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McKenney v. Germain

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 19, 2018

GARRION J. McKENNEY, # 465878, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O GERMAIN, C/O HARRIS, C/O REID, and SGT. COLLINS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PHIL GILBERT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee, currently incarcerated at the St. Clair County Jail (“the Jail”). He has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk to his health from being exposed repeatedly to exhaust fumes. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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 Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         During February 2018, Plaintiff was housed in the Jail's L-Block. On February 1, 2018, he noticed hazardous fumes coming into the housing area from a box truck with a bad exhaust leak, which was parked outside. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff complained to C/O Harris, who explained that an air handler was pulling the outside air into the cellblock. Harris apparently did nothing to turn off the air handler device or otherwise mitigate the problem.

         Exactly one week later (February 8, 2018), exhaust fumes again came back into the cellblock because the same box truck was parked in the same location. Plaintiff asked for help, but officers refused.

         On February 15, 2018, exhaust fumes again poured into the cellblock. Harris opened the door to give the area some circulation. The same thing happened on a weekly basis, with Plaintiff and other inmates being exposed to the noxious fumes for an hour each time. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Germain refused to do anything to help, even though he said he smelled the fumes. When another inmate blocked the door and screamed for help, Collins and Reid responded, but apparently took no action. Another officer (Miller, who is not a Defendant) offered to open a door.

         Plaintiff complained verbally and through captain complaints about the repeated exposure to the fumes for over a month, but nothing was done. Nobody responded to his captain complaints. He suffered respiratory distress, dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Sgt. Collins learned about the problem, but allowed the exposure to continue. Finally, some time in March 2018, all the prisoners on the cellblock were moved to a different location. (Doc. 1, p. 5).

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

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

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to characterize the pro se action in a single count. The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of this count does not constitute an opinion as to its merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Defendants exposed Plaintiff to harmful exhaust fumes in his housing unit, in violation of the ...

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