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Knight v. Shah

January 26, 2009


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



Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 46), filed by defendants Kenneth Wiseman and Mark Wiedau (hereinafter "Defendants"). Plaintiff has filed an opposing Response (Doc. 54), to which Defendants have replied (Doc. 59). Plaintiff filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action against Defendants*fn1 for alleged violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, namely that they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that both defendants Wiseman and Wiedau were "endowed with responsibility to provide heath and medical services to persons in custody of Vandalia Correctional Center, and [were] charged with [the] responsibility to ensure that all prisoners under [their] jurisdiction received timely and adequate medical treatment" (Doc. 2 - Complaint, ¶¶ 8-9). In sum, Plaintiff alleges that on February 16, 2005, both Defendants were deliberately indifferent in that they forced him to provide manual labor on the work crew despite knowing he had a prior shoulder injury, ordered him to continue working even though he re-injured his shoulder at the work site, and then delayed taking Plaintiff to get medical treatment, even though he was in extreme pain. Countering, Defendants argue that they had no prior knowledge of Plaintiff's shoulder injury until he told them he had re-injured it and that they did not require him to continue working, but instead, saw that he was transported back to the Health Care Unit as soon as reasonably possible. Thus, Defendants move for summary judgment based on the grounds that there is no question of material fact that Defendants did not act with deliberate indifference and secondly, because they are entitled to qualified immunity. Having considered the Parties' respective arguments and reviewing the evidence on the record, the Court determines that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment.


Plaintiff Rick Knight was incarcerated with the Illinois Department of Corrections while serving a four-year sentence (Doc. 2 - Complaint, ¶ 11). While incarcerated, Plaintiff was housed at the Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia") in Vandalia, Illinois, beginning January 27, 2005 through April 2006 (Id. at ¶ 12; Doc. 45, p. 2). Several months prior to his incarceration, Plaintiff underwent arthroscopic surgery in July 2004 to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder (Doc. 2, ¶ 10). After arriving at Vandalia, Plaintiff was placed on any type of work restriction (Doc. 46 - Undisputed Material Facts, p. 2, ¶ 6).

On February 3, 2005, Plaintiff was assigned to the work camp at Vandalia (Id. at ¶ 3). During the time at issue, defendants Wiseman and Wiedau were employed by Vandalia as Correctional Officers (Doc. 2, ¶¶ 8-9). On February 16, 2005, Defendants supervised the work crew to which Plaintiff had been assigned (Doc. 46, p. 3, ¶ 12). Defendants had not supervised Plaintiff on any of his prior work assignments (Id. at ¶ 11). The work assignment on February 16, 2005 consisted of general maintenance and clean-up: two inmates operated chainsaws to cut down trees and the remaining inmates on the work crew were responsible for pulling brush to clear the area (Id. at ¶ 13; see also Doc. 54, Ex. 2, 22:11-20). On February 16, 2005, Plaintiff informed Defendants that he had re-injured his right shoulder while working (Doc. 54, Ex. 2, 44:5-16; see also Doc. 46, p. 4, ¶ 18; Doc. 54, p. 4, ¶ 18). Plaintiff was transported from the work site back to the Health Care Unit at Vandalia for medical attention (Doc. 46, p. 4, ¶ 19; Doc. 54, p. 5, ¶ 19). It was later determined that Plaintiff had torn his right shoulder rotator cuff (Doc. 2, ¶ 38; Doc. 54, p. 5, ¶ 20). He no longer participated in work camp assignments after February 16, 2005 due to his re-injury.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when "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." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of factual issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wollin v. Gondert, 192 F.3d 616, 621-22 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court must consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant. Schneiker v. Fortis Ins. Co., 200 F.3d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 337-38 (7th Cir. 1999). In response to a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant may not simply rest on the allegations as stated in the pleadings. Rather, the non-movant must show through specific evidence that an issue of fact remains on matters for which the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial. Walker v. Shansky, 28 F.3d 666, 670-71 (7th Cir. 1994), aff'd, 51 F.3d 276 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324).

