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Willingham v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 13, 2018

DEADRIC WILLINGHAM, # K-69583, Plaintiff,


          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Deadric Willingham, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also invokes the Federal Tort Claims Act. (Doc. 1, pp. 1, 4). Plaintiff claims that Pinckneyville officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition. 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 some of Plaintiff's civil rights claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On approximately October 17-18, 2017, Plaintiff took medication that had been prescribed for his mental health condition by Dr. Sara (mental health physician). (Doc. 1, p. 6). The medication had the unwanted and painful side effect of causing Plaintiff to have an erection that would not go away. Plaintiff also suffered bleeding from his penis and ongoing pain while on this medication. (Doc. 1, p. 7). As a result of these severe side effects, Plaintiff sometimes stopped taking his mental health medication, even though he needs this drug to treat his serious mental health condition.

         Plaintiff was sent to a doctor outside the prison on 5 to 7 occasions for the erection problem. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 12). On October 25, 2017, he was taken to the hospital for this issue. He was released on October 27, 2017, and was sent back to prison with a prescription. However, Pinckneyville staff did not have the medication and told Plaintiff it would be ordered. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         On October 29, 2017, Plaintiff was sent to the Health Care Unit at about 4:00 a.m. because his medication again had caused an erection that would not go down. (Doc. 1, p. 9). At around 7:00 a.m., Unknown Nurse #1 saw Plaintiff, but refused to give him any medical attention because she claimed he had given himself the erection.[1] Plaintiff was in so much pain he could not stand up to walk. Plaintiff claims that he was forced to sit in the hallway at the infirmary in pain for 16 hours because of Defendant Unknown Nurse #1 and the Unknown Correctional Lt. (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 12). When a new nurse came on at shift change, she realized that Plaintiff was in pain and had been treated for this condition before. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Plaintiff was taken back to the outside hospital on October 29, 2017 for the erection problem. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He alleges that he had not been given the medication that was prescribed for this issue when he was released on October 27, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 10). He was released from the hospital again on October 30, 2017, with a 2-day supply of the new medication from the outside doctor. When that ran out, Pinckneyville staff failed to provide him with a renewed supply. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         On November 1, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) on a court writ. While at Stateville, Plaintiff was given the medication he needed with no problems. However, when Plaintiff returned to Pinckneyville on November 21, 2017, his prescription there still had not been filled. He submitted a request slip regarding the medication, and was told that Pinckneyville staff were “still waiting on the meds.” (Doc. 1, p. 8). The outside doctor's prescription for pain medication was not given to him by Pinckneyville officials until December 29, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant Unknown Mental Health Doctor Nurse” caused him to suffer from mental illness. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Defendants Unknown Correctional Lt., Warden Love, Warden Jaimet, and the Unknown Warden of Pinckneyville “failed to intervene in the medical denial when the Plaintiff filed his grievance or when they were present with him.” (Doc. 1, p. 10). The Complaint does not elaborate on any personal encounters or conversations Plaintiff may have had with these individuals. He claims generally that on October 25, October 27, and November 21, 2017, he “pleaded to the Defendants” for medical attention and for medication to relieve the pain he was suffering. (Doc. 1, p. 11). On November 25, 2017, he asked unspecified Defendants for his 3-week checkup with the outside doctor. Id. However, the Defendants ignored these requests for pain medication and other medical help. As a result, Plaintiff had to be taken to the hospital repeatedly. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         Plaintiff raises a claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against all Defendants. He further claims that the Illinois Department of Corrections and Pinckneyville Correctional Center should be held liable on the theory of respondeat superior. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13). He seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

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

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se 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 mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Dr. Sara, for prescribing Plaintiff a medication for his mental health condition that caused him to have a persistent erection, and severe pain and bleeding from his penis;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Unknown Nurse #1, for refusing and delaying medical treatment for Plaintiff's painful side effects from his medication on October 17-18 and October 29-30, 2017;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Unknown Correctional Lt., for delaying medical treatment for Plaintiff's painful side effects from his ...

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