United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE
Reynel Valencia, an inmate of the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”) currently housed at
Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”),
filed this pro se action directing deliberate
indifference claims against officials at Centralia and
Vandalia Correctional Center (“Vandalia”), the
institution where Plaintiff was previously incarcerated.
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
Complaint (Doc. 1) 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).
Court also must consider whether misjoinder is an issue. The
Court retains authority to sever unrelated claims against
different defendants into one or more additional lawsuits for
which Plaintiff will be assessed a filing fee. See George
v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). In
George, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that the
practice of severance is important, “not only to
prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim,
multi-defendant suits “but also to ensure that
prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. The Seventh
Circuit strongly encourages district courts to use severance
when faced with an omnibus or scattershot complaint,
Owens v. Evans, 878 F.3d 559, 561 (7th Cir. 2017),
and discourages courts from allowing a prisoner “to
flout the rules for joining claims and defendants,
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the
Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by
combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.”
Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017).
In a misjoinder situation, severance may occur before
preliminary review, allowing the district court to create
multiple suits, which can then be separately screened.
Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d
680, 683 (7th Cir. 2012).
October 15, 2016, when Plaintiff was incarcerated at
Stateville Correctional Center, he began experiencing
vomiting, abdominal pain, and migraines. (Doc. 1, p. 2). He
met with a nurse who concluded Plaintiff might have food
poisoning and prescribed Tylenol. (Doc. 1, p. 3).
October 27, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to Vandalia.
Id. While at Vandalia, Plaintiff's symptoms
intensified. Id. On October 29, 2016, Plaintiff told
a nurse he was experiencing abdominal pain and was having 4-5
bowel movements a day. Id. The nurse referred
Plaintiff to Dr. Afuwape. Id. Dr. Afuwape examined
Plaintiff on November 4, 2016 and prescribed 2 mg of Imodium.
Id. On November 11, 2016, Plaintiff had a follow-up
visit with Dr. Afuwape and reported the Imodium was not
providing relief. Id. On November 15, 2016, Dr.
Afuwape prescribed 750 mg of Robaxin and 400 mg of Ibuprofen
to relieve Plaintiff's pain. Id. However, he did
not prescribe any medication to treat the ongoing diarrhea.
Id. On November 22, 2016, Plaintiff requested
further treatment with “NSC”. (Doc. 1, p. 4). On
November 25, 2016, Dr. Afuwape, once again, prescribed 2 mg
of Imodium. Id. Plaintiff met with “NSC”
and Dr. Afuwape on three more occasions. Id. Dr.
Afuwape continued to prescribe 2 mg of Imodium, but did not
perform any tests or try any alternative treatments.
February 7, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to Centralia.
Id. On February 10, 2017, Plaintiff met with Dr.
Santos and relayed his history of vomiting and pain
associated with multiple daily bowel movements. Id.
According to the Complaint, Plaintiff reported Imodium was
not an effective treatment. (Doc. 1, pp. 4, 6). Nonetheless,
Dr. Santos treated Plaintiff by prescribing 2 mg of Imodium.
Id. Over the next two months, Plaintiff continued to
meet with Dr. Santos and Dr. Santos continued to prescribe 2
mg of Imodium. Id.
Plaintiff asked his family to contact the Warden. (Doc. 1, p.
5). After Plaintiff's family contacted the Warden,
Plaintiff received an x-ray. Id. The x-ray suggested
that Plaintiff has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Id. Dr. Santos told Plaintiff to drink more water
and to continue with 2mg of Imodium. Id. Dr. Santos
never prescribed “a change in diet, relaxation
techniques, methods for lifestyle changes, and never
considered antispasmodic drugs to relax the contractions of
the digestive tract and help relieve abdominal pain.”
Id. According to Plaintiff, these treatments are
recommended by the American College of Physicians.
also claims that he submitted grievances at both Centralia
and Vandalia pertaining to the allegedly inadequate medical
care. Plaintiff directs deliberate indifference allegations
against several grievance officials, including (1) Reynolds,
Administrative Review Board, for refusing to process his
grievance; (2) Walker, Grievance Counselor at
Centralia, for denying his grievance; and (3) Johnson,
Administrative Review Board, for denying Plaintiff's
of Grievance Defendants
the denial or mishandling of a grievance - standing alone -
is not enough to violate the United States Constitution.
See, e.g., Owens v. Evans, 878 F.3d 559, 563 (7th
Cir. 2017) (“Prison officials who simply processed or
reviewed inmate grievances lack personal involvement in the
conduct forming the basis of the grievance.”);
Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011)
(“[T]he alleged mishandling of [a prisoner's]
grievance by persons who otherwise did not cause or
participate in the underlying conduct states no
claim.”); George v. Abdullah, 507 F.3d 605,
609 (7th Cir. 2007) (“Ruling against a prisoner on an
administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the
violation.”). Additionally, as is relevant here, the
grievance officials, as non-medical defendants, were entitled
to reasonably rely on the expertise of medical professionals.
See Thornton v. Godinez, No. 17-1473, 2017 WL
6492651, at *2 (7th Cir. Dec.19, 2017). See also Figgs v.
Dawson, 829 F.3d 895, 903-04 (7th Cir. 2016) (no
deliberate indifference where prison administrative staff
reasonably deferred to expertise of specialized staff);
Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1011 (7th Cir.
2006) (same); Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 656
(7th Cir. 2005) (same).
being said, an official may be subject to liability if he or
she “knows about unconstitutional conduct and
facilitates, approves, condones, or ‘turn[s] a blind
eye' to it.” Perez v. Fenoglio,
792 F.3d 768, 781 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Vance v.
Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 992-93 (7th Cir. 1996).
instant case, Plaintiff alleges that the named grievance
officials (Walker, Reynolds, and Johnson) are subject to
liability for denying and/or mishandling Plaintiff's
grievances and appeals. Considering the authority discussed
above, Plaintiff's allegations, and the relevant
exhibits, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to state
a claim as to these individuals. The grievance officials were
not involved in the underlying constitutional violation and,
to the extent that grievances were denied, the officials
appropriately deferred to medical officials. Further, there
is no indication that the grievance officials are subject to
liability under the standard articulated in Perez or
related authority. Accordingly, Walker, Reynolds, and Johnson
shall be dismissed from the action without prejudice for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.