United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
ROBERT E. MORRIS, #R-71372, Plaintiff,
DR. TROST, R. ENGELAGE, OFC. LEE, SGT. MCGHEE, SGT. LINDENBERG, MS. LASHBROOK, and DIRECTOR BALDWIN, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Robert E. Morris, an inmate currently housed at Menard
Correctional Center (“Menard”), filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's
allegations can be divided into three sets of claims: (1)
Plaintiff's chronic back pain and related medical permit
for two mattresses; (2) Plaintiff's placement in
segregation in connection with refusing a tuberculosis test
in December 2016; and (3) constitutional violations stemming
from Plaintiff's suicide attempt. In connection with
these claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p.
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which
(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
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.
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, No. 15-3325, 2017 WL
2417889 (7th Cir. June 5, 2017) (district court should have
severed unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed
one of them). Consistent with George, Owens, and
Wheeler, improperly joined parties and/or claims
will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers, and
assessed separate filing fees.
noted above, Plaintiffs Complaint can be divided into three
sets of claims: (1) Plaintiffs chronic back pain and related
medical permit for two mattresses; (2) Plaintiffs placement
in segregation in connection with refusing a tuberculosis
test in December 2016; and (3) constitutional violations
stemming from Plaintiffs suicide attempt. Facts relevant to
these claims are summarized more fully below.
Pain and Double Mattress Permit
Complaint suggests Plaintiff suffers from chronic back pain.
(Doc. 1, p. 10). Because of his back pain, Dr. Obasi, the
medical director at Stateville Correctional Center, issued a
permit that allowed Plaintiff to have two mattresses. (Doc.
1, pp. 10, 17). The permit was issued on March 15, 2016, and
it did not expire until March 15, 2017. Id.
was transferred to Menard on November 26, 2016. (Doc. 1, p.
10). On December 7, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Trost, a
physician. Id. Trost “deliberately”
disregarded Plaintiffs prior permit and did not authorize use
of two mattresses. Id. Plaintiff contends this
constitutes “malpractice” and caused him to
suffer in pain. Id.
December 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed a grievance pertaining to,
among other things, Dr. Trost's decision to deny the
double mattress permit. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19). The grievance
was subsequently denied. (Doc. 1, p. 20).
Test and Segregation
December 31, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Engelage, an
Engelage attempted to complete a tuberculosis test.
Id. Plaintiff refused to comply because Engelage
wanted to perform the test using the “chuckhole”
in Plaintiffs cell. Id. Plaintiff contends that
conducting a tuberculosis test in this manner (1) is
unsanitary - because both Plaintiff and his cellmate receive
their food through the chuckhole and thus the chuckhole could
contain “micro-miniature blood splatter” and (2)
violates prison procedures for medical/forensic examinations.
Plaintiff refused, Engelage issued a disciplinary ticket for
failure to submit to medical/forensic testing. (Doc. 1, pp.
10, 23-25). In connection with this disciplinary ticket,
Plaintiff spent between four and six days in segregation.
(Doc. 1, p. 10 (alleging four days in segregation) and Doc.
1, p. 24 (alleging six days in segregation)). Eventually,
Plaintiff was seen by Brookman, the adjustment
committee/hearing board chairman. (Doc. 1, p. 10).
Thereafter, Plaintiff was released from segregation.
Id. The disciplinary ticket was subsequently
expunged. (Doc. 1, pp. 23-25).
it is not entirely clear what type of claim Plaintiff
intended to allege with respect to the disciplinary ticket,
the Complaint suggests that Plaintiff is alleging issuance of
the disciplinary ticket was unjustified. (Doc. 1, p. 10). The
Complaint does not address what, if any, procedural
protections Plaintiff was afforded in connection with the
disciplinary ticket and his time in segregation.
Stemming from Plaintiffs Suicide Attempt
April 12, 2017, Plaintiff attempted to commit suicide in his
cell by hanging himself. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Other inmates
sought help from correctional officers. Id. Lee, a
crisis officer, and McGhee, a sergeant, responded.
Id. Upon arriving at Plaintiffs cell, McGhee yelled,
“Untie yourself dumbass. Don't think we are unaware
of that stunt you tried to pull with the hitting your head
with the breakfast tray. We know your crazy ass is a suicide
risk. Now untie yourself and comply with these orders.”
Id. Plaintiff was incoherent and unable to comply.
Id. McGhee then sprayed Plaintiff in the eyes, nose,
and mouth with pepper spray. Id. At that point,
Plaintiff lost consciousness. Id. McGhee and Lee
then entered the cell and untied Plaintiff. Id. Lee
and McGhee handcuffed Plaintiff and laid him on his stomach.
Id. While Plaintiff was on his stomach, one of the
officers pulled Plaintiffs pants down and inserted an object
into Plaintiffs rectum. Id. Plaintiff speculates
that the object was the bottom of a pepper spray can.
Id. Plaintiff screamed at the officers to stop.
Id. Leigh and McGhee then dragged Plaintiff to the
healthcare unit (“HCU”).
Complaint suggests that while in the HCU, Plaintiff reported
the incident as a sexual assault and filed a grievance under
the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”). (Doc.
1, p. 12).At some point, Plaintiff was transferred to
the crisis watch division. Id. While in the crisis
watch division, Plaintiff was interviewed by Ms. Masterson,
an internal affairs officer. Id. Plaintiff informed
Ms. Masterson that a nurse denied his request for a rape kit
in connection with the incident and that a lieutenant
breached confidentiality in connection with Plaintiffs PREA
grievance. Id. According to the Complaint,
Plaintiffs PREA grievance was denied due to lack of proof.
the suicide attempt, Plaintiff was placed in segregation for
approximately five days. (Doc. 1, p. 13). On April 17, 2017,
when Plaintiff was released from segregation, two
officers-Lindenberg (a sergeant) and Felipo (not a defendant
in this action)-”roughly” escorted Plaintiff to a
holding cell. Id. Two or three additional officers
were waiting in the holding cell. When Plaintiff arrived in
holding cell, he was attacked. Officers took turns kicking,
biting, and beating Plaintiff. Id. One officer
placed a plastic bag over Plaintiffs head and suffocated
Plaintiff for 12-15 seconds. Id. According to the
Complaint, Lindberg ordered the involved officers to use the
plastic bag to suffocate Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 3). Then,
Lindberg ordered the officers to remove the bag and continue
to beat Plaintiff. Id. After the beating was over,
the officers brought Plaintiff to his feet and dragged him to
a new cell. (Doc. 1, p. 13).
several days, Plaintiff repeatedly asked officers and nurses
for medical treatment. His requests were denied. Id.
The officers and nurses he spoke to stated, “Stop
fucking filing PREA investigations. We don't tolerate all
that non-sense.” Id.
by these warnings, Plaintiff pursued his PREA grievance and
the grievance process. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff contends he
wrote letters to Lashbrook and Baldwin regarding the assault
on the day he attempted suicide and the subsequent assault
when he was released from segregation. Id.
Plaintiffs grievances were denied and/or the requests in his
letters were denied (Plaintiff indicates he asked to be
transferred to another facility). Id.
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
regarding their merit. Any claims not addressed in this Order
should be considered dismissed without prejudice from this
Count 1:Eighth Amendment deliberate
indifference claim against Trost for failing to honor the two
mattress medical permit issued when Plaintiff was