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Thomas Whitehead v. Sylvia Mahone

July 29, 2011

THOMAS WHITEHEAD PLAINTIFF,
v.
SYLVIA MAHONE, ET AL,
DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable James E. Shadid

E-FILED

Friday, 29 July, 2011 02:28:06 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

SUMMARY JUDGMENT ORDER

Before the Court are the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [d/e #50, #52]. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Thomas Whitehead ("Whitehead"), a pro se prisoner, filed this lawsuit on February 1, 2010 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At the time of the events at issue in this case, Whitehead was incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center. He named four defendants in his complaint: Nurse Stephanie Hanes, Medical Director Sylvia Mahone, Warden Guy Pierce, and Illinois Department of Corrections Director Eddie Jones.

Following a Merit Review, Defendant Stephanie Hanes was dismissed from the matter. Whitehead's claims against the remaining Defendants-that they violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in denying him adequate medical care for a fatty growth on his head and hepatitis C-remain.

Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and it was subsequently denied [d/e #60]. In two separate antecedent motions, Defendant Mahone and Defendants Pierce and Jones filed for Summary Judgment. These Motions are now before the Court. [d/e #50, #52]

FACTS

The following facts are without substantial controversy.

On April 21, 2009, Whitehead was transferred from the Statesville Correctional Center to the Pontiac Correctional Center. Upon arrival at the Pontiac facility, Whitehead was examined by Nurse Stephanie Hanes. It was noted that Whitehead had a "lump" on the back of his head, and Defendant Dr. Sylvia Mahone was called by the nurse to examine the growth.

Dr. Mahone is a physician who, since 1981, has been licensed to practice medicine in the State of Illinois. Between July 24, 2006 and January 22, 2010, she was employed by Wexford Health Sources, Inc. as the Medical Director at the Pontiac Correctional Center. Her responsibilities as Medical Director included providing medical care and treatment to patients and supervising other medical personnel. During the late summer and fall of 2009, Mahone was on a leave of absence from her responsibilities as Medical Director at the Pontiac facility.

When Dr. Mahone examined Whitehead on April 21st, he described symptoms including blackouts, migraines, and dizziness. After inspecting the Plaintiff's lump, Mahone described the mass as fatty tissue. In addition to calling attention to the lump, Whitehead informed Dr. Mahone that he had hepatitis C and had not received treatment at the Statesville facility for his condition. He referenced a "court order.against IDOC" with regards to his belief that he was positive for hepatitis C. (d/e #60, 3) The Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment reflects the following documents attached as exhibits:

1. An order of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois-dated March 12, 2009-indicating that Whitehead had reported suffering from hepatitis C and requesting a prompt medical examination (d/e #60-3);

2. An order of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois-dated November 17, 2008-ordering that Whitehead submit to testing for HIV/hepatitis C or any other communicable diseases (d/e #60-3); and,

3. An order of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois-dated February 9, 2009-ordering that the Illinois Department of Corrections "test, evaluate, and provide treatment for hepatitis C." (d/e #60-3)

These documents pertain to the Plaintiff's criminal case.

In Dr. Mahone's medical opinion, "to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the lipoma on Mr. Whitehead's head is a cosmetic condition which does not cause any symptoms." (d/e #52-18, 4) Notwithstanding this medical assessment, Whitehead received medical attention for the lump again on April 25, 2009. Dr. Ngu examined the abnormality and ordered an x-ray of Whitehead's skull. A radiologist's review of the skull series indicated a "history of lipoma on the head," finding only a "moderate soft tissue swelling overlying the occipital area where the lipoma is clinically mentioned" and an absence of "bony abnormalities." (d/e #52-3, 1) No aggressive course of treatment for the mass was adopted by any of the three physicians at that time.

On April 30, 2009, Whitehead submitted emergency grievance report #049806 ("grievance") to express dissatisfaction with the medical attention he had received. The exhibits attached to Plaintiff's complaint indicate that the grievance concerning Plaintiff's hepatitis C and lump was received by the Plaintiff's counselor, Counselor Flex ("Flex"), on June 3, 2009. (d/e #60-3, 5) Flex notified Whitehead that a copy of the grievance had been sent to the Health Care Unit and the original document had been forwarded to the Grievance Office.

On November 24, 2009, the grievance officer received a response from the facility's medical director. After a review of the Plaintiff's medical records, the grievance officer recommended that the Plaintiff's grievance be denied. This recommendation was reviewed by the office of Defendant Guy Pierce ("Pierce"), warden of the Pontiac facility. He was employed in this capacity during the period relevant to Whitehead's claims. Pierce has no medical training nor is he directly responsible for medically diagnosing or treating inmates. He did not personally sign Whitehead's ...


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