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Yates v. Merchant

October 23, 2006

MARY YATES, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF LILBOURN WOOD, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAY MERCHANT, WILLARD O. ELYEA, M.D., AND ROGER WALKER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20). Plaintiff Mary Yates responded to the motion (Doc. 28), and the defendants replied to that response (Doc. 32).

I. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.

II. Facts

Viewing the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, the relevant evidence establishes the following facts.

Plaintiff's decedent Lilbourn Wood ("Wood") was an inmate at the Shawnee Correctional Center ("Shawnee"), a facility of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), from May 2002 to November 15, 2003. In July 2002, he began to experience pain when he urinated. In July or August 2002, Wood saw a doctor at Shawnee, who diagnosed him with an infection and gave him medication. The medication did not help Wood, and he began seeing blood and blood clots in his urine. He continued to seek treatment from medical staff at the prison, and they continued to diagnose and treat his problem as an infection. Wood was released from Shawnee on November 15, 2003, and then, after visiting a private doctor, learned that he had bladder cancer.

The defendants' roles in Wood's medical care were as follows:*fn1 IDOC Medical Director Willard O. Elyea ("Elyea") was responsible at the relevant time for overseeing the medical care of approximately 45,000 IDOC inmates and was not involved in the direct care of inmates. He did not see, examine or treat Wood, and was unaware of his specific medical needs, of his diagnosis and treatment by Shawnee doctors or of any grievance Wood may have filed regarding the medical care he received at Shawnee.

IDOC Director Roger E. Walker ("Walker") was not aware of Wood's medical needs or his treatment by Shawnee doctors or of any grievance Wood may have filed over the matter. While it is possible Wood may have filed such a grievance, he never appealed the denial of that grievance to Walker or otherwise informed Walker of his medical situation.

Defendant Jay M. Merchant worked at Vienna Correctional Center, another IDOC facility, at the relevant time and held no position at Shawnee while Wood was incarcerated there. Merchant was not aware of Wood's medical needs or his treatment by Shawnee doctors.

Wood brought this § 1983 suit alleging that Merchant, Elyea and Walker violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by being deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk of harm he faced. During the pendency of this litigation, Wood died, and the plaintiff was substituted to proceed with the case.

The defendants ask the Court for summary judgment on a variety of grounds: (1) qualified immunity, (2) lack of personal involvement and (3) inability to establish deliberate indifference to Wood's medical needs. The plaintiff opposes the motion but submitted no evidence of the defendants' ...


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