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Knox v. Powers

June 17, 2009


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


Plaintiff Christopher Knox, an inmate in the Tamms Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the third amended complaint (Doc. 13) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).*fn1


Knox has stated that he suffers from a medical disorder causing him to have seizures. Knox has suffered from this disorder for many years, and was on anti-seizure medication to counter the condition. While incarcerated in Tamms Correctional Center, Defendant Powers, the director of the medical care unit of the prison, discontinued Knox's use of the anti-seizure medication without providing Knox with notice, a physical examination, or medical testing.

After being removed from the medication, Knox experienced a seizure that caused him to suffer migraine headaches, blurred vision, back pain, injuries to the left shoulder, leg, and elbow, as well as a concussion and general suffering. Knox proceeded to explain to Powers that he was in need of the anti-seizure medication and treatment for the injuries he had suffered, which was refused. Knox attempted to convince other employees in the prison, including defendants Caliper, Osman, Moore, Houston, and Bartley, that his injuries needed medical attention, and each defendant failed to assist Knox.

Knox claims that each of the defendants was aware that Knox suffers from a disorder causing seizures, and that the injuries Knox suffered were caused by such a seizure. Further, each defendant was aware of the potential for harm caused by a seizure, but failed to act so as to prevent such harm. Knox claims that by showing indifference to his medical needs, the defendants acted so that an intent to harm can be inferred in violation of the Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Knox requests that an injunction be granted requiring his anti-seizure medication be restored, and that he be examined by an independent third-party health care provider and given any treatment so ordered by said provider. Knox further prays that the Court grant him adequate compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys fees and court costs.


The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. See also Jones v. Simek, 193 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 1999); Steele v. Choi, 82 F.3d 175, 178 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 897 (1996).

A prisoner raising an Eighth Amendment claim against a prison official therefore must satisfy two requirements. The first one is an objective standard: "[T]he deprivation alleged must be, objectively, 'sufficiently serious.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at -, 114 S.Ct. at 1977. As the Court explained in Farmer, "a prison official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. The second requirement is a subjective one: "[A] prison official must have a 'sufficiently culpable state of mind,'" one that the Court has defined as "deliberate indifference." Id; see Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5, 112 S.Ct. 995, 998, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992) ("[T]he appropriate inquiry when an inmate alleges that prison officials failed to attend to serious medical needs is whether the officials exhibited 'deliberate ...

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