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Knight v. Wiseman

December 22, 2009


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 07-CV-127-David R. Herndon, Chief Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Flaum, Circuit Judge


Before FLAUM, MANION, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

Rick Knight, plaintiff-appellant, appeals a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees Kenneth Wiseman and Mark Wiedau. Knight is a prisoner at Vandalia Correctional Center in Vandalia, Illinois, where Wiseman and Wiedau worked as correctional officers. In a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, Knight alleged that the appellees violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by requiring him to work despite a prior shoulder injury and delaying medical treatment following Knight's subsequent re-injury. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the officers, finding that the evidence in the record did not create an issue of material fact regarding whether the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical needs and that the defendants were protected by qualified immunity.

For the following reasons, we now affirm.

I. Background

This case revolves around a repeat shoulder injury Rick Knight sustained on February 16, 2005, while serving a four-year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC").

In July 2004, Knight had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. On December 8, 2004, Knight began serving his sentence at the Graham Correctional Center. On January 27, 2005, IDOC transferred Knight to the Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"). After several weeks in a segregation dormi-tory at Vandalia, Knight was assigned to a work camp adjacent to the prison. Inmates at the work camp live in a different section of the facility and leave daily for supervised work detail.

Vandalia Assignment Officers determine the eligibility of inmates for work camp duty on the basis of several factors, paying particular attention to an inmate's medical condition. To that end, individuals who bear a work restriction issued by a licensed medical professional cannot transfer to the camp. Eligible inmates at the camp participate in a work gang where at least one correctional officer supervises every eight inmates at all times. These work gangs usually cut down tree branches and pick up stray logs alongside highways.

Prior to his February 16, 2005, injury, Knight did not have any medical work restrictions. Upon his initial arrival at Vandalia, he told the medical staff about his shoulder surgery, explaining that his shoulder "popped the other night and now hurts." The prison's medical records appropriately reference the complaint. Knight also stated that while he could use his right arm, he had difficulty pulling himself up to the top bunk. Accordingly, he requested and received a bottom-bunk permit with an eighteen-month duration from Dr. Vipin K. Shah, the Facility Medical Director. Knight did not request or receive a light-duty restriction, a gym restriction, or a yard restriction while at Vandalia.

When Knight arrived at the work camp, he immediately told the officer making the transfer that he could not do extremely heavy work. The officer, who is not a defendant in this case, told Knight that he was going to the work camp anyway. At the camp, Knight successfully procured a transfer from a top bunk to a bottom bunk after showing his segregation bunk pass and explaining why he had it. Appellant performed work on several dates prior to February 16, 2005, all of which involved "general maintenance and clean-up," the description provided for the February 16th detail. On the morning of his very first assignment, Knight informed the officer at the front desk that he had a shoulder injury and was not supposed to do heavy lifting or throwing. The officer replied, "[E]ither you go to work or you go to [segregation]," and Knight went to work. Officers Wiseman and Wiedau were present but not within hearing range for this conversation. Knight also testified that at some unspecified point in time either Wiseman or Wiedau made the same comment to him.

In his deposition, Knight testified that on the first three work details he would always try to pick lighter work and use his left arm for heavy lifting. He did not incur any injuries or experience any soreness in his shoulder during these assignments. Indeed, prior to February 16, 2005, Knight filed no grievance stating that work detail put him at risk of re-injury, made no request for laundry duty, and sought no medical attention for his shoulder. Knight testified that he "enjoyed" being on work detail "because [he] got to leave the prison."

On the morning of February 16, 2005, Wiseman and Wiedau took a group of inmates to do roadside maintenance. They arrived at the site shortly after 8 a.m. Once the gang began working, Wiseman realized that one of the chainsaws was broken, returned to the van, and radioed another officer to request a replacement. He then attempted to fix the broken tool himself. Meanwhile, Knight began the detail by doing light work. Defendantsappellees demanded he do more and, after some verbal prodding, Knight threw a log and felt his shoulder "rip." Knight immediately grabbed his arm and went to tell Wiseman and Wiedau what had happened. Neither officer saw the event, which Knight testified took place at approximately 9 a.m. (Wiseman put the time at 8:15 a.m. in his testimony). After Knight complained about being in pain, Wiedau instructed him to go back to the ditch and do whatever work he could with one arm. Knight attempted to pick up branches and twigs but could not do so because of the pain. He again complained to Officer Wiedau. Together, the two approached Officer Wiseman, who explained that he could not drive Knight to the Health Care Unit ("HCU"), but that Knight could ride back with the officer delivering the replacement chainsaw.

Notably, at some point during the morning, Knight stated that he should not have been at the work camp at all because of his shoulder injury, to which Officer Wiseman responded that if Knight said as much at the beginning of the day, he would have been left behind at the work camp. Knight argues that this exchange took place as soon as the gang arrived at the work site, but the record belies his assertion. In his own testimony, appellant never contends that he specifically informed Wiseman and Wiedau about his shoulder problems before the re-injury. Furthermore, Officer Wiseman testified, "[Knight] told me that he had previously hurt his shoulder and that he shouldn't even be at the work camp. I said that's fine with me. If he would have said that before we left, I wouldn't have even took him out." Wise-man added that ...

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