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Parker v. Evans

March 25, 2009

LEE HOLDEN PARKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN EVANS, ET AL. DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by defendants Phillip Baker, Sherry Benton, John Evans, William Gene Pursell, Ronald Williams, and Barbara A. Wingerter (Doc. 34). For the reasons set forth below, said Motion isultimately granted.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Complaint and Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his § 1983 lawsuit in this matter on October 31, 2005 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's factual allegations are as follows:

Plaintiff is a "medically designated, wheelchair bound inmate." On September 15, 2004, defendant Williams escorted Plaintiff in his wheelchair to the segregation unit at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"). Defendant Williams told Plaintiff he did not deserve a wheelchair. Plaintiff replied that defendant Williams was not a doctor. In response, defendant Williams deliberately ran the wheelchair into a rut in the sidewalk, causing Plaintiff to fall out of the wheelchair, skinning his hands and knees. Upon arrival at the segregation receiving center, defendant Williams instructed the line officer to lock the wheelchair in the segregation unit personal property storage room. Defendant Williams then placed Plaintiff in the segregation cell without a wheelchair. Plaintiff states that during his stay in segregation he repeatedly asked prison staff who passed by his cell, including defendants Williams, Baker, and Evans, for his wheelchair because he kept falling down without it and injuring himself. They told him that a new prison policy forbade wheelchairs inside segregation cells. Defendant Baker, the shift segregation supervisor, repeatedly represented to Plaintiff that due to the new policy, he was not allowed to have a wheelchair in his cell. At the end of his term of segregation, on March 14, 2005, Plaintiff and defendant Williams had a disagreement regarding non-segregation cell placement, after which defendant Williams escorted Plaintiff in his wheelchair to another segregation cell. Defendant Williams placed Plaintiff in the cell with the wheelchair. When the wheelchair was not taken away from him in the new segregation cell, Plaintiff realized that no policy forbidding wheelchairs in segregation cells existed; defendants Williams, Baker, and Evans had been lying to him.

Plaintiff thus claims he was denied a wheelchair, to which he was entitled, for six months, during which time he fell and sustained injuries. Plaintiff further claims Defendants acted with deliberate indifference towards his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 1).

Plaintiff's allegations continue as follows:

On March 14, 2005, when Plaintiff was to be released from segregation, he was assigned to a smoking cell, despite a non-smoking contract on file. He refused placement in the cell. Defendant Williams became angry, yelled at Plaintiff, and ordered defendant Baker to prepare a disciplinary report against Plaintiff for refusing his housing assignment. Williams also confiscated some of Plaintiff's personal property, including a "packaged and prepared," but unfiled lawsuit ("Lawsuit One") complaining of widespread misconduct and poor prison conditions at Pinckneyville. Lawsuit One was never returned to Plaintiff. Defendant Williams later admitted to confiscating it (Doc. 1).

Defendant Evans had long known of the lawsuit due to an ongoing dispute between Plaintiff and the law library paralegal about the copying of the voluminous lawsuit. Plaintiff states he had several conversations with defendant Evans about his disagreement with the paralegal and wrote numerous letters to defendant Evans about the problem, some of which he attaches as exhibits to his Complaint. Plaintiff filed a separate lawsuit ("Lawsuit Two") in this Court against the paralegal, defendant Evans, and defendant Williams, alleging denial of access to courts regarding the photocopying of Lawsuit One. Plaintiff alleges that after finding out about Lawsuit Two, defendant Evans directed defendant Williams to confiscate Lawsuit One in an act of retaliation for the preparation of both lawsuits and Plaintiff's prolific filing of grievances. Plaintiff also alleges that defendant Evans conspired with defendants Williams and Baker to deny him a wheelchair in retaliation for the lawsuit and grievances. Plaintiff alleges that defendants Wingerter, Pursell, and Benton, by denying his grievances regarding the wheelchair, became part of the conspiracy among defendants Williams, Baker, and Evans, to deprive Plaintiff of his wheelchair in retaliation for preparing the lawsuit and filing grievances. Defendant Evans further participated in the conspiracy by concurring in the denial of the grievance. On April 10, 2005, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the six months he was denied the wheelchair (see Doc. 42-2, pp. 1-3).

On August 10, 2006, the District Court completed its threshold review of the Complaint, finding that Plaintiff presented two claims against the six defendants: one for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in denying the wheelchair, and two, for withholding the wheelchair in retaliation for lawsuits and grievances (Doc. 11). After discovery, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that they are all entitled to judgment in their favor under various theories, discussed herein (Doc. 34).

