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Momani v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 2, 2017

BAHA EDDIN AL MOMANI, #S14377, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Baha Al Momani, an inmate who is currently incarcerated in Western Illinois Correctional Center, filed a civil rights action against officials at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 12). Plaintiff alleges that he was violently attacked and seriously injured by his cellmate, after he repeatedly requested and was denied a cell transfer by Menard officials in 2015. (Doc. 12, pp. 1-39). He now brings this suit against the officials who denied his requests for a transfer before and after the attack, including Kimberly Butler (warden), Engelage (officer), Mrs. Creason (mental health counselor), and Menard's Placement Office. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief against the defendants.[1] (Doc. 12, p. 6).

         The First Amended Complaint is subject to preliminary review under 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 amended complaint survives screening under this standard.

         First Amended Complaint

         On September 17, 2015, Plaintiff was brutally attacked by his cellmate at Menard. (Doc. 12, p. 23.) The attack occurred in Cell 754 of Menard's North 2 Cell House between 12:00-12:50 a.m. (Doc. 12, pp. 13, 23). Although he offers no details regarding the actual attack, Plaintiff alleges that he sustained serious and life-threatening injuries as a result of it, including head trauma, broken teeth, and fractures to his skull, eye socket, and cheek bone. (Doc. 12, pp. 14, 23).

         Plaintiff was initially taken to Memorial Hospital in Chester, Illinois, for treatment. (Doc. 12, p. 23). He was then transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, for zygomatic surgery. (Doc. 12, pp. 23-24). Platinum plates and screws were placed along his zygomatic bone and arch. (Doc. 12, p. 24). He spent more than a month recovering in the prison's health care unit following surgery. Id. However, Plaintiff still suffers from lasting injuries that include chronic migraines, left cheek numbness, post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, and anxiety attacks.[2] (Doc. 12, pp. 15, 24).

         Plaintiff alleges that the attack was avoidable. (Doc. 12, p. 10). On September 1, 2015, Plaintiff informed Officer Engelage that his cellmate, Marcos Bailey, threatened to beat him up. Id. Plaintiff told the officer that Inmate Bailey had a much higher aggression level and continued bullying him even after making the threat. Id. He expressed fear for his safety and requested a cell transfer. Id.

         Officer Engelage instructed Plaintiff to write him a kite. (Doc. 12, p. 10). Plaintiff did so. Id. In it, he identified the names of several other inmates who were aware of the situation. Id. He received no response. (Doc. 12, p. 11). A week later, Plaintiff stopped Officer Engelage and asked him about the status of his request for a cell transfer. (Doc. 12, p. 11). Plaintiff again expressed fear for his life. Id. Officer Engelage told Plaintiff that he lost the original kite and asked him to submit another one. Id. Plaintiff immediately did so, and the officer said that he would “see what he can do.” Id. Still fearing for his life, Plaintiff wrote a direct request for a cell transfer to Menard's Placement Office. (Doc. 12, p. 11). He challenged the original decision to place him in a cell with a highly aggressive cellmate who had a known history of inmate and staff assaults. Id. Plaintiff also sent a kite to Counselor Creason, a mental health professional at the prison. (Doc. 12, p. 11). Around the same time, several other inmates asked Counselor Creason to transfer Plaintiff into a cell with one of them. Id. The counselor allegedly took no action to help Plaintiff “until the fight occur[r]ed” on September 17, 2015. (Doc. 12, pp. 11-12, 37).

         Following the attack, Plaintiff was transferred into segregation for thirty days. (Doc. 12, p. 12). However, the Placement Office moved him into Cell 916 in the East Cell House next to Inmate Bailey's cousin in Cell 915 and near Inmate Bailey in Cell 521. Id. Plaintiff and Inmate Bailey encountered one another in the prison yard during outdoor recreation. Id. Plaintiff complained about the dangerous housing arrangement to Officer Reese, who advised him to ask Lieutenant Sumolak[3] for a transfer. (Doc. 12, p. 13). Plaintiff did so, but received no help for at least three weeks. Id. During this same general time ...

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