Harbert v. Griffin et al
OPINION AND ORDER: This case is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Signed by Judge Philip P Simon on 2/13/2018. (lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
LANDON T. HARBERT,
KATHY GRIFFIN, et al.,
CAUSE NO. 3:17-CV-406 PPS-MGG
OPINION AND ORDER
Landon T. Harbert, a prisoner without a lawyer, alleges that the defendants were
deliberately indifferent to an inhumane condition of confinement in violation of the
Eighth Amendment. Harbert, an inmate at the Miami Correctional Facility, was using a
“pull-down” weight machine there to exercise on September 10, 2015. While he was
lifting approximately one hundred seventy pounds, the cable cord of the machine
broke. The machine’s thirty-pound handle bar fell onto his head, knocking him
temporarily unconscious. ECF 5 at 2–3. As a result of the accident, he was diagnosed as
having “serious” medical needs and was unable to exercise for one year. He states he
“continues to suffer head, back, neck, and nerve pain, muscle spasms, bouts of dizziness
and losses of sensation in left hand.” ECF 5 at 5.
Plaintiff alleges defendants knew the “pull-down” machine posed a risk to
inmates, as defendant Kenworthy had in the past “observed individuals standing on the
weight blocks of the machine,” placing stress on the cables. ECF 5 at 3. Plaintiff further
alleges the defendants’ practice of inspecting machines twice per day was not
reasonable in light of Kenworthy’s knowledge of this machine’s condition. ECF 5 at 6.
“A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must review the
merits of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials “must provide humane
conditions of confinement . . . and must ‘take reasonable measures to guarantee the
safety of the inmates.’” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526–27 (1984)). However, a prison official is liable under the Eighth
Amendment only if he “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or
safety.” Id. at 837. Conditions of confinement must be severe to support an Eighth
Amendment claim; “the prison official’s act or omission must result in the denial of ‘the
minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Id. at 834. The Eighth Amendment only
protects prisoners from conditions that “exceeded contemporary bounds of decency of a
mature, civilized society.” Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1579 (7th Cir. 1994). In other
words, “[a]n objectively sufficiently serious risk is one that society considers so grave
that to expose any unwilling individual to it would offend contemporary standards of
decency.” Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir. 2004) (quotation marks and
In Christopher v. Buss, a state inmate who suffered a permanent eye injury during
an intramural softball game brought an Eighth Amendment claim, arguing that prison
officials’ failure to correct a “protrusive lip” on the playing field was deliberate
indifference to his health and safety. Id. The Seventh Circuit held that even if the
officials knew of the hazardous field condition and disregarded it, such a condition was
not “objectively serious enough to implicate the Eighth Amendment.” Id. The court
continued, “[t]o say that ‘exposure’ to such a field could violate the Eight Amendment
would be to imply that prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment by letting
inmates play sports at all, because the risk of injury, even serious injury, is inherent.” Id.
Similarly, in Gray v. McCormick, 281 Fed. App’x 592 (7th Cir. 2008), a prisoner was
injured when a loose shower seat fell and struck his foot. Prison officials had known of
the loose seat for at least two weeks prior to the incident, and had not informed inmates
of the hazard. Id. at 593. The court held that the faulty shower seat did not create a
substantial risk of serious harm. Id. at 594.
Because the conditions described in this Complaint do not rise to those that
“exceed contemporary bounds of decency,” Plaintiff does not state a claim for relief
under the Eighth Amendment, and the Complaint must be dismissed. Though it is
usually necessary to permit a plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint
when a case is dismissed sua sponte, see Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir.
2013), that is unnecessary where the amendment would be futile. Hukic v. Aurora Loan
Servs., 588 F.3d 420, 432 (7th Cir. 2009) (“[C]ourts have broad discretion to deny leave to
amend where . . . the amendment would be futile.”). As the Plaintiff’s Complaint is
very thorough in its allegations of the facts surrounding this claim, further amendment
would be futile.
For these reasons, this case is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
SO ORDERED on February 13, 2018.
/s Philip P. Simon
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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