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Coleman v. Korte

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

January 5, 2018

JEFF KORTE, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and presently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center, brought the present lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging an Eighth Amendment claim for failure to protect from harm arising from incidents that transpired while he was incarcerated at Western Illinois Correctional Center. The matter comes before this Court for ruling on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The motion is granted.


         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). All facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in his favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). The party moving for summary judgment must show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In order to be a “genuine” issue, there must be more than “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).


         At all times relevant, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Western Illinois Correctional Center (“Western”). Defendants were employed at Western in the following capacities: Defendant Korte was the Warden, and Defendant Megginson was a lieutenant assigned to Internal Affairs. All other defendants named in Plaintiff's complaint, except for Defendant Nurse Jane Doe, have been dismissed.

         On May 12, 2015, another inmate in Plaintiff's housing unit spit through the window screen in Plaintiff's cell door after calling Plaintiff several derogatory names. The next day, Plaintiff told Malia Harney, the associate dean of the college program, that Plaintiff would be forced to fight this inmate if officials did not take action. Ms. Harney reported Plaintiff's comments to other staff, and, according to Plaintiff's deposition testimony, Defendant Megginson interviewed Plaintiff regarding the incident. Pl.'s Dep. 17:23-18:12. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was taken to segregation pending a disciplinary hearing for violating the rule against threats and intimidation. Plaintiff was later found guilty and sentenced to 15 days in segregation.

         Plaintiff wrote several letters and grievances regarding the incident and the resulting punishment. In a letter sent to Defendant Korte, Plaintiff briefly describes the incident with the other inmate and complains about the severity of punishments for violating certain rules. (Doc. 1-1 at 2-3). The letter does not state that Plaintiff feared any future harm or retribution from the other inmate as a result of the May 2015 incident. Only one of the grievances, dated June 16, 2015, states that Plaintiff feared attack from the other inmate. (Doc. 1-1 at 15); see also (Docs. 1-1 at 6-7, 9-10, 12-15; 18-19).

         Plaintiff testified that he sent two letters to Defendant Megginson while he was in segregation describing his fear of the other inmate and his reservations about being released into general population. Pl.'s Dep. 40:7-17; 42:18-23. Plaintiff has not produced copies of these letters-any copies are at “home” and he has no access to them. Id. 41:2-8. Defendant Megginson does not dispute that Plaintiff wrote the letters. Instead, he states in his affidavit that he does not recall receiving them. (Doc. 37-2 at 1, ¶ 3).

         Plaintiff also testified that he told Defendant Teel[1] about his fears in a personal conversation while he was in segregation. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Teel stated that she would notify Internal Affairs of his statements. Plaintiff does not know if she ever followed through.

         Despite his expressed fears, Plaintiff was sent back into general population where he was housed in a unit different from the one where the incident with the other inmate had occurred. Pl.'s Dep. 33:11-15. Plaintiff is not sure where the other inmate was housed at that time, but, at any rate, Plaintiff only encountered this inmate one time thereafter while “outside on the walk.” Id. 43:13-22. Plaintiff suffered no physical injury as a result of prison officials' actions in this case. Id. 44:2-5.


         To succeed on a failure to protect claim, a plaintiff must show (1) “that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, ” and, (2) prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference” to that risk. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). For purposes of satisfying the first prong, “it does not matter whether the risk comes from a single source or multiple sources, any more than it matters whether a prisoner faces an excessive risk of attack for reasons personal to him or because all prisoners in his situation face such a risk.” Id. at 843.

         A prison official acts with deliberate indifference if he “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of the facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 843. A plaintiff “normally proves actual knowledge of impending harm by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety.” Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). A prisoner complaint ‚Äúthat identifies a specific, credible, and imminent risk of serious harm and identifies the prospective assailant typically will support an inference that the official to whom the complaint was communicated ...

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