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Lucio v. Oelberg

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

February 8, 2018

ABEL LUCIO, Plaintiff,
JEFFERY OELBERG, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, Abel Lucio, proceeding pro se, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that various prison officials and other entities violated his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at Hill Correctional Center (“Hill”). Plaintiff has since been released from Hill and deported to Mexico. In his complaint [1], Plaintiff alleged that the mattress he was provided at Hill had blood and other bodily fluids on it and that broken, sharp bed springs were piercing through his mattress, creating a hazardous condition. Plaintiff alleged that he complained to prison officials about his mattress and bed springs, but they either failed to respond or ignored him or told him no new mattresses were available. Plaintiff further alleged that on October 30, 2014, he cut his leg on the sharp bed springs and that on November 30, 2014, he cut his face on the bed springs. Plaintiff requests compensatory damages for his injuries, as well as punitive damages for bodily harm, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

         On November 30, 2015, the Court entered a merit review order [11], finding that Plaintiff stated an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Sergeant Jeffery Oelberg and Lieutenant Brian Batton for allegedly ignoring his complaints about the problems with his mattress, which led to his injuries. The Court dismissed all other prison officials and entities named in the complaint. On May 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint [30], seeking to add Correctional Supply Supervisor Trevor Freiden[1] as a defendant; and on July 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed another motion for leave to amend his complaint [42], seeking to add Correctional Supply Supervisor Stephen Albert as a defendant. The Court granted both motions.

         Now before the Court for consideration is Defendants' motion for summary judgment [72], to which Plaintiff has responded [77]. Defendants have filed a reply [78]. Based on the parties' pleadings, depositions, affidavits, and other supporting documents filed with the Court, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         The following facts are recounted in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Davis v. Carter, 452 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff was incarcerated at Hill Correctional Center from sometime in the beginning of 2013 to August 2016. (Pl.'s Dep. 11:19-12:8, ECF No. 73-1.) For approximately the first two years at Hill, Plaintiff was housed in cell 2-C-72. (Id. at 13:16- 21.) During this time period, the cell had a bunk bed, and Plaintiff slept on the bottom bunk. (Id. at 24:23-25.) The bed was made of a metal frame with metal springs that supported two mattresses. (Id. at 25:1-9.) On the end of each spring was a hook, which allowed the springs to attach to the bed through holes in the frame. (Id. at 29:9-30:15.) Three of the hooks on the bottom bunk had become loose, causing them to “stick up . . . [more] than three centimeters.” (Id.) These hooks “were very sharp, ” and they poked holes in his mattress. (Id.) Two of the hooks were approximately two or three centimeters apart and located “a little higher than the center” of the bed. (Id. at 35:15-18.) The other hook was located at the corner of one end of the bed. (Id. at 45:13-17.) Most of the time, Plaintiff would lay his head on this end of the bed to sleep, although he would sometimes lay his head on the other end of the bed when he was watching television. (Id. at 36:9-12.)

         Plaintiff could not remove the loose springs from his bed without a tool, and even if he could, he would not have done so “because if you do something like that, they will think immediately that you are trying to create a knife from that.” (Id. at 32:25-33:6.) Plaintiff tried to bend the hooks so they were not sticking straight up, “but [even] with the weight of the body, they [sprang] right back pointing up. You need something like a strong, like pliers to bend them down.” (Id. at 33:13-19.)

         When Plaintiff was first assigned to his cell, he was given a mattress that had dirt, urine, and blood on it. (Id. at 22:1-4, 23:18-25.) It was filled with pieces of canvas and other material as padding, and it was approximately ten centimeters thick. (Id. at 24:12-14, 25:24-26:7.) In either August or September of 2013, members of the tactical team commonly known as “Orange Crush” searched the inmates' cells. (Id. at 21:3-7, 23:6-10.) If Orange Crush team members “see a tiny hole [in a mattress] they think that [the inmate has] something hidden in there.” (Id. at 20:22-23.) When the Orange Crush team members entered Plaintiff's cell and saw his mattress, they “tore it up in pieces” and removed a lot of the padding, leaving the mattress about as thick as a blanket. (Id. at 20:19-25, 24:12-16.) Plaintiff was not given a new mattress until approximately two years later, at which time another inmate described the mattress as follows: “The mattress had no cotton or foam-cushion in it at all. The mattress was literally just an outter [sic] cloth covering of what once was an actual bed mattress.” (Moore Aff. ¶ 5, Pl.'s Resp., Ex. G, ECF No. 77-1.)

