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Medford, v. Staff

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 20, 2017

SCOTT A. MEDFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILLIP A. MCLAURIN, R. SMITH, ST. CLAIR COUNTY JUSTICE CENTER, UNKNOWN PARTY, and ST. CLAIR COUNTY MEDICAL STAFF, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Phil Gilbert, U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Scott Medford, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, brings this pro se action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that occurred at St. Clair County Jail (“Jail”). (Doc. 15). In connection with these claims, Plaintiff names four known defendants and one unknown defendant.[1] Plaintiff requests monetary compensation and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, p. 9). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Second Amended Complaint[2] (Doc. 15) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the Second Amended 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). 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.

         As a part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that the practice of 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. This practice is encouraged. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently warned district courts not to allow inmates “to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.” Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017). See also Wheeler v. Talbot, -- F. App'x --, 2017 WL 2417889 (7th Cir. 2017) (district court should have severed unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed one of them). Consistent with George, Owens, and Wheeler, unrelated claims will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers, and assessed separate filing fees.

         The Second Amended Complaint

         In his Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 15), Plaintiff makes the following allegations related to the grievance procedure, various conditions of confinement at the Jail, the mistreatment of his medical issues, and violations of his First Amendment rights.

         A. Unsafe Water

         On February 2, 2017, there was a boil order in effect for St. Clair County. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff was notified of the boil order at 9:00am that morning. Id. At that point, he requested water from Nurse Barbara. Id. C.O. Smith then told the inmates, including Plaintiff, that the water was safe to drink, but after Plaintiff drank the water, the news informed him that the boil order remained in effect. Id. C.O. Green then came on the intercom and told inmates not to drink the water. Id. Fresh water was brought to Plaintiff's cell block at 11:00am. Id. Plaintiff felt sick to his stomach, had stomach pains, and had a headache after drinking the water. Id. He put in a sick call, but has not been seen by the nurse and feels neglected by medical staff and C.O. Smith. Id.

         On April 10, 2017, there was another boil order. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Jail staff did not tell the inmates, and they were allowed to drink the tainted water. Id. “Medical did not respond to [Plaintiff's] sick call request.” Id.

         B. Medical Staff Neglect

         The Jail's “medical staff has neglected to give [Plaintiff] medication” that he was prescribed in 2010 by Dr. Onmayad prior to his transfer to the Jail. (Doc. 15, p. 5). Upon his arrival at the Jail, the medical staff did not properly assess Plaintiff “for mental medical health until 4 months after [his] arrival.” Id. Plaintiff submitted multiple captain complaints and sick calls about medical issues to medical staff supervisors and administration. Id. He “constantly” asked nurses for help, but nothing was done. Id. Lack of mental health medication causes Plaintiff serious “mental health harm and has made it unbearable to be incarcerated.” Id. Further, “St. Clair County administration Phillip McLaurin is avoiding the grievance procedure by not acknowledging the captain complaint forms.” Id.

         C. Access to Law Library

         Plaintiff was denied access to the law library January 22, 2017 through April 2, 2017. Id. Staff members are also inadequate in their assistance of detainees with respect to preparing meaningful legal documents. Id. Mike Resporra and C.O. Fordson refuse to get inmates copies, and inmates also cannot purchase pens at commissary, which makes it difficult for them to complete legal documents. Id. There is one computer for 400 inmates, and it “is always non-working.” Id. There are no books in the law library, and there is no assistance. Id. Plaintiff submitted captain complaint forms and received no response. (Doc. 15, pp. 5-6). Plaintiff saw Sgt. Nichols not taking the captain complaint forms so that they would not be addressed. (Doc. 15, p. 6). Denial of law library access for four consecutive months “deprived [Plaintiff] of the ability to prepare legal documents and of needed research [to] prepare for [his] legal cases for court.” Id. In a grievance attached to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that “McLaurin is aware” of the library situation. (Doc. 1, p. 16).

         D. Conditions of Confinement

         The showers at the Jail have peeling paint on the walls and ceiling, black mold, slime, and gnats. (Doc. 15, p. 6). “Because of the water pressure, these objects become airborne and get in [inmates'] eyes and mouth.” Id. Plaintiff filled out sick calls and captain complaint forms but received no response. Id. Dust particle build-up and mold sit by the vents on the ceiling. Id. There are no emergency buttons inside the cells. Id. If any inmate is in danger, there is no help other than to lock down, which is dangerous. Id. The ceiling and roof have peeling paint and leaking water. Id. Plaintiff complained about all of these issues but never received a response. Id. There is no hot water in the showers and sink. Id. There are also no shower curtains. Id. Inmates “continued asking C.O. Fitz but still no help.” Id. “It shows negligence from staff.” Id. Inmates, including Plaintiff, only have one uniform, so during laundry they cover themselves with blankets because they are not given underwear. Id.

         E. Inadequate Food

         “Portions of food are inadequate, ” as Aramark Food Services is not regulated. (Doc. 15, p. 7). There is no fruit on trays. Id. “All issues have been complained in the form of a captain complaint form but still not response.” Id.

         F. Grievance Procedure

         “Staff at St. Clair County does not return the captain complaint form to the inmates.” Id. This “shows negligence” and that they are “avoiding the grievance procedure.” Id. Plaintiff has not been able to address various issues because he does not get any response to his captain complaint forms, which prevents him from having a formal grievance hearing. Id. Sgt. Nichols, Sgt. Cook, and Lt. Penier allow this to occur, preventing the inmates from exercising their “rights to grieve.” Id. “Administration is aware and does nothing about it.” Id.

         G. Access to Courts

         In March 2017, Plaintiff asked C.O. Everett to sign his in forma pauperis form in order to further his civil suit. (Doc. 15, p. 7). Everett denied him and told Plaintiff he could not help him. Id. “C.O. Everett display[ed] negligence, boldly talked down to inmates, and [is] extreme[ly] unresponsive.” Id.

         H. Exposure to Staph Infection

         On April 26, 2017, “the entire block wrote captain complaint[s] to administration and supervisor asking that [an inmate on AB-Block Cell #9] be treated” for a rapidly spreading staph infection. (Doc. 15, p. 8). The inmate had complained for a week without being seen by medical. Id. Sgt. Boujack inspected the inmate and sent him back to his cell. Id. Sgt. “Boujack is not medical.” Id. The inmate's huge boils were later bandaged, and he was given antibiotics. Id. He was, however, placed back on the block. Id. “This exposure to staph should not have occurred.” Id. On May 11, 2017, “they finally moved [the inmate] to [the] infirmary.” Id. Plaintiff was “intentionally put in harmful conditions with no regard for [his] safety.” Id.

         I. Legal Mail

         Legal mail is being opened at the Jail before the intended recipient receives it. Id. On May 24, 2017, C.O. Walt gave Plaintiff open legal mail. Id.

         J. Lack of Training

         C.O. Lazante is not “educated on how to preserve life.” Id. An inmate had a seizure, and Lazante left him on his back while he was seizing. Id. Another inmate tended to the seizing inmate in order to prevent him from choking. Id.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate 11 counts in this pro se action. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, ...


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