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Price v. Brookhart

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 6, 2019

LEE PRICE, #A-66320, Plaintiff,
v.
DEANNA M. BROOKHART, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Lee Price, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), brings this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-58). Plaintiff alleges that Lawrence's staff housed him with a cellmate who sexually assaulted him on March 24, 2019. (Id.). Plaintiff seeks money damages against Acting Warden Deanna Brookhart for failing to protect him from this harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at p. 5).

         The Complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. 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). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se Complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff makes the following allegations: Plaintiff claims that he was sexually assaulted by his cellmate at Lawrence. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-54). On March 24, 2019, Plaintiff's cellmate sat down on the bunkbed next to him. (Id. at p. 4). While fondling himself and rubbing Plaintiff's stomach, the cellmate asked Plaintiff if he “want[ed] some of this.”[1] (Id.). Only then did Plaintiff realize his cellmate was gay. (Id.). Prison staff members were allegedly aware of his cellmate's status when they placed the two inmates in the same cell ten days earlier. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that Acting Warden Brookhart failed to protect him from this harm. (Id.).

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to designate the following count in this pro se action:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Brookhart for failing to protect Plaintiff from a known risk of serious harm to his health and safety by placing him in a cell with a gay inmate who sexually assaulted him on March 24, 2019.

         The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by this Court. Any claim in the Complaint that is not addressed herein should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under Twombly.[2]

         Discussion

         The Eighth Amendment governs Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Brookhart. The amendment imposes an obligation on prison officials to take reasonable steps to guarantee the safety of inmates, and this includes the duty to protect inmates from violence at the hands of other inmates. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-35 (1994). A failure-to-protect claim arises where a plaintiff shows that he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, and the defendant acted with deliberate indifference toward his health or safety. Id.

         The Complaint does not survive screening against Brookhart. Plaintiff does not mention this defendant in the statement of his claim. Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998) (“A plaintiff cannot state a claim against a defendant by including the defendant's name in the caption.”). And he cannot pursue relief against Brookhart based solely on her supervisory role at the prison. Respondeat superior liability is not recognized under Section 1983. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 US. 662, 676 (2009). Liability instead requires personal involvement in or responsibility for a constitutional deprivation. Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 462-63 (7th Cir. 2009). Because Plaintiff failed to mention Brookhart in the statement of his claim, the Court cannot discern what role she played in the deprivation of his constitutional rights.

         Plaintiff's exhibits offer little additional insight into his claims against this defendant. The Court found only two documents that were signed by Brookhart-a Memorandum dated March 24, 2019 (Doc. 1, p. 12) and an Adjustment Committee Report dated April 15, 2019 (Id. at pp. 24-25). According to these documents, Brookhart notified Plaintiff that his Prison Rape Elimination Act complaint was investigated and deemed unsubstantiated. (Id. at p. 12). Brookhart also approved the Adjustment Committee's decision to punish Plaintiff for threatening his cellmate following the events of March 24, 2019. (Id. at pp. 24-25). Although these documents suggest that Brookhart had some involvement in this matter, her involvement occurred after the assault. Plaintiff makes no claim that Brookhart played a role in his cell placement decision before the assault or that she failed to protect him following the assault. Count 1 shall be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against Brookhart.

         Because Plaintiff brings no other claims in this action, the Court shall dismiss the Complaint without prejudice. Plaintiff will have an opportunity to file a First Amended Complaint, if he wishes to proceed with this matter. If he chooses to do so, Plaintiff must comply with the deadline and instructions set forth in the below Disposition.

         Pending ...


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