims. Count 1 is for excessive force and medical deliberate indifference. (Doc. 7, pp. 5-7). He states that on April 14, 2014, the Orange Crush tactical unit conducted a shakedown of his cell block during which he was strip-searched, verbally mocked and threatened with segregation and subjected to painful handcuffing procedures that did not comply with his medical double-cuff permit. Defendant Hamilton conducted the search and supervised the cuffing. Hamilton and Orange Crush Supervisor John Doe #1 struck Knox several times with their sticks. Knox was forced to stand for 4 hours in a stress position while cuffed. (Doc. 7, pp. 5-6). Winters struck Knox and yanked his cuffed wrists upward, causing severe pain. Butler and Harrington observed Knox being hit by the other officers, but did nothing to intervene.

         Count 2 is for denial of medical care between April 14, 2014 and May 28, 2014. Nurse Walters, Dr. Trost, Nurse Supervisor Crain, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. are named in connection with this claim. (Doc. 7, pp. 8-9). After the Orange Crush shakedown, Knox's neck, shoulders and back were in pain from the blows he suffered. On April 25, 2014, Walters came to Knox's cell and Knox asked her for medical attention for his pain. She refused, telling him that no examinations would be done until the level-1 lockdown was over. (Doc. 7, p. 8). Knox received nothing to relieve his pain and continued to plead for medical care. The lockdown ended on May 12, 2014, but Knox was not taken to see Dr. Trost until May 28, 2014. Trost informed him that medical staff must follow the “Administrative Decision” that had been “accepted by us [indicating the medical staff and/or Wexford], ” which prohibits inmates from being removed from their cells for medical examination during a level-1 lockdown. (Doc. 7, p. 9).

         Count 3 (Doc. 7, pp. 10-13) stems from the grievance Knox filed in June 2014, complaining about the April 14, 2014 Orange Crush incident. On June 10, 2014, Officers Ross and Hecht put Knox in segregation, allegedly for writing the grievance. The segregation cell had no running water and was smeared with feces. Smith refused to move Knox to another cell, refused to give him hygiene supplies and refused to summon medical help after Knox complained of severe headaches that he feared were related to his high blood pressure. (Doc. 7, p. 11). On June 13, 2014, Officer John Doe #2 returned Knox to general population, but told him to stop writing grievances or he would “see him again.” (Doc. 7, p. 12).

         Count 4 arose in 2015. On February 20, 2015, Knox was moved to the North 2 housing unit, where under heightened security measures, he was required to be handcuffed every time he came out of his cell for his daily insulin shot as well as for doctor or dentist visits. (Doc. 7, pp. 14-18). On April 1, 2015, the windows in Knox's housing unit were open and he smelled a strong odor of environmental tobacco smoke (“ETS”). One window was directly in front of Knox's cell and he could see various prison staff members smoking outside this window. (Doc. 7, p. 14). Smoke also entered the cell through the ventilation openings in the rear of the cell. Knox complained to Butler that the ETS was causing him severe headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath. He worried that the ETS exposure would aggravate his respiratory condition. At some time in the past, Knox had suffered a partially collapsed lung and had undergone surgery. Butler refused to move Knox to a different cell and threatened him with segregation when he pointed out that Menard is supposed to be a smoke-free environment. Knox continued to complain to Butler, Brooks, Lashbrooks, Best, Susler and Watkins about the daily ETS exposure. He was not moved and Susler refused to close the windows where the smoke was coming in. (Doc. 7, pp. 15-16). The ETS exposure continued until at least September 14, 2015. (Doc. 7, p. 16). The First Amended Complaint suggests that the problem recurred in 2016. Sometime after April 11, 2016, Dr. Trost refused to issue Knox a medical permit for an extra fan to help clear the smoke, despite Knox's symptoms. (Doc. 7, p. 17). Knox was finally moved to another housing location on or about December 15, 2016. (Doc. 7, p. 18).

         Count 5 arose on April 23, 2017. (Doc. 7, pp. 19-39). Knox began having problems with one of his front teeth and submitted a request for urgent dental care. Knox takes insulin shots and oral medication (Metformin) for diabetes twice each day, and takes blood pressure medication daily. (Doc. 7, p. 19). Over the next several days, Knox's tooth became very painful when he tried to eat, talk or brush his teeth. The pain caused him to lose sleep and interfered with his daily activities. Knox's mouth became infected and he was spitting out blood and pus daily. (Doc. 7, p. 20). The tooth became loose and was dangling in his mouth. On April 30, 2017, Knox woke up to find blood all over his pillow.

         Over the ensuing weeks, Knox submitted additional medical requests. He also showed his dangling tooth and described his symptoms to numerous nurses who came to his cell, and he asked them for pain medication. The nurses, each of whom refused to help Knox or to give him anything for his pain, include Shellby, Laing, Tripp, Martha, Brenda, Mall, Chatten, Marshall, Megee, Keisha, Suzy, Ron, John Doe #3 and Gregson (Doc. 7, pp. 20-29). Ron told Knox that Wexford was on a budget and offered to go get pliers to yank out the tooth. (Doc. 7, p. 24). Knox also asked Lt. Lee for help to get medical/dental treatment, but Lee refused to take any action. (Doc. 7, p. 23).

         On or about May 10, 2017, Knox wrote an emergency grievance to Warden Lashbrooks over the denial of dental care, but he never received a response. (Doc. 7, pp. 25, 31). On May 13, 2017, after Knox requested a crisis team, he was taken to see McWilliams (mental health staff). Knox told McWilliams about his pain and dangling tooth, for which he had been seeking care since April 23, 2017. McWilliams promised that he would make a referral to the dentist, but failed to do so. (Doc. 7, p. 27).

         On May 18, 2017, Knox's tooth completely broke off and bled profusely. (Doc. 7, p. 29). He was rushed to the Health Care Unit where a dental assistant applied gauze to stop the bleeding. Osemeyer (dentist) told Knox that he would never be placed on an emergency call line for dental care and would remain at the back of the line as long as Knox kept those teeth in his mouth. Id. Osemeyer refused to give Knox a partial or an MRI and said the only treatment Knox would get was to have all his teeth extracted. Knox did receive antibiotics to treat the abscess and ibuprofen for the pain. (Doc. 7, pp. 29-30).

         Along with the First Amended Complaint, Knox filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 8), in which he seeks testing and/or treatment for his ongoing mouth infection and abscess.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the First Amended 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 ...


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