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Titus v. Mitchell

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 6, 2017

ADAM TITUS, #R-43512, Plaintiff,
v.
LIEUTENANT MITCHELL, JOHN DOE, JANE DOE, JANE DOE, JOHN DOE, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, MAJOR WESTFALL, C/O CARON, C/O WEAVER, C/O WEBB, LIEUTENANT GROVES, WARDEN LASHBROOK, LIEUTENANT SAMUELS, DIRECTOR BALDWIN, SERGEANT DOEDING, C/O REYNOLDS, C/O STINSON, C/O MCDONOUGH, C/O EDWARDS, C/O KELLER, C/O MONTROY, and C/O FRANCIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Adam Titus, an inmate in Pontiac Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly occurred at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants subjected him to excessive force, were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical issues, subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment by placing him in the staff assault weapon violator program and harassing him, and violated state law when they stole his property. (Doc. 1). 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).

         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, -- F. App'x --, 2017 WL 2417889 (7th Cir. 2017) (district court should have severed unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed one of them). Consistent with George, Owens, and Wheeler, unrelated claims will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers, and assessed separate filing fees.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff organizes his Complaint (Doc. 1) into several “Counts.” The Court will therefore organize the facts using the same scheme.

         A. Count 1 - Deprivation of Medical Care / Cruel and Unusual Punishment

         Plaintiff claims that Count 1 involves claims against Mitchell, C/O John Does 1-9, Mental Health Jane Doe 1, Med-Tech Jane Does 1-3, Sergeant John Doe 1, and Wexford Health Sources. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Under Count 1, Plaintiff makes the following allegations: on June 16, 2017, Plaintiff was “tackled by three prison guards (John Does [1-3])[1] and slammed to the ground.” Id. Plaintiff was restrained, and John Does 1-3 punched him in the face and back repeatedly and squeezed the handcuffs while placing Plaintiff in a headlock and twisting Plaintiff's wrist. Id. Lieutenant Mitchell walked up to Plaintiff and kicked him in the face, and grabbed him by the leg and twisted it. Id.

         “Plaintiff was taken to healthcare by two prison guards (John Does [4-5]), while Plaintiff repeatedly requested medical attention as Plaintiff complained of not being able to see out his left eye to mental health (Jane Doe).” (Doc. 1, pp. 13-14). As Plaintiff was seen by a Med-Tech (Jane Doe [1]), she noted Plaintiff was bleeding from his face and head. (Doc. 1, p. 14). A group of prison guards (John Does 6-8) then entered and began to punch and knee Plaintiff in the back, face, and head. Id. Plaintiff was then dragged to the front of segregation, as three prison guards kneed and punched Plaintiff and called him derogatory names. Id. Plaintiff was taken to the shower in segregation while he repeatedly asked four guards (John Does) for medical attention. Id. Plaintiff was then placed in a cell, and minutes later a sergeant (Sergeant John Doe 1) and gallery officer (C/O John Doe 9) took Plaintiff to Med-Tec Jane Doe [2] and Med-Tech Jane Doe [3]. Id. Plaintiff tried to explain his injuries to the medical staff, but he was ignored. Id. Plaintiff was then taken back to his cell and Sergeant John Doe 1 twisted Plaintiff's wrist as Plaintiff directed requests for medical attention to Sergeant John Doe 1 and C/O John Doe 9. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Plaintiff asserts these facts demonstrate he was subjected to excessive force by Mitchell, C/O John Does 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8, and Sergeant John Doe 1. Id. Plaintiff also claims that the above facts demonstrate that Mental Health Jane Doe 1, Med-Tech Jane Doe 1, and C/O John Does 4, 5, and 9 failed to intervene in the alleged excessive force, and that Mental Health Jane Doe 1, Med-Tech Jane Does 1, 2, and 3, C/O John Does 6, 7, and 8, Sergeant John Doe 1, and Wexford Health Sources were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. Id. Plaintiff further claims that “Wexford's policy and/or custom of reviewing and in this case ignoring and not treating inmates with medical issues, results in deprivation of Plaintiff's rights to medical attention, or otherwise caused significant delay in Plaintiff's attempts to gain medical attention.” (Doc. 1, pp. 15-16). “As a result, Plaintiff has loss of vision in his left eye, back pain, and limited movement in his wrist, right leg pain, and [he] suffer[s] from extreme headaches and dizziness and loss of hearing.” (Doc. 1, p. 16).

