United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert United States District Judge
matter is now before the Court for a merits review of
Plaintiff Russell's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. This case, containing Counts 1-4, was severed on May
31, 2017, from the case jointly filed by Russell and former
co-Plaintiff Corbin Jones, Jones & Russell v. Mooney,
et al., Case No. 17-cv-349-JPG. (Doc. 1). Russell is
currently incarcerated in the Jefferson County Justice Center
(“the jail”). His pro se Complaint,
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, includes claims
that Russell was denied medication and treatment for his
mental health conditions, was confined in a cell contaminated
with another inmate's blood, was denied medical attention
for possible exposure to disease, and was denied of
§ 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).
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).
these standards, the Court finds that one of Russell's
claims survives threshold review under § 1915A.
Complaint (Doc. 2)
Complaint was submitted by Russell together with former
co-Plaintiff Jones, and is presented in 2 distinct parts. The
first section (Doc. 2, pp. 1-20) contains Russell's
claims. The second section (containing 70 pages and found
herein at Doc. 2, pp. 21-90), contains claims pertaining only
to former co-Plaintiff Jones; therefore, that section of the
pleading shall not be considered in this severed case. The
merits review herein shall focus only on the claims presented
in Russell's portion of the pleading, found at Doc. 2,
pp. 1-20, and designated as Counts 1-4 in the severance
order. (Doc. 1, p. 5).
alleges that on March 29, 2017, a cellmate (Joshua Heart)
attempted to kill himself by cutting both his wrists (Doc. 2,
pp. 13, 16, 18). Russell pressed the intercom button
repeatedly to summon help, but no jail staff members
responded until about 15-20 minutes later. (Doc. 2, pp. 10,
13, 16-18). While Russell was pressing the button, unnamed
jail staff member(s) told him (presumably via the intercom)
that he was lying, and to quit playing. (Doc. 2, pp. 10, 18).
When Heart's bleeding became worse, Russell tore his
underwear to make a tourniquet in an attempt to stop the
bleeding. (Doc. 2, p. 18). The cell “look[ed] like a
blood bath” after Heart cut himself, and Russell got
Heart's blood all over his face, hands, and clothes.
(Doc. 2, pp. 13, 16, 18). Heart is a “known drug
addict” and intravenous meth user, so Russell asked to
be tested for HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis-C, and tuberculosis. (Doc.
2, pp. 5, 13, 20). However, no such testing has been
least 4 days after Heart's suicide attempt, the blood was
not cleaned up from the cell or surrounding area, including
the table where Russell and other prisoners eat their meals.
(Doc. 2, pp. 5, 16). Thus, Russell's exposure to the
cellmate's blood continued. Russell also mentions,
without further explanation, that “they got me . . .
laying on the floor where I found blood.” (Doc. 2, p.
16). Russell was allowed to shower, but was not given any
cleaning supplies for the cell. (Doc. 2, pp. 14, 18).
had previously been diagnosed as bipolar, and suffers from
depression, ADHD, and PTSD. (Doc. 2, pp. 17, 19). Since
witnessing Heart's suicide attempt, Russell has
experienced sleep disturbances, shaking, and cold sweats.
(Doc. 2, pp. 16-17, 19-20). He requested Captain Mount and
other staff to help him get mental health treatment, but his
requests have been ignored. (Doc. 2, p. 19). Further, he has
not received his regular prescription medication for his
pre-existing mental health conditions. On or about March 29,
2017, Lt. Haynes laughed and joked about Heart's suicide
attempt, saying he faked it, which upset Russell. (Doc. 2, p.
also alleges that he “begged” to be allowed out
of the cell for recreation, but Jennifer Roberts refused to
let him out for 3 days in a row. (Doc. 2, pp. 14, 18).
Instead, Roberts placed Russell “on lock down”
for pressing the intercom, cursed him, and told him to stop
pushing the button. (Doc. 2, pp. 14, 18).
seeks damages for the violations of his rights. (Doc. 2, pp.
7, 9). He also asks for “freedom.” (Doc. 2, p.
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
explained in the order severing Russell's claims into the
present action (Doc. 1), 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
Count 1: Deliberate indifference claim
against Mount for failing to provide Russell with treatment
or medications for his diagnosed mental health conditions or
for his mental health symptoms that developed after
witnessing the cellmate's suicide attempt;
Count 2: Deliberate indifference claim for
the failure to provide Russell with medical testing for
communicable diseases following his exposure to ...