Garrett v. Unknown Party
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER severing case number 17-871-JPG. Signed by Judge J. Phil Gilbert on 4/9/2018. (tjk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
NICK NICHOLS, and
ST. CLAIR COUNTY JAIL,
Case No. 17-cv-871-JPG
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
GILBERT, District Judge:
Plaintiff Carlos Garrett, a former detainee in St. Clair County Jail (the “Jail”), brings this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly
occurred at the Jail. In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants violated his constitutional
rights in various ways. (Doc. 1). 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
(b) Grounds for Dismissal – On review, the court shall identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the
(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, 102627 (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).
As a part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever unrelated claims against
different defendants into separate lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir.
2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that the practice of severance is important,
“not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits “but also
to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id.
This practice is encouraged. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently warned district
courts not to allow inmates “to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants, see FED. R. CIV.
P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the Prison Litigation Reform Act’s fee requirements by combining
multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.” Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017).
See also Wheeler v. Talbot, 695 F. App’x 151 (7th Cir. 2017) (district court should have severed
unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed one of them). Consistent with George,
Owens, and Wheeler, unrelated claims will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers,
and assessed separate filing fees.
In his Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: inmates are denied
access to a grievance procedure at the Jail. (Doc. 1, p. 4).
When inmates fill out captain
complaints, they do not receive a copy with responses back. Id. They therefore cannot ask for a
hearing. Id. Staff “intentionally withhold captain complaints to avoid” grievances. Id.
At the Jail, “the sick call procedure is broken.” Id. The inmates submit paper sick call
requests seeking help from medical staff via the kiosk on the block. Id. Even when they submit
multiple requests, they receive no medical attention. Id. The “medical staff make a conscious
choice not to reply to inmates call for help.” Id. This has been occurring for years, despite
captain complaints submitted regarding this issue. Id.
On Cell Block Annex B at the Jail, there is black mold growing on the shower floor.
(Doc. 1, p. 5). “A couple times a week inmates receive a 20oz cup of cleaner for 20 cells and if
there is any cleaning solution left inmates clean/scrub the black mold and when it returns [they]
repeat the process.” Id. However, “[c]leanser is not a remedy for black mold.” Id. The inmates
“inhale black mold every time [they] visit the shower, once or twice daily. Black mold affects
[them], harming inmates now and in the future.” Id. The inmates have been complaining about
this issue for well over 8 months, directly to Sgt. Nichols and through captain complaints, but
nothing has been done. Id.
Inmates lock down three times a day, for 10 hours and 30 minutes total. Id. While
locked down, they do not have emergency buttons accessible to them within their cells. Id. On
June 7, 2017, Inmate Desimon Moore had a seizure, and the inmates yelled and kicked doors for
15 minutes before C.O. Smith, the nurse, and Sgt. Nichols arrived. Id. On Cell Blocks G and H,
the individual cell doors do not lock. Id. From April 2016 to December 2016, inmates would
run through the cellblock during lockdown. Id. Though “[s]upervisors are aware of these unsafe
conditions . . . inmates are still housed on those blocks.” Id. Inmates are beaten “during these
times of disorder without a means to call for help.” Id. “[T]hese conditions have been an issue
of safety for years and staff with maintenance have attempted to fix the doors but [have] been
Plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive relief requiring the defendants to fix the grievance
procedure, address the sick call process, install emergency buttons in the cells, and remove the
black mold in the Jail. (Doc. 1, p. 6).
Before analyzing Plaintiff’s allegations, the Court finds it appropriate to address
Plaintiff’s failure to include specific allegations against Defendant McLauren in the body of his
Complaint, despite his having listed him among the defendants.
Plaintiffs are required to
associate specific defendants with specific claims, so that defendants are put on notice of the
claims brought against them and so they can properly answer the complaint. See Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). Where a plaintiff has not
included a defendant in his statement of claim, the defendant cannot be said to be adequately put
on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are directed against him. Furthermore, merely
invoking the name of a potential defendant is not sufficient to state a claim against that
individual. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998). And in the case of those
defendants in supervisory positions, the doctrine of respondeat superior is not applicable to §
1983 actions. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).
