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Bliss v. Rose

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 18, 2018

BRENTON DAVID BLISS, # 07421-025, Plaintiff,


          Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Fayette County Jail.[1] He has brought this pro se action, invoking the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., and claiming violations of his rights while he was detained in 2015-2016 at the Williamson County Jail and undergoing treatment at the Centerstone Half-Way House. He claims that necessary prescription medication was withheld from him while he was housed in the Williamson County Jail, and asserts that Rose violated his civil rights by causing his federal supervised release to be revoked. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         At the end of December 2015, Plaintiff entered a 120-day treatment program at the Centerstone Half-Way House (“Centerstone”), at the direction of his federal parole officer.[2] (Doc. 1, p. 5). During this program, Plaintiff was housed at the Williamson County Jail (“the Jail”) when he was not attending the program at Centerstone. For the first several weeks, he was attending regular meetings and doing well in the program.

         In February 2016, Plaintiff had a disagreement with Clinical Assistant Rose (a Centerstone employee) and another Centerstone staff member, when he attempted to leave the Centerstone property with the permission of his counselor to take his vehicle to a nearby car wash to vacuum broken glass from the floorboards. Rose stopped Plaintiff and told him he could not leave the premises. Plaintiff went back into the office to talk to another staff member, and the issue was resolved when Plaintiff was allowed to use a shop-vac on the Centerstone property. However, Plaintiff believes the incident prompted Rose to target him for unfair treatment. (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         Several weeks later, Plaintiff was with his girlfriend in her vehicle while she was visiting him, and the engine caught fire. Plaintiff's hands were severely burned when he put the fire out. He went to the emergency room, and a call was made to Centerstone to inform staff he would be late getting back to the Jail that night. (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         After returning to the Jail, Plaintiff was held there with “no movement.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). A guard who observed the blisters on Plaintiff's hands called Centerstone to get permission to take Plaintiff back to the emergency room. Rose instructed the guard to make Plaintiff wear a jail jumpsuit for his trip to the hospital; this request was against normal policy because Plaintiff was not serving a sentence, but was merely housed at the Jail pursuant to a contractual arrangement. Id. Plaintiff wore the jumpsuit to the hospital.

         On the way back to the Jail, the driver stopped at Centerstone, where Rose had Plaintiff sign a paper to take a drug test, to which he did not object. Rose then made Plaintiff empty his pockets, taking his phone and truck keys. He claims that normally, these items would be returned to him before he went to the drug testing area. However, Rose refused to give back Plaintiff's phone because “she found evidence of unaccountability on it.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). After Plaintiff objected, she told him he would not get his truck keys back either. Plaintiff became very upset and asked to call the police or his federal parole officer, but Rose refused to allow this. Rose then escorted Plaintiff back to the Jail, gave Plaintiff's truck keys to the guard, and instructed the guard not to give Plaintiff his keys. The drug test was not done.

         Before leaving Centerstone following the ER visit, Plaintiff had given Rose the prescription paperwork he received from the emergency room doctor for a cream to treat his burns. Rose promised to get the prescription filled for Plaintiff, but she failed to do so. As a result, Plaintiff never received the prescribed treatment for his painful burned hands. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Similarly, Centerstone staff failed to obtain a refill of Plaintiff's medicine for nerve damage to his back after his supply ran out.

         The day after Plaintiff's confrontation with Rose, he was taken from the Jail to the ER again for panic attacks and to check his heart condition. While there, he had blood and urine tests that showed he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff was given several other prescriptions for anxiety and chest pain. The prescription orders were given to Centerstone staff to be filled and brought to Plaintiff at the Jail, but he never received the medications.

         At some point, Rose allegedly informed Plaintiff's federal parole officer that he had refused to undergo a drug test. This was not true, however; Plaintiff had agreed to take the test, but claims that Rose would not allow him to go through with it after their argument over his phone and keys. Plaintiff was “unlawfully detained” for another couple weeks at the Jail, and then was served with a petition to revoke his supervised release. Plaintiff claims this petition was triggered by Rose's allegation that he refused the drug test.

         When the petition was heard (in this Court, No. 07-cr-30180-DRH), Plaintiff's attorney produced the clean results from Plaintiff's drug test in the ER, and the prosecutor dismissed the allegation that Plaintiff had refused the test. However, Plaintiff's supervised release was still revoked, and he was sentenced to serve 1 year and 1 day in prison. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff asserts that Rose's false accusation regarding the drug test refusal was the reason why the revocation petition was filed. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He believes that but for that false claim, there would not have been a revocation hearing, and he would not have been sent back to prison. As a result of the supervised release revocation, Plaintiff lost his home, his job, and the opportunity to seek custody of his 8-year-old son.

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for his lost wages, “illegal detention” at the Williamson County Jail, the suffering he endured from his medical conditions, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as other relief. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the prose action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is ...

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