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Brady v. IDOC

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 1, 2017

HARLEY M. BRADY, Y-13122, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Harley M. Brady, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) housed at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), brings this pro se action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims against officials at Lawrence can be roughly divided into three groups: (1) claims that Plaintiff suggests are connected to an excessive amount of soy in the prison diet; (2) other medical claims directed against Defendants Coe and Ahmed; and (3) claims pertaining to records requests in connection with Plaintiff's criminal case. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. As set forth below, the Court finds that a number of the claims and parties are not properly joined. Accordingly, the Court will exercise its discretion and sever unrelated claims into separate actions.

         Preliminary Matters

         Litigation History

         In drafting his Complaint, Plaintiff utilized a standard complaint form from the Central District of Illinois. In the “Litigation History” section (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 6), Plaintiff disclosed the following:[1]

Brady v. Towne et al, Case No. 2014-cv-3071 (N.D. of Ill.) - Stayed
Brady v. City of Ottawa Police Dept. et al, Case No. 2014-cv-3072 (N.D. of Ill.) -Dismissed
Brady v. LaSalle County Municipality et al, Case No. 2014-cv-5545 (N.D. of Ill.) -Pending

(Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff accurately identified his previously filed actions. Unfortunately, however, Plaintiff failed to disclose that he incurred a strike (his only one) in Case No. 2014-cv-3072 (dismissed November 6, 2014).

         The Court relies on a party's litigation history listed in his or her complaint to adhere to the three-strike requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), and thus there is a need for reliable information about prior litigation. As a result, where a party fails to provide accurate litigation history, the Court may appropriately dismiss the action for providing fraudulent information to the Court. Hoskins v. Dart, 633 F.3d 541, 543 (7th Cir. 2011).

         In this case, the information provided was incomplete, but not necessarily fraudulent. At this time, the Court gives Plaintiff the benefit of the doubt and presumes the inaccuracy was an innocent omission. However, Plaintiff is warned that if he files any future lawsuit without fully disclosing his litigation history, including any “strikes, ” he will be subject to sanctions, which may include immediate dismissal of the action.

         Injunctive Relief

         Plaintiff's request for relief (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11) includes at least eighteen requests for various types of injunctive relief. Plaintiff asks that some of the injunctive relief be provided “immediately.” This suggests that Plaintiff is seeking some form of immediate relief, such as a preliminary injunction.

         “A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008) (citations omitted). See also Korte v. Sebelius, 735 F.3d 654, 665 (7th Cir. 2013).

         At this time, Plaintiff's request for immediate injunctive relief shall be denied for two reasons. First, Plaintiff has not filed a separate motion for a preliminary injunction. Second, Plaintiff's allegations do not support this form of drastic relief. Specifically, he has not demonstrated or alleged that he faces any immediate or irreparable injury or loss, and the Court cannot conclude that he is likely to succeed on the merits.

         Therefore, any requests for immediate injunctive relief are DENIED without prejudice. Should Plaintiff's situation change, necessitating emergency intervention by the Court, he may file a new motion for a preliminary injunction, in the appropriate action, pursuant to Rule 65(a).

         Preliminary Review - Applicable Standard

         Section 1915A provides as follows:

(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).

         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, 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.

         The Complaint

         Soy Diet Claims

         IDOC serves food that contains large amounts of soy. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff contends the amount of soy is well in excess of recommended daily values (25 grams per day). Id. According to the Complaint, IDOC does not make information pertaining to the amount of soy in the prison diet readily accessible. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff also claims that his written requests for nutritional information, apparently in connection to the amount of soy in the prison diet, have been denied. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 9).

         Plaintiff claims he suffers from acid reflux, indigestion, vomiting, dry heaving, excessive gas, intestinal cramps, thyroid issues, kidney issues, rashes, weight gain, and difficult bowel movements. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). Plaintiff also speculates that he may have an internal stomach hernia from vomiting. Id. Plaintiff attributes these health issues to soy in the prison diet. Id.

         Plaintiff's sister spent time in IDOC custody and experienced adverse health issues, including thyroid problems. Id. Plaintiff attributes his sister's health problems to the soy-based diet she ingested while in IDOC custody. Id. Plaintiff has told Wexford medical staff and doctors that his sister had thyroid issues while on a soy-based diet. Id. However, Plaintiff's concerns have been disregarded.

         Plaintiff does not know if he is allergic to soy or simply “sensitive to it due to IDOC serving prisoners well above the daily recommended amount.” Id. Plaintiff has complained to medical staff regarding the soy-based diet and has requested a soy-free diet. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). Although other inmates have received soy-free diets, Plaintiff's requests have been denied. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Apparently in connection with Plaintiff's requests for a soy-free diet, Plaintiff states that he raises a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) against Wexford for denying him a medical diet. Id.

