United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
S. Shah United States District Judge.
November 2016, Plaintiff George Taylor, who is black, visited
the Illinois Department of Human Services to reapply for
Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
benefits. An IDHS caseworker, Javier Nunez, told Taylor that,
although Nunez had approved Taylor for a year of benefits, if
Taylor did not have a job by January 1, his benefits would be
cut off due to a new policy. In January, Taylor's
pharmacy informed his girlfriend that Taylor's health
benefits had been canceled and his antiseizure medication
cost $156. Taylor did not have the money for the medication
and missed a dose. As a result, he suffered four seizures
that have affected his memory. Two IDHS caseworkers later
told Taylor that his benefits should not have been
terminated, and that no new policy began on January 1.
Taylor, acting pro se, brings an equal-protection claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Nunez. Taylor alleges that,
because of his race, Nunez lied to him about reapproving him
for a year of Medicaid, then cut off his health benefits.
Nunez argues that Taylor has failed to state an
equal-protection claim and moves to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons discussed
below, Nunez's motion is granted.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The complaint must contain
“sufficient factual matter, 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In reviewing a motion to dismiss,
a court must construe all factual allegations as true and
draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Doe v. Columbia Coll. Chi., 933 F.3d 849, 854 (7th
Cir. 2019); Sloan v. Am. Brain Tumor Ass'n, 901
F.3d 891, 893 (7th Cir. 2018).
should not demand “too much specificity” in
complaints alleging race discrimination. Freeman v.
Metro. Water Reclamation Dist. of Greater Chi., 927 F.3d
961, 965 (7th Cir. 2019); see also Brown v. Budz,
398 F.3d 904, 916 (7th Cir. 2005) (discussing
“liberal” pleading requirements
“particularly with regard to Equal Protection
claims”). And a plaintiff alleging discrimination
“need not allege each evidentiary element of a legal
theory to survive a motion to dismiss.”
Freeman, 927 F.3d at 965. Notably too, a complaint
filed pro se must be “liberally construed and not held
to the stringent standards expected of pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230
F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000).
even under these liberal pleading standards,
“allegations in the form of legal conclusions are
insufficient” to state a claim. Tierney v. Advocate
Health & Hosps. Corp., 797 F.3d 449, 451 (7th Cir.
2015) (quoting McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch &
Co., 694 F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir. 2012)). So are
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements.”
Id. (quoting Adams v. City of Indianapolis,
742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014)); see also Walton v.
First Merchants Bank, 772 Fed.Appx. 349, 350-51 (7th
Cir. 2019) (noting that although the burden to allege race
discrimination was “not high, ” plaintiff's
complaint nevertheless “fell short”), cert.
denied, No. 19-93, 2019 WL 4922720 (Oct. 7, 2019).
November 2016, Plaintiff George Taylor went to the IDHS
office in Lombard to reapply for Medicaid and SNAP benefits.
 ¶ 6. He met with Javier Nunez, a caseworker,
who told Taylor that he “should have a job.” 
¶¶ 7-8, 61. Taylor responded that he had applied
for Social Security benefits because he suffered from
seizures.  ¶ 8. At the end of the interview, Nunez
told Taylor that he was approved for a full year of medical
benefits.  ¶¶ 9-10, 61. Nunez added that Taylor
needed to find a job by January 1 or his SNAP benefits would
be terminated.  ¶¶ 9-10, 61. Taylor asked Nunez
why, if he had just been reapproved for a full year, his
benefits would terminate in two months.  ¶ 10. Nunez
responded that there was a new policy in effect as of January
1.  ¶ 10. Taylor felt that Nunez was annoyed by his
questions and acted “inconsiderate, ”
“careless, ” and “unconcerned.” 
¶¶ 7-8. Taylor and his girlfriend later looked
online and could not find any information about a new policy
requiring employment for Medicaid or SNAP eligibility. 
January 9, when Taylor's girlfriend tried to pick up his
medication, the pharmacy told her that Taylor's benefits
had been “cut off” and the medication cost $156.
 ¶ 13. She called Taylor, who said he had enough
medication to last two more days and that he would straighten
it out.  ¶ 14. Taylor actually had enough medication
for only one day.  ¶¶ 14, 26.
next morning, Taylor called IDHS.  ¶ 15. A
representative said that Taylor's benefits had been
canceled because IDHS had sent him a redetermination letter
in the mail, and Taylor had failed to return it.  ¶
16. Taylor explained that he had just been reapproved for
benefits in November, so was not scheduled to be
redetermined, and, in any event, he had not received any
redetermination letter.  ¶¶ 17-18. Taylor spoke
to three different representatives, who all said there was
nothing they could do; they told him to visit the Lombard
office and speak with a caseworker as soon as possible. 
could not come up with the money for his prescription that
day and ran out of medication.  ¶¶ 26, 77.
Starting at 11:30 p.m., he began to experience seizures that
lasted about 10-15 seconds.  ¶ 27. By 6 a.m., he had
experienced three or four short seizures.  ¶¶
27-29. At 9 a.m., Taylor's girlfriend walked into their
bedroom while Taylor was having a “[b]ig seizure,
” which lasted two minutes; afterward, Taylor was
“out of it” for about 30 minutes and did not
remember that he had just had a seizure.  ¶ 31-32.
Around 12:30 p.m., Taylor's aunt brought him a one-day
supply of his medication.  ¶ 33.
called the IDHS redetermination hotline later that day and
explained what had happened.  ¶ 34. A representative
told Taylor that he needed to fill out a redetermination form
and send it back.  ¶ 34. IDHS designated his
application an emergency application.  ¶ 35. In the
meantime, Taylor's girlfriend and family were able to
pick up a one-day supply of his medication every day. 
January 18, Taylor returned to the IDHS office in Lombard.
 ¶ 44. After retrieving Taylor's case file on her
computer, a caseworker told Taylor that his benefits should
not have been canceled, and she did not know what had
happened.  ¶¶ 44-45. The caseworker tried to
open a new case for Taylor but experienced computer issues,
so said she would open a case for him within the next day or
two.  ¶ 46. She told Taylor that she would call him,
and he would not have to return to the office.  ¶ 46.
The caseworker never called, so, on January 24, Taylor
returned to the Lombard office and met with a different
caseworker  ¶¶ 47-48. That caseworker said no
one had taken any action on his case the previous week, and
his file did not reflect that he had come in.  ¶ 49.
Both caseworkers Taylor met with in January said no new
policy had gone into effect on January 1, and observed that
there was no caseworker name in Taylor's file associated
with his November visit.  ¶¶ 45, 50.
the second January visit, Nunez walked by while Taylor was
meeting with the caseworker.  ¶ 51. Taylor pointed
Nunez out to her as the person responsible for canceling his
benefits.  ¶ 51. Taylor added that Nunez had tried to
hide his involvement by removing his name from Taylor's
file.  ¶ 51. The caseworker advised Taylor that a
“computer glitch” had likely caused his benefits
to terminate.  ¶ 51. Taylor observed that it was
“funny” that the computer glitch had happened to