         As a result of the mattress being so thin, the three metal hooks that were loose would pierce through the mattress. (Pl.'s Dep. 26:8-11.) Plaintiff tried to fall asleep in a certain position to avoid the hooks, but during the night, he would “move from side to side . . . [and the] hooks would damage [his] back.” (Id. at 29:15-19.) Plaintiff could have placed the mattress on the floor to sleep, but if he had done so, the officers would have written him a ticket or told him to put it back on his bed. (Id. at 27:24-29:1.) Since Plaintiff did not want to receive a ticket, he did not attempt to sleep on the floor with the mattress. (Id.) Plaintiff could fold the mattress to make it thick enough to cover the hooks, and he did so during the day to sit and watch television, but he could not do so at night or else he would have been sleeping on the bare springs that the folded mattress did not cover. (Id. at 38:12-39:16.) Plaintiff, however, did cover the hooks with articles of clothing “several times, ” but the hooks “kept ripping through” the clothing and “destroying” them. (Id. at 34:16-19.)

         Plaintiff wanted a new mattress that was sanitary and that had padding, which would have been thick enough to cover the metal hooks. (Id. at 31:4-9.) To get a new mattress, Plaintiff's understanding of Hill's policy was that he had to submit a request slip. (Id. at 66:8- 11.) Hill had “little piece[s] of paper” on which inmates could write down their request or complaint. (Id. at 60:16-24.) Inmates would then “place it in the box in the mail” to be answered. (Id.) Every day, an officer would empty the box and distribute the request slips to the appropriate personnel. (Id. at 62:3-4, 64:5-9.)

         During the relevant time period, Defendant Freiden supervised the warehouse, commissary, and clothing room at Hill. (Freiden Interrog. ¶ 2, ECF No. 73-8.) Freiden states that if an inmate needed a new mattress, the inmate “would submit a written request to the warehouse for a mattress.” (Id. ¶ 5.) “The inmate's name would then be recorded in an unofficial mattress request logbook. Mattresses would be replaced as they became available in the warehouse.” (Id.) “[A]nyone who worked in the warehouse [including Freiden] . . . could issue a mattress or replacement mattress . . . .” (Id. ¶¶ 4, 12.) Regarding broken bed springs, however, “individuals assigned to the Maintenance Department would be responsible for repairing or replacing” them. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5, 9, 11.)

         From approximately May 2013 to October 2014, Plaintiff sent three request slips to Defendant Freiden asking for a new mattress. (Pl.'s Dep. 58:23-59:9, 62:5-63:1.) In his request slips to Freiden, Plaintiff explained that his mattress was unsanitary and that the bed springs were piercing through the mattress. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. D, ECF No. 77-0.) Plaintiff, however, did not receive a response from Freiden on any of his requests. (Pl.'s Dep. 59:1-5.)

         On October 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed a grievance, stating that his mattress was unsanitary and requesting a new mattress. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. A1.) The laundry supervisor responded, “Laundry does not issue mattresses.” (Id.) In May and August of 2014, Plaintiff sent two affidavits to the warden, stating that some of the springs on his bed were broken, which caused dangerous, sharp hooks to be exposed. (Pl.'s Resp., Exs. B & B1.)[2]

         During the relevant time period, Defendant Albert worked in the clothing room at Hill, first as a correctional officer and then as a correctional supply supervisor. (Albert Interrog. ¶¶ 1- 2, ECF No. 73-7.) Plaintiff states that Albert did not work on the gallery where Plaintiff was housed. (Pl.'s Dep. 57:16-18.) On October 9, 2014, Plaintiff told Defendant Albert that he needed a new mattress because the bed springs were “killing” him, but Albert only laughed at him. (Id. at 57:3-10; Pl.'s Resp., Ex. C.) Albert states that he “does not recall receiving any specific complaint from Plaintiff” about his mattress. (Albert Interrog. ¶ 10.)

