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Jones v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 15, 2019

OMARRIAN JONES, #M29668, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Omarrion Jones, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who is currently incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Center (“Dixon”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 regarding his medical care and conditions of confinement while at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) and Dixon.

         Plaintiff's original Complaint, First Amended Complaint, and corresponding motions, filed pro se, were dismissed for noncompliance with Rule 8 and for failure to state a claim. See Doc. 14. The Court recruited counsel to represent Plaintiff, and Plaintiff's Second Amended 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. 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).

         A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. On screening, the Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts in the Second Amended Complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff. Kubiak v. City of Chicago, 810 F.3d 476, 480-81 (7th Cir. 2016). The Court also must consider whether any claims are improperly joined and subject to severance or dismissal. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

         Second Amended Complaint

         In the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following: He has been diagnosed with mental illnesses, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, and suicidal tendencies, and classified for a period of time as Seriously Mentally Ill. (“SMI”). (Doc. 33, pp. 5, 10). While at Menard and Dixon, he has been continually placed in cells with other inmates who are unprepared or ill-equipped to deal with a person with mental health issues and disabilities. (Id. at p. 6). As a result, he has had altercations and violent conflicts with cellmates, and he injured his shoulder during one conflict. (Id. at p. 6). At one point, Plaintiff asked Mental Health Professional VanPelt if he could be placed in a single cell. (Id. at p. 6).

         While at Menard in June 2018, he became depressed and suicidal. (Id. at p. 5). On August 30, 2018, he asked gallery officers and prison staff, “John Does, ” to place him on crisis watch, but they left him in his general population cell. (Id. at p. 6). Plaintiff then attempted suicide with a rope. His cellmate took the rope away and gave it to the evening nurse, Jane Doe. (Id.). Jane Doe said she would get help, but no one intervened or provided care. (Id.). He then continued to attempt suicide and inflict self-harm that evening but was not placed in a crisis cell until two in the morning. (Id.).

         Plaintiff was placed in crisis cells for suicidal thoughts from August 31, 2018, until October 26, 2018. (Id.). During the time he spent in crisis cells 503 and 509, he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. (Id. at p. 7). The cells were filthy with urine, blood, and feces on the walls, dirty floors and mattress, and improperly functioning sinks and toilets. While in cell 509, the light was left on at all times, and he was exposed to extremely high heat and low air flow, aggravating his asthma. (Id. at p. 7). Because of the extreme conditions, three other inmates in adjacent cells died. Plaintiff complained to Dr. Leven about the inhumane conditions and his lack of medical treatment, but she took no action. (Id. at p. 9).

         While on crisis watch, Plaintiff had a meeting with Dr. Floreani and Mental Health Professional Weatherford on September 19, 2018. (Id. at p. 8). Plaintiff told them he was suicidal. (Id. at pp. 18-19). They responded that they did not believe him and ordered him to be released from crisis watch and returned to general population. He returned to his crisis cell with instructions to be taken off crisis watch classification and was given back his property. Plaintiff then attempted suicide by hanging himself with his shoelaces. (Id. at p. 8).

         Following the incident, Dr. Floreani changed Plaintiff's diagnosis and medications without explaining the medication and its side effects. (Id. at p. 9). He was taken off of Wellbutrin without his knowledge, and all of his requests for Wellbutrin to be reinstated have been denied. (Id. at p. 10). Between September and October 2018, Plaintiff was forced to take medication by Dr. Floreani that caused him to blackout. (Id. at p. 12).

         Because of the multiple suicide attempts, he suffers from neck and upper body injuries. (Id. at pp. 6, 9). Plaintiff was notified that physical therapy appointments would be scheduled to treat his injuries, but he never received any treatment for neck and back pain. (Id. at p. 9).


         Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure prohibits a plaintiff from asserting unrelated claims against different defendants or sets of defendants in the same lawsuit. Under Rule 20, multiple defendants may not be joined in a single action unless the plaintiff asserts at least one claim to relief against each respondent that arises out of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences and presents a question of law or fact common to all. George, 507 F.3d at 607; 3A Moore's Federal Practice § 20.06, at 2036-45 (2d ed.1978). Rule 18 allows a party to join unrelated claims against defendants in a lawsuit. Notably, however, this rule applies only after the requirements for joinder of parties have been satisfied under Rule 20. Intercon Research Ass'n, Ltd. v. Dresser Ind., Inc., 696 F.2d 53, 57 (7th Cir. 1983)(citing 7 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure).

