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April 30, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: George W. Lindberg, Senior District Judge


Mack Boyd, a prisoner in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that IDOC personnel at Stateville Correctional Center had been deliberately indifferent to his health and safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The court initially granted Boyd leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed certain defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The three remaining defendants, correctional officers Terrell Pork and Kenneth Baker, Jr., and medical technician Jonathan Russell,*fn1 have joined in moving for summary judgment under Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P.


Boyd's complaint, together with his administrative grievance, Cmplt. Exh. A, give the following account.*fn2 Boyd was confined in the segregation unit at Stateville Correctional Center. Early in the morning of November 29, 2000, Boyd awoke feeling thirsty, but the water was turned off in his cell. He went to the door to call for assistance, and noticed a medication package on the door flap of his cell placed there by defendant Jonathan Russell, a medical technician. Boyd called defendant correctional officer Terrell Pork over to his cell and asked him to turn on the water, and Pork said he would. Boyd then asked Pork whether the medication package was his. Pork asked Boyd's name and identification number. Boyd toll him, and Pork handed the package into Boyd's cell.

When Boyd looked at the package, he saw the medication was intended for another inmate. Boyd was angry because this was the second time in five days that he had received someone else's medication. Boyd had recently been returned to segregation after a suicide attempt; feeling that nobody cared whether he lived or died, Boyd impulsively swallowed the contents of the package, six tablets of Verapamil, a high blood pressure medication.

It is unclear from the complaint and grievance what happened next. Boyd's grievance states that he informed defendant Russell and defendant Baker, as well as an unnamed lieutenant and an unnamed captain, but "it took them from before lunchtime on Nov. 29, 2000 until around shift change at 3:00 p.m. on Nov. 29, 2000 to get me over to the hospital." Boyd does not state when he told each of these persons that he had swallowed the tablets and needed medical care. Boyd alleges in his grievance that in order to receive medical attention he scratched his wrist on the window of his cell and made preparations to hang himself by tying his sheet to a light fixture. He was finally taken to the prison health care unit where his stomach was "flushed out" and he was kept overnight.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nomnoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Reeves it Sanderson Plumbing Products Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255; Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 836-37 (7th Cir. 2001).

Nevertheless, there is a genuine issue to be tried only if the nonmoving party presents evidence that, if believed, would support a verdict in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Outlaw, 259 F.3d at 837. It is up to the nonmoving party to identify evidence precluding summary judgment; it is not the court's task to scour the record in search of genuine issues of fact. Brasic v. Heinemann's, Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 285 (7th Cir. 1997).

The Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment; it does not forbid negligent conduct resulting in injury. Although negligence can support a state-law tort claim, federal jurisdiction here depends on the existence of a constitutional deprivation. This case may proceed to trial only if there is evidence that, if believed, would show that Boyd was injured because at least one defendant was deliberately indifferent to a serious risk to his health or safety — that he knew that Boyd faced a substantial risk of serious harm and failed to take reasonable measures to abate it. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994).

Suicidal death obviously qualifies as serious harm, and deliberate indifference to a serious risk of suicide can violate the Eighth Amendment. Cavalieri v. Shepard, 321 F.3d 616, 2003 WL 464868 (7th Cir. 2003) (applying Eighth Amendment standard to Fourteenth Amendment claim brought by estate of deceased pretrial detainee); Sanville it McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733 (7th Cir. 2001).

Likewise, deliberate indifference to an prisoner's serious medical condition violates the Constitution. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976); Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 593 (7th Cir. 2001). A "serious medical need" is a condition that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or that even a layperson would recognize as requiring a doctor's attention. Wynn, 251 F.3d at 593. The Eighth Amendment can be violated by deliberate and unreasonable delay in providing medical care as well as by outright denial. Langston v. Peters, 100 F.3d 1235, 1240 (7th Cir. 1996).


In support of their motion, defendants have submitted their own affidavits and an affidavit by Dr. Willard Elyea, Medical Director for IDOC.*fn3 Defendants have also submitted excerpts from Boyd's deposition and relevant portions of Boyd's medical records.

Boyd has submitted a "reply" to defendants' motion (a sort of counter-motion) together with a statement of contested facts, a memorandum of law, four of his own affidavits (three "counter-affidavits" responding to affidavits offered by the defendants and a ...

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