Plaintiff has not alleged that McLauren is “personally responsible for the deprivation of a
constitutional right,” and a defendant cannot be liable merely because he supervised a person
who caused a constitutional violation. Id. Further, St. Clair County Jail is not an appropriate
defendant in this case. A jail is not a “person” under § 1983. Smith v. Knox Cnty. Jail, 666 F.3d
1037, 1040 (7th Cir. 2012); Powell v. Cook Cnty. Jail, 814 F. Supp. 757, 758 (N.D. Ill. 1993). It
is not a legal entity in the first place and is therefore not amenable to suit. Accordingly,
McLauren will be dismissed from this action without prejudice, and St. Clair County Jail will be
dismissed with prejudice.
Moving to the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the
pro se action into 4 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
designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion regarding their merit.
Count 1 –
Due process and/or First Amendment claim for failing to provide Plaintiff
access to an adequate grievance procedure.
Count 2 –
Unconstitutional conditions of confinement claim for subjecting Plaintiff
to an unsafe environment wherein the cell doors in cell blocks G and H
failed to function and lock properly and the cells were without emergency
Count 3 –
Unconstitutional conditions of confinement claim for subjecting Plaintiff
to health risks from mold in the showers at the Jail.
Count 4 –
Fourteenth Amendment claim for failure to provide Plaintiff with an
adequate sick call procedure at the Jail.
As discussed in more detail below, Count 1 will be dismissed with prejudice, Counts 2
and 3 will be dismissed without prejudice, and Count 4 will be severed from this action. Any
other intended claim that has not been recognized by the Court is considered dismissed without
prejudice as inadequately pleaded under the Twombly pleading standard.
Count 4 represents a claim unrelated to the other counts in this action. Count 1, for
reasons discussed below, is being dismissed with prejudice. While Count 2 is aimed at Jail
“supervisors” and addresses the conditions of confinement at the Jail, as does Count 3, Count 4 is
aimed at Jail “medical staff” and is based on members of the medical staff intentionally denying
medical treatment to inmates. Consistent with the George decision and Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 18 and 20, the Court shall sever Count 4 into a separate action, and shall open a new
case with a newly-assigned case number for that claim.1 A separate merits review shall be
conducted in the severed case after it is opened and assigned to a judge. Plaintiff shall be
assessed a new filing fee for the severed case.
Generally, a prison official’s mishandling of grievances states no claim where the official
“otherwise did not cause or participate in the underlying conduct.” Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d
950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011); Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 772 n.3 (7th Cir. 2008); George
v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007); Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir.
1996). The mishandling of grievances by a prison official, more specifically, does not give rise to
a First Amendment claim for the denial of access to the courts. The Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”) requires prisoners to exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing a suit
in federal court. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). However, administrative remedies are considered to be
unavailable under the PLRA when prison officials fail to respond to a prisoner’s grievances. See
Lewis v. Washington, 300 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). In addition,
“exhaustion is not required when the prison officials responsible for providing grievance forms
refuse to give a prisoner the forms necessary to file an administrative grievance.” Hill v. Snyder,
817 F.3d 1037, 1041 (7th Cir. 2016). A plaintiff who can demonstrate the unavailability of
administrative remedies is relieved from the obligation to exhaust administrative remedies and
can proceed with his or her suit. Lewis, 300 F.3d at 833.
The Court notes that the claim being severed does not appear to be associated with any specific defendants at this
time. It is, however, associated with the Jail “medical staff,” none of whom are named as defendants in this case.
As noted herein, because members of the medical staff are not listed as defendants in this case, the severed case will
be opened in CM-ECF as against “Unknown Party.” Plaintiff may be given leave to amend in the severed case so
that he may properly name the relevant defendants.
The Complaint fails to state a First Amendment access to the courts claim for failing to
provide Plaintiff with grievance forms or disregarding grievances. His access to the courts could
not have been impeded by the alleged actions, as the unavailability of administrative remedies, as
explained above, is no bar to potential litigants bringing their claims. Further, Plaintiff’s claims
in Count 1 must be dismissed for an alternative reason, in that Plaintiff failed to associate any
specific defendants with that claim. Instead, he claims that “staff” at the Jail deprives inmates of
an adequate grievance procedure, without further explanation or specification. When parties are
not listed in the caption, this Court will not treat them as defendants, and any claims against them
should be considered dismissed. See FED. R. CIV. P. 10(a) (noting that the title of the complaint
“must name all the parties”); Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005)
(holding that to be properly considered a party, a defendant must be “specif[ied] in the caption”).
For the foregoing reasons, Count 1shall be dismissed with prejudice as frivolous.
