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Watts v. Monroe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 28, 2017



          Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Damarco Watts, currently an inmate at Menard Correctional Center, within the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against various employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (Wexford), a contractor that provides healthcare services to IDOC inmates.

         When he initially filed this lawsuit, Watts was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, he sued one Defendant, and his case was randomly assigned to Judge J. Phil Gilbert, United States District Judge. In his Order on threshold review of the pro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, Judge Gilbert explained that Watts complained of events that occurred while he was being transferred from Centralia Correctional Center to Pinckneyville Correctional Center. Judge Gilbert found that the complaint stated cognizable Eighth Amendment claims for excessive force (Count 1) and failure to provide medical care/deliberate indifference (Count 2) against correctional officer Wesley Monroe. See Doc. 10. Discovery, motions, and amendments followed. Ultimately, counsel was recruited for Plaintiff Watts and filed a third amended complaint on his behalf. See Doc. 99.

         The operative complaint is Watts' third amended complaint, filed in January 2017. It reasserts the excessive force and deliberate indifference claims against Monroe. It also asserts deliberate indifference claims against five other Defendants - Minh Scott, Dennis Young, Kim Richardson, Tammy Harmon, and Wexford - plus claims for infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery against some of the named Defendants.

         In June 2016, the case was transferred from Judge Gilbert to the undersigned District Judge via Administrative Order No. 188. Now before the Court is a motion to dismiss portions of the third amended complaint for failure to state a claim (Doc. 103) and an exhaustion-based summary judgment motion (Doc. 105). Both motions were filed by Defendants Richardson, Harmon, and Wexford (collectively, “the Wexford Defendants”).[1] As explained below, the Court grants the dismissal motion as to Count III, denies the dismissal motion as to Count IV, and denies the summary judgment motion.

         II. Summary of Key Allegations

          The third amended complaint alleges the following. On July 30, 2014, Watts was placed on a bus for transfer from Centralia Correctional Center to Pinckneyville Correctional Center. Doc. 99, ¶ 13. While en route, the bus stopped at Lincoln Correctional Center, where Watts was to change busses. Id. at ¶ 15. As Watts waited in handcuffs to board the bus headed to Pinckneyville, Defendant Wesley Monroe “grabbed plaintiff by the neck and slammed his face into the front of the bus and then dragged him in between two buses, while threatening to do further harm to plaintiff.” Id. at ¶ 16. During the altercation Watts injured his right eye. Id. at ¶ 18. Defendants Minh Scott and Dennis Young (both correctional officers) observed the altercation but failed to intervene. Id. at ¶ 21. After arriving at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, Nurses Kim Richardson and Tammy Harmon examined Watts but declined to provide treatment. Id. at ¶ 27. Watts was examined by an optometrist one week later, but he continues to experience discomfort and impaired vision in his right eye. Id. ¶¶ 29-32.

         III. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Motions to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) governs motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. See Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012); McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 694 F.3d 873, 878 (7th Cir. 2012). A complaint must state a claim that is facially plausible. Vinson v. Vermilion County, Il., 776 F.3d 924, 928 (7th Cir. 2015). To avoid Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, it must contain “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Scott v. Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., 725 F.3d 772, 782 (7th Cir. 2013), quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Accord Foster v. Principal Life Ins. Co., 806 F.3d 967, 971 (7th Cir. 2015).

         A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” D.B. ex rel. Kurtis B. v. Kopp, 725 F.3d 681, 684 (7th Cir. 2013), quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint must “go beyond mere labels and conclusions” and contain “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” G&S Holdings, LLC v. Continental Cas. Co., 697 F.3d 534, 537-38 (7thCir. 2012).

         In assessing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the district court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, “accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing all possible inferences in her favor.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1148 (2010), quoting Tamayo v. Blagoyevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Rule 12(b)(6) motions must be decided based on the pleadings, the materials attached thereto, and documents referred to in the complaint and central to the plaintiff's claim or subject to proper judicial notice. If matters outside the pleadings are presented to and considered by the court, the motion should be converted to a summary judgment motion, with notice given and additional briefing permitted. See Rogers v. Cartage Co., 794 F.3d 854, 861 (7th Cir. 2015); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners, 682 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2012); Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 751 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012). B.Motions for Summary Judgment Summary judgment is proper only if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multi Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011), citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing --based on the pleadings, affidavits, and/or information obtained via discovery -- the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986), quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Ballance v. City of Springfield, Ill. Police Dep't, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2005); Hottenroth v. Village of Slinger, 388 F.3d 1015, 1027 (7th Cir. 2004). A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         On summary judgment, the district court construes the facts and draws the reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Cole v. Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University,838 F.3d 888, 895 (7th Cir. 2016). While generally a district court's role on summary judgment is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, assess witness credibility, or determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether a general issue of triable fact exists, a different standard applies to summary judgment ...

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