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Parnell v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 6, 2017

RONNIE PARNELL, N56008, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Now before the Court for consideration is the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 9) filed by Plaintiff Ronnie Parnell, an inmate who is currently incarcerated in Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). Plaintiff filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in order to address constitutional violations that occurred at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”) and Pinckneyville.

         The original Complaint did not survive screening and was dismissed without prejudice on February 15, 2017. (Doc. 8). Plaintiff was granted leave to re-plead his claims, and he timely filed a First Amended Complaint on March 1, 2017. (Doc. 9). The First Amended Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review 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).

         As a part of screening, the Court is allowed to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Severance is important, “not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits “but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. In this action, Plaintiff's claims pertaining to events occurring at Lawrence are unrelated to his claims that arose at Pinckneyville. Therefore, consistent with George, these claims will be severed into new case, given a new case number, and assessed a separate filing fee.[1]

         The First Amended Complaint Lawrence

         In 2011, while incarcerated at Lawrence, Plaintiff injured his hip during a game of handball. (Doc. 9, p. 6). He was examined by John Doe 1, a physician employed by Wexford. Id. John Doe 1 misdiagnosed Plaintiff as suffering from arthritis. (Doc. 9, pp. 6-7). From 2011 through 2012, Plaintiff was re-examined by John Doe 1 every two weeks. (Doc. 9, p. 7). During these examinations, John Doe 1 failed to identify his mistaken diagnosis and continued to opine that Plaintiff was suffering from arthritis. Id. The misdiagnosis resulted in pain and suffering, as well as the loss of bone. ((Doc. 9, p. 8); see also (Doc. 9-1, pp. 1-2, indicating that Plaintiff is in severe pain and in a wheel chair)).

         A grievance attached to the First Amended Complaint suggests that, as of April 2012, Plaintiff had been seen by outside physicians at the University of Illinois and “the University of St. Louis.” (Doc. 9-1, pp. 1-2). The grievance indicates that Plaintiff was suffering from an infection and at risk of needing a hip replacement. Id.

         In December 2012, Plaintiff was examined by an outside physician at a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. (Doc. 9, p. 7). That physician conducted an examination and performed a biopsy. Id. The examination and biopsy revealed that Plaintiff was suffering from a festering infection causing hip deterioration and not arthritis. Id. On January 3, 2013, Plaintiff underwent hip replacement surgery. Id. After completing surgery, Plaintiff was instructed regarding the importance of exercise. Id.

         On or about February 15, 2013, an unidentified male physician provided Plaintiff with a medical permit, authorizing him to use a cane indefinitely. Id. The physician also prescribed physical therapy. (Doc. 9, p. 8). On or about March 2, 2013, Plaintiff attended a physical therapy session with an unidentified female physical therapist. Id.

         Plaintiff considered filing a lawsuit regarding his hip injury and initial misdiagnosis. Id. On October 25, 2014, Plaintiff asked John Doe 2 for information about filing a grievance and civil suit pertaining to the misdiagnosis. Id. John Doe 2 told Plaintiff that if he filed a grievance or pursued a civil action, he would be punished with the loss of good-time credit. Id. As a result of this threat, Plaintiff did not file a grievance or pursue a civil action until now. Id. Plaintiff further contends that the conduct of John Doe 2 amounts to discrimination because John Doe 2 is white and Plaintiff is black and that his interaction with John Doe 2 somehow led to Plaintiff being transferred to Pinckneyville. Id.


         In February 2015, Plaintiff was transferred to Pinckneyville. Id. He was housed in the segregation unit in a cell with a healthy inmate. Id. Chapman was responsible for Plaintiff's cell placement. Id. From February 2015 through April 2015, Scott, Jane Does 1 through 3, Chapman, and Pierce interfered with Plaintiff's ordered medical treatment, including access to patient education and physical therapy. (Doc. 9, p. 9). These Defendants also exposed Plaintiff to “an ongoing unnecessary risk to future serious physical and mental harm from [Plaintiff's healthy cellmate].” Id.

