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Bentz v. Maue

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 4, 2018

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, #S-03210, Plaintiff,



         Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff David Bentz filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on July 27, 2016. (Doc. 1). Before screening the Complaint, the Court dismissed the action, after finding that Plaintiff failed to disclose financial information in his application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 4). An Order Dismissing Case and Judgment were entered on September 22, 2016. (Docs. 8-9). Plaintiff appealed. (Doc. 22). On November 20, 2017, the Seventh Circuit reversed the District Court's decision and remanded the matter for further proceedings. See Bentz v. Maue, 702 F. App'x 461, 2017 WL 5564681 (7th Cir. Nov. 20, 2017). Consistent with the Seventh Circuit's Mandate (Doc. 34), the Clerk is DIRECTED to VACATE the Dismissal Order (Doc. 8), Judgment (Doc. 9), and Order Denying Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 5).

         This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint. (Docs. 1, 1-1). In the 225-page document, Plaintiff names thirty-five known defendants, five unknown doctors and nurses, and numerous additional unknown medical and correctional staff at Menard. Id. His claims primarily arise from two assaults Plaintiff allegedly endured at the hands of Menard officials in May and August 2014 and the subsequent denial of medical care for his injuries. Id. Unfortunately, however, Plaintiff throws numerous additional claims into his Complaint as well. Id. He alleges that the defendants conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. 1, p. 1). In addition, he asserts claims against them under Illinois state law for assault, battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and slander. Id. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 16-17).

         This matter is before the Court for 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.

Id. 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 in the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         As part of the screening order, the Court also will consider whether any parties or claims are improperly joined in this action. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20-21; George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). If the Court finds that they are, it is authorized to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits, assign new cases numbers for each suit, and assess a separate filing fee for each new case. George, 507 F.3d at 607.

         The Complaint

         A. First Assault

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was assaulted at Menard on May 11, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 5). On that date, Officer Maue repeatedly threatened to slap Plaintiff in the face as he walked to and from the chow hall. Id. Officers Qualls, Schnicker, T. Monroe, W. Monroe, Tope, and Guettersloh stood by doing nothing. Id. Plaintiff asked Lieutenant Brookman to intervene, but the lieutenant told Plaintiff to “[k]eep moving [because] I don't care.” Id.

         As Plaintiff walked toward his cell, Qualls and Maue ordered him to return to the Six Gallery Flag, where Qualls, Tope, Guettersloh, and “Doe” grabbed Plaintiff and began punching him repeatedly in the back of the head and neck. (Doc. 1, p. 6). They slammed his face into the wall, while Maue said, “I am going to kill you!” (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). Maue grabbed Plaintiff by the back of his shirt and twisted it tightly around his neck, choking and strangling him in the process. Id. He pushed and dragged Plaintiff across the floor, while calling him a “pencil pusher.” (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Plaintiff eventually lost consciousness. (Doc. 1, p. 7). The assault occurred in view of Sadler, Schnicker, T. Monroe, W. Monroe, and “other Does, ” but they did not intervene. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff allegedly did nothing to provoke the assault. Id.

         Afterwards, Plaintiff repeatedly requested medical care for injuries to his jaw and neck between May 11 and 29, 2014. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 13). His requests were consistently ignored or denied by Maue, Qualls, Tope, Guettersloh, T. Monroe, W. Monroe, Schnicker, Sadler, Jaimet, Cambell, Benifield, Samuel, Allen, Brookman, Allsup, Monjie, Trost, J. Butler, Dwight, Nurse Jane Doe, and other unidentified medical and correctional staff. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         When he pressed for an investigation and medical treatment, prison officials harassed and threatened Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He sent an emergency grievance to Warden Kimberly Butler and Monjie, as well as a request for medical treatment directly to the Health Care Unit (“HCU”). Id. He repeatedly asked Brookman to speak with internal affairs and to bring him to the HCU for treatment, all to no avail. Id. Brookman eventually told Plaintiff that his grievances were “filed” in the trash can. Id. W. Monroe threatened to “beat his ass” if Plaintiff reported the incident, as Sadler stood by and did nothing. Id. Lieutenant Samuel threatened to issue Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket for repeatedly asking to speak with internal affairs and to visit the HCU. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Lieutenant Allen agreed to take Plaintiff to the HCU on condition that he not “make a case about it, ” but refused to contact internal affairs on Plaintiff's behalf. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Allen then worked with Jaimet to arrange a visit to the HCU, where Nurse Jane Doe allegedly denied Plaintiff treatment and pain medication for his injuries. Id.

