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Berk v. Holloway

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

February 28, 2018

ERIC J. BERK PLAINTIFF
v.
SHERIFF SHAWN HOLLOWAY, Benton County, Arkansas; and TRINITY FOOD GROUP DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Eric J. Berk filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The case is before the Court for preservice screening under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations of the Complaint (Doc. 1), on January 10, 2018, inmates at the Benton County Detention Center ("BCDC") were served contaminated food causing sickness throughout the jail. Plaintiff indicates 20-25% of the jail became ill.

         During this time, Plaintiff was a trustee who worked in the kitchen. Plaintiff states he was aware of what was going on with the food service contractor, Trinity Food Group ("Trinity"), the Sheriff's Office employees, the Health Department, and other Trinity employees who were sent to the BCDC from other areas of the United States.

         Plaintiff alleges that after supper on January 10, 2018, he began having severe diarrhea that continued throughout the evening. Later that night, he began vomiting. Plaintiff saw other inmates exhibiting the same symptoms.

         Plaintiff states he went back to work in the kitchen on January 11, 2018. He asserts that the kiosk used to place requests for medical treatment was not working and remained inoperable until January 15, 2018. Getting in to see the nurse was difficult given the number of inmates who were sick. As he could not see the nurse, Plaintiff went to work.

         When the trustees got to the kitchen, they learned of the large number of inmates sick throughout the jail. Kitchen staff stated that the inmates were sick with the flu. After Plaintiff's shift was over, he asked a deputy on Pod-E if he could go see the nurse. The deputy responded that the nurse was too busy and that he was out of request forms. Plaintiff alleges he continued to have diarrhea throughout the day and could not hold any food down. Plaintiff indicates the nurse did come to E-pod and took the temperature of everyone in the pod. Plaintiff's temperature was 99° and the nurse told him that he was fine.

         On January 12, 2018, Plaintiff states he went to work in the kitchen. He alleges he was told 15% of the jail was ill with diarrhea and vomiting-some to the extent of bleeding. The kitchen trustees were asked throughout the day to make thermoses of Gatorade for all the different pods to help with the people who had become dehydrated.

         On January 15, 2018, Plaintiff alleges the Arkansas Health Department came to do an inspection. The Health Department performed a second inspection on January 22, 2018. Plaintiff indicates the kitchen trustees were told there were new rules for food handling, and trustees were to use them or be fired as trustees. Over the next few days, Plaintiff states they were told that the Health Department had found multiple violations. According to Plaintiff, it was determined that the food poisoning was due to the food having cooled for four hours, giving bacteria time to develop.

         At this point, Plaintiff indicates that Trinity called in its own team of food safety controllers. The work of the trustees was assessed, and they were taught new food handling methods. On January 27, 2018, Plaintiff states that the trustees were relieved of their duties without explanation.

         Plaintiff makes no specific allegations against Sheriff Holloway. With respect to Trinity, he alleges they allowed the food to cool too long before it was served. He also alleges Trinity attempted to cover-up the fact that food poisoning caused the illness by stating the inmates had the flu. Finally, he alleges that numerous violations were found by the Health Department.

         Plaintiff sues the Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. As relief, he asks for compensatory damages and punitive damages.

         II. ...


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