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Taylor v. Rodriguez

July 20, 2007

JOHN E. TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. RODRIGUEZ, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants, health care providers at the jail, violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was denied needed care for chronic pain due to nerve damage from radiation treatment.

Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. It is well-established that courts must construe pro se complaints liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint need only include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 507, 122 S.Ct. 992, 995, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a plaintiff's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1959 (2007)). "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007).

FACTS

Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Defendants Sergio Rodriguez and John Raba are physicians at the jail. Drs. Rodriguez and Raba are also administrators of Cermak Health Services, the jail's health care department. Defendant Harriet Johnson is a patient scheduler.

Plaintiff alleges the following facts, which must be accepted as true for purposes of this motion: Plaintiff, who evidently has or had cancer, has sustained neurological damage due to radiation treatment. On August 22, 2006, Plaintiff met with two physicians at the Cook County Hospital's John Stroger Pain Clinic. The doctors informed Plaintiff that he would have to have a "number of visits" in order to address the constant pain he was experiencing. They directed Plaintiff to return to the clinic within thirty days.

After thirty days had passed and he had not been taken back to the Pain Clinic, Plaintiff wrote and spoke to various correctional officers and health care providers at the jail about his need to return to the Pain Clinic. Plaintiff also filed a grievance concerning the delay of medical treatment in order to ensure that Dr. Raba and Dr. Rodriguez would be made aware of his situation.

Although the Appeal Board that reviews grievances specifically directed the prison staff to send Plaintiff to the Pain Clinic in December 2006, he was "still waiting" to see a physician over five months later when he initiated this action at the end of January 2007. According to Plaintiff's response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, he eventually was taken to the Pain Clinic on February 6, 2007, over six months after his initial visit in August 2006.

ANALYSIS

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, Plaintiff has articulated a colorable Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendants. In other words, Plaintiff 's factual allegations "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic , 127 S.Ct. at 1959.

I. Individual v. Official Capacity

Plaintiff is suing Defendants in their individual capacities. Contrary to Defendants' argument, Plaintiff's omission of the phrase "individual capacity" does not necessarily render this solely an official capacity suit. See, e.g., Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001); Hill v. Shelander, 924 F.2d 1370, 1373 (7th Cir. 1991); see also Miller v. Smith, 220 F.3d 491, 494 (7th Cir. 2000) (rejecting the presumption that Section 1983 Plaintiffs who fail to designate whether a Defendant is sued in his or her individual or official capacity intended an official capacity suit). Plaintiff is not alleging an official policy, custom or practice underlying the purported delay in medical care. Rather, he maintains that Defendants were personally responsible for denying him access to the Stroger Pain Clinic for months, in violation of his constitutional rights. His allegations are sufficient to assert claims against Defendants in their individual capacities.

II. Deliberate Indifference

It is well-settled that the Due Process Clause prohibits deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of a pretrial detainee. Chapman v. Keltner, 241 F. 3d 842, 845 (7th Cir. 2001); Qian v. Kautz, 168 F.3d 949, 955 (7th Cir. 1999). Deliberate indifference has both an objective and a subjective element: the inmate must have an objectively serious medical condition, and the health care provider must be subjectively aware of and consciously disregard the inmate's medical need. Farmer v. ...


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