United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE
currently incarcerated at Robinson Correctional Center
(“Robinson”), has brought this pro se
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Most
of Plaintiff's claims arose while he was incarcerated at
Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”);
these include deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's
serious medical conditions, retaliation, and receiving false
disciplinary reports. Plaintiff also raises medical
deliberate indifference and retaliation claims based on
events after his 2017 transfer to Robinson. This case is now
before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Additionally, the Court
must consider whether all of Plaintiff's claims may
appropriately proceed together in the same action.
§ 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).
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).
these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's
claims survive threshold review under § 1915A. Further,
the Court shall exercise its discretion to sever unrelated
claims into two separate cases.
of background, Plaintiff explains that in April 2014, while
he was at Lawrence Correctional Center
(“Lawrence”), he underwent nasal surgery at an
outside hospital, and returned to that facility for 2
follow-up visits for “nasal cleaning.” (Doc. 1,
p. 6). However, in February 2015, an official at Wexford
Health Sources denied authorization for Plaintiff to return
for a 6-month follow-up. Id. Plaintiff alleges that
he continues to suffer from chronic nasal polyps which impair
his ability to breathe, interfere with his sense of smell,
cause pain and dizziness when he blows his nose, and cause
nosebleeds. He also gets a sore throat and sometimes chokes
from breathing through his mouth. (Doc. 1, p. 9). In
addition, Plaintiff suffers from asthma and severe lower back
Medical Issues at Centralia
was incarcerated at Centralia from August 19, 2015, until
February 8, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 16). He details numerous
visits to doctors and other health care professionals during
this time. On August 23, 2015, soon after Plaintiff's
arrival at Centralia, he requested Dr. Santos to issue him a
low-bunk permit and waist-chain cuff permit to alleviate his
back condition, and distilled water and a sinus nasal kit for
his nasal issues. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Santos did not examine
Plaintiff's nose, did not order the sinus kit or
distilled water, and changed most of Plaintiff's
medications to one-month prescriptions. At Lawrence, those
prescriptions had been authorized for multiple months.
Plaintiff had to seek medical attention 6 days later (on
August 29, 2015) for his enlarged nasal polyps. He returned
again on August 31, 2015, for a saline rinse and to renew the
waist-chain permit, which were issued by Dr. Garcia (who is
not named as a Defendant). For each visit, Plaintiff was
charged a $5.00 co-payment. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7).
September 21, 2015, Plaintiff visited sick call to renew his
medications, after Dr. Santos' short-term prescription
had expired. Plaintiff filed grievances over the $5.00 charge
for this and other visits, objecting on the basis that he
should not be charged a co-payment when he needed care for a
chronic medical condition. Plaintiff also requested to be
placed on the “general medicine clinic” for his
conditions, which would exempt him from the co-payment.
Warden Mueller denied this request and the co-payment
grievance. Health Care Administrator Krebs also responded,
referencing Dr. Santos' discretion to make treatment
decisions. (Doc. 1, p. 7).
sought treatment for his nasal condition through sick call
and saw Dr. Santos several more times in late 2015. He filed
complaints against Santos and Krebs over the refusal to
classify his condition as “chronic” and the
shortened duration of his prescriptions, which caused
Plaintiff to incur more co-pay obligations. (Doc. 1 pp. 7-8).
He also requested to be sent to an outside specialist for his
nasal polyps and low back pain. On some occasions, Plaintiff
refused to sign the co-pay voucher and did not receive care.
Mueller denied his grievances. While Santos told Plaintiff
that his nasal polyps were “chronic, ” he still
refused to place Plaintiff on the general medicine clinic in
order to stop the $5.00 co-payment charges. Krebs informed
Plaintiff that his nasal polyps were not
“chronic” under IDOC guidelines. (Doc. 1, pp.
February 2016, Plaintiff consulted Santos for his lower back
pain. Plaintiff was on pain medication and had a low bunk
permit, but Santos refused to order physical therapy or a
different mattress. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Plaintiff had reported
in October 2015 that he was experiencing numbness in his feet
and legs while walking, and had “clicking” in his
lower back when he sits, along with back pain. (Doc. 1, p.
