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Williams v. Blagojevich

February 4, 2010


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


I. Factual and Procedural Background

Claxton H. Williams, Jr.,an inmate previously incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center and currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivation of rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court, in its threshold order, construed Williams's complaint as alleging that Dr. Ahmed, a physician working at Menard, denied Williams adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Count 5). (See Docs. 1, 13).

According to the complaint, because of an injury to Williams's left shoulder and both wrists, his doctors at Stateville gave him a permit to be handcuffed "palms in" behind his back and exempting him from being cuffed "palms out." (Doc. 1, p. 8). When Williams was transferred to Menard on February 17, 2004, guards insisted on handcuffing him with arms behind his back, "palms out." On March 11, 2004, he spoke to Dr. Ahmed about the "palms out" policy at Menard. According to Williams, Dr. Ahmed stated, "You will receive no treatment here. I don't care what U.I.C. specialists recommend." (Doc. 1, p.. 8). Dr. Ahmed purportedly refused to even examine Williams or discuss the issue, saying, "You don't look as if you're in pain. Please leave." Id. On August 3, 2004, Dr. Ahmed instructed that Williams be allowed to be cuffed "palms in"; ultimately, a medical permit was issued by staff, on Dr. Ahmed's behalf, allowing Williams to be "double cuffed" in back for one year, based on a diagnosis of left shoulder pain. (Doc. 1, pp. 31-32; Doc. 1-3, p. 9).

On August 6, 2004, after allegedly being beaten by guards, Williams was taken to the prison hospital in a wheelchair, passing in and out of consciousness along the way. (Doc. 1, pp. 26, 32). According to Williams, he was bruised and bleeding, having been kicked, hit and stomped on - principally injuring his head, kidneys and wrists. Id. Williams was also having trouble breathing, and his chest hurt. (Doc. 1, p. 32). Williams alleges that Dr. Ahmed only performed an EKG and refused to document his injuries, telling Williams, "You'll heal." (Doc. 1, pp. 26-27; Doc. 1-1, p. 1). When Williams told Dr. Ahmed he had kidney pain, his hip was bleeding and his ears hurt, Dr. Ahmed said, "You"ll heal after awhile" and directed that Williams be taken back to his cell. (Doc. 1-1, p. 1).*fn1

Dr. Ahmed moves for summary judgment, contending that there is no evidence to support the claim of deliberate indifference. (Doc. 79). He asserts that Williams has shown only a difference of opinion regarding his treatment and that there is no evidence of harm from any delay in treatment.

In response to Dr. Ahmed's motion, Williams initially filed a letter with the Clerk of Court indicating that he desired an evidentiary hearing because he was unable to file a formal response due to the "oppressive" conditions of his imprisonment. (Doc. 91). Dr. Ahmed observed that Williams's letter/response merely made allegations that were fodder for a new civil rights complaint. However, Williams subsequently filed an "affidavit"/"statement of disputed factual issues," addressing Dr. Ahmed's motion and a motion for summary judgment filed by other Defendants. (Doc. 96). Thus, in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court will rule on Dr. Ahmed's motion based on the parties' briefs, pleadings, affidavits and other evidence submitted.

II. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). In determining the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, the Court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

If the moving party meets its burden, the nonmoving party has the burden "to go beyond the pleadings and affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial." Borello v. Allison, 446 F.3d 742, 748 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-326; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). Put more bluntly, summary judgment is "not a dress rehearsal or practice run; it is the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events." Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007).

III. Analysis

Generally, the Eighth Amendment obligates prison officials to "provide humane conditions of confinement;.. [to] ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care, and [to] 'take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'" Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)); see alsoEstelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). The Eighth Amendment is violated when an official exhibits "deliberate indifference," i.e., when an official "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This standard is subjective and is the equivalent of recklessness in the criminal law sense.Id.; Steele v. Choi, 82 F.3d 175, 179 (7th Cir. 1996).

[A]n Eighth Amendment claimant need not show that a prison official acted or failed to act believing that harm actually would befall an inmate; it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.... Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence,... and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842.

The ultimate determination regarding the seriousness of an injury is best left to a healthcare professional, or the seriousness of the injury must be so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a healthcare professional's attention.Davis v. Jones, 936 F.2d 971, 972 (7th Cir. 1991); see also Langston v. Peters, 100 F.3d 1235, 1240 (7th Cir. 1996). InNorfleet v. Webster, 439 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2006), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit noted that a difference of opinion between physicians cannot support a deliberate indifference claim, and the medical decision at issue must be "so far afield of accepted professional standards as to raise the inference that it was not actually based on a medical judgment." Norfleet, 439 F.3d at 396. A showing of medical malpractice will not, alone, suffice. See Estate of Cole Pardue v. Fromm, ...

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