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Hood v. Lamb

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 26, 2017

CURTIS R. HOOD, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
NICHOLAS R. LAMB, BACH, OCHS, LENCE, and SHANER Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN U.S. CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Curtis R. Hood, Sr., an inmate in Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff requests money damages and costs. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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 Complaint

         On April 9, 2017, Plaintiff approached correctional officer Shaner and asked if he could move Plaintiff or his cell mate. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff reported that they were not getting along. Id. Shaner said he would contact the Placement Office on Plaintiff's behalf. Id. Shaner came by later and told Plaintiff that no one was answering the Placement phone, but he'd keep trying. Id. Plaintiff wrote a grievance about this and had it in his hand on April 10, 2017 when he ran into Bach on the way to lunch. Id. Plaintiff explained his situation to Bach, and Bach asked Plaintiff to give him until noon to look into it. Id. Plaintiff never heard back from Bach so on the next shift he spoke to Lt. Ochs. Ochs responded “nothing is going to happen.” Id. Plaintiff told Ochs that he was setting up one of them to get hurt. Id. Ochs didn't respond; he just left. Id. When Plaintiff returned to his cell, he was assaulted by his cellmate. Id. Plaintiff received 6 staples in his head as a result of the attack. Id.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 1 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. The following claim survives threshold review:

Count 1 - Shaner, Bach, and Ochs failed to protect Plaintiff from an attack by his cellmate in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         As to Plaintiff's Count 1, in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994), the Supreme Court held that “prison officials have a duty . . . to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.” Id. at 833 (internal citations omitted); see also Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 889 (7th Cir. 2006). However, not every harm caused by another inmate translates into constitutional liability for the corrections officers responsible for the prisoner's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. In order for a plaintiff to succeed on a claim for failure to protect, he must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, and that the defendants acted with “deliberate indifference” to that danger. Id.; Pinkston, 440 F.3d at 889. A plaintiff also must prove that prison officials were aware of a specific, impending, and substantial threat to his safety, often by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). In other words, Defendants had to know that there was a substantial risk that the individual who attacked Plaintiff would do so, yet fail to take any action. See Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733-34 (7th Cir. 2001). However, conduct that amounts to negligence or inadvertence is not enough to state a claim. Pinkston, 440 F.3d at 889 (discussing Watts v. Laurent, 774 F.2d 168, 172 (7th Cir. 1985)).

         Here Plaintiff has alleged that he told 3 guards that he was not getting along with his cellmate. Plaintiff's claim that he was celled with another inmate who threatened to attack him is a plausible allegation that he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm. Moreover, he alleges that he specifically identified the threat to the guards, but none of them moved him out of his cell. On these facts, ...


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