Count 2 must also be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to adequately associate any
specific defendants with this claim. Instead, he claims that “supervisors” are aware of the
alleged conditions, without further explanation or specification.2 When parties are not listed in
the caption, this Court will not treat them as defendants, and any claims against them should be
considered dismissed. FED. R. CIV. P. 10(a); Myles, 416 F.3d at 551-52. Count 2 shall therefore
be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2).
Plaintiff mentions Defendant Nichols during his discussion of his conditions of confinement claim based on the
lack of emergency buttons in the cells, but he does not appear to blame Nichols for this alleged deprivation. Instead,
he merely notes that Nichols was one of the individuals who responded to a medical emergency in Cell Block AB on
June 7, 2017. Plaintiff does not allege that this emergency involved Plaintiff in any way.
During the relevant time, it appears that Plaintiff was a detainee rather than a convicted
prisoner. Accordingly, Plaintiff's conditions of confinement claim under Count 3 derives from
the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process, not the Eighth Amendment’s right to be
free from cruel and unusual punishment. See Hughes v. Farris, 809 F.3d 330, 334 (7th Cir.
2015). In the past, the Seventh Circuit applied the deliberate-indifference standard derived from
the Eighth Amendment to conditions claims raised by pretrial detainees. Burton v. Downey, 805
F.3d 776, 784 (7th Cir. 2015). The deliberate indifference standard “includes both an objective
and subjective component and thus is more difficult to satisfy than its Fourth Amendment
counterpart, which requires only that the defendant have been objectively unreasonable under the
circumstances.” Collins v. Al-Shami, 851 F.3d 727, 731 (7th Cir. 2017).
The propriety of applying the more stringent standard to pretrial detainees’ conditions of
confinement claims was recently called into question by Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct.
2466 (2015). However, Kingsley was an excessive force case, and it is not yet clear the objective
standard applies in other types of pretrial detention conditions cases. In 2016, the Seventh
Circuit suggested that the deliberate indifference standard still applies to other types of claims by
pretrial detainees. See Phillips v. Sheriff of Cook Cnty., 828 F.3d 541, 554 n.31 (7th Cir. 2016)
(acknowledging Kingsley but applying deliberate indifference standard to medical claim brought
by pretrial detainee).
In a subsequent decision, however, the Seventh Circuit applied the objective
unreasonableness standard to a claim raised by several pretrial detainees based on a jail’s policy
that deprived inmates of their underwear if it was not white. Mulvania v. Sheriff of Rock Island
Cty., 850 F.3d 849, 856-58 (7th Cir. 2017).
After Mulvania, the Seventh Circuit has
acknowledged, but declined to decide the issue on two occasions. See Collins v. Al-Shami, 851
F.3d 727, (7th Cir. 2017) (conditions of confinement case where Seventh Circuit expressly
declined to address whether Kingsley applied to plaintiff’s claims); Smego v. Jumper, 707 F.
App’x 411 (7th Cir. 2017) (“We have not decided whether the reasoning in Kingsley extends
beyond claims of excessive force. See Collins, 851 F.3d at 731; but see Darnell v. Pineiro, 849
F.3d 17, 36 (2d Cir. 2017) (applying objective-reasonableness standard to detainee's conditionsof-confinement claim); Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1071 (9th Cir. 2016) (en
banc) (same with failure-to-protect claim).”).
In the instant case, the Court need not resolve any uncertainty pertaining to Kingsley and
Plaintiff’s conditions of confinement claim. Plaintiff’s allegations regarding mold in the showers
are incredibly general and do not address how Plaintiff, personally, has been affected by the
mold. See Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, 810 (7th Cir. 1996). Instead, he notes that
“inmates” are given cleaner they use to clean the showers, that “inmates” inhale the mold, and
that the mold “harm[s] inmates now and in the future.” (Doc. 1, p. 5) (emphasis added).
Plaintiff does not explain, or even hint, at how the mold has affected him personally or may have
harmed him. Section 1983 is a tort statute, so plaintiff must have suffered a harm to have a
cognizable claim. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 555 (7th Cir. 2009); Doe v. Welborn, 110
F.3d 520, 523 (7th Cir. 1997). Plaintiff’s assertion of harm is no more than a vague conclusion
seemingly meant to satisfy this requirement, but Plaintiff has “an obligation to provide the
‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ [with] more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Plaintiff’s claim that inmates complained about this issue to Nichols to no avail would
also not be enough to state a conditions of confinement claim against Nichols even if Plaintiff’s
recitation of the facts were otherwise sufficient to state a claim. This allegation does not
constitute “factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for” subjecting Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Instead, the allegation is at
best “merely consistent with” Nichols’ liability, while “stop[ping] short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.’” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Nichols’ involvement with, the extent of his knowledge of, and his culpability for the black mold
is unclear given the bare bones allegations in the Complaint.
