Houston v. Pfister et al
ORDER: Pfister's motion to dismiss Count II 39 is granted. Status hearing set for 6/6/2017 stands. Signed by the Honorable Charles P. Kocoras on 6/5/2017. Mailed notice(vcf, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
WILLIE JAMES HOUSTON,
No. 16 C 8861
Judge Charles P. Kocoras
RANDY PFISTER, et al.,
Before the Court is Defendant Randy Pfister’s (“Pfister”) motion to dismiss
Count II of Plaintiff Willie James Houston’s (“Houston”) amended complaint
pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the
Court grants Pfister’s motion.
The following facts are taken from Houston’s amended complaint and are
assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. See Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714,
717 (7th Cir. 1995). The Court draws all reasonable inferences in Houston’s favor.
See Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).
At all times relevant to this amended complaint, Houston was an inmate at the
Stateville Correctional Facility (“Stateville”), located in Crest Hill, Illinois. On July
18, 2016, Houston asked prison guards to remove him from his cell because he
received threats from his cellmate, Trevaughan Bowers (“Bowers”). Houston alleges
that Bowers called him a “snitch” and a “bitch” and “threated to break every bone in
his body if he did not get out of the cell.” Moreover, Houston contends that Bowers
knew he formerly served as a gang informant.1 According to Houston, corrections
officers did not take his request seriously and failed to move him to a different cell.
Subsequently, Bowers attacked Houston. Houston now brings a three count suit
against three named Defendants, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights,
including: failure to protect brought against correctional officers Marcus Allen
(“Allen”) and Bryan Sullivan (“Sullivan”) (Count I); failure to protect brought against
Stateville Warden Randy Pfister (“Pfister”) (Count II); and medical indifference
brought against Allen and Sullivan (Count III). For purposes for this motion, we
consider only Count II.
In Count II, Houston alleges that Pfister “enacted and upheld . . . cell placement
policies that caused a substantial risk of harm to” his safety and protection. Pfister
contends that Houston “fails to assert . . . that Pfister was actually involved in his
alleged constitutional violation.”
The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment requires
prison officials to “take reasonable measures to ensure an inmate’s safety.”
Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir. 2004). However, every injury
suffered by one prisoner at the hands of another does not constitute a violation of the
Houston served as a gang informant from approximately 1993 through approximately 2003.
Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Rather, an Eighth Amendment violation exists
only if prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference.” Id. A claim of deliberate
indifference based on a prison official’s failure to protect an inmate from harm
contains both an objective and a subjective component. Id. To satisfy the objective
component, a prisoner must demonstrate the existence of an “excessive risk” to his
“health and safety.” Id. To satisfy the subjective component, a prisoner must
demonstrate that the prison official acted with “something approaching a total
unconcern for [plaintiff’s] welfare in the face of serious risks, or a conscious, culpable
refusal to prevent harm.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
requires a defendant’s direct personal involvement. Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d
555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995).
Here, Houston does not contest that Pfister lacked personal knowledge of the
allegations in the amended complaint. Instead, Houston argues Pfister knew or should
have known that the policies he created and upheld permitted Houston to be beaten.
To support his argument, Houston relies heavily on Walsh v. Mellas, 837 F. 3d 789
(7th Cir. 1998). In Walsh, the plaintiff alleged defendants failed to follow their stated
policy of reviewing offenders for compatibility before placing them in the same cell.
Furthermore, the record in Walsh established that authorities were aware that gangrelated attacks were a serious security problem at Stateville and that defendants knew
the plaintiff was a targeted inmate. Since defendants failed to follow their screening
procedure and placed the plaintiff in a cell with a rival gang member, the Court
concluded that defendants failed to respond to a known danger to the plaintiff. Walsh,
837 F. 3d at 797. However, the facts of Walsh are distinguishable from the facts of
Unlike Walsh, which concerned a specific policy, Houston fails to cite any
policy which he believes caused his injuries.
Houston instead makes general
allegations that Pfister’s “cell placement policies caused a substantial risk of harm to
[his] safety and protection.” These vague and conclusory allegations are insufficient
to withstand a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Moreover, unlike the plaintiff in Walsh, who was known by prison officials to be a
targeted inmate, Houston fails to provide any evidence that the threat of retaliation
against him was “real and significant.” Houston’s assertion of “widespread” assaults
against informants at Stateville is unsupported by any factual evidence. Id. Therefore,
Houston has failed to adequately plead that he was at real or significant risk of attack.
For these reasons, Pfister’s motion to dismiss Count II is granted.
Charles P. Kocoras
United States District Judge
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