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Vandaire Knox v. Kevin E. Sims

January 13, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiff Vandaire Knox filed a first amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on his medical problems while detained pretrial at Cook County Jail. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Kevin Sims ("Sims"), in his individual capacity, violated plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by exhibiting deliberate indifference to his medical conditions (Count I) and by punishing him without procedural protections (Count II). The amended complaint also asserts a Monell claim against defendant Cook County for its alleged custom of failing to respond to detainee medical request slips that do not present severe or life-threatening medical concerns (Count IV).*fn1 Count V asserts a claim for indemnification against defendant Cook County. Defendants have filed the instant motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, or in the alternative, to bifurcate and stay discovery on plaintiff's Monell claim until there is a finding of a constitutional violation. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss.


Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail, sustained a knee injury in spring 2006. He was taken to Cermak Health Services ("Cermak"), which provides medical services for the Cook County Jail. A doctor determined that plaintiff had torn a ligament in his knee, and placed him on a pretrial detainee waitlist for surgery. The following fall, plaintiff was still awaiting surgery when he was transferred to the Stateville Correctional Facility and removed from the surgery waitlist. Officials at Stateville sent him to the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center ("UIC") for a magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI"). After reviewing the MRI, a doctor at UIC prescribed physical therapy and pain medication. Plaintiff, however, never received any physical therapy while at Stateville. The only other treatment plaintiff received while at Stateville was a second MRI in spring 2009, the results of which he never received.

Plaintiff was transferred back to the Cook County Jail on September 3, 2009. As part of standard intake procedures, plaintiff met with defendant Sims, a physician's assistant. Sims recognized plaintiff, who had filed an unrelated lawsuit against him in 2006. Sims asked plaintiff what medication he was taking. When plaintiff responded that he was taking 500 milligrams of Dilantin per day, Sims yelled (according to the grievance form plaintiff later filed): "That's impossible. You'll be dead. Get out!" Plaintiff left the office.

The next day, Sims examined plaintiff and referred him to a bone therapist at Cermak for his knee condition. Plaintiff's doctor's appointment was the following month. In the interim-specifically, from September 5 to October 12, 2009-plaintiff "began to undergo excruciating pain in his knee." His walking became impaired, and Cermak issued him a cane.

On October 13, 2009, plaintiff attended his doctor's appointment at Cermak. The doctor x-rayed his knee, prescribed pain medication, and instructed plaintiff to wear his personal shoes to support his knee. The doctor ordered plaintiff to have a third MRI and scheduled physical therapy for him.

As of November 3, 2009-three weeks after that appointment-plaintiff had not received the third MRI or physical therapy, so he submitted a medical request slip advising Cermak of that fact. Plaintiff filed a second medical request slip on November 13, 2009, in which he informed Cermak that he was not receiving physical therapy and was in constant pain. On November 20, 2009, plaintiff submitted a third medical request slip, this time explaining that his knee had begun to swell. Plaintiff filed a fourth medical request slip on November 29, 2009, again informing Cermak that he needed physical therapy.

Plaintiff's next doctor's appointment was December 7, 2009. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and pain medication, and refitted plaintiff for a new knee brace. He also determined that plaintiff needed another MRI and scheduled him to receive it at an outside facility. The doctor told plaintiff he would call in three weeks to see if plaintiff needed stronger pain medication.

Plaintiff, however, did not receive any physical therapy until the following spring, after he met with a doctor at Cermak's seizure clinic and told him that he had not received the physical therapy that had been prescribed four months before. Beginning in April 2010, plaintiff received five or six therapy sessions, after which he was informed that his prescription had expired. As of the filing of his amended complaint, plaintiff had not received any additional physical therapy or other medical attention.


I. Legal Standards

A court must dismiss any complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). The court thus accepts the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (citations omitted). To provide the defendant with "fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests," id. at 555, the complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). In addition, its allegations must plausibly suggest that the ...

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