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Howard v. Johnson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 22, 2018




         Plaintiff Robert Howard, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Derek Johnson hit his arm with a food cart and touched him with a dirty toilet plunger. Plaintiff proceeds on the following claims:

Count 1:Eighth Amendment claim of excessive force against Defendant Johnson for ramming a food cart into Plaintiff's hand and rubbing a plunger on Plaintiff's arm.
Count 2:Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference against Defendant Johnson.
Count 3:State law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against Defendant Johnson for the excessive force incident.

         This matter is currently before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 60). Plaintiff did not file a response. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         The following facts have been taken from Plaintiff's deposition. Plaintiff Robert Howard was an inmate at Lawrence from February 2013 through April 2017 (Plaintiff's Deposition, Doc. 61-1 at 3). On September 11, 2015, at approximately 11:00 a.m., Defendant Johnson was passing out food trays to inmates (Id.). When Johnson finished passing out food trays, Howard went to the chuckhole and asked Officer Johnson, “Could you give me my laundry?” (Id. at 4). Johnson responded, “Hell, no” (Id.). Howard told Johnson, “Well, I'm going to take the chuckhole hostage until I get a lieutenant because I need my clothes. We're on lockdown” (Id.). Johnson ignored the request and began collecting the food trays (Id.).

         When Johnson returned to collect the food trays at Howard's cell, Howard's arm was hanging out of the chuckhole (Id.). Howard was aware that taking the chuckhole hostage was against the rules (Id. at 7). He saw Johnson coming toward his cell with the food cart but left his arm out of the chuckhole because he did not want Johnson to be able to close the chuckhole until he received his laundry (Id. at 9). Johnson ran the food cart into Howard's arm and bent it back (Id. at 7). Howard told Johnson that he needed a lieutenant and needed medical attention (Id.). Johnson refused to get Howard medical attention for his arm (Id. at 10). Howard's wrist was swollen from being hit with the food cart and hurt for about three months (Id.).

         After Johnson finished collecting the food trays on the cart (with the exception of Howard's), he left the deck to take the food cart downstairs (Id. at 10). Johnson returned upstairs with Officer Daniels (Id.). Officer Daniels asked Howard what the problem was and Howard explained he needed a lieutenant (Id.). Daniels left to get the lieutenant and when he returned, informed Howard that the lieutenant would not come to his cell until he gave back the food trays and removed his arm from the chuckhole (Id.). Howard refused to remove his arm until he was allowed to speak to a lieutenant and get medical attention (Id.).

         Approximately ten minutes later, Johnson returned to the deck with a second unknown officer because the toilet in one of the other cells was flooded (Id.). Johnson said, “Man, Howard, come on, just give me the trays so I can close the chuckhole.” Howard again refused (Id.). The second officer gave a toilet plunger to the inmates in the cell with the flooded toilet (Id.). After the plunger had been used, the second officer gave the plunger covered in a plastic bag to Johnson (Id.). Johnson was standing outside of Howard's cell with the plunger in his hand and said, “Put your hand in the chuckhole back in your room or I'm going to put this plunger on you.” (Id.). Howard refused and Johnson then took the plastic bag off the plunger and said, “Look Howard, I'm going to give you one more time to put your arm back in the chuckhole” (Id.). Howard refused again and Johnson rubbed the rubber portion of the plunger containing feces and urine on Howard's arm (Id. at 10, 12). Howard still refused to remove his arm from the chuckhole (Id.). Johnson then left Howard's cell (Id. at 12).

         Officer Daniels returned and brought Howard his laundry (Id.). Daniels told Howard he would give him the laundry in exchange for the trays (Id.). Howard again refused to remove his arm from the chuckhole and a lieutenant was called (Id.). When the lieutenant arrived, Howard explained the issue with his laundry and why his arm was in the chuckhole (Id.). The lieutenant ordered Howard to cuff-up. Howard was taken to the medical unit and then to segregation (Id.). The nurse in healthcare examined him and determined he was not in need of medical treatment at that time (Id. at 13).

         For refusing to remove his arm from the chuckhole, Howard received a ticket for insolence and disobeying a direct order and served 30 days in segregation (Id. at 13-14). Howard alleges that he suffered emotional distress from sitting in segregation for 30 days (Id. at 15). He also alleges that the incident with the officer putting the plunger on his arm was “very emotional” and ...

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