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Peters v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 12, 2017

SCOTT PETERS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DAVID SHULKIN, ROBERT A. MCDONALD, LYNETTE T. TAYLOR, DEPT. OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, BRUCE RAUNER, and JOHN BALDWIN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Scott Peters, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§1346, 2671-2680. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that the defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical issues in violation of the Eighth Amendment and have failed to accommodate his disability related needs, among various other allegations. (Doc. 1). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 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).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds that a portion of the Complaint survives threshold review.

         The Complaint

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff dedicates a large portion of his Complaint to detailing his interactions with the police that led to his incarceration. He maintains his innocence and asserts that the fault was placed “on the Plaintiff as if there was no one else involved in the situation.” Id. He claims that the police attacked his background, presumably at trial, by asserting “Plaintiff was crazy” and using a false narrative regarding his history with firearms and a fake hand grenade. (Doc. 1-1, p. 3). Plaintiff asserts that if law enforcement had handled the interaction with him that led to his crime appropriately, the entire situation would have been averted. Id. He also claims that the government employing military combat soldiers and allowing them “to go unchecked . . . on civilian homes and property” also made his crime unavoidable, particularly because the police did not attempt to de-escalate the situation. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4).

         Plaintiff also sets forth the following allegations in his Complaint (Doc. 1): Plaintiff is a military veteran who was severely and permanently injured while on duty. (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). He was a different person before he joined the army and has since suffered from psychological issues, including depression, as well as physical disabilities and pain. Id. He has consistently sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) for these issues for the past 31 years. Id.

         Although he has disability related to his service, he has been deprived of his benefits and health care over the years. Id. This deprivation has caused him an “emotional insanity and emotional distress to Plaintiff's family and irreparable harm to Plaintiff . . . creating irreversible psychosis.” Id. He asserts that no one at the Veterans Administration cared, or at least took any action to help him other than to harass his wife about stopping him if he tried to kill himself. Id. The Veterans Administration, federal government, governor and director of IDOC knew he was being deprived of care for years and that it was affecting his health, safety and psychological state. (Doc. 1-1. p. 5). Plaintiff claims that this situation has almost cost him his life on more than one occasion, and that being disabled in a maximum security prison ensures that his life continues to be in danger and leaves him terrified for his safety every day. Id. He further asserts that he should not be in prison due to his right to protect himself, his home, and his property under Illinois state law. Id.

         While in prison, he has struggled to receive the medical treatment he is owed due to his Class 4 Medical Card designation. Id. Specifically, he claims the following: that he is supposed to receive another colonoscopy because he had polyps removed; that he is supposed to get his pain problems resolved; that he is supposed to have surgery for his stomach hernia; that he is not given common things like creams for jungle rot or Tylenol for headaches; and that he has blood in his urine and stool, and his prostate has not been checked. Id. He also alleges that he is charged co-pays when he is not supposed to pay anything and that although his medical is allegedly supposed to come from the Veterans Administration, he has been told that he is not entitled to any medical for his service connected injuries. Id.

         Plaintiff also claims that he is restricted to crawling around on the floor because he does not have any assistive devices and that there are not enough wheelchairs or chairs in the shower. Id. He is also unable to access a doctor's office at the end of the hall with a wheelchair, so he is forced to sit outside in the hall, even during visits with a psychologist. Id. He also sometimes cannot eat the things the other inmates are given because he is not brought to the mess hall. Id. He is also unable to go to recreational or go to night yard due to his disabilities. As a result, the other inmates are allowed to be out of their cells 4 hours more than Plaintiff per week. Id. Plaintiff has written many grievances to have these issues resolved. Id.

         Plaintiff requests monetary damages from the defendants as well as declaratory relief. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He also seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, ordering the defendants to “stop ignoring Plaintiff's serious medical needs caused by service in the United States Armed Forces and provide the medical services deserved, along with safe and accessible housing.” Id.; (Doc. 5).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 5 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 regarding their merit.

Count 1 - Defendants are at fault for the situation that led to Plaintiff's arrest and incarceration due to their negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical and psychological needs.
Count 2 - Defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-213, and Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 794-94e, for failing to accommodate Plaintiff's various disabilities and ...

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