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RUFFIN v. WINNEBAGO COUNTY JAIL

August 1, 2005.

JOHNNY M. RUFFIN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
WINNEBAGO COUNTY JAIL, RICHARD MEYERS, GARY ARBISI, DEBRA DECKER, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, GUY PIERCE, DONALD N. SNYDER, KAREN McKINNEY, CHRISTINE MITCHELL, ALFREDO GARCIA, RONALD WILLIAMS, SCOTT WCYISKALLA, ROBERT A. DAVENPORT, T. MURRY, ROGER COWEN, JONATHAN WALLS, ALAN FRENTZEL, ADRIAN FEINERMAN, SUPERINTENDENT MAUE, ELISA REA, MAVIS GROSS, PAM GRUBMAN, GARY KNOP, UNKNOWN PARTY, and STEPHEN DOUGHTY, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID HERNDON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate currently in the Lawrence Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered.

In 1999, Plaintiff was shot several times in the back by sheriff's deputies in Kane County, Illinois. Due to the injuries sustained in this incident, Plaintiff was rendered quadriplegic and is permanently confined to a wheelchair. Virtually all of the claims asserted in this action involve the medical treatment, or lack thereof, provided to him to treat his condition. In his original complaint, Plaintiff sets forth 13 separate claims, but the numbering is confusing: after setting forth 42 enumerated paragraphs of general allegations, Plaintiff begins with "Count 12" on a new page "1," which is followed on page 17 by "Count 2." A logical progression follows from here, so the Court can only assume that Count "12" is a typographical error, and that Plaintiff really intended to begin with "Count 1." The complaint then jumps from Count 11 straight to Count 16.

  However, Plaintiff later filed an amended complaint with respect to Counts 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 (Doc. 9). In the original complaint, Count 11 skips from paragraph 166 to paragraph 201; the amended complaint corrects this omission. In the amended complaint, Count 11 includes paragraphs 139-183; Count 12 is paragraph 184, Count 13 is paragraph 185; Count 14 includes paragraphs 1861-95; Count 15 includes paragraphs 196-206. Therefore, the Court and all parties will refer to the original complaint (Doc. 1) for Counts 1-10 and Count 16-17, and to the amended complaint (Doc. 9) for Counts 11-15. The confusion over the numbering now resolved, the Court will summarize all 17 counts for clarity:
COUNT 1: Against Defendants Winnebago County Jail, Meyers, and Arbisi for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 1 — designated "Count 12" on page "11-7" ¶¶ 1-28).
COUNT 2: Against Defendants Winnebago County Jail, Meyers, and Arbisi for violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 293-0).
COUNT 3: Against Defendants Winnebago County Jail, Decker, and Arbisi for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 31-40).
COUNT 4: Against Defendants Decker, Arbisi, and Meyer for negligence (Doc. 1, ¶ 41). COUNT 5: Against Defendants Garcia, Murry, Pierce, McKinney, Mitchell, Snyder, Wcyiskalla, and John Doe for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment while he was at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 42-92).
COUNT 6: Against Defendants Garcia and Doe for medical malpractice under the laws of the state of Illinois (Doc. 1, ¶ 93).
COUNT 7: Against Defendants Pierce, Garcia, Mitchell, McKinney, Wcyiskalla, Snyder, Murry, and Doe for reckless negligence under the laws of the state of Illinois (Doc. 1, ¶ 94).
COUNT 8: Against Defendants Illinois Department of Corrections, Snyder, Mitchell, McKinney, Pierce, and Garcia for violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 95-99).
COUNT 9: Against Defendants McKinney, Garcia, Williams, and Wcyiskalla, for retaliation and harassment (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 100-121).
COUNT 10: Against Defendants McKinney, Pierce, Williams, Snyder, and Davenport for "civil conspiracy" (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 122-138).
COUNT 11: Against Defendants Feinerman, Gross, Cowen, Walls, Grubman, Snyder, Frentzel, and Dougherty for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 9, ¶¶ 139-183).
COUNT 12: Against Defendants Feinerman and Dougherty for medical malpractice under the laws of the state of Illinois (Doc 9, ¶ 184).
COUNT 13: Against Defendants Feinerman, Dougherty, Walls, Cowen, Frentzel, Grubman, Gross, and Snyder for reckless negligence under the laws of the state of Illinois (Doc 9, ¶ 185).
COUNT 14: Against Defendants Gross, Snyder, Walls, Feinerman, Grubman, Cowen, and Frentzel for civil conspiracy to deny Plaintiff's grievances (Doc 9, ¶ 1861-95).
COUNT 15: Against Defendants Feinerman, Frentzel, Cowen, Grubman, Gross, and Snyder for racial discrimination, in violation of his rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment (Doc 9, ¶¶ 196-206).
COUNT 16: Against Defendants Snyder, Cowen, Walls, Feinerman, Grubman, Frentzel, Knop, and Rea for violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 207-215).
COUNT 17: Against Defendants Rea, West, Cowen, Walls for retaliation and harassment (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 216-227).
  This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides, in pertinent part:
 
