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Carl Gallo v. Adrian Feinerman

December 27, 2010


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




Procedural History:

This case returns to the district court after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the undersigned's dismissal, upon threshold review, of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The matter was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court's order.


Plaintiff suffers from ulcerative colitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Plaintiff was treated for these conditions when he was prescribed the drug Prilosec by a prison physician. Some time after this, but before August 2005, Plaintiff was taken off Prilosec due to reactions he had to the drug (namely nausea, chest pains, rashes, and excessive bowel movements) and placed instead on the drug Prevacid. Defendant Feinerman then took over as Plaintiff's doctor in August 2005. After reviewing Plaintiff's medical history, Defendant Feinerman cancelled Plaintiff's Prevacid prescription, and instead instructed Plaintiff that he must take Prilosec or nothing. Ultimately Plaintiff elected to take nothing, stating that the untreated condition was more bearable than the effects of Prilosec on his body.


Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Feinerman's cancellation of the Prevacid prescription in favor of a Prilosec treatment regimen, while knowing Plaintiff's intolerance for the drug, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment is applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. It has been a means of improving prison conditions that were constitutionally unacceptable. See, e.g., Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 666 (1962); Sellers v. Henman, 41 F.3d 1100, 1102 (7th Cir. 1994). As the Supreme Court noted in Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981), the amendment reaches beyond barbarous physical punishment to prohibit the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and punishment grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime. Id., (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). The Constitution also prohibits punishment that is totally without penological justification. Gregg, 428 U.S. at 183.

Not all prison conditions trigger Eighth Amendment scrutiny -- only deprivations of basic human needs like food, medical care, sanitation, and physical safety. See Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346; See also James v. Milwaukee County, 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992). In order to prevail on a conditions of confinement claim, a plaintiff must allege facts that, if true, would satisfy the objective and subjective components applicable to all Eighth Amendment claims. See McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302 (1991). The objective component focuses on the nature of the acts or practices alleged to constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

See Jackson v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir. 1992). The objective analysis examines whether the conditions of confinement "exceeded contemporary bounds of decency of a mature, civilized society." Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1579 (7th Cir. 1994). The condition must result in unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic human needs or deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. Rhodes v. Chapma, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981); accord Jamison-Bey v. Thieret, 867 F.2d 1046, 1048 (7th Cir. 1989); Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408, 416 (7th Cir 1987).

In addition to showing objectively serious conditions, a plaintiff must also demonstrate the subjective component to an Eighth Amendment claim. The subjective component of unconstitutional punishment is the intent with which the acts or practices constituting the alleged punishment are inflicted. Jackson, 955 F.2d at 22. The subjective component requires that a prison official had a sufficiently culpable state of mind. See Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298; McNeil, 16 F.3d at 124. In conditions of confinement cases, the relevant state of mind is deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety; the official must be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he also must draw the inference. See, e.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837; Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303; Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); DelRaine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024, 1032 (7th Cir. 1994). The deliberate indifference standard is satisfied if the plaintiff shows that the prison official acted or failed to act despite the official's knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. at 842. A failure of prison officials to act in such circumstances suggests that the officials actually want the prisoner to suffer the harm. Jackson, 955 F.2d at 22.

In this instance, Defendant Feinerman had a choice between allowing Plaintiff to remain on a drug regimen that was treating his condition or prescribing a drug that was known to cause harm to Plaintiff. Defendant Feinerman chose the latter, to prescribe a more harmful drug, and Plaintiff refused to take the drug. As a result, Plaintiff's condition was left effectively untreated. Defendant Feinerman's actions, choosing to prescribe the more dangerous drug over another drug knowing that the chosen drug would cause serious harm to Plaintiff, could amount to a claim for ...

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