         In April or May 2015, Plaintiff spoke with Landi, a counselor at Pinckneyville, and sought information pertaining to filing a grievance and lawsuit. Id. Landi threatened Plaintiff. Id. Landi indicated that if Plaintiff filed a grievance or pursued a lawsuit, he would be “treated like a trouble-maker living a disadvantaged life without commissary, law library, and therapy or disabled recreation in gym.” Id. From April 2015 to the present, all of Plaintiff's requests for grievance slips and to visit the law library have been ignored. Also, with one exception in February 2017, Plaintiff's requests for physical therapy have been ignored. Id.

         On April 12, 2016, Smith (a correctional officer), Peek (a nurse), and Jane Doe 4 (a nurse) confiscated Plaintiff's cane, interfering with a prescribed course of treatment. (Doc. 9, p. 10). On April 25, 2016, Plaintiff fell in the shower and injured his finger. Id. Plaintiff contends he fell because his cane had been confiscated. Id.

         In October 2016, Plaintiff was reassigned from housing unit 2D to housing unit 3A, cell 64. Id. The newly assigned cell was the last cell down a long gallery on the second floor. Id. Plaintiff complained to Dudek, a correctional officer, about his hip replacement. Id. Dudek disregarded Plaintiff's complaint and ordered Plaintiff to carry his own mattress, a heavy property box, and a fan up the stairs to his new cell. Id. Additionally, Dudek directed Plaintiff to take the top bunk. Id. After two days, Plaintiff was transferred to a new cell (described as “house one A36”). Id. Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding this incident on October 29, 2016. (Doc. 9-1, pp. 3-4).

         Claims Pertaining to Wexford, Hodges, Lashbrook, and Love

         On Page 11 of the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff includes a paragraph that directs generic and conclusory allegations against Hodges (former warden of Lawrence), Lashbrook (former warden of Pinckneyville), Love (assistant warden at Pinckneyville) (collectively the “Supervisory Defendants”), and Wexford (a private corporation contracted to run the healthcare unit at Lawrence and Pinckneyville). Plaintiff generally alleges that these Defendants are subject to liability for (1) failing to implement a policy that would prevent unconstitutional behavior on the part of medical staff; (2) supervising employees who mishandled and/or ignored Plaintiff's medical records and grievances; and (3) failing to intervene in Plaintiff's unconstitutional treatment.

         Request for Relief

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 9, p. 13). Plaintiff also indicates that he is seeking, without further explanation, “injunction & nominal & declaratory relief.” Id. The Court construes the latter as a request for injunctive relief at the close of the case and as being related to the claims that arose at Pinckneyville, where Plaintiff is currently incarcerated. The Court notes, however, that it is unclear precisely what Plaintiff is requesting with respect to his request for injunctive relief.


         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court deems it appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint 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. Any other claim that is mentioned in the First Amended Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.

Count 1 - Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against John Doe 1 for his treatment of Plaintiff's hip injury.
Count 2 - First and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to the courts claim against John Doe 2.
Count 3 - First Amendment prior restraint claim against John Doe 2 Count 4 - Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against John Doe 2.
Count 5 - Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Scott, Jane Does 1 through 3, Chapman, and Pierce for denying Plaintiff access to a physical therapist and patient education, contrary to existing medical orders, between February 2015 and April 2015 Count 6 - Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Scott, Jane Does 1 through 3, Chapman, and Pierce for exposing Plaintiff to an ongoing risk of future physical and mental harm from Plaintiff's healthy cellmate between February 2015 and April 2015.
Count 7 - First Amendment retaliation claim against Landi.
Count 8 - First and/or Fourteenth Amendment access to the court's claim against Landi.
Count 9 - Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Smith, Peek, and Jane Doe 4 for confiscating Plaintiff's cane on April 12, 2016.
Count 10 - Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Dudek for his conduct in October 2016 when he transferred Plaintiff to a new cell assignment.
Count 11 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim against Dudek for his conduct in October 2016 when he transferred ...

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