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Heard v. Wexford Health Sources

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS


January 25, 2010

DELBERT HEARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Delbert Heard, formerly an inmate in the Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Heard states that he was at Menard from March 2006 through January 2008. During that time, he suffered from two inguinal hernias, which caused painful lumps in his groin and scrotum. Due to the medical treatment he received, or did not receive, at Menard, he presents three separate claims.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint 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). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this action portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

COUNT 1--AGAINST WEXFORD HEALTH,HOLLORAN,WALKER,ELYEA AND FEINERMAN

Heard alleges that these defendants individually and collectively denied him surgery for his condition. He further alleges that these decisions were the result of a policy to find that such surgery was elective, and thus surgery would only be approved when an inmate's hernias became life-threatening.

A deliberate indifference claim requires both an objectively serious risk of harm and a subjectively culpable state of mind. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). A deliberate indifference claim premised upon inadequate medical treatment requires, to satisfy the objective element, a medical condition "that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention." Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653. The subjective component of a deliberate indifference claim requires that the prison official knew of "a substantial risk of harm to the inmate and disregarded the risk." Id.; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Mere medical malpractice or a disagreement with a doctor's medical judgment is not deliberate indifference. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976); Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653; Estate of Cole by Pardue v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 261 (7th Cir. 1996). Still, a plaintiff's receipt of some medical care does not automatically defeat a claim of deliberate indifference if a fact finder could infer the treatment was "so blatantly inappropriate as to evidence intentional mistreatment likely to seriously aggravate" a medical condition. Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).

Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830-31 (7th Cir. 2007).

Applying these standards to the allegations in the complaint, the Court is unable to dismiss Count 1 at this time. See Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009); Woodward v. Corr. Medical Serv. of Ill., Inc., 368 F.3d 917, 927 (7th Cir. 2004).

COUNT 2--AGAINST FEINERMAN AND SHEPARD*fn1

Heard's next claim is against Feinerman and Shepard, two physicians at Menard. Each of them examined Heard and told him that proper treatment would be surgical repair, but due to policy they would not recommend surgery until his hernias became strangulated. As a result, Heard endured significant pain.

For the reasons set forth above in Count 1, the Court is unable to dismiss the claims in Count 2 at this time.

COUNT 3--AGAINST LIEFER

When Heard's hernias became strangulated, Defendant Liefer performed the necessary surgery at Chester Memorial Hospital. Heard alleges that Liefer did not install a fluid draining tube in the surgical area. As a result, Heard's pelvic area filled with fluid, causing uncomfortable swelling, and prolonging his recovery from surgery.

With respect to the subjective element, the Seventh Circuit has frequently noted that "medical malpractice in the form of an incorrect diagnosis or improper treatment does not state an Eighth Amendment claim." Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1374 (7th Cir. 1997). See also Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 1996) ("Mere negligence or even gross negligence does not constitute deliberate indifference."); Sellers v. Henman, 41 F.3d 1100, 1103 (7th Cir. 1994) (A series of acts of negligence "is merely evidentiary; it is not an alternative theory of liability.").

Heard's allegations against Liefer present, at best, a claim of medical negligence, which is not actionable under § 1983. Accordingly, Heard has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted with respect to Liefer.

DISPOSITION

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that COUNT 3 and Defendant LIEFER are DISMISSED from this action with prejudice.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall prepare for Defendants WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, HOLLORAN, WALKER, ELYEA, FEINERMAN and SHEPARD: (1) a Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons; and (2) a Waiver of Service of Summons. The Clerk is directed to mail said forms, a copy of the Complaint, and this Memorandum and Order to each Defendant's work address or employer address as provided by Plaintiff. If a Defendant fails to sign and return the Waiver to the Clerk within 30 days from the date said forms were sent, the Court will take appropriate steps to effect formal service on that Defendant and will require that Defendant to pay the full costs of formal service, to the extent authorized by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, with respect to a Defendant who no longer can be found at the address provided by Plaintiff, the Correctional Center shall furnish the Clerk with the Defendant's current work address, or, if not known, the Defendant's last-known address. This information shall be used only for sending the forms as directed above, or for formally effecting service. Any documentation of the address shall be retained only by the Clerk. Address information shall not be maintained in the court file, nor disclosed by the Clerk.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendants (or upon defense counsel once an appearance is entered), a copy of every further pleading or other document submitted for consideration by the court. Plaintiff shall include with the original paper to be filed with the Clerk of the Court a certificate stating the date on which a true and correct copy of any document was served on Defendants or their counsel. Any paper received by a district judge or magistrate judge that has not been filed with the Clerk or that fails to include a certificate of service will be disregarded by the Court.

Defendants are ORDERED to timely file an appropriate responsive pleading to the complaint, and shall not waive filing a reply pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g).

Pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(a)(2), this cause is REFERRED to a United States Magistrate Judge for further pre-trial proceedings.

Further, this entire matter is hereby REFERRED to a United States Magistrate Judge for disposition, as contemplated by Local Rule 72.2(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), should all the parties consent to such a referral.

Plaintiff is ADVISED of his continuing obligation to keep the Clerk and each opposing party informed of any change in his whereabouts during the pendency of this action. This notification shall be done in writing and not later than seven (7) days after a transfer or other change in address occurs. Failure to provide such notice may result in dismissal of this action. See FED.R.CIV.P. 41(b).

IT IS SO ORDERED.

J. Phil Gilbert U. S. District Judge


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