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David Wilkerson v. James Fenoglio

January 17, 2012


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


Plaintiff David Wilkerson, an inmate in Pinckneyville Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on events that occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"). Plaintiff is serving 60 year sentences for aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated kidnaping, and 30 years for attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Upon careful review of the complaint and supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

The Complaint

Plaintiff is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair due to an injury that occurred prior to his incarceration. On October 16, 2008, he fell in the prison shower while trying to move from his wheelchair to a shower chair. He claims that the fall fractured his back. As a result, rods and pins from Plaintiff's previous back surgery became broken and a pin visibly protruded against the skin of his lower back (Doc. 1, p. 6). In addition to asserting Eighth Amendment claims for deliberate indifference to his medical needs, Plaintiff seeks to pursue state law medical malpractice claims (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Defendant Fenoglio, the prison doctor, allegedly failed to provide medical treatment, provided inadequate treatment, and delayed proper treatment after Plaintiff's fall until May 30, 2009. It appears that Plaintiff then had "back fusion surgery" to repair the damage (Doc. 1, p.8). Due to the delay and denial of treatment, Plaintiff claims he suffered severe pain, permanent nerve damage, was unable to exercise or bend over, and could not sleep, sit, or lie on his side for long periods. He also claims he lost feeling and bowel and bladder control (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Plaintiff was taken to an outside hospital for an examination by Defendant Hurford, an orthopedic specialist at Carle Hospital, on November 17, 2008. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Hurford refused to give Plaintiff pain medication or a back brace, despite an x-ray showing that Plaintiff had a broken back. As with Defendant Fenoglio, Plaintiff faults Defendant Hurford for the delay and failure to treat his condition until May 30, 2009 (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Ryker (Warden of Lawrence) and Walker (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, "IDOC") prevented him from obtaining timely medical care when they denied his grievances. Defendant Benton (of the Administrative Review Board) also made a decision that denied him medical treatment (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

Finally, Plaintiff claims he is being denied access to the prison law library (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 9).


Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into three (3) counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1 - Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

Generally, an inmate's dissatisfaction with the medical care he receives in prison does not state a constitutional claim for deliberate indifference to medical needs, even if the quality of care was substandard to the point of negligence or malpractice. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001); Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 591 (7th Cir. 1996). However, in certain instances, a ...

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