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Ray-Mond Young (#N-32634 v. Wexford Health Sources

February 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


Plaintiff, a state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants, administrative officials and health care providers at the Stateville Correctional Center, have violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to provide effective care and treatment for his chronic pancreatitis and other gastro-intestinal issues. Defendants have filed motions to dismiss and, for the reasons stated in this order, the motions are denied.


Plaintiff is an Illinois state prisoner, confined at the Stateville Correctional Center at all times relevant to this action. (Compl. at 2.) Defendant Marcus Hardy is Stateville's warden. (Id. at 4.) Defendant Cynthia Harris is a correctional counselor. (Id. at 3.) Defendants Partha Ghosh and Liping Zhang (both now retired) were staff physicians at Stateville at all relevant times. (Id. at 2-3.) Dr. Ghosh was also the Medical Director at Stateville at all relevant times. (Id. at 3.) Defendant Kevin Halloran is the CEO of Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc ("Wexford"), Stateville's medical contractor. (Id. at 2.)

According to Plaintiff's allegations, presumed true for purposes of this motion, he has been complaining of chronic pain in his chest and side since 2007. (Id. at 8.) The pain has fluctuated from "everyday" low levels of pain, to sharper pain, to excruciating pain. (Id.) Stateville physicians have seen the plaintiff "a few times" over the past three years. (Id.) Defendants Ghosh and Zhang provided Plaintiff with Maalox and pain medication, but they did not definitively diagnose the medical problem causing the pain, and the pain medications have been wholly ineffective. (Id. at 8-9.)

In 2009, Plaintiff was told (he does not say by whom) that the only pain medications stronger than those he was already taking would require him to be confined to the health care unit because narcotics cannot be prescribed to inmates in the general population. (Id.) Plaintiff wrote many letters to Defendants Ghosh and Zhang advising them of his willingness to be admitted to the health care unit; the doctors neither answered any of this correspondence nor scheduled an appointment to see him. (Id. at 9, 11.) Plaintiff also wrote to Wexford and its chief executive officer, Defendant Halloran, requesting assistance, but he received no responses to those letters, either. (Id. at 10, 21.)

Blood tests performed on June 4, 2009, revealed that Plaintiff's amylase count was higher than the generally accepted range, but doctors did not discussed these high readings with Plaintiff until May 14, 2010. (Id. at 12-13.) (Amylase is an enzyme secreted by the pancreas that breaks down starch, helping the body to digest food. See Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary 69, 1366-67 (32d ed. 2012).) Plaintiff also continues to cough up blood and to find blood in his stool. (Id. at 17.) Doctors have never explained why Plaintiff is experiencing these symptoms. (Id.)

Eventually, Plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis on May 14, 2010-he does not specify by whom. (Id. at 15.) Although Plaintiff is occasionally scheduled for visits to the health care unit, he is not seen by doctors with any regularity, he has never been sent to an outside specialist, the treatment provided has been completely ineffective in terms of both pain management and recovery, and medical personnel have never had any meaningful conversations with Plaintiff about his health condition and progress. (Id. at 16-17.) On occasion, scheduled medical appointments have been cancelled due to lockdowns and/or missing paperwork. (Id. at 19, 20.)

Plaintiff's letters to the warden have been ignored, and Plaintiff's counselor, Defendant Harris, has similarly refused to take any action on his behalf. (Id.) Plaintiff filed emergency medical grievances on October 22, 2009 and December 11, 2009; Harris did not "sign off" on those grievances until November 7, 2009 and January 13, 2010, respectively. (Id. at 17-18.) Warden Hardy denied both grievances, explaining that he did not believe that either of them presented a medical emergency. (Id. at 18-19.) Plaintiff went six months without being seen by medical staff for his medical complaints, from October 2009 to April 2010. (Id. at 20.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1983, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). 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." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Even after Twombly, however, courts "construe pro se complaints liberally and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 492 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008)). The court assumes the truth of Plaintiff's factual allegations and construes the facts, and any reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to him. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

In their motions to dismiss, Defendants advance several reasons why Plaintiff's suit cannot proceed against particular Defendants. Dr. Zhang contends that Plaintiff's disagreement with a medical professional does not state a cognizable § 1983 deliberate indifference claim. Warden Hardy and Counselor Harris likewise contend that Plaintiff has no deliberate indifference claim against them, and additionally argue that Plaintiff has no constitutional right to the grievance process and has not established a claim for retaliation. Defendant Wexford contends that Plaintiff has failed to allege an unconstitutional policy or custom necessary to hold a corporation liable for deliberate indifference. Finally, Dr. Ghosh moves to dismiss the complaint against him, arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because Plaintiff did not specifically name Dr. Ghosh in his grievance. Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the court concludes that his complaint states viable claims of deliberate indifference on the part of all movants, and that Plaintiff has ﯯ뻹櫫⵹ his administrative remedies. Accordingly, Defendants' motions to dismiss are denied in part and granted in part. The court addresses the arguments made by Defendants' motions to dismiss in turn.

I. Dr. Zhang

Plaintiff has articulated a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Zhang. Correctional officials and health care providers may not act with deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Walker v. Benjamin, 293 F.3d 1030, 1036-37 (7th Cir. 2002). Deliberate indifference has both an objective and a subjective element: the inmate must have an objectively serious medical condition, and the defendant must be subjectively aware of and consciously disregard the inmate's medical need. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834-37 (1994); Walker, 293 F.3d at 1037.

To satisfy the objective element, Plaintiff must suffer from a "serious medical condition": "'one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention.'" Foelker v. Outagamie Cnty., 394 F.3d 510, 512-13 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Jackson v. Ill. Medi-Car, Inc., 300 F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2002)). A condition is also objectively serious "where 'failure to treat [it] could result in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997)). In the case at bar, Defendants do not contest Plaintiff's assertion that his chronic

pancreatitis constitutes a serious medical need. Plaintiff describes habitual-sometimes acute-pain, and he alleges that he coughs up blood and finds blood in his stool. Other courts have concluded that pancreatitis is a condition serious enough to meet Farmer's objective component. See, e.g., Horn v. Bay Cnty. Sheriff's Dept., No. 07-10116, 2008 WL 3285808, at *5 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 7, 2008) (concluding that pancreatitis constituted a "sufficiently serious" medical condition); Ramos v. DeTellaI, No. 95 C 5308, 1998 WL 704352, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 1998) (evidence that the prisoner "was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis that is chronic and can create ...

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