(a) Screening. — The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. — On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint —
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). After evaluating Plaintiff's claims individually, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under Section 1915A to dismiss those claims that are frivolous before allowing Plaintiff to proceed with his remaining claims. See also House v. Belford, 956 F.2d 711, 718-19 (7th Cir. 1992).

  GENERAL PRINCIPLES

  The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. See also Jones v. Simek, 193 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 1999); Steele v. Choi, 82 F.3d 175, 178 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 897 (1996).

 
A prisoner raising an Eighth Amendment claim against a prison official therefore must satisfy two requirements. The first one is an objective standard: "[T]he deprivation alleged must be, objectively, `sufficiently serious.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at ___, 114 S.Ct. at 1977. As the Court explained in Farmer, "a prison official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. The second requirement is a subjective one: "[A] prison official must have a `sufficiently culpable state of mind,'" one that the Court has defined as "deliberate indifference." Id; see Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5, 112 S.Ct. 995, 998, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992) ("[T]he appropriate inquiry when an inmate alleges that prison officials failed to attend to serious medical needs is whether the officials exhibited `deliberate indifference.'"); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 291, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976) ("[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the `unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'").
Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991-992 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1230 (1997). However, the Supreme Court stressed that this test is not an insurmountable hurdle for inmates raising Eighth Amendment claims:
[A]n Eighth Amendment claimant need not show that a prison official acted or failed to act believing that harm actually would befall an inmate; it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm. . . . Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, . . . and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842.

  The Seventh Circuit's decisions following this standard for deliberate indifference in the denial or delay of medical care require evidence of a defendant's actual knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, a substantial risk of harm. The Circuit also recognizes that a defendant's inadvertent error, negligence or even ordinary malpractice is insufficient to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment constitutional violation.

  Neglect of a prisoner's health becomes a violation of the Eighth Amendment only if the prison official named as defendant is deliberately indifferent to the prisoner's health — that is, only if he `knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.'

  Williams v. O'Leary, 55 F.3d 320, 324 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 993 (1995); see also Steele, 82 F.3d at 179 (concluding there was insufficient evidence of doctor's knowledge of serious medical risk or of his deliberate indifference to that risk; emphasizing that even malpractice is not enough proof under Farmer); Miller v. Neathery, 52 F.3d 634, 638-39 (7th Cir. 1995) (applying Farmer mandate in jury instruction). However, a plaintiff inmate need not prove that a defendant intended the harm that ultimately transpired or believed the harm would occur. Haley v. Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 641 (7th Cir. 1996).

  COUNTS 1-4

  These claims were dismissed as time-barred by the Honorable Philip G. Reinhard of the Northern District of Illinois, and all Defendants associated with these claims were already dismissed from this action (see Doc. 3). Therefore, the Court and the parties need not address these claims further.