         Defendant Albert “did not determine whether individuals received or did not receive mattresses at Hill . . . .” (Id. ¶ 5.) His “job duties did not require him to respond to inmate grievances . . . [and] did not entail repairing or replacing inmate mattresses.” (Id. ¶ 11.)

         During the relevant time period, Defendant Batton was employed as a lieutenant at Hill. (Batton Interrog. ¶ 1, ECF No. 73-5.) Plaintiff states that Batton worked on the gallery where he was housed. (Pl.'s Dep. 57:22-25.) On October 9, 2014, Plaintiff told Batton that he “needed a new mattress because the springs were sticking out of the mattress, ” and he asked Batton to check his back (presumably, the hooks were leaving marks on his back). (Id. at 50:7-51:5.) Batton told Plaintiff he had to write to the warehouse for a new mattress. (Id. at 51:11-21, 63:6- 11.) Plaintiff tried to explain to Batton that he had already done so, but Batton ignored him and walked away without looking at the mattress. (Id.; Am. Compl. 4, ECF No. 12.) Batton states that he “does not recall having a conversation with Plaintiff on October 9, 2014, ” about his mattress. (Batton Interrog. ¶ 11.)

         Defendant Batton states that “Freiden, who supervised the warehouse, would have been responsible for issuing mattresses.” (Id. ¶ 4.) To receive a new mattress, “inmates would submit request slips to the warehouse and their names would then be placed on a list for replacement mattresses.” (Id. ¶ 5.) “[I]nmates could either turn requests into a mailbox or have the requests hand-delivered to him, and he would then take the requests to the relevant departments.” (Id. ¶ 7.) Nonetheless, “if he was made aware of a mattress that was in disrepair, he would have done what he could to get the inmate another mattress-by exchanging it with a mattress from an unoccupied bed and/or by forwarding an inmate request to the warehouse.” (Id. ¶ 16.) Regarding the procedures at Hill for reporting broken bed springs, Batton states that “inmates can inform correctional staff of any maintenance issues they experience with the facilities or utilities in their cells.” (Id. ¶ 9.) The staff would then “submit a work order to maintenance for any mattresses that had defective bed springs.” (Id. ¶ 10.)

         On October 15, 2014, Plaintiff sent an affidavit to Defendant Freiden and the maintenance office asking for a new mattress because his “old mattress [did] not protect[] [him] from the springs during the night.” (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. D.) He requested a new mattress and for someone to come and fix the bed springs. (Id.) On October 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed a grievance, complaining about his mattress and stating that he sent four requests to the warehouse, which were all ignored. (Pl.'s Resp., Ex. D1.) The grievance counselor responded in writing, “Mattresses are to be shown to a security staff who will determine if it needs to be replaced.” (Id.)

         During the relevant time period, Defendant Oelberg was employed as a correctional sergeant at Hill. (Oelberg Interrog. ¶ 1, ECF No. 73-6.) Plaintiff states that Oelberg worked on the gallery where he was housed. (Pl.'s Dep. 58:1-8.) On October 27, 2014, Plaintiff “begged” Oelberg for a new mattress, but Oelberg ignored him. (Id. at 54:4-12.) Plaintiff submits an affidavit from another inmate who translated for Plaintiff when he spoke to Oelberg. (Aguirre Aff., Pl.'s Resp., Ex. G.) The inmate testified he told Oelberg that Plaintiff needed a new mattress because Plaintiff's mattress was old and the bed springs were making holes in the mattress. (Id.) Oelberg told Plaintiff that he could not get a new mattress because there ...

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