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Richardson v. White County Jail

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 20, 2017

JAMES T. RICHARDSON, # Y-21562, Plaintiff,


          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Graham Correctional Center (“Graham”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was detained at the White County Jail (“the Jail”). Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical conditions, and that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the 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).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff was in custody at the White County Jail during April and May 2017, until he was transferred to Graham on May 10, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-11). When Plaintiff was booked into the Jail, he advised the booking officer that he takes anti-epileptic prescription medication (Gabapentin 800 mg, 4 times daily) to control seizures. (Doc. 1, p. 8). The officer said this information would be relayed to the Jail's medical office. However, Plaintiff did not receive his seizure medication for the next 5 days. Plaintiff notes that he had previously been in custody in the White County Jail in 2015, and was prescribed the same 800 mg dosage of Gabapentin at that time. Medical Officer Kaleena was the medical officer during Plaintiff's 2015 custody, and was still in that position during Plaintiff's 2017 stay at the Jail. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         On the 5th day without medication, Plaintiff suffered a seizure that caused him to urinate on himself and on his bedding. He notified Jail staff (whom he does not identify by name), but they took an hour and a half to respond with clean clothes. Plaintiff still received no seizure medication and did not see a medical provider. Plaintiff submitted approximately 6 medical requests between April 21 and April 27, 2017, but never received a response. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         On the 8th day without medication, Plaintiff had another seizure while he was in cell #4. When he “came back” from this seizure, his cellmates warned him not to move, and Plaintiff immediately felt intense pain in his right hand. Id. Plaintiff notified Deputies McKenzie and Stokes that his hand appeared swollen, he was in intense pain, and the bone appeared to be broken. (Doc. 1, p. 6). McKenzie and Stokes took Plaintiff to a medical observation room, where Plaintiff told Medical Officer Kaleena about his hand injury and pain. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Kaleena gave him an 800 mg dose of Gabapentin, but gave him no medication for the pain. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 9). Plaintiff tried to get her to treat his hand and asked to see a doctor, but Kaleena said, “Unless it's a life threatening emergency the Jail wasn't required to treat [him].” (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Plaintiff was then placed into a cell that contained nothing but a mat, and was contaminated with urine and feces on the toilet and floor. Plaintiff asked McKenzie and Stokes to have the cell cleaned, but they told him to lie down and shut up. Plaintiff asked another officer for pain medication. That unidentified officer gave Plaintiff ice, but did not provide medication for the pain.

         Plaintiff asked McKenzie and Stokes for a grievance. McKenzie responded, “We don't do grievances here.” (Doc. 1, p. 10). When Plaintiff asked to speak to the jailer or sergeant, McKenzie told him, “If you don't want something worse than a broke[n] hand, you better lay the f**k down and shut up.” Id. Plaintiff complied. Later, Plaintiff obtained a medical request form, which he submitted to seek treatment for his injured hand.

         The next day, Plaintiff still had received no medication for the pain. Kaleena called him out of the cell and returned him to his previous cell (#4) in general population. She apologized for the events of the previous day and told him he was scheduled for his hand to be examined. (Doc. 1, p. 10). However, Plaintiff was never taken to see another medical provider, and he received no pain medication for his hand over the next 7 days. (Doc. 1, p. 11). He did receive his regular seizure medications during that time.

         On the 8th day after his injury (May 10, 2017), Plaintiff was transferred to Graham, and he showed his injured hand to officials there. Graham officials prescribed ibuprofen and an ace bandage for Plaintiff, and an x-ray showed the hand was fractured. (Doc. 1, pp. 13-14). Plaintiff later saw an orthopedic specialist and learned that the bone had healed but was “crooked.” (Doc. 1, p. 11). He claims that his hand is disfigured and will have to be re-broken so that it can be reset. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Plaintiff adds that during April 2017, Jailer Randy Cobb “disregarded” Plaintiff's health by smoking inside the Jail, with no ventilation other than an open door. (Doc. 1, p. 7). On several occasions, Plaintiff had to “walk through a cloud of smoke to move through the Jail.” Id.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for his pain and suffering, and to cover future medical bills stemming from the hand injury. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action 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. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Medical Officer Kaleena was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs for his seizure disorder, by failing to give Plaintiff his prescribed anti-seizure medication for at least 8 days after Plaintiff entered the White County Jail;
Count 2: Kaleena was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious hand injury, when she refused to treat Plaintiff's hand or provide him with any pain medication, and failed to refer him to a doctor or nurse for further examination of the injury;
Count 3: McKenzie and Stokes were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's severe pain from his hand injury, when they failed to respond to Plaintiff's requests for pain medication after he was placed in the single cell;
Count 4: McKenzie and Stokes housed Plaintiff under unconstitutional conditions when they failed to remedy the contamination with human waste ...

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