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Perkins v. Wexford Health Sources

February 23, 2010


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


Plaintiff Darron R. Perkins, pro se, filed the above-captioned civil rights action alleging that, while he was a pretrial detainee in the St. Clair County Jail, the defendants improperly discontinued his psychotropic medication. (Doc. 5.) Defendants, in groupings reflecting their respective affiliations, have filed three separate but interrelated motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 67, 71, 105.) The groups of defendants*fn1 will be referred to as follows:

1. "The Wexford defendants": Debbie Goretzke, Barbara Rodriguez, Jill Schreder, Jennifer Rude-Little and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (Doc. 67); 2. "The Jail defendants": Mearl Justus, T.J. Collins and Lt. Saunders (Doc. 71); and 3. "The County," referring to St. Clair County, Illinois, which employed the Jail defendants and the Wexford defendants (Doc. 105).

Although the Court granted Perkins multiple extensions of time to do so, he has not responded to any of the motions for summary judgment.

Summary of the Amended Complaint and Relevant Legal Principles As previously summarized in the Court's threshold order:

Plaintiff, a disabled Vietnam veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, states that on December 19, 2004, while he was incarcerated in the East St. Louis City Jail, his wife brought his medications for post traumatic stress disorder to the jail for Plaintiff to take as needed. On December 21, 2004, Plaintiff was transferred to the St. Clair County Jail.

Upon his arrival in the St. Clair County Jail he was seen by Dr. Reddy, a psychiatrist, who prescribed him Prozac and Trazodone. These medications are very helpful in reducing Plaintiff's combat-related nightmares. He received these medications regularly at the St. Clair County Jail until July 2005.

On an unspecified date in July 2005, Defendant Nurse Jill came to Plaintiff's cell on the nighttime medication rounds and gave him a Trazodone pill of a different shape and size than the one he normally received. When she realized her mistake, Nurse Jill asked for the tablet back, but Plaintiff had already swallowed it. Nurse Jill accused Plaintiff of giving the pill to another detainee. Plaintiff states that from that day on, for six months total, he did not receive either of his prescribed medications. He never received a disciplinary report regarding the incident, nor any explanation as to why the medication was stopped. Nurse Jill resigned two weeks after the incident.

During the period he was denied his medication, he asked Defendant Barbara Rodriquez and other unspecified nurses over twenty times about the discontinuation. He filed more than fifteen sick call requests asking for the medication or to speak with Dr. Reddy, because he could not sleep. When he did manage to sleep he suffered from frequent nightmares, some of which caused him to fall out of his bunk, injuring his shoulder and his knee, but still he was not seen by medical staff about the medications or the falls.

Plaintiff also filed formal grievances with jail staff. He specifically asked Defendant Sanders why he had been denied medication and told him that he was suffering from violent nightmares. Defendant Sanders did not provide the medications, but told Plaintiff to keep filing grievances. Plaintiff wrote notarized letters to both Sheriff Mearl Justus, and Jail Superintendent T.J. Collins asking that the medications be reinstated, that he receive a hearing to determine why the medications were discontinued, and to see the psychiatrist due to his suffering. Defendants Justus and Collins did not respond to the letters.

As a result of the denial of the medications, Plaintiff suffered frequent violent combat-induced nightmares, sleep deprivation, physical injuries to his left shoulder and left knee from falling out of his bunk during nightmares, and deterioration in his overall health, thus hindering his ability to adequately assist with his upcoming criminal trial.

In December 2005, [Plaintiff] was allowed to see a psychologist, Mr. McCain, who told Plaintiff he did not understand why Plaintiff had not been allowed his medications or to see the psychiatrist. Later in December, Plaintiff was finally allowed to see the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told Plaintiff that he did not authorize the discontinuation, and he immediately re-prescribed the medications. (Compl. 2--3.)

Pretrial detainees are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's (substantive) due process clause, rather than the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, which applies to convicted persons. Williams v. Rodriguez, 509 F.3d 392, 401 (7th Cir. 2007); Collignon v. Milwaukee County, 163 F.3d 982, 986--87 (7th Cir. 1999); see also Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). Still, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has noted that, as a practical matter, there is little difference between the applicable standards for liability. E.g., Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 588 F.3d 445, 452 n.1 (7th Cir. 2009); Williams, 509 F.3d at 401; Collignon, 163 F.3d at 988--89.

The "deliberate indifference" standard associated with the Eighth Amendment is used to analyze the conduct of prison officials for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment-specifically with respect to medical decisions of the type presented in this case. Id. Prison officials cannot punish pretrial detainees; at the same time they are obligated to keep detainees safe and to provide adequate medical care. See Sullivan v. Bornemann, 384 F.3d 372, 377 (7th Cir. 2004); Collignon, 163 F.3d at 987--88; Estate of Cole v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 259 (7th Cir. 1996). ...

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