On August 22, 2008, United States Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson conducted ahearing to determine whether Plaintiff had exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing suit (Doc. 50). SeePavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2008). Based upon the testimony and evidence adduced at that hearing, Judge Wilkerson issued a Report and Recommendation finding that the Court find Plaintiff did, in fact, exhaust his available administrative remedies (Doc. 60).

B. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

In support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants cite the following undisputed material facts:

Plaintiff's complaint concerns the deprivation of a wheelchair between September 15, 2004, and March 14, 2005 (Doc. 35-2, pp. 3-4; Doc. 35-3, pp. 20-21). During that time period, defendant John Evans was the warden at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (Doc. 35-2, p. 12); defendant Ronald Williams was a Correctional Lieutenant at Pinckneyville (Doc. 35-2, p. 15); defendant Baker was a Correctional Officer at Pinckneyville (Doc. 35-2, p. 16); defendant Wingerter was a Correctional Counselor at Pinckneyville (Doc. 35-2, p. 17); defendant Pursell was a Grievance Officer at Pinckneyville (Doc. 35-2, p. 19); and defendant Benton was the Chairperson of the Administrative Review Board of the Illinois Department of Corrections (Doc. 35-2; p. 21).

1. Denial of Wheelchair in Violation of the Eighth Amendment

On February 25, 2003, Dr. Garcia, a physician at Pinckneyville, granted Plaintiff a long distance wheelchair permit (Doc. 35-3, p. 1; Exh. H, Callahan Affidavit ¶ 2). Plaintiff disputes this fact, arguing that the permit issued on February 25, 2003, was not limited to long distances. He includes a copy of the medical permission form indicating he was authorized to have a wheelchair indefinitely. While the document does not contain an indication that the wheelchair was limited to long-distance use, it also does not it indicate whether Plaintiff was permitted to have a wheelchair in his cell (Doc. 37, p. 23, Exh. A). Plaintiff testified at his deposition that no doctor ever told him he needed to have a wheelchair inside his cell (Doc. 35-2, p. 9 - Parker Dep., 56:5-9).

While Plaintiff's claim for deprivation of a wheelchair focuses upon the time between September 15, 2004 through March 14, 2005, Plaintiff did not present himself to the Health Care Unit with any injuries during that time (Doc. 35-3, p. 1; Exh. H, Callahan Affidavit). Plaintiff testified that he did not do so because he was not seriously hurt during that time (Doc, 53-2, p. 5; Parker Deposition p. 51).

Defendants Baker, Benton, Pursell, Williams, and Wingerter did not have authority to determine whether Plaintiff was entitled to have a wheelchair in his cell, nor the authority to provide an inmate with a wheelchair for in-cell use without medical authorization (Doc. 35-2, pp. 15, 16, 17, 19, and 23; Exhs. C-G). Defendant Evans does not recall ever receiving any verbal or written complaint from Plaintiff regarding his lack of access to a wheelchair in his segregation cell between September 15, 2004, and March 14, 2005 (Doc. 35-2, p. 12; Exh. B, Evans Affidavit ¶3). The signature of the Chief Administrative Officer on the Grievance Officer's Report for Plaintiff's grievance regarding the denial of a wheelchair in his cell is not that of defendant Evans, but that of Earl Wilson, a designee (Doc. 35-2; pp. 12-13; Exh. B, Evans Affidavit ¶6).

Defendants Benton, Pursell, and Wingerter did not personally confiscate Plaintiff's wheelchair; they did not have any authority to provide him with a wheelchair in his cell; and they were involved in this case only through their handling of Plaintiff's April 10, 2005, grievance (Doc. 35-2, pp. 17, 19-20, and 23; Exhs. E, F, and G, Wingerter Affidavit ¶ 4, Pursell Affidavit ¶ 4, Benton Affidavit ¶ 9). Defendants also claim that the issue of whether Plaintiff was deprived a wheelchair in his cell was never properly before defendant Benton for review (Doc. 35-2, p. 23; Exh. G, ¶ 8).

2. Retaliation for Filing Lawsuits

Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants deprived him of a wheelchair in his segregation cell in retaliation for filing grievances and a lawsuit (Doc. 1). Plaintiff filed Lawsuit One in this District on January 24, 2005. Only one Defendant in the instant case, William Pursell, was a named defendant in Lawsuit One. Plaintiff moved to voluntarily dismiss Lawsuit One before any of the named defendants were served. See Parker v. Ill. Dep't of Corr., Case. No. 05-cv-44-JPG (S.D. Ill., filed Jan. 24, 2005). Defendants in this action claim they were not aware of Lawsuit One (Doc. 35-2, pp. 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 23; Exhs. B-G). Plaintiff filed Lawsuit Two in this District alleging denial of access ...


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