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Gakuba v. Henderson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 7, 2020

PETER GAKUBA, #M52946, Plaintiff,
v.
MR. HENDERSON, VIENNA PRISON, JOHN DOE, Dietary Director, GRETA SMITH, PENNY GEORGE, DR. BIRCH, SERINA LANE, [1]SARAH ROBERTSON, MATTHEW SWELLS, TRAVIS BAYLER, IDOC, and ROB JEFFREYS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         This case was severed from Gakuba v. Swells et al., No. 19-cv-01081-SMY, on November 19, 2019. (Doc. 1). It contains the claim designated as Count 6 in the original case, described as an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Mr. Henderson for refusing to place Gakuba on a no-seafood diet despite his allergies. Along with Count 6, Gakuba's Motion for Equitable Relief requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was filed in this case. (Doc. 5). Gakuba was given until January 23, 2020, to notify the Court whether he wished to proceed with this action. (Doc. 12). On December 30, 2019, Gakuba filed a First Amended Complaint, along with another motion requesting emergency injunctive relief. (Docs. 13 and 14). The Court construes these filings as signifying that he wishes to proceed with this lawsuit, (see Doc. 13, p. 2), and therefore, the First Amended Complaint[2] is now 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). At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. Rodriquez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). Because Gakuba also seeks emergency injunctive relief, (Doc. 14), the Court will take up this matter without delay. See Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680 (7th Cir. 2012).

         The First Amended Complaint

         Gakuba alleges the following in the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 13) and Motion for Equitable Relief (Doc. 5)[3]: Gakuba, currently in custody at Vienna Correctional Center (“Vienna”), has a documented seafood allergy. (Doc. 13, p. 2; Doc. 5, p. 1). Upon his arrival at Vienna, he spoke with the Dietary Supervisor, Henderson, about his seafood allergy. (Doc. 13, p. 3). Gakuba was placed on a kosher diet, which includes the options of prepackaged turkey breast; chicken breast, Salisbury steak, spaghetti, or fish fillet. (Id. at p. 4). On November 1, 2019, he was served fish for two successive days. (Doc. 5, p. 1). Gakuba met with Nurse Practitioner Smith regarding his allergy, who issued an order to the Vienna dietary services to stop serving him fish. (Id.). He continued, however, to receive the fish option at meals. (Id.). Gakuba met with Smith again, who told him that Healthcare Director George, with the agreement of Dr. Birch, overruled Smith's order. (Id. at p. 2). Gakuba sought to meet with John Doe, the Dietary Director. John Doe told Henderson to show Gakuba the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) regulations. (Doc. 13, pp. 3-4). Gakuba continues to be served seafood three to four times a week. (Id. at p. 2). Henderson has told him that he will not stop serving him seafood because of labor costs in food preparation. (Id. at p. 3).

         After filing this lawsuit, Henderson began to retaliate against Gakuba and gave him spoiled juices, filthy lettuce, rotten apple, waterlogged bagels, smashed crackers, and once a spider in his cereal. (Id. at pp. 4-5). Henderson also threatened to file false disciplinary tickets against him. (Id. at p. 5).

         Preliminary Dismissals

         Gakuba includes Vienna Prison and IDOC in his list of defendants, but both Defendants will be dismissed with prejudice. Gakuba cannot maintain his suit against the IDOC, because it is a state government agency. The Supreme Court has held that “neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). See also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001); Billman v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995).

         Likewise, the Vienna Correctional Center, which is a division of the Illinois Department of Corrections, is not a “person” within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act, and is not subject to a Section 1983 suit. See Will, 491 U.S. at 71.

         The Court also notes that in the First Amended Complaint, Gakuba makes the claim that Defendants were decision “makers [with] authority to overrule subordinate malfeasance.” (Doc. 13, p. 5). Wardens and administrators cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional acts of another person under their authority. The doctrine of respondeat superior (supervisory liability) is not applicable to Section 1983 actions. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). To the extent Gakuba is claiming that Defendants are liable based on their supervisory position, such claims are dismissed with prejudice.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the First Amended Complaint, the Court designates the following Counts:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Henderson, John Doe Dietary Director, Greta Smith, Penny George, and Dr. Birch for refusing to place Gakuba on a no-seafood diet despite his allergies.
Count 2: Conspiracy claim against Henderson, John Doe Dietary Director, Greta Smith, Penny George, Dr. Birch, Serina Lane, Sarah Robertson, Matthew Swells, Travis Bayler, and Rob Jeffrys for conspiring to violate Gakuba's Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights and to commit gross negligence by denying his grievances.
Count 3: Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against Henderson, John Doe Dietary Director, Greta Smith, Penny George, and Dr. Birch.
Count 4: Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim against Henderson, John Doe Dietary Directory, Greta Smith, Penny George, and Dr. Birch for serving Gakuba seafood three to four times a week resulting in him missing meals and causing malnourishment.
Count 5: Negligence claim in violation of Illinois state law against Henderson, John Doe Dietary Director, Greta Smith, Penny George, and Dr. Birch for serving Gakuba seafood.
Count 6: Intentional infliction of emotional distress claim in violation of Illinois state law against Henderson, John Doe Dietary Directory, Greta Smith, Penny George, and Dr. Birch.
Count 7: First Amendment claim against Henderson, John Doe Dietary Director, Serina Lane, Sarah Robertson, and Matthew Swells for retaliating against Gakuba for filing lawsuits.

         The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. Any claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order is considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly[4] pleading standard.

         Count 1

         To prevail on a claim of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, a plaintiff must first show that his condition was “objectively, sufficiently serious” and that the “prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010).

         It is not entirely clear at this point whether Gakuba suffers from a serious medical condition, as he has not included any details regarding his allergic condition such as necessary medication or symptoms and reactions he experiences when he ingests seafood. Construing the First Amendment Complaint liberally in Gakuba's favor, however, the Court finds that Count 1 will proceed against: (1) Henderson who rejected Gakuba's request for a no-seafood diet and continued to serve him seafood meals; (2) John Doe Dietary Directory for disregarding the dietary order; (3) Healthcare Directors George and Dr. Birch who overturned Nurse Practitioner Smith's dietary order; and (4) Nurse Practitioner Smith ...


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