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Collins v. Doe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 1, 2019

JUSTIN COLLINS, #M12825, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O JOHN DOE #1, C/O JOHN DOE #2, C/O JOHN DOE #3, and WARDEN OF BIG MUDDY RIVER CORRECTIONAL CENTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Justin Collins brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges he was assaulted by another inmate on two occasions in November 2018 when he was an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) incarcerated at Big Muddy River Correctional Center.[1] (Doc. 9, p. 6). He asserts claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and seeks monetary damages. (Doc. 9, pp. 6-7).

         Following 28 U.S.C. § 1915A review, Plaintiff's Complaint was dismissed without prejudice, and he was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint (Doc. 7), which he has done (Doc. 9). This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Amended Complaint pursuant to Section 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a 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 must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Amended Complaint

         In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff makes the following allegations: On November 25, 2018, Plaintiff was involved in a verbal altercation that escalated into a physical altercation. (Doc. 9, p. 6). Plaintiff later learned that correctional officers John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and John Doe #3 witnessed the altercation. Id. Pursuant to IDOC rules and regulations, the inmates involved in the altercation should have been handcuffed and escorted to segregation to await punishment. Id. The correctional officers who witnessed the altercation took no action. Id. On November 28, 2018, Plaintiff was assaulted by the same inmate who struck him several times in the head with a fan motor concealed in a sock. Id. The same correctional officers witnessed the altercation and intervened because a weapon was involved. Id.

         Based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate the following counts:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants for failing to intervene and/or protect Plaintiff during an inmate assault on November 25, 2018.
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants for failing to protect Plaintiff from an inmate assault on November 28, 2018.
Count 3: Fourteenth Amendment claim for failure to follow IDOC rules and regulations following the first altercation which required the inmates involved to be handcuffed and escorted to segregation to await punishment, which would have prevented the subsequent assault.

         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 designations do not constitute an opinion regarding their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Amended Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.[2]

         Discussion

         Counts 1 and 2

         Prison officials owe inmates a duty to protect them from violence at the hands of other inmates. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994); Guzman v. Sheahan, 495 F.3d 852, 856- 57 (7th Cir. 2007). To state an Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim, a prisoner must allege that (1) “he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, ” and (2) defendant(s) “acted with deliberate indifference to that risk.” Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 909 (7th Cir. 2005). A plaintiff also must prove that prison officials were aware of a specific, impending, and substantial threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996).

         For screening purposes, the allegations are sufficient to allow Counts 1 and 2 to proceed against Defendants. They witnessed the altercation on November 25, 2018 taking place and did nothing to intervene. They took no action after the altercation, and Plaintiff was assaulted by the same individual on November 28, 2018. Defendants knew that both inmates were housed in “Three house.” The claims against Defendants will proceed against them in their individual capacity, but the official capacity claims will be dismissed without prejudice. See Will ...


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