Johnson v. Bailey et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable John Z. Lee on 8/28/17.Mailed notice(ca, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
C/O BAILEY, SGT. THOMAS,
C/O THOMPSON, C/O HEWELL,
C/O LEWIS, and C/O JOHN DOES 1–6,
16 C 5780
Judge John Z. Lee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Henry Johnson (“Johnson”) has filed this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Correctional Officers Bailey, Thompson, Hewell, and Lewis, as well as a
Sergeant Thomas and six John Doe Defendants. Johnson alleges that, during his incarceration at
the Stateville Northern Reception and Classification Center (“Stateville NRC”), he was subjected
to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment, in addition
to strip searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Sergeant Thomas (“Thomas”) has
moved to dismiss the claims against him pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”)
12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, Thomas’s motion is denied.
Factual Background 1
Johnson was incarcerated at Stateville NRC for a period of eight days in January 2015.
See Am. Compl. at 6–8. He alleges that, upon his arrival at Stateville NRC, he informed Thomas
that he needed bed sheets. Id. at 7. Thomas denied this request and told Johnson that he needed
The following facts are taken from Johnson’s Amended Complaint and are accepted as true for
purposes of Thomas’s motion to dismiss. See Zahn v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087
(7th Cir. 2016).
to be placed on a waiting list in order to receive sheets. Id. at 7–8. As a result, Johnson went
without bed sheets for the duration of his stay at Stateville NRC. Id. at 8.
In addition, Johnson claims that Thomas denied him an “indigent hygiene kit,” which
would have contained soap, toothpaste, and deodorant. Id. Johnson similarly alleges that Thomas
denied him cleaning supplies “numerous times,” even though Johnson told Thomas that his cell
was filthy. Id. In describing Johnson’s cell, the amended complaint specifies that the toilets in
the cell were unsanitary and that mice ran through the cell “all day and night.” Id. at 10. The cell
also had thick dust spread across the floor, a clogged vent that blew out dirt, and a “sour odor
smell.” Id. at 7. Due to these unsanitary conditions, Johnson developed a rash. Id. at 10.
With regard to the other Defendants named in this case, Johnson alleges that he was
subjected to invasive strip searches upon both his arrival at and departure from Stateville NRC.
Id. at 6, 8. He also alleges that unidentified officers forced him to shower without shower shoes
in unsanitary, flooded showers. Id. at 8. Finally, he claims that he was fed raw chicken, given
only 500 calories to eat per day, and denied needed medical attention. Id. at 7.
A motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Bell v.
City of Country Club Hills, 841 F.3d 713, 716 (7th Cir. 2016). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a
complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief, which is sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim and its basis.”
Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). “In determining a complaint’s sufficiency, [a court will] construe it in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, accept well-pleaded facts as true, and draw all inferences
in [the nonmovant’s] favor.” Zahn, 815 F.3d at 1087 (internal quotation marks omitted).
A complaint, however, must still 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “The plausibility standard is not
akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.” Id. Furthermore, a court need not “accept as true any legal assertions or
recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements.” Zahn,
815 F.3d at 1087. That said, a pro se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, must be held to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” and “is to be liberally
construed.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
106 (1976)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
In moving to dismiss the claims against him, Thomas argues that Johnson’s Amended
Complaint fails to allege facts showing that Thomas acted with deliberate indifference to
conditions of confinement that posed an excessive risk to Johnson’s health or safety. In addition,
he argues that Johnson’s claims against him are insufficient because Johnson has not alleged
injury or damages. For the reasons that follow, the Court rejects these arguments. 2
In reviewing Thomas’s motion, Court is mindful of the Seventh Circuit’s admonitions that
“[u]nrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits” and that “district courts should
not allow inmates to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants” under Rules 18 and 20. Owens v.
Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (2017) (quoting George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007)).
Bearing this in mind, the Court declines to sua sponte dismiss the claim against Thomas for misjoinder.
Although the claim against Thomas, in some regards, is distinct from the Fourth Amendment claim
brought against the other Defendants and the conditions of confinement claims against the John Doe
Defendants, all of the claims in Johnson’s Amended Complaint arise out of his eight-day incarceration at
Stateville NRC. As such, they appear to have arisen from a common series of occurrences, discretely
confined within those eight days, and to involve at least some common questions of fact. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 20(a)(2); Vermillion v. Levenhagen, 604 F. App’x 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2015); see also Strominger v.
Brock, 592 F. App’x 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2014) (“District courts are accorded substantial discretion in
matters of joinder.”).
Deliberate Indifference to an Excessive Risk
To state an Eighth Amendment claim against a prison official based on allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement, an inmate must allege that: (1) he was housed under
conditions that were “sufficiently serious so that [the] prison official’s act or omission result[ed]
in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities”; and (2) the prison official
was deliberately indifferent to the conditions. Townsend v. Fuchs, 522 F.3d 765, 773 (7th Cir.
2008) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Courts refer to the two prongs of this test as the “objective component” and the
“subjective component,” respectively. See, e.g., Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991).
When assessing the objective severity of conditions of confinement, the Court must
consider the conditions’ nature, their duration, and any risks of harm they caused. See Thomas v.
Illinois, 697 F.3d 612, 614–15 (7th Cir. 2012). Even if an individual condition of confinement is
not serious enough to violate the Constitution, conditions may cumulatively do so “when they
have ‘a mutually enforcing effect that produces the deprivation of a single, identifiable human
need.’” Budd v. Motley, 711 F.3d 840, 842–43 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at
304). Such “identifiable human needs” include adequate sanitation, personal hygiene items, and
clean bedding. See, e.g., id. at 842; Townsend, 522 F.3d at 774.