March 2016, Santos refused to refer Plaintiff for an outside
consultation for the nasal polyps, even though Dr. Garcia
recommended such a referral and Plaintiff was having trouble
breathing due to the polyps and chronic congestion. (Doc. 1,
pp. 9, 15). In January and March 2016, Plaintiff filed
grievances against Santos, and in March 2016, he complained
to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional
Regulations about Santos and Krebs. (Doc. 1, p. 10; Doc. 1-1,
pp. 9-11). In May 2016, Santos again refused to refer
Plaintiff to an outside specialist.
March through May 2016, Plaintiff had several visits seeking
treatment for the pain, blockage, and difficulty breathing
caused by the polyps. (Doc. 1, p. 15). On May 23, 2016,
Santos refused to order prednisone and accused Plaintiff of
“shopping, ” despite Plaintiff's report that
he could not smell, and had severe dizziness and bleeding
when he blew his nose. Id. Plaintiff filed a
grievance against Santos, which was denied by Prather (IDOC
Regional Coordinator) and Phoenix (of the Administrative
Review Board). (Doc. 1, p. 16).
claims that Santos “deliberately” refused and
delayed necessary medical attention from an outside
specialist for his nasal polyps and chronic back pain. (Doc.
1, p. 10).
December 5, 2016, Plaintiff requested a colonoscopy and an
outside referral for a prostate test for cancer, both of
which were denied, apparently by Santos. Krebs informed
Plaintiff that Santos must approve all treatment,
medications, and tests. (Doc. 1, p. 13; Doc. 1-2, p. 18).
Plaintiff filed another grievance on December 21, 2016,
requesting that his medications for the nasal polyps and back
pain be issued for a 6-month period; the grievance was
Complaints against Singler - Centralia
alleges that in July 2016,  Singler (a temporary law
librarian) issued Plaintiff a disciplinary ticket for
unauthorized movement, after Plaintiff complained about
Singler forcing him to pay for copies of case law before
Plaintiff could read the material. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff
asserts that Singler's ticket was false and issued in
retaliation for Plaintiff's complaint, and violated his
right to due process. Rupert (who conducted the disciplinary
hearing) ignored Plaintiff's written statement explaining
his “not guilty” response to the charge, and
incorrectly stated that Plaintiff had pled guilty. (Doc. 1,
pp. 11, 19, 22; Doc. 1-1, pp. 12-16; Doc. 1-2, pp. 8-11).
Plaintiff's grievance over the disciplinary action led
Mueller to remand the matter.
later filed another grievance against Singler for refusing
him library time when he had a court deadline. On August 17,
2016, Singler issued Plaintiff an allegedly false
disciplinary ticket for insolence, which Plaintiff claims was
an act of retaliation for his complaints. (Doc. 1, p. 11;
Doc. 1-1, pp. 17, 20-21; Doc. 1-2, pp. 12-13). Plaintiff
challenged that ticket, and also complained that he should
not have to buy typewriter ribbons for the law library
typewriters. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Singler's alleged
retaliation continued and included changing Plaintiff's
law library times and losing his court papers. (Doc. 1, pp.
PREA Complaint against Bailey - Centralia
alleges that C/O Bailey #7429 issued Plaintiff a disciplinary
ticket on September 30, 2016, which was quickly expunged.
(Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff does not list C/O Bailey among the
Defendants. (Doc. 1, pp. 2-4). On October 5, 2016, just days
after the disciplinary ticket incident, Bailey
“committed a PREA violation” by opening
Plaintiff's cell door to allow others to view Plaintiff
while he was naked, and by staring at Plaintiff's penis.
(Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff pursued a PREA complaint, and on
October 6, 2016, he was moved by Major Philips (who is not a
Defendant) to the “receiving unit.” (Doc. 1, pp.
12-13). While there, Plaintiff's access to out-of-cell
activities including yard was more restricted. (Doc. 1, p.
13). Plaintiff alleges that Kink (Warden for Operations)
“allow[ed] the retaliatory cell move” to the
receiving unit because Plaintiff filed the PREA complaint.
(Doc. 1, p. 21). The investigation found that Plaintiff's
PREA claim was unsubstantiated; Warden Mueller notified
Plaintiff of this outcome in a memo dated October 13, 2016.
(Doc. 1, p. 12; Doc. 1-2, p. 14). Kink and Mueller kept
Plaintiff in the receiving unit until December 9, 2016,
despite Plaintiff's “numerous talks” with
them about his placement. (Doc. 1, p. 13).
