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Hauschild v. Powers

March 24, 2010

JOSEPH HAUSCHILD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARVIN POWERS, M.D., TERRY CALIPER, GRACE HART, AMY "DOE", AND JOCELYN "DOE", DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Terry Caliper's (Ms. Caliper) Motion for Summary Judgment based on qualified immunity (Doc. 25), and on Plaintiff Joseph Hauschild's (Hauschild) Appeal (Doc. 39) of Magistrate Judge Proud's denial of Hauschild's Motion for Reconsideration of Appointment of Counsel (Doc 37). A hearing on these motions was held on January 25, 2010. On March 4, 2010, Ms. Caliper filed a second Motion for Summary Judgment based on the merits (Doc. 42). The Court has thoroughly reviewed this new motion and its accompanying memorandum. For the reasons outlined below, both Motions for Summary Judgment and Hauschild's Appeal are DENIED.

Hauschild, an inmate at the Tamms Correctional Center (Tamms), claims that Ms. Caliper, the Health Care Unit Administrator at Tamms, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by: (1) being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and (2) by retaliating and discriminating against him because of his atheist beliefs in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively. Ms. Caliper moves for summary judgment, and alleges she is entitled to qualified immunity from all of Hauschild's claims.

BACKGROUND

On summary judgment, the Court considers the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and adopts reasonable inferences and resolves doubts in favor of that party. Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc., v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). Hauschild injured his knee while running in the Tamms prison yard on February 23, 2007. Since then, his knee has been swollen and sore (at least intermittently). Hauschild allegedly submitted roughly 44 medical request chits concerning his knee between February 2007 and April 2009.*fn1 Initially, Hauschild was seen very regularly - roughly 13 times in a six-month period between March and August of 2007. Some level of swollen tissue and "small knee-joint effusion" was diagnosed by Dr. Marvin Powers, M.D., Medical Director of Tamms,*fn2 and Motrin and other anti-inflammatories were prescribed. Hauschild complained to Dr. Powers and various nurses that the Motrin seriously upset his stomach, but it continued to be prescribed. During his August 8, 2007, appointment with Dr. Powers, Plaintiff revealed that he was an atheist to which Dr. Powers allegedly responded, "Since you don't believe in God, you'll never see a specialist while I work here. And I don't care if you die on Motrin" (Doc. 6, p. 5). After this appointment, Hauschild was not seen at all between August 2007 and February 2008, in spite of allegedly submitting at least five medical request slips (Doc. 38, p. 3).

Hauschild filed grievances against Ms. Caliper and the medical staff at Tamms on May 14, 2007, and August 9, 2007. Additionally, on August 27, 2007, and October 3, 2007, Hauschild sent letters to Ms. Caliper requesting her assistance (Doc. 1, Ex. 1, pp. 50-51). In his August, 27, 2007, letter Hauschild specifically mentioned that Dr. Powers was discriminating against him because of his atheist beliefs. According to an affidavit from another inmate, in either March or May 2008, as Ms. Caliper walked past Hauschild's cell he attempted to speak with her and asked why his chits were not being processed. Ms. Caliper allegedly responded, "I don't treat Atheists." (Doc. 38, Ex. J, p. 2). Hauschild claims he was seen only once or twice between Jan. 2008 and Jan. 2009, in spite of submitting 16 medical request chits (Doc. 38, p. 4).

Hauschild therefore alleges that Ms. Caliper was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs because she failed to process his medical request chits. Hauschild further claims that Ms. Caliper engaged in discriminatory and retaliatory conduct because she was aware of his atheist beliefs and, on that basis, denied him access to medical care. Ms. Caliper submits that she is entitled to summary judgment on Hauschild's deliberate indifference claim because: (1) Hauschild failed to adequately allege her involvement in his course of treatment, (2) she did not act with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind" and, (3) she "fulfilled her duty of providing access to healthcare" and can't be held liable for the alleged "misdeeds of others" (Doc. 26, pp. 7-11). Regarding Hauschild's discrimination and retaliation claims, Ms. Caliper asserts Hauschild has not alleged she was aware of his atheistic beliefs and, even if she did have knowledge, "she would have been unable to change the course of the Plaintiff's treatment" (Doc. 26, pp. 11-13). In her new motion for summary judgment on the merits, Ms. Caliper essentially makes exactly the same arguments (see Doc. 43). However, Ms. Caliper now asserts that Mr. Hauschild "was continuously seen by medical professionals . during the relevant time periods," and he has not established that any unprocessed medical chits resulted in a delay that detrimentally effected his medical treatment (Doc. 43, p. 9)

LEGAL STANDARDS

The standard applied to summary judgment motions filed under Rule 56 is well-settled and has been succinctly stated as follows:

Summary judgment is proper when 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 a judgment as a matter of law. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, [the Court] must view the record in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Because the primary purpose of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims, the non-movant may not rest on the pleadings but must respond, with affidavits or otherwise, setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.. A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient; a party will be successful in opposing summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.

Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 931-32 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal citations and quotations omitted). With this firm and familiar standard in mind, however, the Court is obligated to construe Hauschild's pro se Complaint liberally. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 681 (7th Cir. 2006).

"Qualified immunity is not simply a defense to liability. It also provides immunity from suit." Tun v. Whitticker, 398 F.3d 899, 901 (7th Cir. 2005). The defense is "available to government officials performing discretionary functions that affords them protection from civil liability." Lee v. Young, 533 F.3d 505, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court makes two key inquiries in evaluating qualified immunity: "(1) whether the facts, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff[], show that the defendant[] violated a constitutional right; and (2) whether that constitutional right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation." Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 540 (7th Cir. 2009). "[T]he court may decide these questions in whatever order is best suited to the case at hand." Id., citing Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009). Further, in circumstances such as this, the analysis of whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and the analysis of whether the defendant is entitled to qualified immunity effectively collapses into one inquiry. Walker v. Benjamin, 293 F.3d 1030, 1037 (7th Cir. 2002).

ANALYSIS

Here, the constitutional rights in question - under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments - were clearly established. See, e.g., Walker, 293 F.3d at 1040 (7th Cir. 2002) ("The general standard for liability under the Eighth Amendment for refusal to treat a serious medical condition was well-established at the time of these events"); DeWalt v.Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 618 (7th Cir. 2000) ("An act taken in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally protected right violates the Constitution"); Babcock v. R.L. White, 102 F.3d 267, 276 (7th Cir. 1996) (A prisoner's right to seek administrative remedies, as well as the right to be free from retaliation for exercising this right has been "long recognized" by federal courts. Further, prison officials are "on notice that any retaliation, whatever its shape, could give rise to liability."); Sherwin Manor Nursing Center, Inc. V. McAuliffe, 37 F.3d 1216, 1220 (7th Cir. 1994) (A violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment occurs when a state actor purposefully discriminates against a person because of his or her identification with a particular group); Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 682 (7th Cir. 2005) ("The Supreme Court has ...


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