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Gilbert v. Loftin

February 11, 2010


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


I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff Robert Gilbert seeks monetary damages against Defendants Mary Loftin, M. Hytham I. Beck and Adrian D. Feinerman, alleging that they denied him adequate medical care for his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center and Lawrence Correctional Center.*fn1 The matter is now before the Court on Dr. Beck's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 102), and the Court will confine its discussion to the claims brought against Dr. Beck.

Dr. Beck is a general surgeon who was recruited by Lawrence County Memorial Hospital ("the hospital") to relocate his private practice from Fairfield, Illinois, to Lawrenceville, Illinois. See Doc. 131-3. The hospital was in dire need of surgeons to serve the Lawrenceville community, and it was believed that Dr. Beck's presence as one of the hospital's staff physicians would be beneficial for the hospital. See Doc. 131-3.

Dr. Beck agreed to relocate to Lawrenceville, and, in 2005, he and the hospital executed an "independent contractor agreement" ("IC agreement"). In exchange for Dr. Beck's moving his practice, the hospital agreed to pay his relocation expenses, grant him staff membership and clinical privileges, pay him a bi-weekly salary, and set up and manage his office by hiring personnel, providing billing services and paying vendors. (Doc. 131-3, pp. 3-4). While the IC agreement did not prohibit Dr. Beck from becoming a staff physician at any other hospital, it required him to work at least 40 hours per week and at least forty-six weeks per year. Id. Dr. Beck's private practice was also located at the hospital, where he was the only surgeon on staff from September 2005 until March 2009. Id.

The IC agreement required Dr. Beck to provide medical care to "members of the public" but did not specifically require him to treat inmates. Id. However, the hospital's medical staff bylaws - as explained by the hospital's chief executive officer, Doug Florkowski -required staff physicians to treat "any patients that presents themselves to our hospital which would include inmates." See Doc. 131-2, Florkowski Dep. 18:3-7. Moreover, the hospital entered into a contract with Health Professionals, Ltd. ("HPL"), a managed care organization which undertook "to provide for the health care needs of the inmates and detainees." (Doc. 131-8, pp. 3, 5). HPL agreed to pay the hospital for any medical treatment or services it provided to inmates for whom HPL was responsible. Id. HPL and the hospital signed this agreement in April 2005, but the terms of that agreement stated it "shall continue in full force and effect for the period of one year from June 1, 2004 through June 1, 2005, and shall automatically renew for one-year periods hereafter." (Doc. 131-8, p. 14).

As one of the hospital's staff physicians and as the only surgeon working at the hospital, Dr. Beck provided medical care to the general public and, at times, to inmates who were referred to him (Doc. 131-1, pp. 6, 8). On November 1, 2006, Mary Loftin, M.D., the medical director at Lawrence, asked Dr. Beck to provide a surgical consultation for Gilbert, who, at the time of Dr. Loftin's request, had been experiencing severe problems with his colon for almost two years and had undergone two surgeries for this condition while he was incarcerated in Cook County, Illinois (Doc. 131, p. 2; see Doc. 133-1, p. 8). Dr. Loftin sent Dr. Beck a written consultation request form and followed up with a fax:

38 year old male.Approval only for colonoscopy only - rule out fistulotomy. They [Dr. Loftin and her staff] will do H&P and labs. (Doc. 131-5, p.1 ).

See referral for offender. We would like to do H&P here and blood work and just schedule for procedure if possible. (Doc. 131-9, p. 1).

Although Dr. Beck maintains that he was not obligated to do so, he agreed to treat Gilbert. See Doc. 131-7. On November 17, 2006, Dr. Beck examined Gilbert at the hospital. He performed a colonoscopy and diagnosed him with having "superficial rectal fistula, rectal fissure, and a spastic colon." (Doc. 131-7, pp. 1-2). Dr. Beck concluded that Gilbert did not need surgery (i.e., the fistulotomy); however, he wrote Gilbert a prescription for "an irritable bowel syndrome cocktail." Id. Additionally, he recommended that Gilbert take a sitz bath and apply xylocaine after each bowel movement. Id. After this appointment, Dr. Beck did not see Gilbert again (Doc. 131-7, p. 2).

Unfortunately for Gilbert, he continued to experience severe symptoms after Dr. Beck performed his colonoscopy (Doc. 119, p. 5). Gilbert alleges that he filed nineteen grievances at Lawrence, seeking help for his medical condition. Id. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Gilbert filed suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Subsequently, the case was transferred to this District.

On May 18, 2009, Dr. Beck moved for summary judgment (Doc. 102), claiming that Gilbert's §1983 action against him fails because he was not acting under the color of state law when he treated Gilbert in November 2006.

II. Analysis

"Summary judgment is proper only if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Storie v. Randy's Auto Sales, LLC, 589 F.3d 873, 876 (7th Cir. 2009). "To survive summary judgment, a non-moving party must show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues for which the ...

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