         According to the Complaint, “Wexford medical staff and doctors” have failed to properly document Plaintiff's symptoms and adverse reactions to the soy-diet. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that “Wexford medical staff and doctors, ” “nurses, ” and “they” have exhibited deliberate indifference to the following medical conditions-conditions Plaintiff suggests are somehow connected to his consumption of soy: (1) thyroid and digestive issues; (2) severe rash; (3) lumps in his mouth and throat; (4) stomach hernia; and (5) numbness/possible nerve damage. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Plaintiff suggests that officials exhibited deliberate indifference to these conditions by prescribing ineffective and/or harmful treatment, failing to perform requested testing, failing to fully evaluate his symptoms, and/or failing to refer Plaintiff to an outside specialist. Id.

         Although not entirely clear, apparently in connection with the above claims, Plaintiff has submitted various records requests that were denied, delayed, and/or not properly answered. (Doc. 1, p. 9). For instance, Plaintiff contends he submitted requests to IDOC pertaining to “nutritional information.” The requests were denied. Id. Plaintiff also has submitted requests for medical records and lab tests. Id. Plaintiff has either not received answers to these requests or is dissatisfied with the answers he has received. Id. Plaintiff contends the allegedly deficient responses have interfered with his ability to “complete certain facts required in [this] complaint.” Id. Finally, Plaintiff contends that he has filed numerous grievances that have been mishandled, delayed, and/or lost. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         Additional Medical Claims

         Plaintiff asserts additional medical claims that do not appear to be related to his soy-diet claims. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff suffers from chronic back and knee pain. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff associates these issues with his weight (265 lbs.) and a lack of arch support. Id. Plaintiff has been issued a back brace and an athletic compression knee sleeve. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff claims the braces provide insufficient support and/or do not alleviate his pain. Id. Plaintiff states that “Wexford staff and/or doctors” have told him he cannot return to “3rd shift dietary” because of his chronic back and knee pain. Id. Nonetheless, they refuse to provide him with a bottom bunk permit or appropriate work restrictions. Id. Plaintiff also states that Wexford is subject to liability under the ADA “over Plaintiff's back and knee problems.” Id.

         Because Plaintiff does not have a bottom bunk permit, he has to climb into the top bunk. Plaintiff's knee and back issues make it very difficult for him to do this. Id. Climbing into the top bunk is also difficult because the bunkbeds do not include a ladder. Id. Accordingly, Plaintiff must use the toilet and sink in his cell to reach the top bunk. Id.

         Plaintiff has fallen several times while attempting to climb into the top bunk. Id. At various times, Plaintiff has requested a bottom bunk permit from Coe, Shah (not a identified as a defendant in the caption), and Ahmed. Id. All of these individuals denied Plaintiff's requests, despite knowing he has fallen several times attempting to climb into the top bunk. Id.

         On April 26, 2017, Plaintiff had a medical visit with Ahmed. (Doc. 1, p. 9). During this visit, Plaintiff asked Ahmed for joint supplements, an “actual” knee brace, and a bottom bunk permit. (Doc. 1, p. 10). With the exception of the knee brace, Plaintiff's requests were denied. Id. On May 6, 2017, Plaintiff was called to medical to receive his new knee brace. Id. Wexford medical staff attempted to give Plaintiff the knee brace; he refused it, because the new brace was another athletic compression sleeve as opposed to an “actual” knee brace. Id. Plaintiff asked to see Ahmed, but his request was refused. Id. A nurse indicated she had spoken with Ahmed and that was the brace he ordered. Id. Plaintiff refused the knee brace and filed a grievance. Id.

         Plaintiff includes several additional allegations pertaining to his medical visit with Ahmed on April 26, 2017. Specifically, he alleges that he told Ahmed the pharmacist had not been refilling his medication in a timely manner. (Doc. 1, p. 9). In response, Ahmed “cut Plaintiff's medications down.” Id. Ahmed also discontinued Plaintiff's ibuprofen prescription. Id. Plaintiff contends that he needs the ibuprofen for back pain, knee pain, and headaches. Id. Over Plaintiff's objections, Ahmed ordered Plaintiff icy-hot muscle rub for his muscle aches. Id. Plaintiff contends Ahmed reduced his medications and discontinued his ibuprofen as retaliation for Plaintiff's complaint about the pharmacy. Id. Plaintiff also states, however, that Ahmed told Plaintiff the ibuprofen had to be discontinued because of Plaintiff's liver enzyme numbers. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff contends this cannot be a viable reason for discontinuing his ibuprofen prescription because Plaintiff sees another physician for Hepatitis-C and that doctor is not concerned about Plaintiff's liver enzyme levels. Id.

         Plaintiff also claims Ahmed forced him to choose between taking Tums or Pepcid for heartburn. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff contends he needs both medications but Ahmed would only prescribe one. Id. Plaintiff chose tums, as a “Hobson's choice, ” and regrets that decision.

         Records Requests pertaining to Plaintiff's Sentencing

         An officer of the Court requested Plaintiff's mental health records in connection with Plaintiff's presentence investigation report. (Doc. 1, p. 9). IDOC failed to respond. Id. Plaintiff also requested records in connection with a motion to reconsider his sentence. Id. IDOC failed to respond.

         Dismissal of Certain Defendants Illinois ...

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