United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Charles P. Kocoras United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant Randy Pfister's
(“Pfister”) motion to dismiss Count II of
Plaintiff Willie James Houston's (“Houston”)
amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court
grants Pfister's motion.
following facts are taken from Houston's amended
complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this
motion. See Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th
Cir. 1995). The Court draws all reasonable inferences in
Houston's favor. See Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526
F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).
times relevant to this amended complaint, Houston was an
inmate at the Stateville Correctional Facility
(“Stateville”), located in Crest Hill, Illinois.
On July 18, 2016, Houston asked prison guards to remove him
from his cell because he received threats from his cellmate,
Trevaughan Bowers (“Bowers”). Houston alleges
that Bowers called him a “snitch” and a
“bitch” and “threated to break every bone
in his body if he did not get out of the cell.”
Moreover, Houston contends that Bowers knew he formerly
served as a gang informant. According to Houston, corrections
officers did not take his request seriously and failed to
move him to a different cell. Subsequently, Bowers attacked
Houston. Houston now brings a three count suit against three
named Defendants, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment
rights, including: failure to protect brought against
correctional officers Marcus Allen (“Allen”) and
Bryan Sullivan (“Sullivan”) (Count I); failure to
protect brought against Stateville Warden Randy Pfister
(“Pfister”) (Count II); and medical indifference
brought against Allen and Sullivan (Count III). For purposes
for this motion, we consider only Count II.
Count II, Houston alleges that Pfister “enacted and
upheld . . . cell placement policies that caused a
substantial risk of harm to” his safety and protection.
Pfister contends that Houston “fails to assert . . .
that Pfister was actually involved in his alleged
Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual
punishment requires prison officials to “take
reasonable measures to ensure an inmate's safety.”
Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir.
2004). However, every injury suffered by one prisoner at the
hands of another does not constitute a violation of the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition of “cruel and
unusual punishment.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Rather, an Eighth Amendment violation
exists only if prison officials acted with “deliberate
indifference.” Id. A claim of deliberate
indifference based on a prison official's failure to
protect an inmate from harm contains both an objective and a
subjective component. Id. To satisfy the objective
component, a prisoner must demonstrate the existence of an
“excessive risk” to his “health and
safety.” Id. To satisfy the subjective
component, a prisoner must demonstrate that the prison
official acted with “something approaching a total
unconcern for [plaintiff's] welfare in the face of
serious risks, or a conscious, culpable refusal to prevent
harm.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Liability
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires a defendant's direct
personal involvement. Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d
555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995).
Houston does not contest that Pfister lacked personal
knowledge of the allegations in the amended complaint.
Instead, Houston argues Pfister knew or should have known
that the policies he created and upheld permitted Houston to
be beaten. To support his argument, Houston relies heavily on
Walsh v. Mellas, 837 F.3d 789 (7th Cir. 1998). In
Walsh, the plaintiff alleged defendants failed to
follow their stated policy of reviewing offenders for
compatibility before placing them in the same cell.
Furthermore, the record in Walsh established that
authorities were aware that gang-related attacks were a
serious security problem at Stateville and that defendants
knew the plaintiff was a targeted inmate. Since defendants
failed to follow their screening procedure and placed the
plaintiff in a cell with a rival gang member, the Court
concluded that defendants failed to respond to a known danger
to the plaintiff Walsh, 837 F.3d at 797. However,
the facts of Walsh are distinguishable from the
facts of this case.
Walsh, which concerned a specific policy, Houston
fails to cite any policy which he believes caused his
injuries. Houston instead makes general allegations that
Pfister's “cell placement policies caused a
substantial risk of harm to [his] safety and
protection.” These vague and conclusory allegations are
insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Moreover, unlike the
plaintiff in Walsh, who was known by prison
officials to be a targeted inmate, Houston fails to provide
any evidence that the threat of retaliation against him was
“real and significant.” Houston's assertion
of “widespread” assaults against informants at
Stateville is unsupported by any factual evidence.
Id. Therefore, Houston has failed to adequately
plead that he was at real or significant risk of attack.
these reasons, Pfister's motion to dismiss Count II is
 Houston served as a gang informant
from approximately 1993 through ...