         Here, Plaintiff's claims pertaining to his treatment (or lack thereof) at Menard and Dixon are not properly joined in a single action. The discretionary actions taken by different officials at different prisons do not constitute the same series of transactions and occurrences with questions of fact common to each of the defendants. The defendants employed at Menard and those at Dixon have made independent judgments about Plaintiff's condition, treatment, and grievances as it appeared to them at the time. As a result, John Baldwin, former IDOC Director, John Varga, Warden of Dixon, Dr. Raymond Marquez, psychiatrist at Dixon, and Rob Jeffreys, current IDOC Director, from whom Plaintiff requests injunctive relief regarding his current medical treatment at Dixon, are not properly joined under Rule 20(a)(2), and the claims against them pertaining to alleged violations that occurred or are occurring at Dixon do not belong in this action.

         For these reasons, the Court exercises its authority under Rule 21 and severs the improperly joined claims. Any claims directed against Varga, Marquez, Jeffreys, and Baldwin regarding Plaintiff's treatment at Dixon will be severed into a separate action. This separate action will have a newly assigned case number and shall undergo preliminary review pursuant to Section 1915A after the new case number and judge assignments have been made.

         Preliminary Dismissals

         Plaintiff brings claims against John Does, whom he describes as prison staff and corrections officers in the North I, Gallery 3 on August 30, 2018, and Jim Does, described as corrections officers in the North II, Gallery 5 from on or about August 31, 2018, to September 5, 2018, and September 14, 2018, to October 25, 2018. (Doc. 33, p. 5). While a plaintiff may use the “John Doe” designation to refer to specific individuals whose names are unknown, a plaintiff will run afoul of the pleading standards in Iqbal and Twombly by merely asserting that groups of staff violated his constitutional rights. See Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009)(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). When a plaintiff does nothing but state that a group of corrections officers harmed him without providing more, all he has done is establish that there is a “sheer possibility” that someone in that group harmed him. That is, Plaintiff may not know the name of individual defendants, but he must describe the “who, what, why, where, and how” that form the basis of the claim against that person (e.g. John Doe #1 did X and John Doe #2 did Y). To allow otherwise would be effectively allowing Plaintiff to amend his complaint further at will without review of this Court, a result contrary to both the local rules and Section 1915A. Although the Complaint does reference the actions of a Lieutenant, a Sergeant, and three gallery officers, these individuals are not listed in the case caption, but grouped in with the description of “John Does.” See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005)(to be properly considered a party a defendant must be “specif[ied] in the caption”). Because the Complaint neither individually describes the unknown defendants nor their conduct, Plaintiff could ascribe any conduct he chooses to any number of people that occurred at any time during the relevant time period. For these reasons, Defendants John Does and Jim Does are dismissed without prejudice. Should Plaintiff amend his complaint as the case progresses, he must specifically describe the unconstitutional conduct that any unknown defendant engaged in and name such defendant in the case caption.

         Furthermore, any request for injunctive relief against the Menard Defendants is denied without prejudice as moot, given Plaintiff's transfer from the facility. Only if Plaintiff can show a realistic possibility that he would again be incarcerated at Menard under the conditions described in the Second Amended Complaint would it be proper for the Court to consider injunctive relief against those Defendants. See Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 716 (7th Cir. 2011)(citing Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 644, 668 (7th Cir. 2009)).


         Based on the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to delineate the claims in this case into the following twelve Counts:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Jane Doe for failure to protect and deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's risk of suicide on August 30, 2018.
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Floreani and Weatherford for failure to protect and deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's risk of suicide on September 19, 2018.
Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against Jeffreys, Lawrence, Baldwin, Lashbrook, Dr. Leven, Dr. Goldman, Dr. Floreani, Weatherford, VanPelt, and Pappas for subjecting Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while on crisis watch in cell 509 from August 31, 2018, until September 5, 2018, and in cell 503 from September 14, 2018, until October 26, 2018.
Count 4: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Jeffreys, Lawrence, Baldwin, and Lashbrook for interference with the grievance process.
Count 5: Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act claim against Jeffreys and Lawrence.
Count 6: Eighth Amendment claim against Jeffreys, Lawrence, Baldwin, Lashbrook, Dr. McShan, Dr. Goldman, Dr. Gupta, Dr. Glenn, Dr. Floreani, Dr. Leven, Weatherford, VanPelt, and Pappas for failing to protect Plaintiff from himself, prison staff, medical providers, and other inmates.
Count 7: Monell claim against Jeffreys, Lawrence, Baldwin, and Lashbrook, in their official capacities, for unconstitutional practices and policies.
Count 8: Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. McShan, Dr. Goldman, Dr. Gupta, Dr. Floreani, Weatherford, Dr. Leven, Dr. Glenn, VanPelt, Pappas, and Wexford for exhibiting deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs regarding treatment for his mental illnesses and related injuries while at Menard.
Count 9: First Amendment claim against Dr. Floreani for retaliating against Plaintiff by changing his ...

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