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Thomas v. Ghosh

March 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan B. Gottschall United States District Judge


The plaintiff, a state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claims that the defendants, correctional officials and health care providers, violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. More specifically, the plaintiff alleges that he was denied needed care for an injured finger, resulting in permanent damage and deformity. This matter is before the court for ruling on pending motions.

The defendants directly employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections have filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim. The health care provider defendants, who are employed by Wexford Health Services, have filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit or, in the alternative, to strike "redundant, immaterial and irrelevant" portions. For the reasons stated in this order, the IDOC defendants' motion to dismiss is granted and the health care providers' motion to dismiss is denied.

It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). Fact pleading is not necessary to state a claim for relief. Thompson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 970-71 (7th Cir. 2004). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to " 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, (1957)). To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff need only state his legal claim and provide "some indication . . . of time and place." Thompson, 362 F.3d at 971. While a complaint challenged by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1964 -65 (citations omitted).

In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts--as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom--in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000); Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1955 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508, n. 1, (2002). Dismissal should be denied whenever it appears that a basis for federal jurisdiction in fact exists or may exist and can be stated by the plaintiff. Norfleet v. Vale, No. 05 C 0926, 2005 WL 3299375, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 5, 2005) (Zagel, J.). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965. Nevertheless, the factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1973-74 & n.14. Furthermore, a plaintiff can plead himself or herself out of court by pleading facts that undermine the allegations set forth in the complaint. See, e.g., Kolupa v. Roselle Park Dist., 438 F.3d 713, 715 (7th Cir. 2006). The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits. Weiler v. Household Finance Corp., 101 F.3d 519, 524 n. 1 (7th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).


The plaintiff is a state prisoner, confined at the Stateville Correctional Center at all times relevant to this lawsuit. Defendant Terry McCann is the facility's warden. Defendant Partha Ghosh is a staff physician at Stateville. Defendant Tanya Williams is a physician's assistant.

Defendant Tammy Garcia is a prison grievance officer. Defendant Kevin Halloran is the Chief Executor Officer of Wexford Health Sources, Inc., which provides health care services at Stateville. Defendant Roger Walker is the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant Melody Ford is the chairperson of the IDOC's Administrative Review Board.

The plaintiff alleges the following facts, which must be accepted as true for purposes of the motions to dismiss: On August 15, 2006, the plaintiff's ring finger accidentally caught in his cell door as it closed. The finger became swollen and throbbed with pain.

When the swelling subsided, the plaintiff noticed that his finger was "deformed." The tip of his finger bent upward, and the fingernail had turned black. The plaintiff asked a Sergeant Jones (not a defendant) to see a medical technician. Although Jones assured the plaintiff that an appointment would be made for him in the prison's health care unit, Jones evidently failed to follow through on his promise.

On August 25, 2006, the plaintiff showed his injured finger to a medical technician (Friar, not a defendant) who was passing out medication. Friar pronounced that the finger was broken and arranged for the plaintiff to be seen in the health care unit the next day.

On August 26, 2006 (a Saturday), the plaintiff was seen in the prison's emergency room. Defendant Williams examined the plaintiff's finger and noted that it appeared to be broken. Williams told the plaintiff that an x-ray would be taken the following Monday. Another medical technician (Gondalia, not a defendant) placed a splint on the finger. The plaintiff evidently was not called back to the health care unit that Monday.

On September 4, 2006, the plaintiff was sent to the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago in connection with an unrelated health concern. The plaintiff asked a correctional officer (Hughes, not a defendant) for permission to have his broken finger x-rayed while he was at the hospital. Hughes refused, saying that the paperwork did not encompass treatment of the plaintiff's finger.

On September 25, 2006, the plaintiff returned to the University of Illinois Hospital for assessment of a liver ailment. Everyone to whom the plaintiff showed his finger agreed that it was broken, but no one would provide medical treatment for the finger without the proper documentation ...

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