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Bilik v. Hardy

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 27, 2019

MARCUS HARDY, et al., Defendants.


          Andrea R. Woo United States District Judge

         Defendants Kim Butler, Landria Dennis, Marcus Hardy, and Nancy Ponovich's motion to dismiss [145] is granted in part and denied in part. The motion is granted as to Dennis and Ponovich; the claims against them are dismissed. The motion is denied as to Butler and Hardy. See the accompanying Statement for details.


         Plaintiff Richard Bilik is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Bilik suffers from a dairy allergy. Yet, during his incarceration at both Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) and Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), Bilik contends he was denied an appropriate dairy-free diet. He thus has brought this action against various Stateville and Menard officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Four of the Defendants named in the Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”) now move to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 137.)


         For the purposes of the motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts in the TAC as true and views those facts in the light most favorable to Bilik as the non-moving party. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007).

         As alleged in the TAC, Bilik began his incarceration at Stateville in February 2010. (TAC ¶ 14, Dkt. No. 137.) Upon his arrival, prison authorities received Bilik's medical forms that expressly stated he had a dairy allergy. (Id. ¶ 44.) Because of Bilik's dairy allergy, he is unable to ingest food or beverages containing lactose without experiencing severe intestinal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence. (Id. ¶ 4.) However, the year before Bilik's arrival, Stateville's Warden, Defendant Marcus Hardy, fired the prison's dietician and cancelled all medical diets. (Id. ¶ 5.) Pursuant to this policy, Bilik was not provided with lactose-free meals. (Id. ¶ 46.) Despite his best efforts to avoid foods obviously containing dairy products, Bilik would still inadvertently consume foods containing dairy products. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 56.) On some occasions, he had to consume dairy products out of necessity so he would not starve. (Id.) The lack of a dairy-free diet caused Bilik constant suffering from pain caused by his allergy. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 10-11, 57.)

         As soon as he was able, Bilik began filing grievances to Hardy concerning his need for a dairy-free diet. (Id. ¶ 48.) In those grievances, Bilik detailed his dairy allergy and the issues caused by Stateville's failure to provide him lactose-free meals. (Id.) Hardy responded to one of those grievances by refusing to provide Bilik his requested relief. (Id. ¶ 51.) After Bilik filed another grievance, Defendant Landria Dennis, a Stateville correctional counselor, replied by incorrectly stating that Bilik's allergy was being appropriately treated. (Id. ¶¶ 52-53.) Her reply also noted that Stateville did not provide special meals even to offenders with food allergies. (Id. ¶ 54.) The only medical care Stateville provided for Bilik's allergy was a prescription for Lactaid, which did nothing to alleviate the symptoms he experienced after consuming dairy. (Id. ¶ 65.)

         Later, Bilik was transferred to Menard in October 2012. (Id. ¶ 15.) Once again, he was unable to receive dairy-free meals. (Id. ¶ 72.) When he filed grievances complaining about the lack of meals appropriate for his dietary restrictions, Menard staff not only refused to help him but actually harassed him in an effort to stop him from filing grievances. (Id. ¶¶ 73-76.) Moreover, Menard staff prevented Bilik from receiving medical care for his allergy. (Id. ¶¶ 80-81.)

         Bilik's TAC names as Defendants numerous individuals at Stateville and Menard who he alleges were deliberately indifferent to his dairy allergy. Presently, four of those Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. In addition to Hardy and Dennis, Nancy Ponovich, a Stateville superintendent, and Kim Butler, Menard's Warden, (together, “Moving Defendants”) join the motion.


         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This pleading standard does not necessarily require a complaint to contain detailed factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         A prisoner seeking to state a claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs must establish that he suffered “an objectively serious medical condition” and “an official's deliberate indifference to that condition.” Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 750 (7th Cir. 2011). Here, no Moving Defendant contests that Bilik's dairy allergy was an objectively serious medical condition. Instead, Moving Defendants simply claim that the allegations fail to show that they were personally involved in any constitutional deprivation. Moreover, Moving Defendants contend that, as non-medical personnel, they were entitled to rely on the judgment of medical staff.

         To establish a prison official's deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show that the official “acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Id. at 751 (internal quotation marks omitted). “A prison official acts with a sufficiently culpable state of mind when he knows of a substantial risk of harm to an inmate and either acts or fails to act in disregard of that risk.” Id. “The deliberate indifference standard reflects a mental state somewhere between the culpability poles of negligence and purpose, and is thus properly equated with reckless disregard.” Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 777 (7th Cir. 2015). One way a plaintiff may establish deliberate indifference is by showing that a prison official knows of a prisoner's special dietary needs but nonetheless denies him appropriate meals in disregard of the prisoner's health. See, e.g., Henderson v. Jess, ...

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