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Knight v. Shah

February 4, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10), filed by defendant Vipin K. Shah, M.D. ("Dr. Shah"), to which Plaintiff has responded in opposition (Doc. 14). Plaintiff filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action against Dr. Shah, along with two other Defendants, for alleged violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, namely that the three Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Dr. Shah believes Plaintiff has failed to plead a claim upon which relief can be granted, asserting that Plaintiff's allegations, at best, demonstrate medical negligence, rather than behavior amounting to a deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. On the other hand, Plaintiff believes that his allegations, especially under the federal notice-based pleading standards, are sufficient to survive Dr. Shah's Motion to Dismiss.

Because the Court agrees with Plaintiff, the Motion must be denied for the reasons explained in this Order.

II. Facts

As Dr. Shah moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court shall construe Plaintiff's well-pled allegations in his favor. Plaintiff Rick Knight was incarcerated with the Illinois Department of Corrections on a four-year sentence, beginning on December 2, 2004 (Doc. 2, Complaint, ¶ 11). While incarcerated, Plaintiff was housed at the Vandalia Correctional Center in Vandalia, Illinois, starting on January 27, 2005 (Id. at ¶ 12). Several months prior to his incarceration, Plaintiff underwent arthroscopic surgery in July 2004, to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder (Id. at ¶ 10). When he arrived at Vandalia Correctional Center, Plaintiff alleges he informed Dr. Shah and the medical staff that he had surgically reconstructed right shoulder after having torn his right rotator cuff (Id. at ¶ 13). Dr. Shah was a physician who provided health and medical services to inmates at the Vandalia Correctional Center (Id. at ¶ 7). Upon informing Dr. Shah of his medical concerns, Plaintiff alleges Dr. Shah issued him a pass which allowed him to sleep on the bottom bunk of his cell, due to the physical limitations with his right shoulder (Id. at ¶ 14). Despite his pre-existing right shoulder problems, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Shah failed to either place him on "Patient Status" or to restrict the types of labor Plaintiff would be allowed to perform and thus, he re-injured his right shoulder when he was assigned to a labor-intensive work crew (Id. at ¶ 15).

While working on an assigned road crew on February 16, 2005, Plaintiff alleges that he severely re-injured his right shoulder when he was forced by defendants Wiseman and Wiedaw, both Correctional Officers, to throw heavy logs out of the ditch, even after he told them he could not safely perform the task because of his shoulder (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17 & 20). Plaintiff claims he was told to do as he was ordered or else he would be sent to "the hole" (administrative segregation) (Id. at ¶ 18). Upon returning to the facility, Plaintiff reported to the healthcare unit and was examined the following day by Dr. Shah (Id. at ¶¶ 27-28). Although Plaintiff believed he had torn something in his shoulder because he was in considerable pain, he alleges Dr. Shah would not order an MRI, CT scan or an X-ray for Plaintiff's shoulder, nor would he prescribe pain medication, telling Plaintiff that if he wanted painkillers, he would have to purchase them himself from the facility commissary (Id. at ¶¶ 30 & 32). Dr. Shah gave Plaintiff ibuprofen only, which, Plaintiff claims, was ineffective (Id. at ¶ 34).

After the examination, Plaintiff alleges that he still suffered considerable pain in his shoulder, so he continued to complain to the medical staff almost daily and wrote several grievances (Id. at ¶ 31, Ex. 1). Despite his complaints and repeated requests for further treatment and medication, Dr. Shah allegedly refused to refer Plaintiff to see any outside physicians (Id.; see also Doc. 14, p. 2). Plaintiff claims only after he voiced his complaints to the hospital administrator, Debbie Magnus, was he allowed to see an outside specialist to treat his shoulder pain (Doc. 2, ¶ 35).

Plaintiff was first taken to see Timothy Gray, M.D., in Effingham, Illinois, who is a surgeon, but not a shoulder specialist (Id. at ¶ 36). Dr. Gray recommended Plaintiff undergo physical therapy and also make an appointment for Plaintiff to meet with Frank S. Lee, M.D., who is a shoulder specialist (Id. at ¶ 37). On May 6, 2005, Plaintiff again saw Dr. Gray who confirmed from an arthrogram that Plaintiff had torn his rotator cuff (Id. at ¶ 38). Nearly three weeks later, Plaintiff met with Dr. Lee, the shoulder specialist, who instructed Plaintiff to continue his physical therapy for another couple of months (Id. at ¶ 39). Plaintiff claims that he was supposed to be receiving pain medication to take before his physical therapy sessions, but that Dr. Shah refused to provide him with any (Id. at ¶ 41). At one point, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Shah called him a liar, an alcoholic and a drug addict (Id. at ¶ 44).

Plaintiff saw Dr. Lee a second time on June 27, 2005, alleging that the doctor provided him with the necessary paperwork to schedule surgery for his shoulder and also provided him with a prescription for Ultracet, a stronger pain medication (Id. at ¶ 46). Plaintiff alleges that he gave this paperwork and prescription to Dr. Shah, but several days later, Dr. Shah claimed to have lost both (Id. at ¶¶ 47-48). From the allegations, it appears that Plaintiff was never again treated by Dr. Lee or any other outside physician nor did he have shoulder surgery during the period of his incarceration (Id. at ¶ 49).

III. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

1. Rule 12(b)(6)

Previously, when ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6), the district court assumed as true all facts well-pled plus the reasonable inferences therefrom and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Fries v. Helsper, 146 F.3d 452, 457 (7th Cir. 1998) Dist. 207, 29 F.3d 1149, 1151 (7th Cir. 1994)). The question was whether, under ...

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