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Hoskins v. Eovaldi

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 12, 2018

JOSHUA LEE HOSKINS, # R-54570, Plaintiff,
FRANK EOVALDI, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was subjected to excessive force, retaliation, unconstitutional confinement in a filthy cell, and deliberate indifference to medical needs while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). Plaintiff names 38 individual Defendants. 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).

         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 Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's statement of claim is a 24-page, mostly chronological narrative that details his encounters with each of the 38 Defendants while he was confined at Menard between November 30, 2016, and January 4, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 28-51). Plaintiff was held for that entire period in Cell #443 in the North Two Cell House, Four Gallery. (Doc. 1, p. 28). The cell had been flooded from water that overflowed from the sink because of a clogged drain; the toilet was also clogged and was filled with urine, feces, toilet tissue and blood. When Plaintiff flushed the toilet, the contents overflowed onto the floor. The cell was also contaminated with toilet water that leaked from the cell above and ran down the wall and underneath the cell's light fixture any time the toilet was flushed in the upper cell. The sink provided only warm water (no cold) for drinking. Plaintiff's mattress was contaminated with dried and moist blood, as were the walls, floor, and sink. The cell constantly smelled of human waste and mildew. It was infested with gnats, flies, and cockroaches or waterbugs that crawled on Plaintiff and stung him while he tried to sleep. Plaintiff developed sores and blisters on his skin from the insect bites, as well as skin irritation, itching, and possible ringworm from the filthy mattress, which was also contaminated with human hair. The dust and hair throughout the cell and lack of ventilation caused him to sneeze. The cell had no functioning light, hindering Plaintiff's ability to read and write, and he got headaches and dizziness whenever sun would shine into his eyes. (Doc. 1, pp. 28-29).

         Plaintiff arrived at Menard on November 30, 2016, as the result of a court writ transfer from Stateville Correctional Center. (Doc. 1, p. 28). Major F. Eovaldi came up behind Plaintiff while he was in the chapel building facing the wall, and grabbed Plaintiff's hands and fingers, twisting and bending them. Eovaldi told Plaintiff that he and Major J. Carter, Sgt. Hudson, C/O Spiller, William Spiller (of Internal Affairs), Lt. K. Brookman, and other officers knew that Plaintiff was returning to Menard that day, and had a “fucked up” cell waiting for him. (Doc. 1, p. 28). Eovaldi claimed that these Defendants and other officers had told all the staff members they know, not to do anything to correct the conditions in the cell, because they hoped Plaintiff would “get real sick” from being housed there. Id. Plaintiff was then escorted to Cell # 443 (described above).

         On December 1 and 2, 2016, Sgt. Lindenberg came to Plaintiff's cell, where he observed the conditions and Plaintiff told him about all the problems with the cell. (Doc. 1, p. 29). Lindenberg told Plaintiff he should know that he would be getting mistreated by staff due to Plaintiff's past history of committing a staff assault. Lindenberg confirmed he was aware of the cell conditions before Plaintiff was placed there, and he was not going to do anything to fix the problems.

         Also on December 1 and 2, 2016, C/O Sanders told Plaintiff that he was not going to have the cell cleaned or unclog the toilet or sink, because he was told that Plaintiff had filed court complaints against Menard staff, so Plaintiff would have to stay in the filthy cell. (Doc. 1, p. 29). Sanders escorted Plaintiff to a visit with a mental health professional (Ms. Franklin, who is not a Defendant), and warned Plaintiff that he had better not tell Franklin about the bad cell conditions or complain about staff mistreatment, because if he did, he would not like what was going to happen to him. Plaintiff did not report any of the cell problems or staff misconduct to Franklin, in fear of the consequences. Plaintiff did ask to speak to Sgt. Young (who was also with Sanders) alone. However, Young told Plaintiff they had nothing to talk about, because he would not be getting any cleaning supplies and the cell was going to stay the way it is. (Doc. 1, p. 29).

         The remainder of the Complaint describes similar daily encounters with the other Defendants. Many of these individuals allegedly told Plaintiff that he was placed in the cell as retribution for his past assault on a fellow staff member. Nearly all of the Defendants also allegedly brought up the fact that Plaintiff had filed grievances and/or that he recently testified in this Court in another lawsuit about bad treatment by Menard staff members (a number of them named as Defendants in this action) - and referenced his litigation activity and/or his grievances as the reason for Plaintiff's placement in the cell, as well as various Defendants' refusal to remedy the bad conditions.

