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Farrow v. Vermilion County Sheriff's Dept

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

June 26, 2019

PAUL FARROW, et al. Plaintiff,



         Plaintiffs, proceeding pro se, and currently detained at Vermilion County Public Safety Building, were granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The case is now before the court for a merit review of plaintiffs' claims. The court is required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to “screen” the plaintiffs' complaint, and through such process to identify and dismiss any legally insufficient claim, or the entire action if warranted. A claim is legally insufficient if it “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         In reviewing the complaint, the court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in the plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Alexander v. U.S., 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(citation omitted).

         Plaintiffs Paul Farrow and William Morgan allege in their complaint that they are both housed in isolation without access to legal material, eyeglasses, medical treatment, pain medication, legal assistance, phone books, and “all necessities except for clean clothing[, ] showers” and food. Plaintiffs also allege that, in December 2018, a John Doe Defendant correctional officer sprayed Plaintiff Morgan in the face and genital area with mace, and that the same John Doe officer slammed Plaintiff Farrow's head into an elevator. Plaintiff Farrow also alleges that members of the Danville Police Department attacked him in March 2015.

         As an initial matter, Plaintiffs intend for this lawsuit to be a class action; however, unrepresented plaintiffs are not allowed to act as class representatives. See Huddleston v. Duckworth, 97 F.R.D. 512, 514-55 (N.D. Ind. 1983). Generally speaking, a lawsuit may have multiple pro se plaintiffs, but motions and other pleadings filed with the Court must be signed by each Plaintiff. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a). Plaintiffs cannot act on each other's behalf. To the extent that Plaintiffs seek to litigate this matter as a class action, the request is denied.

         Plaintiffs state a Fourteenth Amendment claim based on the alleged use of unreasonable force in December 2018. Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). Because Plaintiffs name only a Doe Defendant, the Court will retain Defendant Hartshorn, the sheriff, as a defendant solely for purposes of identifying the Doe defendant. Donald v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 95 F.3d 548, 555-56 (7th Cir. 1996).

         Plaintiffs, however, do not state any further claims at this time. Plaintiff Farrow's claim related to the 2015 use of force is likely time-barred. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2014) (“Section 1983 suits in Illinois have a two-year statute of limitations.”) (citation omitted). Even if it is not, Plaintiff Farrow describes an incident that occurred several years prior to his present detention, does not involve Plaintiff Morgan, and names different defendants. Accordingly, the claims belong in a separate lawsuit. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (“Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits.”); Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017) (“[D]istrict courts should not allow inmates to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants…or to circumvent the Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.”).

         Plaintiffs also do not allege sufficient information to state a conditions-of-confinement claim based upon the alleged conditions in isolation. Plaintiffs, at the very least, must describe their respective medical conditions, how lack of access to legal assistance has prejudiced an otherwise meritorious claim, what steps they have taken to notify jail officials, and the officials' responses. For these reasons, Plaintiff Farrow's 2015 claim and Plaintiffs' conditions-of-confinement claim will be dismissed without prejudice.

         Finally, a third detainee at the jail, Jeremy Marack, filed a Motion to Amend Complaint (Doc. 6), seeking to join this lawsuit as a plaintiff. As discussed above, this matter cannot proceed as a class action. Further, Mr. Marack alleges that he was not detained at the jail until after the December 2018 incident, and, therefore, he could not have been involved. If Mr. Marack desires to pursue the allegations he alleged in his motion, he must do so in a separate lawsuit.

         It is therefore ordered:

         1. Pursuant to its merit review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court finds that the plaintiffs state a Fourteenth Amendment claim for the use of unreasonable force against Defendant John Doe “Allen.” Defendant Hartshorn shall remain a defendant solely for purposes of identifying the Doe Defendants. Any additional claims shall not be included in the case, except at the court's discretion on motion by a party for good cause shown or pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.

         2. This case is now in the process of service. The plaintiff is advised to wait until counsel has appeared for the defendants before filing any motions, in order to give the defendants notice and an opportunity to respond to those motions. Motions filed before defendants' counsel has filed an appearance will generally be denied as premature. The plaintiff need not submit any evidence to the court at this time, unless otherwise directed by the court.

         3. The court will attempt service on the defendants by mailing each defendant a waiver of service. The defendants have 60 days from the date the waiver is sent to file an answer. If the defendants have not filed answers or appeared through counsel within 90 days of the entry of this order, the plaintiff may file a motion requesting the status of service. After the defendants have been served, the court will enter an order setting discovery and dispositive motion deadlines.

         4. With respect to a defendant who no longer works at the address provided by the plaintiff, the entity for whom that defendant worked while at that address shall provide to the clerk said defendant's current work address, or, if not known, said defendant's forwarding address. This information shall be used only for effectuating service. Documentation of forwarding addresses shall ...

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