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Williams v. Shah

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 12, 2019

Leonte Williams, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Vipin Shah, Suzann Bailey, John Baldwin, and Jacqueline Lashbrook, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued March 26, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 3:15-cv-1278-SMY-RJD - Staci M. Yandle, Judge.

          Before BAUER, ROVNER, and BRENNAN, Circuit Judges.

          ROVNER, Circuit Judge.

         Leonte Williams, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, sued a number of prison officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that they violated his Eighth Amendment rights by providing inadequate nutrition through a "brunch" program that served only two meals a day. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Because the record establishes without dispute that the brunch program was adequate as designed and also because Williams lacks evidence that any of the defendants knew that he was allegedly not receiving adequate nutrition, we affirm.


         During the relevant time period, Williams was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center in southern Illinois. During four or five months of Williams' stay at Pinckneyville, the facility participated in a pilot "brunch" program designed by Suzann Bailey, a licensed dietician and the Food Service Administrator for the Illinois Department of Corrections ("Department"). Prior to the brunch program, Illinois prisons used a regular meal plan that consisted of three meals per day, with "Master Menus" formulated by Bailey to provide approximately 2200 to 2400 calories per day, including a minimum of six ounces of protein per day. Dietary Managers at each correctional facility in Illinois were required to follow Bailey's Master Menus as closely as possible, making substitutions when necessary and replacing unavailable items with comparable foods.

         The brunch program provided two meals per day rather than three, combining breakfast and lunch into a single meal. Bailey designed a set of Master Menus for the brunch program that were formulated to provide the same 2200 to 2400 calories per day as the three-meal plan, including at least eight ounces of protein (a two ounce increase over the regular three-meal plan), and at least five servings of fruits or vegetables per day. As with the regular meal plan, Dietary Managers at the correctional centers were charged with implementing these Master Menus as closely as possible, again with allowances for substitutions of like items when planned foods were not available. In Bailey's professional opinion, two meals containing 2200 to 2400 calories, including eight ounces of protein, would provide adequate nutrition to individuals who were otherwise healthy and not in need of specific dietary accommodations for medical conditions. For persons having special dietary needs, the Department allowed therapeutic dietary trays as prescribed by physicians. At Pinckneyville, the brunch meal was served at 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. and dinner was served approximately six hours later.

         Williams was subject to the pilot program from his arrival at the prison in July 2015 until the brunch program terminated in December 2015, apparently due to cost concerns. During that time, Williams filed multiple grievances complaining that the prison's food was making him ill. He mainly objected to the use of soy protein, asserting that it caused him stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, migraine headaches, and excessive gas. He sometimes added in his grievances that he received only 1600 calories per day or fewer than 2800 calories per day, and requested that he be served breakfast.[1] He also com plained that nurses on medical call mistreated him, and that the prison's physician refused to prescribe a soy-free diet and would not provide medical tests that Williams believed he needed. The primary relief that he sought was the cessation of the soy-based diet, thyroid testing and money damages, but he sometimes requested that he be served three meals per day and more calories.

         His grievances were not resolved to his satisfaction and he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Food Service Administrator Suzann Bailey, Warden Jacqueline Lashbrook, Department Director John Baldwin, and Dr. Vipin Shah, the prison's doctor. Williams asserted that: (1) Baldwin, Bailey and Lashbrook violated his Eighth Amendment rights by serving him soy-based meals that made him ill; (2) Shah violated his Eighth Amendment rights through deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs; and (3) Baldwin, Bailey and Lashbrook violated his Eighth Amendment rights by instituting a nutritionally inadequate brunch program. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Williams appeals.


         On appeal, Williams challenges the judgment only as it relates to the brunch program count against defendants Baldwin, Bailey and Lashbrook.[2] We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, examining the record in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and construing all reasonable inferences from the evidence in his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Lapre v. City of Chicago, 911 F.3d 424, 430 (7th Cir. 2018). Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine disputes of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48; Lapre, 911 F.3d at 430.

         "A prison official's 'deliberate indifference' to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). The Eighth Amendment places both restraints and duties on prison officials, and one of those duties is to ensure that inmates receive adequate food. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832. In order for a prison official to be liable under the Eighth Amendment, two requirements must be met. First, the inmate must demonstrate that the deprivation suffered was, objectively, "sufficiently serious." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). That is, the prison official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298. We have recognized that, in some circumstances, the withholding of food may be sufficiently serious to satisfy the objective component of the Farmer test. Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999). See also Jams v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections, 684 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2012) (adequate food is among the minimal civilized measures of life's necessities); Mays v. Springborn, 575 F.3d 643, 648 (7th Cir. 2009) (under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner's diet must provide adequate nutrition). To assess whether the particular withholding of food meets Farmer's objective prong, a "court must assess the amount and duration of the deprivation." Reed, 178 F.3d at 853. See also Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001) (noting that the withholding of food can in some circumstances meet the objective prong of Farmer depending on the amount and duration of the deprivation, as well as the medical condition of the inmate).

         Second, the inmate must demonstrate that the prison official had a sufficiently culpable state of mind. In a case involving prison conditions, that state of mind is deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. The Supreme Court ...

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