         According to Plaintiff, a group of Defendants engaged in a coordinated effort to arrange for his placement in the filthy cell. The officers who had Plaintiff housed in Cell # 443 then obtained the agreement of the other Defendants to leave Plaintiff in the cell, and take no action to correct the problems or provide Plaintiff with any hygiene or cleaning supplies, sheets, blankets, laundry services, access to showers, or clean clothing. Several medical-provider Defendants refused to provide Plaintiff with medical attention for his skin irritation or other health complaints, in support of the joint effort to keep Plaintiff in the miserable conditions as retaliation for his litigation and grievance activity.

         Plaintiff alleges that all 38 Defendants had direct knowledge of the unsanitary cell conditions, yet refused to do anything to fix them and/or refused to move Plaintiff to another cell. These individuals are: Eovaldi (Doc. 1, p. 28), [1] Lindenberg (pp. 29, 41-42, 44-45), Sanders (p. 29), Lt. J. Engelage (p. 29, 40, 42), C/O Engelage (pp. 29-30), Sgt. M. Hudson (pp. 30, 34-35, 38), Lt. Witthoft (p. 30), Lt. Jetton (p. 30), Sgt. S. Young (p. 30), Major J. Carter (pp. 30, 41, 44), C/O Spiller (pp. 30-31), C/O Swisher (p. 31), Lt. Hof (pp. 31-32, 43), Sgt. M. Laminack (pp. 31-32, 47-48), Lt. C. Bump (pp. 32, 35-36), Sgt. Mercer (pp. 32-33, 35), Sgt. Snell (pp. 33, 41), C/O J. Morris (p. 33), Lt. L. Mennerich (pp. 33-34, 41, 44-45), CMT Rena Engelage (Medical Technician) (p. 35), C/O Dennis Hartman (p. 36), C/O Roth (p. 36), CMT Aimee Lang (pp. 36-37), C/O J. Gardiner (pp. 37, 39, 42-44), CMT Nicole Marshall (pp. 37, 47-49), C/O B. Myers (pp. 38, 43, 49), Lt. K. Brookman (p. 39), Lt. K. Held (pp. 39-40), C/O J. Slavens (p. 42), C/O McCarthy (pp. 42-46), C/O Wooley (pp. 43, 45-46), C/O Sanders (p. 44), C/O Shaun Gee (pp. 45, 48), C/O Phelps (pp. 45-46), Sgt. William Spiller (p. 45), Major Raymond Allen (p. 49), Lt. Scott (pp. 49-50), and Lt. Bruce Gutreuter (p. 50).

         Of the 38 Defendants, the only individuals who did not directly tell Plaintiff that his prior lawsuit or grievances against Menard officers was the reason for their conduct toward him are Eovaldi (Doc. 1, p. 28), Lindenberg (pp. 29, 41-42, 44-45), J. Morris (p. 33), and Lt. Scott (pp. 49-50). However, Plaintiff alleges that Swisher told him that Eovaldi was one of the officers who decided to place and hold Plaintiff in Cell #443 because of Plaintiff's prior grievances (p. 33).

         Medical Technician Rena Engelage told Plaintiff that she and her colleagues had agreed to destroy any sick call slips he sent to the Health Care Unit, and to deny him any medical treatment, except for his prescription medications such as Depakote that would show up in a blood test. (Doc. 1, p. 35). CMT's Lang and Marshall made similar comments to Plaintiff. Each of these 3 Defendants indicated that she was aware of his current medical complaints from having read his sick call slips. (Doc. 1, pp. 36-37, 47-49). Those complaints included dry throat and lips, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, itching, dizziness, and headaches, among other issues. (Doc. 1, p. 47). Marshall even commented to Plaintiff that she believed he had already caught Hepatitis-C due to the cell conditions. (Doc. 1, p. 48). Marshall, Lang, and R. Engelage refused to treat Plaintiff for any of these conditions.

         Several of the Defendants informed Plaintiff that they had him on “mail watch” so that if he tried to send out any grievances, they would be intercepted and destroyed. (Doc. 1, p. 33). On several occasions, he was not allowed out of his cell to shower or spend time in the yard. (Doc. 1, p. 38). Some officers told Plaintiff that they would falsify the shower logs to indicate that Plaintiff either received or refused a shower. (Doc. 1, p. 47). He was not given sheets or blankets, other than a single worn blanket that was full of holes. (Doc. 1, pp. 40-41).

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the violations of his rights. (Doc. 1, p. 52). He further requests a preliminary and permanent injunction, to order that he not be housed ...

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