         B. Count 2 - Cruel and Unusual Punishment

         Plaintiff claims that Count 2 involves claims against C/O John Does 10-20, Major Westfall, C/O Caron, C/O Weaver, C/O Webb, Lieutenant Groves, Warden Lashbrook, Lieutenant Samuels, Director Baldwin, Sergeant Doeding, C/O Reynolds, C/O Stinson, C/O McDonough, C/O Edwards, C/O Keller, C/O Montroy, and C/O Francis. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Under Count 2, Plaintiff makes the following allegations: on April 5, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to Menard. Id. Plaintiff wore a black and white striped jumpsuit, while other inmates had on yellow jumpsuits. Id. As Plaintiff was getting off of the bus, C/O John Doe 10 stated to C/O John Does 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15: “We got a striper.” Id. As Plaintiff walked toward these guards, they got in his face and told him: “This is Menard, we going to beat your ass down here.” Id. C/O John Doe 10 then told another officer to “stomp his brains out” if Plaintiff turned or did anything. Id.

         On April 10, 2017, when Plaintiff was let out for chow, C/O John Does 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 “were standing amongst the stairwell blocking the exit.” (Doc. 1, p. 18). As Plaintiff walked toward the prison guards, they harassed him, called him derogatory names, and threatened him with physical harm due to his being a “black and striper.” Id. Plaintiff tried to speak to Major Westfall, but he was told to keep moving. Id.

         On May 20-21, 2017, C/O John Does 15-20 “repeatedly harassed and threatened all black and while stripers.” Id. When Plaintiff was let out for chow, C/O John Does 15-20 “stood blocking the stairway, folding their arms and sticking their feet out while poking out their stomach, forcing Plaintiff and others to turn sideways and grab the rail while squeezing through them, ” as C/O Caron called them ‘“stripers” and “punks” and told staff to “smash they face.” Id. On May 21, 2017, C/O Caron told Plaintiff, while the guards were blocking the stairway, that if he touched him he would use physical force on him. (Doc. 1, p. 19). At the end of the stairway, a sergeant was pointing a large can of mace at Plaintiff's face. Id. On June 8, 2017, C/O Weaver and Webb harassed Plaintiff and called him derogatory names. Id. They blocked the stairway while a C/O stood with a can of chemical agent and threatened “stripers, ” saying that he could spray them. Id. Plaintiff tried to speak with Lieutenant Samuels but was ignored and threatened with segregation. Id.

         Since April 6, 2017, “Plaintiff was placed in the staff assaulter weapon violator program which was started by IDOC Administration.” Id. Plaintiff has been subjected to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation since his placement in this program, which has a policy requiring those in the program to wear black and white striped jumpsuits and to be segregated by gallery apart from general population. (Doc. 1, pp. 19-20). The policy also subjects those in the program to visit, educational program, job, clothing, yard, and commissary restrictions, as well as retaliation, harassment, and excessive force by prison guards. (Doc. 1, p. 20).

         At the end of his recitation of facts under Count 2, Plaintiff lists Groves, Lashbrook, Samuels, Baldwin, Westfall, Doeding, Webb, Caron, Keller, Reynolds, McDonough, Montroy, Stinson, Edwards, and Francis, and claims that they “had a duty and obligation to ensure that Plaintiff while incarcerated at Menard . . . was not subject to discipline that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment but . . . acted with deliberate indifference by failing to carry out their respective duty.” Id. Plaintiff also claims that he suffers from emotional distress and psychological and physical pain. Id.

         C. Count 3 - Conversion of Personal Property

         Under Count 3, Plaintiff makes the following allegations: Doeding and Montroy had “access to Plaintiff's property that was taken from his cell while Plaintiff was in transportation and placed in another facility.” (Doc. 1, p. 21). Plaintiff claims these defendants intentionally and wrongly deprived him of personal property to which he is entitled. Id.

         D. Relief Requested

         Plaintiff requests “temporary and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting the use of ‘black and white' stripers program and policy.” (Doc. 1, p. 22). Plaintiff also seeks monetary damages, an outside medical examination, and a temporary restraining ...


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