No issue remains for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not sufficiently probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986) (citations omitted); accordStarzenski v. City of Elkhart, 87 F.3d 872, 880 (7th Cir. 1996); Tolle v. Carroll Touch, Inc., 23 F.3d 174, 178 (7th Cir. 1994). "[P]laintiff's own uncorroborated testimony is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 939 (7th Cir. 1997). In other words, summary judgment may not be averted merely by the non-moving party "baldly contesting his adversary's factual allegations," but instead, the Plaintiff must come forth with probative evidence to substantiate the allegations of the complaint. Oates v. Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1165 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 290 (1968); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). Further, the non-moving party's own subjective belief does not create a genuine issue of material fact. Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Group, Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 401 (7th Cir. 1997).

B. Analysis

1. Violation of Plaintiff's Eighth & Fourteenth Amendment Rights

In a civil rights suit such as this, 42 U.S.C. §1983 requires a Plaintiff to show "(1) an action taken under color of law (2) which violates his federal constitutional rights." Cunningham v. Southlake Ctr. for Mental Health, Inc., 924 F.2d 106, 107 (7th Cir. 1991). Generally, the Eighth Amendment obligates prison officials, such as correctional officers, to "provide humane conditions of confinement . . . [to] ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care, and [to] 'take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'" Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); see also Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). The Eighth Amendment is violated when an official exhibits "deliberate indifference" -- when an official "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety[;] the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This standard is subjective, and is the equivalent of recklessness in the criminal law sense.Id. Whether an inmate's medical need is "serious," on the other hand, is an objective standard. "A serious medical condition is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention." Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005) (internal citation omitted).

A correctional officer can also demonstrate deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical need when "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" is rendered, due to the officer intentionally denying or delaying an inmate's access to medical treatment. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104. Because work camp can be considered a condition of confinement, the Eighth Amendment "forbids knowingly compelling an inmate to perform labor that is beyond the inmate's strength, dangerous to his or her life or health, or unduly painful." Ambrose v. Young, 474 F.3d 1070 (8th Cir. 2007); see alsoPowers v. Snyder, 484 F.3d 929 (7th Cir. 2007) (claim for Eighth Amendment violation existed where inmate plaintiff alleged that prison officials forced him work at a job that required walking and lifting, while refusing to allow inmate a walking cane, despite knowing that he suffered from arthritis and bone degeneration in his hip).

a. Serious Medical Need

Defendants believe Plaintiff's claim against them fails on both the objective and subjective components of an Eighth Amendment claim. They argue Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that his medical need was objectively "serious" as of February 16, 2005 -- the date he re-injured his right shoulder (Doc. 46, p. 6). First, Defendants note that although Plaintiff underwent an initial physical examination by Dr. Shah, he was not placed on any type of work restriction before being assigned to work camp. Additionally, Defendants state that prior to February 16, 2005, despite having been on previous work assignments while at Vandalia, Plaintiff never requested a work restriction pass nor did he file any written grievances about his work camp assignment. Conversely, Plaintiff believes the facts on the record adequately demonstrate that his medical needs were "serious" as of February 16, 2005. First, Plaintiff notes that Dr. Shah, in his individual Motion for Summary Judgment, did not even contest the assertion that Plaintiff had a serious medical need.

The facts on the record must be construed in favor of the non-movant, which is Plaintiff. Plaintiff's medical records indicate he had two surgeries on his right shoulder prior to his incarceration. Plaintiff also testified during his deposition that prior to being sent out on the work assignment with Defendants, he told a correctional officer about his right shoulder and that he could not do any heavy lifting. Plaintiff's medical history, combined with the fact that the medical records also show that Plaintiff tore his right rotator cuff on February 16, 2005, creates a question of material fact as to whether his condition was "serious." The fact that Plaintiff ...

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