PREA Complaint against Dr. Santos - Centralia
Santos denied Plaintiff's December 5, 2016, request for
an outside referral for a prostate cancer test, and following
Plaintiff's December 21, 2016, grievance, Plaintiff
visited Dr. Santos on December 27, 2016, for a physical.
Santos told Plaintiff he was too sick for a physical, but
asked if Plaintiff wanted a rectal exam for prostate cancer.
(Doc. 1, p. 14). Santos then put his fist in the air, saying,
“I do it like this.” Id. Plaintiff
responded, “No, a finger.” Id.
said again, “No, I do it like this, ” while
shaking his fist in the air, demonstrating that he would put
his fist into Plaintiff's rectum. (Doc. 1, p. 14).
Plaintiff claims this is an “offensive and obscene
gesture” called “fisting, ” which is a
homosexual practice. Id. Plaintiff immediately filed
a PREA complaint with Krebs, detailing Santos' behavior,
but Krebs did not report this letter to any other prison
December 30, 2016, Plaintiff went to see Santos again. Santos
was very agitated and refused to give Plaintiff a physical.
(Doc. 1, p. 14).
January 2, 2017, Plaintiff called the PREA number to report
Santos' behavior. He met with internal affairs officers
on January 3, 2017, and gave them a letter about the
incident, which included a complaint against Krebs for
failure to report the PREA violation.
February 8, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to Robinson,
before he received any response to the PREA complaint.
Plaintiff did not request the transfer, and believes Santos,
Mueller, Waggoner, Kink, and Krebs were all involved in
instigating the move in retaliation for his PREA complaint
against Santos and for his many grievances over medical and
other issues. (Doc. 1, pp. 14, 20-21). Plaintiff's new
housing situation at Robinson offered him much less privacy
than he had at Centralia, the conditions were not clean, and
the dry air irritated his throat. (Doc. 1, p. 14).
Medical Issues at Robinson
February 14, 2017, Plaintiff saw Health Care Administrator
Martin about his need for prednisone for the nasal polyps,
but Martin was arrogant and would not allow Plaintiff to
speak. (Doc. 1, p. 16).
consulted Dr. Shah in February and March 2017 and requested
“collegial review” for an outside specialist
evaluation for his nasal polyps. Shah and Dr. Ritz denied the
referral. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Shah did order prednisone and a
nasal rinse kit for 3 months, but he later reduced
Plaintiff's dosage of prednisone. (Doc. 1, pp. 16-17).
Plaintiff filed grievances over Shah's treatment,
claiming his nasal polyps were getting progressively worse.
Martin, Erickson (Clinical Service Supervisor), Walton
(Counselor), Wampler (Casework Supervisor), and Warden Rains
denied his grievances and failed to intervene to correct
Shah's improper treatment. (Doc. 1, pp. 17, 19, 22).
Administrative Review Board members Lehr, Phoenix, McCarty,
and Anderson denied plaintiff's numerous grievances over
medical treatment and retaliation. (Doc. 1, pp. 19, 22).
2017, Shah requested collegial review for an outside
consultation, but Ritz (for Wexford Health Sources) denied
the request. On August 11, 2017, Plaintiff wrote a letter to
Rains and Neese (Warden for Programs, over the Health Care
Unit) detailing his inadequate medical care; this letter was
also mailed to Dr. Steve Meeks, the IDOC Chief Medical
Director (Meeks is not a Defendant). (Doc. 1, p. 17). Meeks
overruled Ritz's denial of the outside consultation, and
Plaintiff had a CAT scan with an ear, nose, and throat
specialist on August 29, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 17-18).
had endoscopic nasal surgery for the polyps on January 5,
2018, at Carle Hospital. (Doc. 1, p. 17). On January 9, 2018,
Shah terminated Plaintiff's Tylenol-3 and reduced his
nasal rinses. Plaintiff claims these actions were premature
and in retaliation for Plaintiff's grievances against
Shah. (Doc. 1, pp. 18, 20).
asserts that Wexford Health Sources (which is not included
among the Defendants) maintains policies and customs that
incentivize its employees to provide inadequate treatment in
order to cut costs. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19, 23).
seeks monetary damages for the violations of his rights.
(Doc. 1, p. 23).
Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it
convenient to divide the prose action into
the following 10 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 ...