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Bentz v. Mulholland

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 6, 2018



          Herndon, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff David Robert Bentz, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights at Menard. (Doc. 1). In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that prison officials failed to treat his neck injury and broken finger at Menard in 2017-18. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-32). He also maintains that prison officials harassed him. Id. Plaintiff asserts claims against more than three dozen officials for violating his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as Illinois state law. Id. He seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, pp. 33-34).

         The Complaint is now subject to preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is a long-term general population prisoner, who is well-known to this Court. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He has filed dozens of civil rights actions—primarily in this District during the past four years. (Doc. 1, p. 5). In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he was denied medical care for a broken finger and an aggravated neck injury at Menard in 2017-18. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-32). He also complains of ongoing harassment by certain staff members during this same time period. Id. Plaintiff brings claims against more than three dozen defendants under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and Illinois state law. Id.

         According to the allegations in the Complaint, Plaintiff broke his left ring finger on July 29, 2017, after it “somehow got caught” in the bars of his cell door. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Nurse Jane Doe #5 met with him on August 2, 2017. Id. At the time, the prison was on lockdown. Id. The nurse informed Plaintiff that his finger appeared to be broken, but she would not send him for an x-ray because Wexford Health Service (“Wexford”) and Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) did not deem broken fingers to be sufficiently serious. Id. Nurse Jane Doe #5 also told Plaintiff that he would have to wait until lockdown ended to see a doctor. Id. In the meantime, she prepared a makeshift splint for Plaintiff's broken finger using a tongue depressor and tape. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

         Later the same day, the Orange Crush Tactical Team conducted a shakedown of the gallery where Plaintiff was housed. (Doc. 1, p. 8). In the process, Plaintiff was cuffed behind his back, ordered to put his head down, escorted to the chapel, and forced to sit in a chair for up to two hours. Id. This caused further pain in his finger and aggravated an old neck injury. Id. When Plaintiff asked John Doe #1 (C/O Holder) for permission to see a nurse, the officer took his splint and told Plaintiff to “shut the fuck up.” Id.

         Plaintiff returned to his cell two hours later and learned that Officer Smith had confiscated his extra splint and pain medication. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff noticed the tongue depressor and tape on the floor outside of his cell. Id. He informed Officer Mulholland about his broken finger and asked him to retrieve the items. Id. Plaintiff also told Mulholland that his pain medication was taken during the shakedown, and his old neck injury was aggravated during his trip to the chapel. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). Plaintiff asked the officer to help him get medical care for both injuries. Id.

         Mulholland agreed that Plaintiff's finger appeared to be broken but refused to assist Plaintiff, saying that he “did not have time.” (Doc. 1, p. 9). The officer told Plaintiff he “would just have to suffer.” Id. When Plaintiff made the same request of Mulholland the following day, the officer threatened to discipline him for making any additional requests for medical treatment. Id. Plaintiff submitted another sick call request on August 3, 2017. Id.

         On August 6, 2017, Nurse Jane Doe #5 again met with Plaintiff to discuss his request for treatment of the broken finger and chronic neck pain. (Doc. 1, p. 9). She gave Plaintiff a 3-day supply of ibuprofen (200 mg) to “hold Plaintiff over” until he could meet with a doctor. Id.

         On August 7, 2017, Plaintiff asked Counselor Allsup to assist him in obtaining medical treatment for his broken finger and aggravated neck injury. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Allsup told Plaintiff that he was “not entitled to any medical care.” Id. On August 10, 2017, Plaintiff directed the same request to Sergeant McClure, Officer Mulholland, Officer John Doe #2, and other unidentified individuals (John and Jane Does), to no avail. (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         On August 11, 2017, Plaintiff again asked Mulholland for medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 10). The officer refused to help. Id. In addition, Mulholland took Plaintiff's two call passes, wadded them up, and threw them at Plaintiff's face. Id. Plaintiff reiterated the same request later the same day as Mulholland escorted him to the chapel for a legal call. Id. Mulholland threatened to send Plaintiff to segregation if he requested medical care “one more ‘fucking time.'” Id.

         The same day, Plaintiff placed an emergency grievance for Warden Jacqueline Lashbrook in the institutional mail. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Warden Alex Jones denied the grievance a week later, and Plaintiff resubmitted it as a non-emergency grievance and appealed the decision. (Doc. 1, pp. 11, 14). In addition, Plaintiff sent a virtually identical non-emergency grievance in a sealed envelope to Allsup. (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         On August 12, 2017, Mulholland again threatened Plaintiff with punishment for “bogus” rule violations if he continued to request medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Plaintiff submitted another sick call slip on August 14, 2017, and Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Jane Doe #6 two days later. (Doc. 1, p. 11). She informed Plaintiff that his finger was broken, but nothing would be done about it. Id. When Plaintiff asked for more pain medication for his aggravated neck injury, she refused to give him anything for the pain. Id.

