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Allen v. Prentice

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

October 2, 2019

KEITH ALLEN, Plaintiff,
SUSAN K. PRENTICE, at al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, files a second amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement and intentional infliction of emotional distress at the Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”). Plaintiff names Michael Melvin, Susan Prentice, Lieutenants Dalton, Evans and Corley and Sergeants Meister and Shoemaker. In addition, he names five John Doe employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). This matter is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing the second amended complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649-51 (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. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). While the pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations”, it requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Wilson v. Ryker, 451 Fed.Appx. 588, 589 (7th Cir. 2011) quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Plaintiff asserts that he was held under unconstitutional conditions of confinement for 11 months, from April 1, 2016 through February 2017. On April 1, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred from the Stateville Correctional Center to Pontiac on a disciplinary transfer. When he arrived at Pontiac, he was placed in the North House segregation unit. Plaintiff explains that this unit houses inmates who are in protective custody, inmates who have “caused problems” elsewhere and inmates who are Seriously Mentally Ill. (“SMI”) and suicidal. Plaintiff claims that some of them throw feces and urine on other inmates and staff. He also claims that the North House is overcrowded with 52 cells on each gallery, with four galleries “stacked on top of each other.” He does not particularly claim that there is overcrowding in the cells and appears to object to the configuration of the unit. He also alleges, on information and belief, that at times he was only cells away from inmates who had infectious diseases.

         Plaintiff complains that correctional officers allow inmates to throw feces, to throw trash on the gallery, and to bang and kick their doors, without reprisal. He claims to have had feces thrown on him, leaving him in fear of catching a disease. Plaintiff claims that his cell on the North Cell House was filthy and had a feces-contaminated food slot. Plaintiff was so disgusted that he suffered stomach aches and was, at times, unable to eat.

         Plaintiff claims that there were roaches, spiders, and mice in his cell and that he was bitten by bugs. He alleges that there had been mouse droppings in his cell and on his food. He also claims that his sink had a rusted-out faucet, with mold growing around it. He claims, without support, that the water in the sink is contaminated with radium and lead, causing him to experience severe stomach pains, cramps, joint pain, migraine headaches and constipation.

         Plaintiff also complains that the vent in his cell was filthy and he could not access the air duct to clean it. He claims that the ventilation system blew dust, dirt, and mold into the cells. He claims that the air itself was contaminated with dust, vermin, dander, hair, lead, wool fibers, urine and feces fumes, mold, and mace. These conditions have caused him to sneeze and his nose to run. In addition, he chokes, coughs uncontrollably, has burning of his eyes and difficulty breathing and concentrating.

         Plaintiff also complains about his bedding. He claims that the mattress was torn, dirty and had an odor. In addition, he went several months without a pillow. He claims that these conditions caused him low back pain, difficulty sleeping and mental anguish. Plaintiff also alleges that inmates frequently flooded the gallery with sewage which ran into his cell. He complains that staff turned off the water when this occurred and took “all day” to clean it up.

         Plaintiff makes the conclusory allegation that the facility got excessively hot in the summer, causing him to feel dizzy, disoriented, and exhausted. Plaintiff does not indicate, however, the temperatures to which he was exposed or the length of time he was exposed to them. He claims, further, that there was excessive noise which caused him to suffer sleep deprivation. Plaintiff complains that, despite the overall filth, he was not given adequate cleaning supplies.

         Plaintiff also complains of the food service, alleging that he was served cold meals on old rusty trays, and that staff serving the food did not always wear rubber gloves and hairnets. The carts used to transport the food trays are allegedly used to transport “trash, prisoners' property, dirty mattresses, mail, laundry and cleaning supplies.” Plaintiff alleges that this has caused him to be sick, experiencing stomach pains, diarrhea, and cramps. He also expresses dissatisfaction with the prison laundry, claiming that the clothes he sent out came back dirty and he had to rewash them. When he did so, he did not have hooks in his cell so he could hang the clothes to dry.

         Plaintiff claims, generally, that these conditions caused him to develop a severe allergic reaction to the mold, asbestos, dirt, dust mites, roaches, mice, and bugs. He does not state, however, that he had been diagnosed with an allergic reaction or particularly identify the symptoms related to the severe allergic reaction. Plaintiff claims additional physical injury in the form of abdominal pain, bumps [location not identified] which exude pus and blood and knots in his throat; as well as back, neck and knee pain. In addition, he experiences the psychological fear of becoming ill or developing a disease. This fear has caused headaches, stomach aches, loss of appetite and loss of sleep.

         Plaintiff alleges that Warden Melvin was aware of these conditions through the John Howard Association Monitoring Report which covered the period 2013 through 2015. Plaintiff asserts, without identifying the basis for this belief, that Defendant Melvin personally received copies of the Pontiac Sanitation Reports from 2016 to 2017. Plaintiff also sent a letter to Defendant Melvin on July 28, 2016, complaining of these conditions. As to the other Defendants, Plaintiff indicates that Defendants Prentice, Evans, Corley, Dalton, Meister, and Shoemaker worked on the North Cell House during the time in question and were aware of the conditions. In addition, he informed them of his complaints verbally and in written grievances. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants were all aware of the conditions and aware of the physical and psychological symptoms he suffered.

         Lastly, Plaintiff asserts a state law claim of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”) against all Defendants. “Under Illinois law, a plaintiff claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress must demonstrate that the defendant intentionally or recklessly engaged in ‘extreme and outrageous conduct' that resulted in severe emotional distress.” Dent v. Nally, No. 16-00442, 2016 WL 2865998, at *4 (S.D. Ill. May 17, 2016) (internal citations omitted). “[E]motional distress alone is not sufficient to give rise to a cause of action. The emotional distress must be severe...unendurable by a reasonable person…” Sornberger v. City of Knoxville, Ill., 434 F.3d 1006, 1030 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal citations omitted). “Although fright, horror, grief, shame, humiliation, worry, etc. may fall within the ambit of the term ‘emotional distress,' these mental conditions alone are not actionable.” Id. at 1030.

         Plaintiff also names five Doe Defendants in his prayer for relief. Plaintiff did not, however, plead any facts regarding Doe individuals in the body of his complaint. It is clear that merely naming a defendant, without any allegations against him is insufficient to state a claim. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir.1998). As this is Plaintiff's third attempt and has not pled any misconduct on the part of the Doe Defendants, they will be dismissed. As Plaintiff fails to replead claims against Defendants Tilden, Foley, and Wexford, they are dismissed as well.

         To successfully allege deliberate indifference, Plaintiff must establish both an objective and a subjective component. In a claim related to inhumane conditions of confinement, a plaintiff must establish the objective component by pleadings that the deprivations were ‘objectively, sufficiently serious…' that ‘the prison official's act or omission [resulted] in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'” Staggs v. Hollenbeck, 248 F.3d 1159 (7th Cir. 2000). To establish the subjective component, a plaintiff must show that a defendant was deliberately indifferent, ‚Äúthat the official knew about the risk of harm, had the ability to ...

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