         On May 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit to address the first assault and related denial of medical care in Bentz v. Qualles, 14-cv-562-MJR-SCW (S.D. Ill.). He asserted claims under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments against Qualls, Samuel, Brookman, Maue, Schnicker, Sadler, Butler, Allen, T. Monroe, W. Monroe, Tope, Guettersloh, J. Butler, and several unknown Menard officials. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff named all of these defendants in this case as well.

         Plaintiff then called his two family members on May 18 and 25, 2014, and asked them to contact Warden Kimberly Butler and the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC') to complain about the failure to investigate the matter or treat Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, pp. 11-12). As a result of their efforts, Allsup met with Plaintiff on May 19, 2014, but took no action to help him. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Dwight reviewed an emergency grievance from Plaintiff, but declared it a non-emergency on May 22, 2014. Id. Monjie met with Plaintiff on May 27, 2014, but also took no action. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         Meanwhile, Qualls continued harassing and threatening Plaintiff, telling him on one occasion, on May 24, 2017, to “put your eyeballs back in your head.” (Doc. 1, p. 12). Cambell and Jaimet told Plaintiff that staff was going to “fuck [him] up” for talking to internal affairs. (Doc. 1, p. 13). They also denied Plaintiff and his cellmate a meal and then encouraged his cellmate to attack him, all in retaliation for speaking with internal affairs. Id.

         The day after the defendants were served with the lawsuit in Bentz v. Qualls, No. 14-cv-562 (S.D. Ill.), Plaintiff was moved from the general population in the North 1 Cell House into the North 2 Cell House. (Doc. 1, pp. 13-14). The North 2 Cell House consists of segregation cells that are used to isolate inmates from the general population. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff claims that he was transferred to dodge any injunctive relief he requested in Bentz v. Qualles or in retaliation for filing that case. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         B. Second Assault

         In connection with his pending suit in Bentz v. Qualles, Angela Crain arranged an examination of Plaintiff's suspected jaw and neck injuries in the HCU on or around August 22, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff met with “Nurse Misty”[1] the following day. (Doc. 1, p. 15). The nurse noted swelling in Plaintiff's neck and jaw and issued him a package of ibuprofen and Tylenol. Id. She also referred him to Doctor Trost. Id.

         While waiting for his appointment with the doctor on August 29, 2014, Plaintiff was assaulted in the HCU. (Doc. 1, p. 15). This time, Officers Lindenberg and Virgil Smith were allegedly responsible for the assault. Id. Plaintiff offers no details about it. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a civil rights action to address the second assault on February 5, 2015. Bentz v. Lindenberg, 15-cv-121-NJR-DGW (S.D. Ill. Feb. 5, 2015). The defendants named in that action include Donald Lindenberg, Virgil Smith, Jacqueline Lashbrook, Linda Carter, Michael Monjie, Sherry Benton, Terri Anderson, Salvadore Godinez, Doctor Trost, and various unknown correctional officers. Plaintiff named some of the same defendants in this case as well, including Donald Lindenberg, Jacqueline Lashbrook, Linda Carter, Michael Monjie, and Doctor Trost.

         C. Subsequent Denial of Medical Care

         Plaintiff did not meet with Doctor Trost on the day of his second assault. (Doc. 1, p. 15). His call passes to see the doctor were subsequently cancelled on September 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2014. Id. After speaking with Warden Lashbrook on September 26, 2014, Plaintiff sent her an emergency grievance on October 2, 2014. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-16). Lashbrook took no action in response to it. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Warden Butler did, however, expedite the grievance. Id.

         Plaintiff finally met with Doctor Trost about the injuries he sustained in the initial assault on October 3, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 15). On that date, Plaintiff complained of a suspected fractured jaw, chronic neck and shoulder pain, and vision problems. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Without examining him, Doctor Trost issued Plaintiff a three month prescription for ibuprofen, ordered x-rays, and scheduled a two week follow-up appointment. Id. As ordered, Plaintiff received x-rays on October 10, 2014, but Doctor Trost did not meet with him to discuss the results. Id. An outside medical provider named Doctor Foss allegedly reviewed the x-rays on October 13, 2014, and sent the results to Menard, where Doctor John Doe also reviewed them on October 22, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 17).

         In the meantime, Linda Carter contacted the HCU and Internal Affairs Officer John Doe about the matter on October 10, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Without any results in hand, HCU Nurse Jane Doe reported no significant findings on the x-rays. Id. Concluding that no further treatment was necessary, a decision was made to deny the grievance Plaintiff filed seeking medical treatment. Id. Warden Butler concurred with the decision on October 23, 2014. Id.

         D. Denial of Other ...

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