         Plaintiff was called to the health care unit (“HCU”) for an appointment with Moldenhauer on August 16, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 11). When Plaintiff arrived at the HCU, Officer Gross turned him away. Id. Plaintiff returned to his cell, and Officer Maue ordered him to go to the legal exchange. Id. Maue assured Plaintiff that he could return to the HCU to meet with Moldenhauer afterwards. Id. When Plaintiff returned from legal exchange and asked to see Moldenhauer, Maue refused to let him visit the HCU. Id. Plaintiff placed a medical request slip into the sick call box later that day, seeking medical care for his broken finger and aggravated neck injury. Id.

         On August 18, 2017, Plaintiff met with Nurse Jane Doe #6 about both of his complaints. (Doc. 1, p. 12). She agreed to arrange an appointment for Plaintiff with Doctor Siddiqui, but did nothing to address his complaints in the meantime. Id. Plaintiff submitted two additional medical requests for the diagnosis and treatment of his finger and neck on August 20 and 22, 2017. Id. No. one responded. Id.

         Plaintiff asked Officer Furlow for medical care as they passed by the HCU on the way to and from the legal exchange on August 23, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Furlow told Plaintiff that he should not have filed the grievance dated August 11, 2017. Id. He then threatened Plaintiff, stating, “Fucking file another lawsuit bitch and you'll wind up dead like that guy in North Two.” Id. Furlow was referring to another inmate who was beaten to death by correctional officers six weeks earlier. Id. The officer continued to “threaten, harass, and assault” Plaintiff that day on the way to and from yard. Id. Officer Fritsche led Plaintiff back to his cell, as Furlow followed behind Plaintiff “pushing and shoving” him, “punching him in the back, ” and grabbing his buttocks at least twice. Id. Fritsche later asked Plaintiff “what that was all about.” Id. The next day, Furlow and several unidentified defendants (John Does) threatened to assault Plaintiff and made “sexual gestures” toward him during lunch line movement, in the HCU, and at Plaintiff's cell. (Doc. 1, pp. 13-14).

         Plaintiff met with Moldenhauer about his medical issues on August 24, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Although Moldenhauer assured Plaintiff that his request for an x-ray would be denied, Moldenhauer nevertheless submitted a request for one. Id. Moldenhauer also agreed to prescribe Plaintiff muscle relaxers and pain medication for his neck injury. Id. Plaintiff received a 5-month prescription for meloxicam (7.5 mg). (Doc. 1, p. 15). He also signed a receipt for a 1-month supply of the medication with a prescription refill due on September 16, 2017. Id. He received one tablet per day from an unknown nurse. Id.

         On August 28, 2017, Plaintiff sent an emergency grievance to Warden Lashbrook, a regular grievance to Allsup, and a medical request slip. (Doc. 1, p. 15). In the grievances, he complained of “excessive force; assault and battery; retaliation; denial of medical care; conspiracy; state law violations; sexual harassment; state and federal constitutional rights violations; and other.” Id. In the medical request slip, Plaintiff explained that he had not yet received the muscle relaxers, and he asked that the meloxicam be replaced with ibuprofen (600 mg). Id.

         The same day, Officers Yankey and Furlow threatened Plaintiff with excessive force and sexually harassed him without provocation on the way to and from lunch. (Doc. 1, p. 15). The next day, the same officers and several other unknown officers (John Does) again threatened to beat Plaintiff and sexually harassed him when he was released from his cell for an x-ray of his finger. Id.

         Late on August 29, 2017, Nurse Jane Doe #7 informed Plaintiff that the x-ray showed a fracture in his left ring finger and a chipped bone. (Doc. 1, p. 16). She provided him with another makeshift splint, consisting of a tongue depressor and tape. Id. The nurse also told Plaintiff that she would speak with Moldenhauer about a treatment plan. Id. Plaintiff asked her to request a change in his medication from meloxicam to ibuprofen and check on the status of his prescription for muscle relaxers. Id. The nurse agreed to look into these issues, after reviewing Plaintiff's medical records and discovering that the muscle relaxers were never ordered. Id. Plaintiff received a 30-day pack of ibuprofen to replace his meloxicam on August 30, 2017. Id.

         Officer Fritsche refused to let Plaintiff go to the legal exchange on August 30, 2017, despite the fact that Plaintiff faced numerous deadlines. (Doc. 1, p. 16). This was allegedly in retaliation for Plaintiff's grievances and numerous requests for medical care. Id.

         On August 31, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a medical request slip for treatment of his broken finger and aggravated neck injury. (Doc. 1, p. 16). On the way to chow the same day, Furlow, Yankey, Gross, and McClure all threatened to “beat . . . Plaintiff's ass” or push him down the stairs. (Doc. 1, p. 17). They sexually harassed him, using gestures and remarks. Id. When he returned to his cell, Gross appeared and made sexual gestures, calling Plaintiff a “fag” and a “bitch.” Id.

