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Sweet v. Ghosh

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 16, 2018

DEREK I. SWEET, #K98426, Plaintiff,



         I. OVERVIEW

         Plaintiff Derek I. Sweet, an inmate currently housed at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”), filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff brings three sets of claims relating to constitutional violations that allegedly occurred at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) and Stateville over a 10 year period. The first set of claims allegedly occurred at Menard from October 1, 2006 to March 11, 2007 (“2006/2007 Menard Claims”). During this time, Plaintiff claims he was subjected to excessive force, resulting in a serious injury to his left arm/elbow. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was also denied medical care for this injury. On March 11, 2007, Plaintiff was transferred to Stateville, which leads to Plaintiff's second set of claims (“Stateville Claims”). Plaintiff contends that while he was housed at Stateville, various Stateville officials exhibited deliberate indifference to his left arm/elbow injury and/or retaliated against him for filing grievances pertaining to the same. Plaintiff was returned to Menard in March 2010, leading to Plaintiff's third set of claims. Plaintiff generally alleges that after returning to Menard in March 2010, unspecified officials (usually generic groups such as “staff”) denied him necessary medical care in connection with his left arm/elbow injury. The only allegations associated with specific defendants, however, are directed at a physician and physician's assistant who were allegedly deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's left arm/elbow injury in 2017. Accordingly, the Court refers to the third set of claims as the “2017 Menard Claims.” Plaintiff was transferred back to Stateville on November 21, 2017, and is presently incarcerated there. Plaintiff does not assert any additional claims against any specific official at Stateville following his most recent transfer. However, he does allege that his chronic left arm/elbow pain continues and that he is still in need of medical care. (Doc. 1, pp. 25-26). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, p. 28). Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief includes a request to be seen by an outside specialist. Id. The body of the Complaint also includes additional requests for surgical intervention and other specific medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 25).

         In connection with his claims, Plaintiff names the following Defendants: 2006-2007 Menard Claims

1. John/Jane Doe - 1 2006/2007 Medical Director, Menard CC;
2. John Doe - 1 C/O Menard CC);
3. John Doe - 2 C/O Menard CC);
4. John Doe - 3 Lieutenant, C/O, Menard CC);
5. John Doe - 4 Sargent, C/O Menard CC);
6. John Doe - 6 C/O Menard CC also known as Big E/East House Gallery Officer;[1]
7. John Doe - 7 Lieutenant, C/O, Menard CC;[2] and
8. John Doe - 8 Sargent, C/O Menard CC.[3]
Stateville Claims
1. John Doe - 10 Lieutenant, C/O, Stateville CC;[4]
2. John Doe - 9 Sargent, C/O Stateville CC;
3. C/O Schultz - Stateville CC; and
4. Latanya Williams - Stateville Physician Assistant;
5. Shawn Bass - X House Counselor, Placement Officer, Stateville CC;
6. Partha Sarathi Ghosh - Stateville Medical Director 2010-2017

         Menard Claims

         1. Dr. John Trost - Menard Medical Director and

         2. M. Moldenhauer - Dr., Physician Assistant, Wexford Medical Services, Inc.


         Wexford is identified as a defendant in Plaintiff's list of defendants. However, the body of the Complaint does not include any allegations directed against Wexford. A plaintiff “cannot state a claim against a defendant [merely] by including the defendant's name in the caption” of the complaint. See Potter v. Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974); Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1401 and n. 8 (7th Cir. 1994) (“Where a complaint alleges no specific act or conduct on the part of the defendant and the complaint is silent as to the defendant except for his name appearing in the caption, the complaint is properly dismissed.”). Accordingly, Wexford shall be dismissed from this action without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


         The Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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).

         The Complaint is also subject to severance by this Court. The Court retains authority to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into one or more additional lawsuits for which Plaintiff will be assessed a filing fee. 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. The Seventh Circuit strongly encourages district courts to use severance when faced with an omnibus or scattershot complaint, Owens v. Evans, -- F.3d --, 2017 WL 6728884, *1 (7th Cir. Dec. 28, 2017), and discourages courts from allowing a prisoner “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). In a misjoinder situation, severance may occur before preliminary review, allowing the district court to create multiple suits, which can then be separately screened. Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2012).


         Preliminary Matter

         Plaintiff directs a number of allegations against individuals not named in the case caption or list of defendants (e.g., various Jane Does, warden, John Doe 16…) and/or improper groups of defendants (e.g., Stateville Staff, Orange Crush, Medical Staff, F-House Staff…). To the extent that Plaintiff intended to assert claims against these individuals and/or groups of individuals, those claims are dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) (noting that the title of the complaint “must name all the parties”); Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir.2005) (to be properly considered a party a defendant must be “specif[ied] in the caption”); Jenkins v. Wisconsin Resource Ctr., No. 09-cv-323-bbc, 2009 WL 1797849, at *1 (W.D. Wis. June 24, 2009) (a group of people cannot be sued; each defendant must be an individual or legal entity that may accept service of a complaint).

         Additionally, a number of Plaintiff's allegations are not associated with any identifiable individual (known or unknown). For instance, Plaintiff generally alleges that, when he was returned to Menard in 2010, he was left in handcuffs for an excessive amount of time, further injuring his left arm/elbow (Plaintiff makes similar allegations pertaining to his most recent transfer to Stateville in 2017). Claims that are not associated with any particular defendant fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and should be considered dismissed without prejudice. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         2006/2007 Menard Claims

         Plaintiff alleges that, on October 1, 2006, he was the victim of excessive force. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with another inmate. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Several correctional officers subdued Plaintiff and sprayed him twice with pepper spray. Id. Plaintiff alleges that while he was in compliance and lying on his stomach (“spread eagle style”), John Doe 1, a correctional officer, drove his knees into Plaintiff's shoulders, leaving Plaintiff's head between his legs. Id. John Doe 2, a correctional officer, then assisted John Doe 1 handcuff Plaintiff behind his back. Id. After Plaintiff was handcuffed, John Doe 2 kicked him in the left side of his face, near his ear. Id. John Doe 2 then stomped and stood on Plaintiff's left arm/elbow. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff screamed in pain. Id. John Doe 2 then rocked back and forth while standing on Plaintiff's left arm/elbow. Id. John Doe 2 did this four or five times. Id. At that point, Plaintiff lost consciousness from the pain. Id.

         As a result of the excessive force incident, Plaintiff's left arm and elbow were severely injured. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff did not receive immediate medical care for his injury. Id. Instead, Plaintiff was escorted to segregation, where he remained for 90 days. (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). While Plaintiff was in segregation, John Doe 3, a lieutenant in the N2 cell house, and John Doe 4, a sergeant in the N2 cell house, denied Plaintiff's requests for medical ...

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