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James v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

September 16, 2010

EDDIE JAMES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Eddie James, an inmate in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

THE COMPLAINT

The basis for this action is simple. In early August 2008, James injured his lower back while playing basketball. On August 9, 2008, he sought medical treatment for this injury. For 12 pages of the complaint, James provides a detailed factual account of his numerous visits with medical personnel between August 9, 2008, through December 2, 2009. James was eventually diagnosed with a herniated disk, degenerative disk disease, degenerative spondylosis of the lumbar spine, and probable compression in the area of his herniated disk. Surgery was recommended but apparently had not been performed before James filed this action in January 2010.

LEGAL STANDARDS

James's primary legal claim is that all Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

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).

James also asserts that in failing to provide him with medical treatment, continuously charging him a $2.00 co-payment for medical visits, and denying his grievances, Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.

With respect to the $2.00 co-payment plan, courts consistently have held that such a plan is not unconstitutional. See Reynolds v. Wagner, 128 F.3d 166, 174 (3d Cir. 1997) (prisoner co-payment plan does not violate the Eighth Amendment); Shapley v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Commissioners, 766 F.2d 404, 408 (9th Cir. 1985) (finding nothing per se unconstitutional about charging an inmate $3.00 for every medical visit; such a charge, by itself, did not constitute deliberate indifference under Estelle); Hudgins v. DeBruyn, 922 F.Supp. 144, 150-52 (S.D. Ind. 1996) (prisoner co-payment plan does not violate the Eighth Amendment); Martin v. DeBruyn, 880 F.Supp. 610, 615 (N.D. Ind. 1995), aff'd, 116 F.3d 1482 (7th Cir. 1997) (Eighth Amendment guarantees only that inmates receive necessary medical care; it does not guarantee free medical care). Thus, requiring James to pay a $2.00 co-payment for his medical visits does not violate the Constitution.

As for denial of his grievances, "a state's inmate grievance procedures do not give rise to a liberty interest protected by the due process clause." Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1995). The Constitution requires no procedure at all, and the failure of state prison officials to follow their own procedures does not, of itself, violate the Constitution. Maust v. Headley, 959 F.2d 644, 648 (7th Cir. 1992); Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091 (7th Cir. 1982). James has no constitutional right to receive his desired response -- or any response -- to his grievances, and the failure of Defendants to provide him with his requested relief is not a constitutional violation.

Finally, as set forth above, claims regarding medical care fall under the Eighth Amendment, not the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, the Court will address the medical care claims only with respect to the Eighth Amendment.

ANALYSIS

Keeping in mind the standards set forth above, the Court now will examine the allegations made against each named Defendant.

Nurse Lucas

James states that he sought treatment for his back injury on August 9, 2008, at the nurse sick-call line. He told Lucas that he had extreme pain in his lower back, which became worse when he sat or bent over. He explained that he had been taking Tylenol but that it had not helped. James asked to see a doctor, but Lucas told him that he needed to be seen on the sick-call line three times before he would be referred to the doctor. Lucas gave him more Tylenol and an exercise sheet. This one encounter with Lucas does not support a claim that she was deliberately ...


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