         On September 1, 2017, Gary Bentz filed a complaint on Plaintiff's behalf with Dede Short and an unknown individual (John/Jane Doe) on the IDOC website. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Lashbrook and Short responded to the complaint two weeks later. (Doc. 1, p. 21). On September 2, 2017, Plaintiff was placed on “deadlock” in his cell “for no reason other than retaliation.” (Doc. 1, p. 17). He was then cuffed behind the back and taken to the HCU for an appointment with an unidentified nurse. Id. He was forced to wait for more than an hour to see the nurse. Id. When he was finally called to meet with her, Gross would not let the nurse speak with Plaintiff and instead ordered him to return to his cell. Id. While doing so, Gross, Yankey, and unidentified individuals (John Does) pushed and shoved Plaintiff into the wall, telling him that he would not be getting any medical care or lunch and would remain on deadlock for filing grievances and lawsuits against the defendants. Id.

         He was nevertheless taken off of deadlock and returned to the HCU at noon. (Doc. 1, p. 18). There, Plaintiff met with Doctor Shah and requested treatment for his broken finger and aggravated neck injury. Id. Doctor Shah told Plaintiff that he was not seeing him for his neck problem. Id. He further stated that Plaintiff's finger was not broken. Id. The doctor took Plaintiff's makeshift splint from him. Id. Plaintiff sent an emergency grievance to Lashbrook and a nearly identical grievance to Allsup on September 2, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19). He also submitted a request for an MRI and muscle relaxers. (Doc. 1, p. 19).

         On September 4, 2017, Yankey and Furlow harassed Plaintiff and made sexual gestures toward him without any provocation by Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 19).

         On September 6, 2017, Plaintiff again requested treatment of his broken finger and chronic neck pain in a medical request slip. (Doc. 1, p. 19). The prison subsequently went on lockdown, and the Orange Crush Tactical Team again conducted a shakedown of Plaintiff's cell. Id. He remained cuffed behind the back for at least two hours and was forced to sit in a chair in the prison's chapel. Id. This further aggravated Plaintiff's injuries. Id. He filed a new round of medical requests slips and grievances on September 8 and 10, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 20). Furlow threatened to beat Plaintiff's ass on September 10 and 12, 2017. Id.

         When Plaintiff saw Lashbrook making rounds on September 11, 2017, he told the warden about all of his untreated medical issues. (Doc. 1, p. 20). She told him to “stop suing staff and stop filing grievances and things might get done.” Id. Plaintiff submitted another medical request slip the same day. (Doc. 1, p. 21).

         Nurse Jane Doe #5 met with Plaintiff on September 13, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 21). The nurse informed Plaintiff that his finger was fractured, and a piece of bone was chipped. Id. She examined his neck and agreed to request muscle relaxers and pain medication. Id.

         On September 14, 2017, a correctional officer handcuffed Plaintiff behind his back and took him to the HCU for a second x-ray of his finger. (Doc. 1, p. 21). On the way, Furlow harassed Plaintiff by bending down and placing his head near Plaintiff's crotch. Id. When Plaintiff stepped back, Furlow shoved him into the bars of the sergeants' cage. (Doc. 1, p. 22).

         The second x-ray confirmed that Plaintiff's finger was fractured and had not yet begun to heal. (Doc. 1, p. 21). Nurse Jane Doe #7 informed Plaintiff of the results. Id. However, she did not treat him. Id.

         On the way to the shower on September 16, 2017, Yankey and Gross both sexually harassed and threatened Plaintiff with excessive force. (Doc. 1, p. 22).

         In response to still another medical request slip submitted by Plaintiff on September 19, 2017, Moldenhauer met with him the following day. (Doc. 1, p. 22). The nurse practitioner agreed to request another x-ray of his finger in two weeks and again in four weeks, in order to determine whether it was healing. Id. Moldenhauer also put in a request for Plaintiff to see a doctor. Id. Otherwise, nothing was done to treat his finger or neck. Id.

         During this call pass, Yankey again harassed Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 22). This time, he told Plaintiff to bend over because he would “love to stick his (Yankey's) dick into . . . Plaintiff's ass.” Id. Yankey also told Plaintiff that he would love to “suck his dick.” Id.

         On September 22, 24, and 28, 2017, Plaintiff again submitted medical request slips for treatment of his finger and neck. (Doc. 1, p. 23). He then filed a grievance dated September 25, 2017. Id. Plaintiff showed Allsup his finger three days later and requested treatment for the obvious injury and his chronic neck pain. Id. Allsup acknowledged the seriousness of Plaintiff's medical needs but refused to do anything about them. Id.

         Nurse Jane Doe #6 met with Plaintiff on September 30, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 24). After charging him $5.00, she refused to treat Plaintiff, explaining that a broken bone is not a “chronic issue.” Id. Plaintiff's family filed another complaint. Id. Plaintiff was then scheduled to meet with Doctor Siddiqui on October 2, 2017. Id. The doctor agreed to order another x-ray of Plaintiff's finger and prescribe him a 3-month supply of muscle relaxers and ibuprofen (600 mg) (3 times per day). Id. Other than that, the doctor said there was nothing he could do because ...

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