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Gully v. Hundley

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 18, 2018

RONNIE GULLY, JR., # B-88170, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims, which include retaliation, deliberate indifference to medical needs, and imposition of punishment without due process, arose during his confinement at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”). 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 claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff suffers from asthma and high blood pressure. On October 11, 2017, he told C/O Ralston that he was short of breath, having sharp chest pain, and needed medical attention. He told Ralston that he had standing medical orders to get a breathing treatment when he got short of breath. (Doc. 1, p. 79). Ralston indicated he would see if a lieutenant could take Plaintiff to health care after the inmates returned to the housing unit from the chow line. At Plaintiff's request, Ralston secured Plaintiff in the shower area so he could watch him until the lieutenant arrived.

         About an hour later, Lieutenant Hundley came to take Plaintiff to health care. Plaintiff had previously sued Hundley over a December 2016 disciplinary ticket. (Doc. 1, p. 80); Gully v. Hundley, et al., No. 15-cv-211-DRH-SCW (S.D. Ill.). Hundley ordered Plaintiff to cuff up and asked why Plaintiff hadn't locked up when his officer ordered him to do so. Plaintiff protested that he had never been given such an order, and that Ralston had locked him in the shower. Hundley yelled for Plaintiff to cuff up, and Plaintiff did. (Doc. 1 p. 81). Hundley threatened to write Plaintiff “another ticket” if he was lying about his orders for breathing treatments. Plaintiff claims that Hundley intentionally delayed getting him to health care against prison policy that called for a “code 3 medical emergency” response to symptoms of chest pain and breathing problems. (Doc. 1, pp. 80-81).

         Nursing staff found that Plaintiff's blood pressure was “exceptionally high.” (Doc. 1, p. 81). Hundley and Baylor disrupted Plaintiff's treatment, yelling to the nursing staff that Plaintiff was faking. (Doc. 1, p. 82). Plaintiff yelled back, and the nurse told them to get out. Hundley and Baylor then took Plaintiff to segregation. (Doc. 1, p. 83). When Plaintiff protested, Hundley said he would “bury [Plaintiff's] a** under the seg unit.” Id. When they got to segregation, Hundley added, “I'll be getting back to you shortly[, ] my reach is very far.” Id.

         Hundley, Dixon, Baylor, and Ralston issued five separate disciplinary tickets to Plaintiff based on the events of October 11, 2017, including disobeying a direct order, intimidation, threats, and dangerous disturbances. (Doc. 1, pp. 39-40, 83-84).

         On October 16, 2017, Basinette (Mental Health Associate) fabricated a report that Plaintiff was suicidal, despite Plaintiff's “relentless” arguments that he did not want to kill himself. (Doc. 1, p. 84). Givens threatened to call in the Orange Crush team to force Plaintiff out of his cell, so Plaintiff ultimately agreed to go to the suicide housing unit. He was placed in a cell that had urine, feces, and blood smeared on the walls, semen stains on the mattress, and a terrible foul odor. (Doc. 1, p. 85). Later that day, Basinette came and told Plaintiff that she put him on suicide watch to teach him a lesson, because she heard of his situation with her friend Hundley, who has “a far reach.” Id. Plaintiff remained in the contaminated watch cell for 48 hours, without clothes to protect him from the cold. Plaintiff asserts that Basinette's purpose was to harass, degrade, and torture him, and that her actions amounted to intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1, p. 86).

         On October 31, 2017, Plaintiff's disciplinary tickets were heard by Carie and Cooper. Plaintiff requested to call an Internal Affairs officer as a witness, but the witness was never called. (Doc. 1, pp. 86-87). Plaintiff submitted a written statement in his defense and pled not guilty to all charges except for a threat to Hundley. (Doc. 1, pp. 41-53; 86-87). Carie made comments to the effect that Plaintiff was not believable, indicating to Plaintiff that the hearing committee was not impartial.

         Carie and Cooper found Plaintiff guilty. (Doc. 1, pp. 76-78). He was punished with an extra 30 days on his sentence before he would be eligible for supervised release (Plaintiff explains that he does not have “good time” to revoke, because he is serving a sentence at 100%). (Doc. 1, p. 88). His punishment also included 90 days in segregation and 180 days' loss of gym, phone, recreation, and commissary privileges. Plaintiff's segregation cell was infested with spiders and rats, and he was not provided with cleaning supplies or personal hygiene items. He was then moved to Pinckneyville, a transfer which he characterizes as “retaliatory.” (Doc. 1, p. 89). The transfer was listed among the punishments resulting from the disciplinary action. (Doc. 1, p. 77). Plaintiff seeks to hold Warden Lamb responsible for the alleged due process violations because he signed off on these punishments, and for the unsanitary segregation conditions. Id.

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages. (Doc. 1, p. 90).

         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 Ralston and Hundley, for delaying Plaintiff's medical treatment for his breathing problems and chest pain;
Count 2: First Amendment retaliation claim against Hundley, for intentionally delaying Plaintiff's medical treatment and issuing a disciplinary ticket because Plaintiff sued Hundley;
Count 3: First Amendment retaliation claim against Basinette and Hundley, for placing Plaintiff in a filthy suicide-watch cell to punish him for suing Hundley;
Count 4: State law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Basinette, for placing Plaintiff in a filthy suicide-watch cell when he was not suicidal;
Count 5: Eighth Amendment claim against Basinette and Givens for housing Plaintiff in a suicide-watch cell contaminated with human ...

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