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Huff v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 24, 2018

JAMES HUFF, #23055, Plaintiff,
v.
JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, KIMBERLY BUTLER, WARDEN PAGE, SALVADOR GODINEZ, DONALD STOLWORTHY, JOHN BALDWIN, JOHN DOES 1-3, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff James Huff, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Western Illinois Correctional Center (“Western”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's claims relate to his prior incarceration at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). According to the Complaint, officials violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by subjecting him to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement and by acting with deliberate indifference to his health and safety. More specifically, Plaintiff claims that Menard's drinking water was contaminated with lead and otherwise “tainted, ” endangering his present and future health and safety.

         This matter is now before the Court for a 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations in the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff was housed at Menard from approximately 1997 through December 2017. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 9). According to the Complaint and attached exhibits, at some point during his incarceration at Menard, Plaintiff was suffering from recurring H. pylori bacterial infections. (Doc. 1, pp. 9, 17). In approximately November 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Trost (not a defendant in this action). Id. Dr. Trost told Plaintiff his recurrent infections “came from the tainted water and the lead piping system, which was dissolving into the water.” (Doc. 1, p. 17). He also told Plaintiff to try to avoid drinking Menard's water. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff “immediately” filed an emergency grievance; however, the grievance went unanswered. (Doc. 1, pp. 9, 17). In November 2017, Plaintiff filed a second grievance. Id. In that grievance, Plaintiff inquired about that status of his first grievance and reiterated concerns about contaminated water at Menard. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Approximately one month later, Plaintiff was transferred to Western.

         Plaintiff now claims that officials at Menard were deliberately indifferent to his health and safety, as well as the health and safety of all prisoners, “by failing to replace their lead piping system where the lead is and has been for decades, dissolving into the water.” (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff claims that lead pipes were “banned in the U.S. decades ago, ” violate the Environmental Protection Agency's standards, and are known to cause “cancers, bacterias [sic], viruses, infections, diseases, and many other illnesses.” (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         In connection with this claims, Plaintiff has named the following officials:

Current and Former Wardens
• Jacqueline Lashbrook - Assistant Warden/Warden, 2014 to the present
• Kimberly Butler - Former Warden, 2014 - 2016
• John Does 1-3 - Unknown Former Wardens, “early and mid 2000s”
• Page - Former Warden, 1990-2000
Current and Former IDOC Directors
• John Baldwin - IDOC Director
• Donald Stolworthy - Former IDOC ...

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