  COUNT 5

  Denial of Access to Physical Therapy (¶¶ 42-53)

  Plaintiff states that upon his arrival at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville") in April 2000, he was denied physical therapy by Defendant Garcia because Pinckneyville did not offer physical therapy. On August 8, 2000, Plaintiff was seen by a physical therapist and began to receive physical therapy twice weekly. Plaintiff states that between April and August 8, 2000, he suffered from pain, muscle spasms, joint pains, "muscle skeletal" pains, and other complications relating to his paralysis, as a result of denial of physical and occupational therapy. Plaintiff states that he filed grievances requesting proper treatment but that Defendants Pierce, McKinney, Mitchell, Murry and Garcia did not attempt to provide him with the requested services.

  Denial of physical therapy may implicate a serious medical need. See Maclin v. Freake, 650 F.2d 885, 889 (7th Cir. 1981) (denial of physical therapy to paraplegic prisoner for eleven months sufficient to state a claim for purposes of surviving review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915); cf. Crowder v. True, 74 F.3d 812, 815 (7th Cir. 1996) (allegations inmate was denied his wheelchair because it did not fit through the cell doors and denied physical therapy sessions, without scienter, not sufficient to raise a fair inference of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs). Based on these allegations, and the standard stated above for medical claims, Plaintiff's claim that he was denied physical therapy in violation of the Eighth Amendment may not be dismissed at this point in the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

  Denial of Transfer to a Facility Offering Physical Therapy (¶¶ 47-49)

  Plaintiff states that he made numerous requests to Pinckneyville administrators for a transfer to Dixon Correction Center, a facility providing physical therapy and services for wheelchair-bound inmates. The requests were denied. Plaintiff also states that Defendants Snyder, Pierce, McKinney, Mitchell, and Garcia were all aware of Plaintiff's needs and desire to be transferred, but none took any action to do so.

  "A prisoner has no due process right to be housed in any particular facility." Whitford v. Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 532 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing Meacham v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-225 (1976)). As such, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against these defendants; the claim is DISMISSED with prejudice from the action.

  Denial of Prescribed Medication (¶¶ 55-65) Plaintiff states that prior to his transfer to Pinckneyville, he had been taking a medication called Baclofen for his muscle spasms and pain. Plaintiff states that Dr. Garcia, who examined him on April 7, 2000, did not give him Baclofen until April 25, 2000, causing the Plaintiff to suffer muscle spasms and pain for 18 days. On June 26, 2000, Plaintiff saw Dr. Garcia and requested that his Baclofen prescription be renewed. Dr. Garcia refused to renew it, and as a result, Plaintiff suffered "more than a month long of continuous and excruciation pain and suffering caused by violent muscle spasms." The pain and spasms interfered with his sleep, his ability to read, exacerbated his joint pain, caused hand contraction and frequent shaking and trembling, deterred him from doing his flexibility exercises, and impeded his ability to perform the activities of daily living. Plaintiff made numerous requests for Baclofen, but they were denied. Plaintiff states that he was again given the medication on August 4, 2000.

  Plaintiff also states that after a fall from his wheelchair, he injured his knee and was unable to get out of bed. Defendant Wcyiskalla refused to help him to his wheelchair to get his medication. As a result of missing his medication for one day, and according to Pinckneyville policy, the medication was discontinued. Plaintiff did not receive Baclofen between October 16, 2000, and November 10, 2000. As a result, plaintiff suffered from pain and muscle spasms.

  Based on the standards noted above, this claim cannot be dismissed at this point in the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

  Delayed and Denied Access to Medical Prosthetics (¶¶ 66-77)

  Plaintiff states that on April 18, 2000, Defendant Garcia determined that a prosthetic device used to straighten Plaintiff's right hand and wrist was worn down and cracked. Garcia recommended that Plaintiff see a prosthetic specialist to fix the old brace or order a new one. Garcia never followed up on this recommendation. On September 12, 2000, physical therapist Dan Laver attempted to repair the worn and cracked brace with medical tape and "unstable sticks." On September 28, 2000, the device collapsed completely. As a result, Plaintiff states that between April 18 and September 28, 2000, he suffered unnecessary pain and ...


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