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Robar v. Wexford Health Sources

July 8, 2009

JIM S. ROBAR, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ALAN S. ROBAR, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott United States District Judge

OPINION

JEANNE E. SCOTT, U.S. District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Deborah Fuqua and Thomas Thompson's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 123) (Motion). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is ALLOWED.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

During the entire period relevant to this lawsuit (August 24-November 28, 2004), Defendants Deborah Fuqua and Thomas Thompson were employed at the Western Illinois Correctional Center (Western). Defendants Fuqua and Thompson's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 123), attached Defendants' Exhibits (Defendants' Exhibit), Exhibit 1, Thomas Thompson Affidavit (Thompson Affidavit), at 1; Defendants' Exhibit 1, Deborah Fuqua Affidavit (Fuqua Affidavit), at 1. Fuqua was the Health Care Unit Administrator at Western while Thompson was a correctional officer there. Fuqua Affidavit, at 1; Thompson Affidavit, at 1. At the time of the events giving rise to this suit, Fuqua was a registered nurse. Plaintiff's Fifth Amended Complaint (d/e 79) (Amended Complaint), at 8; Answer to Plaintiff's Fifth Amended Complaint (d/e 82) (Answer), at 3.

On August 24, 2004, prisoner Alan S. Robar arrived at Western. Robar suffered from severe mental illness, and on several occasions during Robar's stay at Western he consulted with various mental health professionals there. Defendants' Exhibit 4, Offender Medical History (Medical History). The mental health and medical care professionals at Western were employed by Wexford Health Sources, the vendor responsible for the provision of medical and mental health services to Western's inmates during 2004. Fuqua Affidavit, at 2. Robar saw the prison's psychiatrist, Dr. Sreehari Patibandla, on only one occasion during his time at Western: September 4, 2004. Defendants' Exhibit 2, Deposition of Sreehari Patibandla, M.D. (Patibandla Deposition), at 22. On September 18, 2004, Dr. Patibandla told Wexford he was quitting. Deposition Excerpts Cited in Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (d/e 129)(Deposition Excerpts), Deposition of Sreehari Patibandla, M.D., at 48. For the remainder of Robar's time at Western, the position of prison psychiatrist went unfilled. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File (d/e 128), Exhibit Group 4, Minutes of the Continuous Quality Improvement Committee Meeting (Meeting Minutes) for December 2004, at 11. While Robar was at Western, Robar's previously prescribed medications were discontinued without a physician's order or any explanation being given. Medical History.*fn1

The shortage of psychiatric care at Western was discussed at several of the meetings of Western's Continuous Quality Improvement Committee. Meeting Minutes for December 2004, at 11; Meeting Minutes for October 2004, at 11; Meeting Minutes for August 2004, at 14. While Fuqua was a member of this Committee, and signed as having read the minutes of the meetings where the prison's difficulties in providing the desired level of psychiatric care to inmates were discussed, she was without power to resolve this situation as she lacked the authority to hire psychiatric staff or to determine their hours. Deposition Excerpts, Deposition of Jennifer Blaesing, at 17-18; Meeting Minutes for December 2004 at 14; Meeting Minutes for October 2004, at 14; Meeting Minutes for August 2004, at 16; Fuqua Affidavit, at 3. Fuqua was not specifically aware of Robar or of his mental health difficulties. Id.

During Robar's time at Western, his mental health deteriorated and he became delusional and agitated. On November 28, 2004, correctional officer Thompson was informed that the emergency call button in Robar's cell had been pushed. Thompson Affidavit, at 2. He arrived at the cell approximately 30 seconds later and was the first on the scene. Id. Upon arriving at the cell, Thompson was told by Robar's cellmate, Jones, that there was something wrong with Robar. Id., at 3. Thompson then called a Code 3 (medical emergency) as he had been trained to do. Id., at 2, 4. After Thompson called the Code 3, Robar informed Thompson that he had cut himself and Thompson saw a large amount of blood on Robar's bedding. Id., at 2, 3. Later that day, Robar died from his self-inflicted wounds. Amended Complaint, at 4; Answer, at 2.

ANALYSIS

The Plaintiff brings four claims against Defendants Thompson and Fuqua. The Plaintiff claims in Count III that various health care personnel working at Western, including Fuqua, violated Robar's constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by deliberately failing to provide Robar with mental health care adequate to prevent Robar's death by suicide. Amended Complaint, at 7-11. Count IV is an Illinois Wrongful Death Act claim against these same medical personnel, based on the theory that their alleged failure to provide Robar with adequate mental health care caused his death by suicide. Id., at 11-15. The Plaintiff claims in Count V that Thompson was aware that Robar was suicidal, and that he failed to act on this information in violation of Robar's constitutional rights. Id., at 15-16. Finally, Count VI is an Illinois Wrongful Death Act claim, based on the theory that Thompson's failure to act on his alleged knowledge of Robar's suicidal state caused Robar's death by suicide. Id., at 16-18.

The Plaintiff has stipulated to the dismissal of Thompson as a Defendant. Response to Defendants Fuqua and Thompson's Motions for Summary Judgment (d/e 126)(Response), at 2. Accordingly, all claims against Thompson are now dismissed.

Fuqua now seeks summary judgment on the claims against her. At summary judgment, Fuqua must present evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). The Court must consider the evidence presented in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial must be resolved against Fuqua. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. Once Fuqua has met her burden, the Plaintiff must present evidence to show that issues of fact remain with respect to an issue essential to his case and on which he will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The Court will first address the constitutional claim against Fuqua and will then consider the state law claim against her.

I. THE CONSTITUTIONAL CLAIM

Fuqua's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted because the Plaintiff cannot show that Fuqua was personally responsible for the alleged ...


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