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7th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Illinois Prisoner's Civil Rights Lawsuit

by Matthew Clarke

On February 7, 2018, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of an Illinois prisoner's civil rights lawsuit.

Guards at the Menard Correctional Center were preparing prisoners to be walked to the chow hall when Joseph Wilborn emerged from his cell and attacked them. He was found guilty of a disciplinary infraction for the attack.

Wilborn filed a federal civil-rights action alleging that guards beat and pepper-sprayed him after he was restrained and compliant, and he was denied prompt medical care.

The guards' consistent testimony was that they briefly struggled with Wilborn and subdued him within two or three minutes. During the struggle, they struck his neck, shoulders, biceps and thighs while he attempted to thrust his head backward at them. Further, he was pepper-sprayed while still struggling and before he was handcuffed, but was not struck after he was restrained.

Wilborn and his former cellmate testified that the guards continued to beat and pepper spray him after he was restrained and compliant. They took him to the medical unit where he was briefly examined before being given a disciplinary infraction and transferred to Tamms Correctional Center.

During intake at Tamms, two nurses noted cuts, bruises and a possibly dislocated shoulder. They scheduled him to see a physician the next morning, gave him acetaminophen and placed him in an infirmary cell.

The next morning, a doctor examined his shoulder and had him sent to a hospital were another doctor reduced the dislocated shoulder. Almost 24 hours had elapsed since the altercation with the guards.

The district court granted the nurses' motion for summary judgment because Wilborn had failed to file a timely grievance about his medical care. Following a bench trial, the court found the guards to be more credible than Wilborn or his witnesses and entered final judgment in the defendants' favor.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit found that Wilborn had no reasonable excuse for filing the grievance 41 days late. Therefore, it affirmed summary judgment in the nurses' favor. The court also affirmed the results of the bench trial, giving deference to the trial court's credibility findings.

See: Wilborn v. Ealey, 7th Cir., No. 16-2106

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