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Hamilton v. The Bantry Group Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 6, 2019

KENNETH HAMILTON, # R12594, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BANTRY GROUP CORP., WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., ROBERT MUELLER, DAVE STOCK, DON, SARAH ELLIOTT, VERA M. ROLLINS, SUSAN WALKER, DEBBIE KNAUER, JOHN BALDWIN, CENTRALIA HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATORS, VENERIO SANTOS, JANE DOES, JOHN DOES,

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kenneth Hamilton, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at East Moline Correctional Center (“East Moline”), brings this action for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he has not received adequate medical care for his allergy to wool blankets, and that administrative responses to his issue have been lacking. He seeks adequate medical care, damages, a permanent order in his prison file that he be provided with cotton blankets, and “any other relief the Court sees fit.”

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 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 Complaint

         Plaintiff makes the following allegations in the Complaint: Plaintiff arrived at Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”) in October of 2016 after a stay at Shawnee Correctional Center (Doc. 1 at 19-20). On November 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a grievance asking for a non-wool blanket because he alleged that he had a documented allergy to wool (Doc. 1 at 11).

         Plaintiff's “wool allergy” grievance was not handled properly at all stages of the grievance process. Plaintiff's counselor, Defendant Rollins, did not deem his grievance a medical emergency (Id. at 9). Rather than considering it a medical emergency or simply ordering Plaintiff a wool blanket, Rollins responded that since his arrival at Centralia, Plaintiff had not seen healthcare about itching or a rash, but he could do so or purchase a non-wool blanket from the commissary (Id. at 9-10). Grievance officer, Defendant Susan Walker, agreed with Rollins and added that there were no wool allergy test results in Plaintiff's file (Id. at 10). Walker recommended that the grievance be denied and that any medical determinations be left to the healthcare personnel (Id.).

         According to Plaintiff, a prisoner can file a medical emergency grievance directly with the Warden, who is then obligated to review it for a substantial risk of harm and to respond in writing (Id. at 11). A warden may, from time to time, delegate his duties during a temporary absence or emergency, but there shall not be permanent delegation (Id.). Despite this delegation structure, Defendant Warden Robert Mueller routinely designated others to review and sign all grievances (Id.).

         On December 4, 2017, Defendant Dave Stock wrote a memorandum ordering that Plaintiff be provided with a cotton blanket and directing that the memorandum be sent to any future housing unit upon relocation (Id. at 11-12). The memo was placed in Plaintiff's medical file (Id.). Despite the memorandum, Plaintiff lodged his grievances with the Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) on December 18, 2017 (Id. at 12). Rather than tackle the substance of Plaintiff's grievance, Defendant Debbie Knauer parroted earlier responses and stated that he could request assistance from the healthcare unit as needed (Id.). On December 20, 2017, John Baldwin signed the appeal, endorsing previous responses (Id.).

         Plaintiff's wool allergy is a long-term condition capable of producing serious complications (Id.). Rather than treating it as such, nonmedical prison officials unreasonably relied upon medical personnel who were providing an insufficient response to Plaintiff's condition (Id. at 12-13). As a result, Plaintiff was forced to suffer cold nights with the cover of only a sheet (Id.).

         In support of his Complaint, he appended the grievances he submitted at Centralia regarding his need for a cotton blanket (Id. at 19-28). Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief in the form of a cotton blanket for the rest of his time in the IDOC (Id. at 14). He asserts that without the accommodation, he will suffer irreparable harm in the form of pain and suffering from a swollen tongue, face, and feet (Id. at 15).

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following Counts:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference by Defendants Rollins and Walker for their insufficient review of Plaintiff's grievance.
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference by Mueller for delegating his responsibility to review grievances and blindly endorsing other's recommendations.
Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference by Defendants Knauer and Baldwin for their response to ...

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