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Kenneth Johnson v. Dr. Hart

May 5, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. James B. Zagel



The plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claims that health care providers at the jail have violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs (allegedly denying him proper post-surgical care for gunshot wounds), and that the Sheriff and Cook County have an unconstitutional policy and practice of providing inadequate medical care to detainees at the jail. This matter is before the court for ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 681, 687 (7th Cir. 2006). Pro se submissions are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to " 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff must only state his basic legal claim and provide "some indication . . . of time and place." Thompson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2004). While a complaint challenged by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court assumes all factual allegations in the complaint to be true, viewing all facts--as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom--in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Parish v. City of Elkhart, 614 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2010); Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 563 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556. Nevertheless, the factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555.


The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail. Defendant M. Khan is a staff physician or physician's assistant at the jail. Defendant Avery Hart is a physician, as well as the facility's director of health care services. Defendant Thomas Dart is the Sheriff of Cook County; the plaintiff also sues Cook County itself.

The plaintiff alleges the following facts, which will be assumed true for purposes of the motion to dismiss:

The plaintiff arrived at the Cook County Jail as a pretrial detainee on March 19, 2009. During the intake process, the plaintiff informed the medical screening staff that he had been shot several times and had undergone major surgery on his hip and abdomen about a month and a half prior to his incarceration. At the time he was booked into the jail, the plaintiff was still suffering "severe, excruciating pain" and required crutches to enable him to walk. The plaintiff requested placement in a medical until while he recuperated.

The medical staff gave the plaintiff Tylenol for pain but otherwise processed him like any other, healthy detainee. The health care staff virtually ignored the plaintiff's debilitated state.

When the plaintiff reached his housing tier, he was assigned to a steel bunk bed with a 3"-thick mattress. Because the plaintiff had pins in his hip, the thin mattress exacerbated the pain he was experiencing. The plaintiff informed correctional officials about his condition. He was directed to submit a medical request slip, and did so.

The plaintiff continued to submit health care request forms seeking medical attention for his "excruciating and chronic" pain.

On March 26, 2009, the plaintiff was called to the health care unit; however, he was not seen or examined. He returned to his housing without having met with a physician or other health care provider.

On March 30, 2009, eleven days after he arrived at the jail, the plaintiff was seen by a physician (Sims, not a defendant), who referred the plaintiff to a physical therapist and changed his medication. The doctor refused to authorize a second mattress for the plaintiff. The thin mattress on which the plaintiff was sleeping continued to cause pain and pressure, affecting his ability to walk.

On April 14, 2009, the plaintiff had an appointment with a physical therapist. He was issued a walking cane. The plaintiff was not given a double mattress and received no actual physical therapy.

A medical technician checked the plaintiff on April 20, April 27, and April 28, 2009. Although the plaintiff complained of continued pain in his hip and chest, along with dizziness, he was not sent to Cermak Hospital to determine the cause of the persisting problems. ...

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