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O'Quinn v. Jaimet

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 4, 2018

CHESTER O'QUINN, #K92939, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, United States District Court Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Chester O'Quinn, an inmate who is currently incarcerated in Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims that he has been housed in a cell without heat at Pinckneyville since November 26, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 5). As a result, he has developed several medical complications which he attributes to the cold living conditions. Id. Plaintiff has asked Warden Jaimet, Assistant Warden Thompson, and several unknown officers to rectify the situation, but they have not done so to date. Id. Plaintiff now sues these defendants for violating his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 1). He seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages against them. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He has also filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction, in which he seeks an Order requiring the defendants to immediately restore and maintain heat in his cell. (Doc. 6). Because of this request for emergency relief, the Court will immediately take up the case. See Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680 (7th Cir. 2012). The Temporary Restraining Order shall be GRANTED.

         This matter 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 survives screening and shall receive further review.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that he has had no heat in his cell (i.e., Cell 6A-25) at Pinckneyville since November 26, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff noticed the problem when he transferred into the cell on that date. Id. For the first time on December 6, 2017, he informed Assistant Warden Thompson that the heater in his cell appeared to be broken. Id. Plaintiff asked Thompson to address the issue, but the assistant warden ignored his written request. Id.

         Plaintiff sent an emergency grievance to Warden Jaimet on December 15, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 5). The warden was supposed to respond to the grievance within 7-10 days. Id. However, Plaintiff received no response. Id. On December 25, 2017, he sent a grievance to the counselor. Id. It is unclear whether the counselor ever responded. Id.

         Three days later on December 28, 2017, Plaintiff asked a major to look at the heater in his cell. (Doc. 1, p. 5). The major agreed to do so. Id. When he did, the major said, “[Y]ou [are] right[.] It's not on and it's cold in here.” Id. He instructed a wing officer to put in a work order for repair of the heater.

         Heat was restored to Plaintiff's cell the same day, but only for thirty minutes, i.e., from 12:30 - 1:00 p.m. (Doc. 1, p. 5). At 1:00 p.m. on December 28, 2017, the heat shut off and remained off until January 1, 2018. Id. In preparation for a compliance check on January 1, 2018, an officer turned the heat in Plaintiff's cell back on from 7:00 - 11:30 a.m. Id. Once the compliance check was complete, the heat was shut off until the following day. Id. On January 2, 2018, the heat was turned back on in his cell from 9:00 - 10:30 a.m. Id. In all, Plaintiff has had heat in his cell for 6½ hours since November 26, 2017. Id.

         Plaintiff suffers from numerous health issues, including hypertension, diabetes, nerve damage, degenerative disc disease, and mental illness, and he claims that the cold temperatures have caused several related medical issues to develop. (Doc. 1, p. 5). His legs and feet have become swollen, and he suffers from pain in his wrists, hands, neck, and back. Id. Plaintiff fears that he will lose a limb to the cold temperatures. Id. In addition, he has many scars on his chest that have begun to bleed. Id. Plaintiff describes his cell as being so cold that it feels like he is living outside. Id. He claims that prison officials are aware of his numerous medical issues and the cold cell temperatures, but they have taken no action to address the conditions because they want him to request a cell transfer. Id.


         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the claims in the pro se Complaint into the following enumerated counts:

Count 1 - Defendants subjected Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they failed to maintain heat in his cell at Pinckneyville beginning on November 26, 2017.
Count 2 - Defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs when they disregarded symptoms of swelling, pain, and bleeding allegedly caused by the cold temperatures in his ...

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