United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, W.D
April 17, 1974
LAWRENCE MATHIS, II, PLAINTIFF
GERALD B. PRATT ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bauer, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This cause comes on the defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint.
This is a pro se action seeking to redress the alleged deprivations of
the plaintiff's civil rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution
and protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This
Court apparently has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and
The plaintiff Lawrence Mathis II is presently incarcerated in the
Illinois State Penitentiary at Menard, Illinois. The defendant Gerald R.
Pratt is the Sheriff of Winnebago County. The defendant Joseph Mandell is
Superintendent of the Winnebago County Jail. Defendant Dr. Curtice
Steffen is employed by the Winnebago County Jail to provide medical
treatment for its inmates.
The plaintiff, in his complaint, alleges the following facts, inter
1. On the 17th day of November, 1972, at approximately
10:00 A. M., defendant Steffen did refuse to treat
the plaintiff, medically, in order that the
plaintiff could be relieved of nervous tension.
This nervous condition has existed since the
plaintiff's duty in the Armed Forces of the United
States. The plaintiff did in fact inform the
defendant Dr. Steffen of the condition, yet the
defendant persisted in his refusal of medical
treatment. The defendant Dr. Steffen did refuse to
medically treat the plaintiff in order that the
plaintiff could be relieved of the effects of
addiction to barbituates, refuse to continue to
authorize the prescription for, or to prescribe by
renewal, the plaintiff's prior prescription of
2. On the 17th day of November, 1972, defendant Joseph
Mandell did fail to provide adequate medical
attention to the plaintiff, did fail to instruct
the defendant Dr. Steffen to provide proper medical
attention or to otherwise ensure that the plaintiff
would receive proper medical treatment for his
3. On the 17th day of November, 1972, defendant Gerald
R. Pratt, Sheriff of Winnebago County, did fail to
provide adequate medical attention to the
plaintiff, knowing the plaintiff to be suffering
from an illness which required such medical
attention. Defendant Gerald R. Pratt, on several
occasions ordered the plaintiff to be placed in
maximum security isolation, to avoid providing the
plaintiff with medical attention, and any other
requests the plaintiff may make of him, or other
employees of the Winnebago County Jail facilities.
Defendants Joseph Mandell and Dr. Steffen are
employed by Gerald R. Pratt. Therefore, Gerald R.
Pratt is also responsible for the actions of
defendants Mandell and Steffen, while they are on
duty as employees of the Winnebago County Jail
4. Defendants Gerald R. Pratt, Joseph Mandell, and
Dr. Steffen on many occasions referred to the
plaintiff as a mad animal, treated the plaintiff
with little or no respect, and denied the plaintiff
the rights and privileges given the other inmates,
without just cause. The actions of the defendants,
on November 17, 1972 were unprovoked and endangered
the health of the plaintiff. The plaintiff,
Lawrence Mathis II, has suffered adverse affects to
his nervous condition, and has been caused a great
deal of mental anguish, as a result of the action
of the defendants. The plaintiff further alleges
that Gerald R. Pratt, Joseph Mandell and Dr.
Steffen did conspire to oppress, intimidate, and
cause undue hardship to the plaintiff, Lawrence
Mathis II, in the free exercise of: (1) the right
to the full enjoyment of the services, privileges,
advantages and accommodations of the Winnebago
County Jail facilities; (2) the right to the equal
utilization, without discrimination upon the basis
of race, of facilities and programs in the
Winnebago County Jail facilities, Rockford,
In essence, the plaintiff, appearing pro Se, alleges that on November
17, 1972 his constitutional rights were violated when the prison doctor,
Dr. Curtice Steffen, refused to continue a prescription of Thorizine. The
plaintiff alleges with specificity not only the date of the incident but
also the purpose for which he sought the Thorizine and the results of
Dr. Steffen's failure to provide the Thorizine. However, the plaintiff's
complaint is void of any allegations that the defendants Gerald R. Pratt
or Joseph Mandell were present or that they had any knowledge as to the
activities at that time and place.
The defendants, in support of their motions to dismiss, contend that
the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. It
is the opinion of this Court that the motions of the defendants are
I. THE PLAINTIFF HAS FAILED TO STATE A CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST THE
DEFENDANTS PRATT AND MANDELL.
The plaintiff's complaint is void of any allegation of personal
involvement by either Joseph Mandell or Gerald R. Pratt in making the
decision as to what medical treatment was necessitated by the plaintiff's
The plaintiff alleges in paragraph 3 of his complaint that the
defendant Gerald R. Pratt is responsible for the acts of defendants
Joseph Mandell and Dr. Curtice Steffen because he is the Sheriff of
Winnebago County. Implicit in this statement is the idea the Joseph
Mandell is likewise responsible for the acts of Dr. Steffen because he is
the Superintendent of the County Jail. However, absent some allegation of
personal involvement, liability under such circumstances could only be
premised upon a theory of vicarious liability.
The doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply in civil rights
cases brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Ashenhurst v. Cary,
355 F. Supp. 1101 (N.D.Ill. 1973); Hampton v. City of Chicago,
339 F. Supp. 695 (N.D.Ill. 1972); Barrows v. Faulkner, et al.,
327 F. Supp. 1190 (N.D.Okla. 1971); Sanberg v. Daley, 306 F. Supp. 277
(N.D.Ill. 1969). Further, courts have uniformly held that governmental
supervisory personnel are not liable for damages to one injured by
subservient personnel absent direct personal participation Jennings v.
