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Stubbs v. Cunningham

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 12, 2018

KENT STUBBS, #M51378, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Kent Stubbs, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff alleges that he suffered a debilitating back injury when he fell from his top bunk on April 10, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 13-22). He further alleges that following the injury, he was denied adequate medical care and reasonable accommodations at Lawrence. Id. Plaintiff now brings claims against prison officials for violating his rights under the Eighth Amendment, Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Illinois state law. Id. He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, p. 23).

         The Complaint[1] 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 alleges the following in the Complaint: On April 10, 2017, Plaintiff fell from his top bunk at Lawrence. (Doc. 1, p. 13). As Plaintiff climbed down from his bed, he lost his balance and fell backwards. Id. He felt his back pop when he hit the floor, and he could barely move. Id. A large knot formed on his head. Id. Plaintiff's left wrist and finger began swelling. Id.

         A unit officer (John Doe 1) responded to Plaintiff's cries for help by notifying a lieutenant (John Doe 2) and nurse (Jane Doe 1) about his injuries. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Lieutenant Doe 2 called for a stretcher, while Nurse Doe 1 examined Plaintiff. Id. When the nurse learned how Plaintiff was injured, she told Lieutenant Doe 2 that the prison “really should have ladders on the beds [because she has] seen more and more inmates fall and hurt themselves.” Id.

         After learning that a stretcher was unavailable, the three prison officials lifted Plaintiff into a wheelchair, causing him to suffer from additional pain in his lower back. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff was taken to the prison's health care unit (“HCU”) where a nurse took x-rays of his head, back and hand. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Doctor Shah met with Plaintiff to review the x-rays the same day and told him that the x-rays showed no fractures. (Doc. 1, p. 14). When the doctor prepared to send Plaintiff back to his cell, Plaintiff insisted that he could not move without the help of a medical professional because he was in severe pain. Id. Doctor Shah agreed to keep Plaintiff in the HCU where he was issued a wheelchair, a low bunk/low gallery permit and pain medication. Id.

         The following morning, Plaintiff was placed in an ADA cell with no cellmate or ADA attendant. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff again fell and injured himself when he tried to get a drink of water that night. Id. Unable to move, he lay on the floor waiting for help. Id. For hours, no one passed by his cell. Id. Plaintiff repeatedly soiled himself in the process. Id. He missed breakfast and lunch the following day as he continued to wait. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Around noon on April 12, 2017, Officer Bowker finally made rounds. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Plaintiff told the officer about his injuries and asked for immediate medical attention. Id. The officer instructed him to submit his request for medical care in writing. Id. Officer Bowker then left and did not return during his shift. Id. While continuing to wait for help, Plaintiff became weak, nauseous and dehydrated. (Doc. 1, p. 15). He lay in his cell for 14 more hours with nothing to eat or drink. Id. Plaintiff soiled himself several more times. Id.

         Following the shift change, Plaintiff spoke with another officer, who understood that his situation presented an emergency. (Doc. 1, p. 15). Plaintiff was taken on a stretcher to a local hospital where he was evaluated and sent back to the prison several hours later with ibuprofen (200 mg). Id. Plaintiff returned to an ADA cell with no attendant. (Doc. 1, p. 16). He sustained further injuries while trying to get out of bed on April 30, 2017. Id. Officer Johnson and the medical staff denied him emergency medical care. Id.

         On May 7, 2017, Plaintiff began filing grievances to complain about the unsafe beds and inadequate medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 16). In response, Officer Johnson “harassed and retaliated”[2] against him. Id. Plaintiff filed several emergency grievances seeking to transfer away from Officer Johnson's wing, and the prison's placement officer[3] granted his request. Id.

         Doctor Ahmed took over Plaintiff's care on May 24, 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 16-17). Plaintiff describes the care he received from the doctor as inadequate. Id. During their first meeting, Doctor Ahmed failed to examine Plaintiff or renew his prescription pain medication. (Doc. 1, p. 17). The prescription expired two days later. Id. Despite submitting dozens of additional requests for emergency medical treatment, pain medication and an attendant, Plaintiff was denied all further treatment by Doctor Ahmed, HCU Administrator Cunningham, and Warden Lamb. (Doc. 1, pp. 17-18).

         The only exception was a 2-month course of physical therapy beginning on or around June 20, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 18). During his final session on August 18, 2017, the physical therapist (Jane Doe 2) was accompanied by an assistant (Jane Doe 3), who mistreated Plaintiff and made him perform painful movements. Id. At the end of the session, Jane Doe 3 recommended canceling all further physical therapy. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19).

         Doctor Shah subsequently denied Plaintiff's requests for pain medication, a seat cushion, a back brace and a referral to a specialist. (Doc. 1, pp. 21-22). He would not interfere with Doctor ...

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