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Derek J. Burton v. Jerome Combs Detention Center et al

June 30, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:


Thursday, 30 June, 2011 01:58:52 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


The plaintiff, currently incarcerated in Illinois River Correctional Center, filed this case on May 3, 2011, challenging his treatment at the Jerome Combs Detention Center from September 2009, to March 2011. The case was originally assigned to Chief Judge Michael P. McCuskey, who subsequently recused himself, vacated the prior merit review orders, and reassigned the case to this Court. The case is now before this Court for a merit review.

Legal Standard

The Court is required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to review a Complaint filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer, and through such process to identify cognizable claims, dismissing claims that are "frivolous, malicious, or fail[] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted . . . ." A hearing is held if necessary to assist the Court in this review, but in this case the Court concludes that no hearing is necessary. The Complaint and its attachments are clear enough on their own.

The review standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A is the same as the notice pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). To state a claim, the allegations must set forth a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations must give enough detail to give "'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)(other quoted cite omitted). The factual "allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level' . . . ." Id., quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. . . . Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555-56. However, pro se pleadings are liberally construed when applying this standard. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009).


It appears from the Complaint that Plaintiff had surgery on his hip for avascular necrosis*fn1 shortly before he was detained in the Jerome Combs Detention Center (the "Jail"). While at the Jail, he was allegedly denied medications, physical therapy, and other tests and treatments that were prescribed by his "outside" doctor for his hip condition and for other medical conditions. He was also allegedly denied treatment for medical conditions he suffered after his admission to the Jail, such as rectal bleeding.

The Court assumes that Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee during the relevant times, not a convicted prisoner, which means that his claim is governed by the Fourteenth Amendment, not the Eighth Amendment, but there is no practical difference between the legal standards on a claim for lack of medical care. Thomas v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 604 F.3d 293, 301 n.2 (7th Cir. 2010); Chapman v. Keltner, 241 F.3d 842, 845 (7th Cir. 2001). A pretrial detainee must show that "(1) an objectively serious injury or medical need was deprived; and (2) the official knew that the risk of injury was substantial but nevertheless failed to take reasonable measures to prevent it." Chapman, 241 F.3d at 845. An objectively serious injury or medical need is "'one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.'" Chapman, 241 F.3d at 845 (quoted citations omitted). The subjective component, deliberate indifference, does not encompass negligence or even gross negligence. Chapman, 241 F.3d at 845 (citation omitted). A defendant acts with deliberate indifference if he or she personally knows about the serious medical need, has the authority and opportunity to do something about it, and yet consciously disregards the problem. Thomas, 604 F.3d at 301 ("The official must have subjective knowledge of the risk to the inmate's health and also must disregard that risk.").

The Court concludes that Plaintiff's allegations state a claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. An inference of serious medical needs arises from Plaintiff's own descriptions of his conditions and from the attachments to his Complaint. Inferences of deliberate indifference also plausibly arise against the medical professionals from Plaintiff's allegations that he repeatedly informed them of his medical needs to no avail. Which, if any, of these medical defendants bears personal responsibility must await a more developed record.

However, defendants without medical training are generally entitled to, and must, rely on the medical professionals to diagnose and treat an inmate's medical conditions. Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 656 (7th Cir. 2005)("'If a prisoner is under the care of medical experts... a non-medical prison official will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable hands.'")(quoted cite omitted).

The Jail administrators-Defendants Downey, Bukowski and Kolitwenzew -are not medical professionals. Yet, Plaintiff alleges that they disregarded a state court's orders directing that Plaintiff's medications be given and also that they had the authority to grant or deny Plaintiff's requests for medical treatment. Accordingly, their liability cannot be ruled ...

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