For these reasons, Count 3 will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted.
In the request for relief in the Complaint, Plaintiff seeks a “preliminary and permanent
injunction ordering the defendants to rectify the grievance procedure so that inmates can exercise
their right to grieve. Address the sick call process so inmates can see a medical professional. Get
emergency buttons in cells and remove the black mold.” (Doc. 1, p. 6).
In order to obtain preliminary injunctive relief, Plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) his
underlying case has some likelihood of success on the merits; (2) no adequate remedy at law
exists, and; (3) Plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction. Woods v. Buss, 496
F.3d 620, 622 (7th Cir. 2007). If those three factors are shown, the district court must then
balance the harm to each party and to the public interest from granting or denying the injunction.
Id.; Korte v. Sebelius, 735 F.3d 654, 665 (7th Cir. 2013).
At this stage, Plaintiff has not demonstrated that his underlying case is likely to succeed
on the merits, as each of his claims are being dismissed or severed from this case. Plaintiff has
also not explained how he is at risk of suffering irreparable harm without preliminary relief. He
is no longer incarcerated at the Jail where the claims arose, and “when a prisoner who seeks
injunctive relief for a condition specific to a particular prison is transferred out of that prison, the
need for relief, and hence the prisoner’s claim, become moot.” Lehn v. Holmes, 364 F.3d 862,
871 (7th Cir. 2004).
See also Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir. 1995).
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction is DENIED without prejudice.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 90) will be addressed
in a separate order of the Court.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that COUNT 4, which is unrelated to the other claims in
this action, is SEVERED into a new case against UNKNOWN PARTY.
The claim in the newly severed case shall be subject to screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A after the new case number and judge assignment is made. In the new case, the Clerk is
DIRECTED to file the following documents:
This Memorandum and Order;
The Complaint (Doc. 1); and
Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 90).
Plaintiff will be responsible for an additional $350 filing fee in the newly severed
case.3 No service shall be ordered in the severed case until the § 1915A review is completed.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the only claims remaining in this action are Counts
1, 2, and 3, though Count 1 is being dismissed with prejudice and Counts 2 and 3 are being
dismissed without prejudice herein.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1914, effective May 1, 2013, an additional $50.00 administrative fee is also to be assessed
in all civil actions, unless pauper status is granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that MCLAUREN and NICHOLS are DISMISSED
from this action without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that ST. CLAIR COUNTY JAIL is DISMISSED from
this action with prejudice for the reasons stated herein.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff has leave to amend his complaint in this
action, if he wishes to assert any new facts or claims against MCLAUREN and NICHOLS.
Within 28 days of this Order (May 7, 2018), Plaintiff may file a First Amended Complaint. He
must list this case number, i.e., No. 17-cv-871-JPG, on the first page of the pleading and label
the document “First Amended Complaint.” Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to use this District’s
standard civil rights complaint form when preparing his First Amended Complaint. Further,
Plaintiff should only bring related claims against common defendants. Any claims found to be
unrelated to one another and/or against different groups of defendants will be severed into one or
more new cases at the Court’s discretion, and Plaintiff will be assessed a separate filing fee in
each case. If Plaintiff chooses not to file a First Amended Complaint or fails to comply with the
deadline and/or instructions set forth in this Order, the entire case shall be dismissed with
prejudice for failure to comply with a court order and/or for failure to prosecute his claims. FED.
R. APP. P. 41(b). See generally Ladien v. Astrachan, 128 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir. 1997); Johnson v.
Kamminga, 34 F.3d 466 (7th Cir. 1994); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Such dismissal shall count as
one of Plaintiff’s three allotted “strikes” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The
CLERK is DIRECTED to provide Plaintiff with a blank civil rights complaint form for use in
preparing the First Amended Complaint.
Finally, Plaintiff is ADVISED that he is under a continuing obligation to keep the Clerk
of Court and each opposing party informed of any change in his address; the Court will not
independently investigate his whereabouts. This shall be done in writing and not later than 7
days after a transfer or other change in address occurs. Failure to comply with this order will
cause a delay in the transmission of court documents and may result in dismissal of this action
for want of prosecution. See FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: April 9, 2018
s/J. Phil Gilbert
U.S. District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?