Morris v. Baldwin

Decision Date12 December 2017
Docket NumberCase No. 17-cv-1033-DRH
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Illinois

HERNDON, District Judge:

Plaintiff Barry Morris, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"). Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and damages. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action 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 of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Upon careful review of the Amended Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Amended Complaint

Plaintiff originally filed suit in Case No. 17-cv-852-DRH with co-plaintiff Scott Peters. After the Court warned Plaintiff about the difficulties of proceedingin concert with another inmate, Plaintiff informed the Court that he wished to proceed separately, and these claims were severed into a new action on September 26, 2017. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff was also granted leave to file an amended complaint, which he did on October 4, 2017. (Doc. 11).

The Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff is being denied reasonable accommodation under the ADA and the RA. (Doc. 11, p. 3). Plaintiff suffers from a herniated disc and severe spinal stenosis, nerve damage in his right hand/arm, which is also partially paralyzed, benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate), and high blood pressure. (Doc. 11, p. 14). Plaintiff informed the defendants about his disabilities via letters and grievances. (Doc. 11, p. 3). Plaintiff alleges that he was deprived of reasonable accommodations for his disabilities, and access to prison activities and opportunities. (Doc. 11, p. 4). Plaintiff also alleges that the refusal to accommodate his disability puts him at substantial risk of serious harm, and thus, that Defendants are deliberately indifferent. (Doc. 11, pp. 4-5). Menard is not ADA compliant, and is the only facility in the state of Illinois that does not permit assistive-walking devices in general population. (Doc. 11, p. 14).

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that his disabilities allow him to use crutches, but Menard as an institution does not permit the use of crutches unless an inmate is confined to the health care unit. (Doc. 11, p. 6). Walking with crutches provides Plaintiff with exercise that he is deprived of when confined to a wheelchair. (Doc. 11, p. 17). The health care unit cannot house all the inmatesthat need crutches or other walking devices. (Doc. 11, pp. 6-7). Plaintiff was also prohibited from attending night yard, meals in the cafeteria, and mental health therapy. (Doc. 11, p. 7). The commissary is not ADA accessible, and Plaintiff cannot attend because his wheelchair cannot fit. Id. Plaintiff must order his commissary items and accept or reject the entire order without substitutions, even if certain items are unavailable. Id.

Plaintiff is allowed to attend yard, but once he reaches the yard, his wheelchair is taken from him and he is forced to sit at a table for 3 hours. (Doc. 11, pp. 7-8). Plaintiff has been told to call the tower if he needs to use the restroom or the phone, but the tower has ignored his requests and told him they won't respond to him unless it's an emergency. (Doc. 11, p. 8).

There is no ramp to the personal property building, so if Plaintiff attends, he must carefully negotiate the 8-10 steps. Id. Plaintiff needs access to the personal property building because his excess legal boxes are stored there. Id.

Plaintiff also cannot participate in programs at the school building because it is located on the second floor. Id. The school has an elevator, but Plaintiff is prohibited from using it. Id. Menard also has a program where it offers inmates MP3 players with text capabilities, but Plaintiff cannot access the "sinc" machines that make the music and texts available because they are only available at the gym and commissary. Id.

Plaintiff also has nerve damage in his right arm/hand. (Doc. 11, p. 9). On October 31, 2016, the medical director gave Plaintiff a medical permit requiringthat prison staff use waist chains when transporting Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants disregarded this order and continued to use a box and chain set on Plaintiff, causing more nerve damage to his right arm and hand. Id. Wexford has further denied a recommendation to send Plaintiff out to a neurologist to assess the damage. Id. Plaintiff alleges he sent an emergency grievance to Lashbrook on August 19, 2017, and that she failed to respond to the grievance. (Doc. 11, pp. 9-10).

Plaintiff alleges that Lashbrook, Miluer, and Meyers inflicted severe emotional distress on Plaintiff when they told him he would be transferred. (Doc. 11, p. 10-11). Allegedly, on June 6, 2017, Miluer stopped Plaintiff and told him that he had talked with the Warden and they agreed to transfer Plaintiff out of Menard if he stopped writing grievances. (Doc. 11, p. 11). Plaintiff wrote several letters to Miluer in June and July 2017, but all of those letters went unanswered. Id. On July 2, 2017, Dr. Baig stopped by Plaintiff's cell and reiterated that Plaintiff would be transferred soon. Id. Three days later on July 5, Plaintiff wrote to Meyer and asked when he would be transferred, and Meyer told Plaintiff that he had never been submitted for a transfer. Id. Meyer came by Plaintiff's cell on July 14, 2017 and told him that she would submit him for a medical transfer, but told Plaintiff "don't hold your breath." (Doc. 11, p. 12). Meyer sent Plaintiff correspondence on August 9, 2017 telling Plaintiff that he was denied transfer. Id. Meyer later told Plaintiff that she did not put him in for a medical transfer because she could not get health care services to sign off on it. Id.

Plaintiff also alleges that he is exposed to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Specifically, he alleges that he was doubled up in a cell meant for a single inmate. (Doc. 11, p. 17). He also alleges that the showers have black mold and lack handrails or ADA shower chairs, the cells are not wheelchair accessible, sinks and toilets are not wheelchair accessible, and that many of the buildings lack ADA ramps. (Doc. 11, p. 18).

Plaintiff alleges that Menard has inadequate medical staffing, which has caused medical passes to be cancelled. Id. Plaintiff has had to wait for medical treatment. Id. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants routinely ignored medical orders and/or refused to respond to Plaintiff's request for treatment for all of Plaintiff's medical conditions and accommodations. (Doc. 11, p. 16). Wexford denied a referral to a neurologist for Plaintiff on August 9, 2017. Id. Plaintiff wrote an emergency grievance to Lashbrook on August 9, 2017, and followed up with two "status letters." Id. No response was received. Id.


Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 7 counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The following claims survive threshold review:

Count 1 - IDOC, Baldwin, Bradley, Lashbrook, Lawrance, Miluer, Meyer, Rowold, Hawkins, and Walls failed to provide reasonable accommodation for Plaintiff's disability in violation of the ADA and RA;Count 2 - IDOC, Baldwin, Bradley, Lashbrook, Lawrance, Miluer, Hawkins, Walls, and Wexford were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's request for accommodation and treatment of his disabilities in violation of the Eighth Amendment;

Plaintiff has also attempted to bring other Counts, but for the reasons elucidated below, these claims do not survive threshold review.

Count 3 - Defendants housed Plaintiff in unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 4 - IDOC, Baldwin, Bradley, Lashbrook, Lawrance, Hawkins, Walls, Miluer, Meyer, and Rowold intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Plaintiff in violation of Illinois state law by failing to accommodate his disability;
Count 5 - Lashbrook, Miluer, and Meyer intentionally inflicted emotional distress against Plaintiff in violation of state law when t

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