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Thomas v. Jaimet

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 24, 2018

TRACY THOMAS, # B-45371, Plaintiff,
v.
K. JAIMET, L. LOVE, D. HILLER, WARDEN LASHBROOK, and W. LAWLESS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose in January 2017, while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). Plaintiff claims that Defendants knowingly placed him in a cell with a hostile cellmate, who then physically attacked him. 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 some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On January 29, 2017, Plaintiff was returning to his cell from a visit to the Health Care Unit, when he told Lt. Lawless that he feared for his life. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff said that his cellmate (Lyles) had been getting aggressive and threatening to “kick [Plaintiff's] ass.” Id. C/O Hiller told Plaintiff that he should pack up his belongings so that he could be moved, and Hiller placed Plaintiff back in the cell with Lyles. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 14). Hiller then walked away, leaving Plaintiff with no security. Soon thereafter, Lyles attacked and beat Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff's injured lip required stitches, and his right leg was hurt. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         Plaintiff claims that the John Doe #1 Placement Officer (who is not listed as a Defendant) (Doc. 1, pp. 1-2) housed him in the cell with Lyles, who was “violent and unstable.” (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6).

         Plaintiff further asserts that Pinckneyville officials have a policy or practice of refusing to move inmates to a different cell or into protective custody until the inmate has suffered physical harm and/or incurred a disciplinary ticket. (Doc. 1, p. 6). He claims that he put the C/O's named above as well as the Pinckneyville warden on notice that he needed protection from the cellmate because of the cellmate's threats. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

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

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

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Lawless and Hiller, for failing to protect Plaintiff from the January 29, 2017, attack by his cellmate;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Jaimet, Love, and Lashbrook, for failing to protect Plaintiff from the January 29, 2017, ...

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