In turn, to satisfy the subjective component of a conditions of confinement claim, an
inmate must allege that prison officials was “subjectively aware of the condition[s] . . . complained
of, but consciously disregard[ed] [them].” Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650,
664 (7th Cir. 2012); accord Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. An inmate adequately alleges deliberate
indifference where he pleads facts indicating that prison officials responded inadequately or
ineffectively to substandard conditions that they knew to exist. See Townsend, 522 F.3d at 773.
Here, Johnson’s allegations are sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment deliberate
indifference claim against Thomas based on the conditions of his confinement. First, Johnson’s
allegations satisfy the objective prong of his claim, because he alleges that Thomas denied him
bedding, a hygiene kit, and cleaning supplies to clean his unsanitary cell. See Am. Compl. at 6–
7. He further supports these allegations by explaining that the conditions were so unsanitary that
they caused him to break out into a rash. Id. at 10. Although inmates are not entitled to the
“amenities, conveniences, and services of a good hotel,” Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1235
(7th Cir. 1988), prison officials must nevertheless provide basic life necessities, such as
“reasonably adequate ventilation, sanitation, bedding, [and] hygienic materials,” Gillis v.
Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 493 (7th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted); see also Townsend, 522 F.3d at
774 (“[A] lack of sanitary conditions, including clean bedding, may qualify as a denial of the
minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Mejia v.
McCann, No. 08 C 4534, 2010 WL 5149273, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 10, 2010) (denying summary
judgment to defendants on Stateville inmate’s claim that he was denied cleaning supplies even
though he complained about filthy living conditions). Thus, drawing all reasonable inferences in
Johnson’s favor, his allegations suffice to show that the conditions he complains of were
In addition, the complaint sufficiently alleges that Thomas showed subjective deliberate
indifference to the conditions of Johnson’s confinement.
Johnson specifically asserts that
Thomas personally denied him bed sheets and a hygiene kit. Am. Compl. at 6–7. He also
alleges that Thomas denied him cleaning supplies repeatedly, even though Johnson explained to
him that he needed cleaning supplies because his cell was in squalid condition. Id. at 7. By
alleging that Thomas knew he needed sheets, a hygiene kit, and cleaning supplies, and yet denied
him access to these necessities, Johnson adequately alleges Thomas’s subjective deliberate
indifference. See, e.g., Townsend, 522 F.3d at 773; Knox v. Dart, No. 11 C 2117, 2012 WL
32981, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 6, 2012) (holding that inmate sufficiently pleaded claim based in part
on unsanitary prison conditions where he alleged that defendants were made aware of the
conditions but failed to remedy them); Sanchez v. McCann, No. 09 C 2289, 2010 WL 1408917,
at *1, *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 2, 2010) (holding that inmate sufficiently pleaded claim based on
“improper trash disposal, unsanitary toilet facilities, and lack of cleaning supplies” where he
filed grievances about these conditions but defendants did not respond to his grievances). For
these reasons, the Court concludes that Johnson has sufficiently alleged both the objective and
subjective prongs of his conditions of confinement claim against Thomas.
Allegations of Injury or Damages
Thomas also argues that Johnson’s claims against him should be dismissed because
Johnson has not alleged that he was injured or harmed by the lack of bedding, hygienic supplies,
or cleaning supplies. This argument fails for two reasons.
As an initial matter, Thomas cites no authority for the proposition that an inmate bringing
a conditions of confinement claim must allege a specific injury or harm separate and apart from
his allegations that he was deprived of a basic necessity sufficient to establish the objective
component of his claim. 3 For the reasons explained above, Johnson’s allegations suffice to support
both the objective and subjective components of his claim; at this stage, that is all he needs.
In support of this proposition, Thomas cites only McGee v. Monahan, 2008 WL 3849917, at *10
(N.D. Ill. 2008). In McGee, the court granted summary judgment on an inmate’s claim for deliberate
indifference to medical needs, on the ground that the inmate had not created a genuine dispute of fact as
to whether the allegedly inadequate medical treatment had actually exacerbated his diabetes or otherwise
harmed him. Id. Because McGee involved a claim for deliberate indifference to medical needs at the
summary judgment stage, rather than a claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the motion
to dismiss stage, it is distinguishable from the present case, and Thomas’s reliance on it is unpersuasive.
In addition, as noted below, Johnson has adequately alleged that he has suffered a specific injury or harm.
Moreover, even assuming arguendo that Johnson was required to separately plead a
specific injury or harm, his complaint would still be sufficient. The amended complaint notes
that Johnson developed a rash as a result of the unsanitary conditions to which he was subjected.
Am. Compl. at 10. In addition, construing Johnson’s pro se complaint liberally, as it is required
to do, the Court can reasonably infer that Johnson’s allegations regarding a denial of bedding
during his time at Stateville NRC either caused him additional suffering that served no
penological purpose or inflicted psychological harm. See Calhoun v. DeTella, 319 F.3d 936, 939
(7th Cir. 2003) (holding in Eighth Amendment case brought by prison inmate that “physical
injury need not result for the punishment to state a cause of action, for the wanton infliction of
psychological pain is also prohibited”); see also Pontillo v. Doria, No. 94 C 6975, 1995 WL
470230, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 4, 1995) (holding that imposition of conditions of confinement
serving no penological purpose could rise to the level of a constitutional violation). For these
reasons, Johnson’s allegations are sufficient to sustain his conditions of confinement claim
For the reasons stated herein, Defendant Thomas’s motion to dismiss  is denied. All
Defendants shall answer the amended complaint. Status remains set for August 29, 2017.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
John Z. Lee
United States District Judge
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