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Reed v. Leflore

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 28, 2016

JASON A. REED, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Jason A. Reed filed his pro se complaint on February 5, 2015. On March 28, 2016, counsel was recruited by the Court to represent Reed. Now before the Court is the plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint and motion to join new defendants. For the reasons explained below, these motions [dkts. 70 and 71] are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         In the original complaint, Reed complains that he has been denied constitutionally adequate conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment and state law. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory relief.

         Reed alleges that after his transfer to the New Castle Annex he informed prison health care professionals that he has a seizure disorder and they issued him a bottom bunk/lower level pass. This pass was sent to defendant P. Leflore. But despite the pass, Leflore moved Reed in September 2013 into a “top bunk” location. Defendants Leflore and Collins directed Reed to accept the bed move or receive a conduct report. When Reed stated that he had a valid bottom bunk pass and known seizure disorder the defendants stated that they did not care.

         On September 19, 2013, Reed had a seizure while climbing down from the top bunk. As a result, he fell and hit his face. Officers T. Thibealt and C. Hughes responded to the fall. They took pictures of Reed's injuries and helped him to the prison medical center. The treating nurse cleaned Reed's injuries and told Thibeault and Hughes that Reed had a bottom bunk pass and seizure disorder.

         Thibeault and Hughes then ordered Reed back to his cell and into his top bunk and stated that if he refused he would receive a conduct report for refusing an order. When Reed continued to request a bottom bunk he was told by Leflore and Collins that he would have to find his own bottom bunk. On September 21, 2013, Reed had another seizure and fell from his top bunk.

         This Court screened the original complaint and found that two plausible claims were alleged. The first claim is that the defendants violated the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by denying him constitutionally adequate conditions of confinement. The second claim is a state law negligence claim based on the theory that the defendants had a duty to provide Reed a safe living environment (specially a bottom bunk), and that this duty was breached which proximately caused Reed's injuries.

         Notably absent from the complaint were any allegations suggesting a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act or Rehabilitation Act, a contract claim, a policy claim or a claim for injunctive relief. Neither the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) nor The GEO Group, Inc., (“GEO”) were named as defendants.

         II. Motion to Amend and Motion to Join Defendants

         Reed now seeks to amend his complaint to include new plaintiffs, defendants and claims. The new plaintiffs are a Class of similarly situated persons. The new defendants are GEO, the Commissioner of the IDOC (the “Commissioner”), and the IDOC. Finally, new claims are asserted pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Fourteenth Amendment and a state law breach of contract claim. The amended complaint appears to abandon any state law negligence claim.

         A. Standard of Review

         Whether the amendments proposed by the plaintiff should be permitted is governed by Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 15(a) provides that “leave shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). However, “the district court need not allow an amendment when there is undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, undue prejudice to the opposing party, or when the amendment would be futile.” Bethany Phamacal Co. v. QVC, Inc., 241 F.3d 854, 860-61 (7th Cir. 2001). “An amendment is futile if the added claim would not survive a motion for summary judgment.” Id. at 861. Furthermore, amendments cannot “unfairly surprise or prejudice the defendant.” Toth v. USX Corp., 883 F.2d 1297, 1298 (7th Cir. 1989). Whether to grant or deny leave to amend is within the district court's discretion. Campbell v. Ingersoll Milling Machine Co., 893 F.2d 925, 927 (7th Cir. 1990).

         In this case, the pro se complaint was well written and there is no indication from the briefing on the motion to amend that the Court misunderstood or disregarded any claims which were alleged. Instead, the proposed Amended Complaint seeks to transform this straightforward case into a class action with new claims against new defendants. Reed notes that the proposed Amended Complaint reflects a re-evaluation of the case with the benefit of counsel. Defendants P. Leflore, J. Collins, T. Thibeult, and C. Hughes object to the amended complaint arguing that a class action has not been adequately alleged; the proposed amendments are untimely; and the defendants would be unduly prejudiced. ...

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