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Tedrick v. Fayette County Jail

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 21, 2017

JACOB D. TEDRICK, # S-05770, Plaintiff,
v.
FAYETTE COUNTY JAIL, TYLER BUTTS, JON TORBECK, and BRYAN GLIDDEN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while he was incarcerated at the Fayette County Jail (“the Jail”).[1] He claims that Defendants failed to protect him from exposure to another inmate's blood, and caused him to ingest drain cleaner that was placed in his cup.

         On October 6, 2017, after Plaintiff attempted to amend his Complaint in a piecemeal fashion, the Court ordered him to submit a proper amended complaint if he wanted his additional allegations to be considered. (Doc. 8). Plaintiff was given a deadline of November 6, 2017, to submit his proposed amended pleading. That deadline has come and gone, and Plaintiff has not tendered an amended complaint. Therefore, the Court shall proceed to conduct the required preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A on the original Complaint. The additional material Plaintiff submitted on October 2, 2017, did not constitute a proper amended complaint and shall not be considered. (See Doc. 8).

         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 names the Fayette County Jail, Officer Tyler Butts, Officer Jan Torbeck, and Jail Administrator Bryan Glidden as Defendants in this action. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-2). The factual summary below is gleaned from Plaintiff's 2-page statement of claim, as well as from a number of grievance forms he included as exhibits to the Complaint.

         In his statement of claim, Plaintiff writes that on August 24, 2017, he and 2 fellow inmates were “forced to clean up Hep-C blood” after another inmate (Abshner) suffered a seizure and cut his face. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6, 11). Plaintiff states that “Inmate blood [was] everywhere Hep-C exposed everywhere in cell.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). The officers on duty refused to clean up the blood. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 11). Officers would not give the inmates any gloves or masks to safeguard them from infectious diseases. Officer Butts claimed that he was never trained on safety procedures for cleaning up blood. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Because the officers would not move Plaintiff or the other inmates from the contaminated cell, and refused to clean up the blood, Plaintiff and his cellmates were forced to clean up the blood themselves without any protective gear. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, Plaintiff informed the Jail Administrator (presumably Glidden) of the incident. He provided Plaintiff with testing for Hepatitis-C and HIV, and informed Plaintiff that he would have to take another set of tests a month later. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         On August 28, 2017, while Plaintiff was out of his cell for an attorney visit, an unnamed officer “poured liquid fire drain cleaner in a cup” for another inmate to use in the sink in their cell. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11). The officer used Plaintiff's cup for the drain cleaner. Plaintiff later took a drink out of the cup, and severely burned his lips and tongue. He was taken to the emergency room to be treated. Plaintiff claims that Butts “brought the toxic chemical to C-block” where Plaintiff was housed, but then did not “oversee the operation at hand.” (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff asks, “Why did inmates get access to the fatal acid that caused chemical burn[s] to [his] mouth and nose[?]” Id. In a response to Plaintiff's grievance over the matter, Glidden noted, “Officer Butts observed the chemicals going down the drain. The matter is still being looked into.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 1).

         Plaintiff seeks compensation for the officers' actions that put his life in danger, by refusing to give Plaintiff gloves for the blood cleanup, and for his chemical burn injuries. (Doc. 1, p. 12). He also wants jail officers to be trained on procedures to handle a blood spill. Id.

         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: Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants for exposing Plaintiff to another inmate's blood and thus to serious infectious diseases including Hepatitis-C;
Count 2: Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Butts for allowing toxic drain cleaner to remain in Plaintiff's drinking cup, where ...

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