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Webb v. Young

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 25, 2017

JAMES R. WEBB, JR., Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff James R. Webb, Jr., currently confined at the Alton Mental Health Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly occurred when he was housed at the Franklin County Jail. Plaintiff seeks removal from probation, monetary damages, and declarative relief. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 19) 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).

         The Second Amended Complaint

         On May 21, 2016, Plaintiff was arrested for destruction of property. (Doc. 19, p. 6). On May 22, 2017, Defendants Young and Prusodgich found Plaintiff in his cell, hanging by his neck. Id. Plaintiff was unconscious. Id. Defendants did not immediately assist Plaintiff. Id. Instead, Young slammed the cell door shut and walked to where Prusodgich was standing. Id. Defendants then left the area, leaving Plaintiff hanging by his neck. Id. Defendants returned approximately fifteen minutes later. Id. Plaintiff was flown to a hospital in Indiana and remained on life support for eight days. (Doc. 19, p. 5). Although Plaintiff was unconscious during the events in question, various witnesses have provided him with the facts alleged in the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 19, p. 6).


         The Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into a single count. The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.

         Count 1 - Defendants were objectively unreasonable and/or deliberately indifferent in responding to Plaintiff's medical needs on May 22, 2016.

         The applicable legal standard for Plaintiff's claim depends on his status as an arrestee, pretrial detainee, or prisoner during his detention at the Jail. Different constitutional protections extend to an arrestee (Fourth Amendment), pretrial detainee (Fourteenth Amendment), and prisoner (Eighth Amendment). The Second Amended Complaint indicates that Plaintiff was either an arrestee or a pretrial detainee.[1] If Plaintiff was an arrestee who had not yet had a probable cause hearing, the Fourth Amendment's “objectively unreasonable” standard governs his claim. Currie v. Chhabra, 728 F.3d 626, 629 (7th Cir. 2013). However, if Plaintiff was a detainee at the time of the alleged constitutional violation, the Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference standard applies to his claim. See Weiss v. Cooley, 230 F.3d 1027, 1032 (7th Cir. 2000). With respect to the latter, the Seventh Circuit has repeatedly held that Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment case law can be used interchangeably. Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012); Forest v. Prine, 620 F.3d 739, 744-45 (7th Cir. 2010). In both contexts, the alleged medical need must be objectively serious, and the prison official must possess a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 312 (7th Cir. 2015).

         In the instant case, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants found him hanging unconscious and left him in that state for approximately fifteen minutes. The Second Amended Complaint suggests that Plaintiff's injuries were serious; he was flown to a hospital and remained on life support for a number of days. These allegations are sufficient to survive preliminary screening under either the Fourth ...

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