Davis, 339 F. Supp. 919 (W.D.Mo. 1972); Nugent v. Sheppard,
318 F. Supp. 314 (N.D.Ind. 1970); Mack v. Lewis, 298 F. Supp. 1351
(S.D.Ga. 1967); Patrum v. Martin, 292 F. Supp. 370 (W.D.Ky. 1968);
Runnels v. Parker, 263 F. Supp. 271 (C.D.Cal. 1967); Pritchard v.
Downie, 216 F. Supp. 621 (E.D.Ark. 1963); Jordan v. Kelly, 223 F. Supp. 731
(W.D. Mo. 1963).
Thus it is clear that the plaintiff has failed to adequately state a
cause of action against the defendants Pratt and Mandell.
II. PRISON AUTHORITIES ARE VESTED WITH BROAD DISCRETION IN ADMINISTERING
TO MEDICAL NEEDS OF PRISONERS, AND THE INSTANT COMPLAINT FAILS TO
STATE A CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST DR. STEFFEN.
It is undisputed that prisoners are entitled to reasonable medical
care. Blanks v. Cunningham, 409 F.2d 220 (4th Cir. 1969); Hirons v.
Director, 351 F.2d 613 (4th Cir. 1965). However, it is well settled that
prison authorities have wide discretionary powers as to the type of
medical treatment which is required under the particular circumstance.
Absent allegations of cruel and unusual behavior, federal courts will
generally not inquire into the adequacy or the sufficiency of such care.
Pinkston v. Bensinger, 359 F. Supp. 95 (N.D.Ill. 1973).
In order to state a claim on which relief can be granted, the plaintiff
must allege an abuse of discretion by prison authorities in providing
medical treatment for prisoners. Haskew v. Wainwright, 429 F.2d 525 (5th
Cir. 1969); Lawrence v. Wainwright, 440 F.2d 379 (5th Cir. 1971). While
claims of deprivation of medical attention can give rise to a
constitutional tort under the most extreme circumstances, prison
officials are given wide discretion in administering medical treatment to
inmates. Prewitt v. State of Arizona ex rel. Eyman, 315 F. Supp. 793
(D.Ariz. 1969), aff'd 418 F.2d 572, cert. denied, 397 U.S. 1054, 90
S.Ct. 1395, 25 L.Ed.2d 670, rehearing denied, 398 U.S. 915, 90 S.Ct.
1703, 26 L.Ed.2d 81; Swain v. Garribrant, 354 F. Supp. 631 (E.D.N.C.
1973). For a complaint to properly allege a failure to provide a prisoner
with medical care in violation of his fourteenth and/or eighth amendment
rights it must suggest the possibility of some "conduct that shocks the
conscience" or a "barbarous act". Church v. Hegstrom, 416 F.2d 449 (2nd
Cir, 1969); Bishop v. Cox, 320 F. Supp. 1031 (W.D.Va. 1970). For a denial
of medical treatment for a prisoner to be actionable under Section 1983,
in the absence of a showing of intent to cause harm, courts have
generally relied upon the presence of severe and obvious injuries. See
Church v. Hegstrom, supra.
In the instant action, the plaintiff merely alleges that the medical
authority of the jail denied him medication where he requested such
medication. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Steffen, the prison medical
authority, refused to renew a prescription of "Thorizine" for the
plaintiff even though the plaintiff admitted he was a drug addict.
Obviously this amounts to no more than a difference of opinion between
the plaintiff and Dr. Steffen as to whether his then existing condition
merited such a prescription.
A mere difference of opinion between an inmate and a prison doctor as
to what medical treatment is proper does not give rise to a claim under
the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Mayfield v. Craven, 433 F.2d 873 (9th Cir.
1970); Shields v. Kunkel, 442 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1971); Swain v.
Garribrant, supra. Such a claim of improper medical treatment does not
constitute a denial of rights secured by the United States Constitution.
Kontos v. Prasse, 444 F.2d 166 (3rd Cir. 1971); Gittlemacker v. Prasse,
428 F.2d 1 (3rd Cir. 1970); Henderson v. Pate, 409 F.2d 507 (7th Cir.
1969); United States ex rel. Lawrence v. Ragen, 323 F.2d 410 (7th Cir.
1963); Coppinger v. Townsend, 398 F.2d 392 (10th Cir. 1968).
If the law was otherwise, prison medical authorities would be required
to acquiesce to a prisoner's demands anytime there is a difference of
opinion as to the medical care to be prescribed. A prisoner cannot be the
ultimate judge of what medical treatment is necessary or proper for his
care. In the absence of factual
allegations of neglect or intentional mistreatment, a court must place
its confidence in the hands of prison medical authorities. Further, the
plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege any specific injury or malice
on the part of the defendant. It is clear that the plaintiff's claim
against Dr. Steffen under the most favorable interpretation of the facts
alleged in the complaint fails to adequately state a cause of action
under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that the defendants' motions to
dismiss are granted and this cause is dismissed.
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