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Janet Rendon, Independent Administrator of the Estate of Carol v. Wexford Health Services

December 10, 2010

JANET RENDON, INDEPENDENT ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF CAROL CZUBERNAT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SERVICES,INC., ARGOSY EDUCATION GROUP, INC., AMY RAY, ANGELA WRIGHT, KIMERI SHULL, CYNTHIA PETERSON, AND PATRICK MCELROY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. ManningUnited States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

Carol Czubernat committed suicide while she was incarcerated at the Dwight Correctional Center. Plaintiff Janet Rendon, the Independent Administrator of the Estate of Carol Czubernat, filed this action alleging that defendants (entities associated with, or employees of, Dwight Correctional Center) violated Ms. Czubernat's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as Illinois common law in connection with the suicide. Defendants Kimeri Shull, Angela Wright, Cynthia Peterson, and Patrick McElroy (correctional officers at Dwight Correctional Center) move to transfer this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

I. Background

"When deciding a motion to transfer venue, the court must accept as true all of plaintiff's well-pleaded facts in the complaint, unless they are contradicted by affidavits or other appropriate evidence from the defendant." Andrade v. Chase Home Fin., LLC, No. 04 C 8229, 2005 WL 3436400, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 12, 2005). The relevant facts, taken from the well-pled complaint, are as follows.

A. Initial Arrest and Treatment

On August 1, 2008, Carol Czubernat was arrested and charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol. The same day, Ms. Czubernat was transferred to DuPage County Jail. Prior to her admission, a doctor at Central DuPage Hospital evaluated her for possible suicidal thoughts and evaluated her prescription psychiatric medication (Cymbalta and Tradozone). The jail administration placed her on medical watch from August 2, 2008 to August 5, 2008.

Ms. Czubernat subsequently pled guilty to aggravated driving under the influence and was sentenced to a three-year term of incarceration. Her prescription for Trazodone was discontinued on November 10, 2008, but she remained on Cymbalta while she was incarcerated at DuPage County Jail.

B. Transfer to Dwight Correctional Center

On November 21, 2009, Ms. Czubernat was transferred to Dwight Correctional Center. On the same day, defendant Amy Ray, a doctor employed by Dwight Correctional Center, saw Ms. Czubernat and performed a mental health evaluation. As part of the evaluation, Dr. Ray reviewed a health information transfer form from DuPage County Jail indicating that Ms. Czubernat had suicidal thoughts in August of 2008 and had been prescribed Cymbalta for depression as well as psychotropic drugs (Depakote, Risperdal, Librium, and Thorazine) in the past year. In addition, Ms. Czubernat told Dr. Ray that she had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, had received mental health treatment within the last year, had taken Cymbalta and Trazodone, and attempted to commit suicide when she was fourteen years old.

Dr. Ray's treatment plan for Ms. Czubernat consisted of "routine placement" and a referral to a drug treatment program and a work assignment. Dr. Ray also advised Ms. Czubernat that mental health services were available. From November 21, 2008, to February 19, 2009, Ms. Czubernat did not receive mental health treatment or psychiatric medication.

C. Requests for Mental Health Treatment

On January 24, 2009, Ms. Czubernat completed a medical request form to get confirmation that she did not have a medical hold so she could be transferred from Dwight Correctional Center. On February 4, 2009, her medical hold was lifted.

Between February 12, 2009 and February 26, 2009, Czubernat requested mental health treatment from the medical staff at Dwight Correctional Center multiple times. She submitted medical referral requests on February 12, 2009 and February 17, 2009, requested her anti-depression medication repeatedly on February 12, 17, 20, 25 and 26, 2009, and wrote increasingly distraught letters to the Health Care Unit asking for urgent help on February 20, 25, 26, and 27, 2009.

An unknown psychologist visited Ms. Czubernat on February 13, 2009, and Dr. Ray visited her on February 18, 2009, but neither doctor prescribed medication. Moreover, Dr. Ray declined to moved Ms. Czubernat up on the waiting list to see the psychiatrist. On February 19, 2009, Dr. Ray recommended that Ms. Czubernat try relaxation techniques to manage her anxiety. According to Dr. Ray, Ms. Czubernat denied that she had suicidal ideations.

That same day, Dr. Arthur Funk, an employee of defendant Wexford Health Services, Inc., prescribed Cymbalta but did not examine Ms. Czubernat. On February 25, 2009, Ms. Czubernat wrote a letter to the Health Care Unit addressed to Dr. Yuan stating that she had not received her medication and was suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. She also wrote, "The Seg Unit is killing me . . . I am not doing well at all. I am going to lose my mind. Please come to see me. I am shaking constantly. I am unable to sleep . . . Please help me! I can't take it much longer in here. Please get me my meds." Complaint at ¶ 11.

The Health Unit did not give Ms. Czubernat the prescribed Cymbalta until February 26, 2009. Shortly after receiving the Cymbalta, Ms. Czubernat wrote another letter to Dr. Yuan stating she had just received her first dose of Cymbalta and asking for additional medication because lockdown was "driving [her] over the edge" and causing her to have panic attacks, uncontrollable crying attacks, palpitations, and racing thoughts. The following day, Ms Czubernat wrote a third letter to Dr. Yuan describing her panic attacks and stating, "I'm shaking constantly, my hands and legs. My heart is racing. My thoughts are racing. This is an unbearable situation . . ...


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