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Fletcher v. Deathridge

August 17, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge


This cause is before the court for consideration of the defendants' motions for summary judgment. [d/e 72, 73, 80].


On October 1, 2007, the court conducted a merit review of three complaints filed by the plaintiff in one month's time in the Central District of Illinois. The court noted that the plaintiff had previously accumulated three strikes pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983(g) and therefore could not proceed in forma pauperis unless he could demonstrate that he was in imminent danger. See October 1, 2007 Case Management Order.

The court dismissed all claims but one: that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff's serious medical condition. The plaintiff alleged that severe heat in a transport van and the use of pepper spray caused him to have severe asthma attacks and he had been denied medical attention at the Tazewell County Jail. The court noted that the attachments to the plaintiff's complaint were not very supportive of this allegation, but allowed the plaintiff to proceed. October 1, 2007 Case Management Order, p. 3.

The plaintiff's claim was against 12 defendants including Tazewell County defendants Robert Huston, Earl Helm, Jozef Szadkowski, Richard Brock, Garfield Saylor, Richard Johnson, Paul Malavottie, Dr. Stephen Cullinan and Nurse Renae Alexander. The plaintiff also named United States Marshal Deathridge and Deputy Marshal Jeffery Dale.


Dr. Stephen Cullinan says he is the Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of Health Professionals, Ltd. In addition, Dr. Cullinan says he has been the Medical Director and staff physician for a number of county jails in several Midwest states including the Tazewell County Jail. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 1). Renee Alexander says she is a nurse who is the site manager at the Tazewell County Jail.

Dr. Cullinan says he was notified that a new inmate, the plaintiff, had entered the Tazewell County jail on May 18, 2007. The plaintiff had a medical record from his stay at the McLean County Jail which indicated that the plaintiff had been prescribed a medication to control blood sugar levels. Dr. Cullinan continued the prescription and ordered that the plaintiff be placed on a diabetic diet. In addition, the doctor ordered that the plaintiff "be given Accu Check, the brand name of a medical meter used to determine a patient's blood sugar level." (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 2).

Nurse Alexander says the plaintiff was given 13 different Accu Checks from his admission to June 10, 2007. (Def. Memo, Alex. Aff, p. 1-2) None of the Accu Check results provided any reason to believe the plaintiff suffered from diabetes, so the doctor discontinued the Accu Checks. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 2).

On June 13, 2007, the plaintiff complained to the jail staff nurse that he suffered from asthma and need an inhaler. The nurse noted that the plaintiff spoke in full sentences and his heart sounds were within normal limits. The plaintiff was asked if he would like to be put on the list to see Dr. Cullinan, but the plaintiff simply stared at the nurse and refused to respond. (Def. Memo, Alex. Aff, p. 4).

Dr. Cullinan says he first examined the plaintiff on June 15, 2007. The plaintiff said he was asthmatic and needed an inhaler. The doctor noted there were no outward signs that the plaintiff was in distress and there were no reports from any officers that the plaintiff suffered from asthma. Nonetheless, the doctor noted hat the plaintiff had been given an inhaler while incarcerated at the McLean County Jail.

The doctor then administered a "peak flow meter" test which is used to measure a patient's ability to move air. Dr. Cullinan says the best of three recordings was used for the result and the plaintiff's peak flow was 550. The doctor says a peak flow of 400 and above would be considered normal for a male of the plaintiff's height and weight. Dr. Cullinan says to "aid in his diagnosis," he ordered that the plaintiff was to be given a peak flow test weekly for four weeks to determine if a diagnosis of asthma was appropriate. Dr. Cullinan further ordered that the plaintiff was to be checked if he made any reports of having an asthma attack. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 3).

The plaintiff also complained of a skin condition, Eczema, during the visit and was prescribed a cream for treatment. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 3) n June 19, 2007, the plaintiff began screaming at the nurse on duty for his skin cream. The plaintiff was disruptive and abusive. Medical records indicate the plaintiff was given his prescription for skin cream throughout June. (Def. Memo, Alex. Aff, p. 6)

On June 22, 2007, nurses attempted to administer a peak flow test on the plaintiff to see if he plaintiff displayed any asthma symptoms. The plaintiff refused the test and said, "Tell the doctor I'll see him in court." (Def. Memo, Alex. Aff, p. 5)

On July 3, 2007, the plaintiff said he need an inhaler. Dr. Cullinan says the medical records indicate the plaintiff was not in acute distress. The plaintiff was yelling and speaking in complete sentences. "It was assessed that the Plaintiff was manipulating and the plan was to monitor the plaintiff." (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 3). Dr. Cullinan also states:

(the plaintiff) did not complain to me about suffering from asthma at any time after July 3, 2007. People with asthma experience symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame or fill with mucus. Common symptoms of asthma include coughing, especially at night, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, pain or pressure. The plaintiff presented none of these symptoms. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 3)

Nurse Alexander also notes that the plaintiff did not complain to any other medical staff about asthma problems after July 3, 2007. (Def. Mot, Alex. Aff, p. 5) Alexander says another peak flow test was administered on July 14, 2007 to check the plaintiff's breathing ability and the results were within normal limits. (Def. Mot, Alex Aff., p. 5)

Dr. Cullinan prescribed additional medication and treated the plaintiff for skin problems on August 13, 2007 and August 29, 2007. Nurse Alexander says the medical records demonstrate the plaintiff was offered his prescribed medication in August, but the plaintiff refused the treatment.

The doctor also saw the plaintiff on September 21, 2007, to address the plaintiff's complaints concerning his diabetes. The plaintiff had normal blood sugar levels, but the doctor ordered that it be tested on four consecutive days. All results returned normal. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 3-4).

Nurse Alexander says Jeff Dale of the United States Marshall Service called the jail on September 25, 2007, after the plaintiff had complained that he was suffering from diabetes. Mr. Dale was inquiring whether the plaintiff had received care and if anyone had checked his blood sugar level. (Def. Memo, Alex. Aff, p. 3). Dale called again on October 1, 2007 to inquire whether the plaintiff's blood sugar level could be checked each week. As a result of the call, the plaintiff's blood sugar level was tested on four occasions in October of 2007 and the results were all within normal limits. (Def. Memo, Alex. Aff, p. 3)

Dr. Cullinan says on October 12, 2007, he was informed that the United States Marshall Service had requested blood sugar level tests for the plaintiff. Dr. Cullinan says he ordered a glycated hemoglobin test which measures the overall blood glucose control over the past two to three months. The plaintiff's blood was drawn on October 13, 2007 and analysis was completed at the Pekin Hospital lab. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 4). Dr. Cullinan explains that results of less than 7 show a patient has maintained good control of his blood sugar level, from 7 to 9 shows average control and above 9 shows poor control. The plaintiff's results were 7.2, so he maintained average control of his blood sugar. (Def. Mot, Cull. Aff, p. 4)

Dr. Cullinan states that common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst and hunger, unusual weight loss, increased ...

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