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Leonard Askew (#N-53889 v. Randy Davis

August 13, 2012


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


A. Introduction

While confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (PCC) within this Judicial District, Leonard Askew filed a lawsuit in this Court under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The complaint names four Defendants -- the Warden of PCC (Randy Davis), the Healthcare Administrator of PCC (Christine Brown), a doctor at PCC (Vipin K. Shah), and a nurse practitioner at PCC (Angle Rector).*fn1 By prior Orders, the undersigned Judge granted Askew pauper status and denied his motion to appoint counsel, without prejudice to later renewing that request.

The case comes now before the Court for threshold review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915A. Section 1915A provides that the district court must promptly review complaints in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee, must identify cognizable claims in the complaint, and must dismiss any complaint that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

On review under § 1915A, as with dismissal motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the district court's task is to determine whether the complaint states a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Khorrami v. Rolince, 539 F.3d 782, 788 (7th Cir. 2008); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). In making this determination, the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing all possible inferences in his favor. Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct. 1141 (2010). This Court also bears in mind that pro se complaints must be liberally interpreted, and held to a "less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011).

So construing Askew's complaint, as described below, the Court concludes that, as to the four named Defendants, the complaint articulates a colorable claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, in contravention of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court dismisses without prejudice all other claims.

B. Analysis

Accepting as true the well-pled facts and construing in Askew's favor the reasonable inferences therefrom, the complaint alleges the following as to the four named Defendants. Askew came to PCC via transfer from Menard Correctional Center in January 2011. Upon arrival, Askew made Defendants aware of his various medical conditions and needs (which were supported by medical records from his prior places of confinement). Askew has suffered from diabetes for 12 years. He takes medication to help control his diabetes (in addition to receiving regular insulin shots). Additionally, he has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, neuropathy, nerve damage, and poor circulation in his extremities.

Askew had a "medical permit" for diabetic shoes from two doctors from prior correctional institutions. He also was being treated with the prescription drug Neurotonin (for neuropathy and pain). Askew had been taking Neurotonin for approximately three years on a daily basis. Additionally, from time to time, Askew needed prescription-strength lotion or cream to treat a cracking skin condition of his feet which could lead to diabetic-related complications. When he first got at PCC, Askew was given his prescriptions without incident. Sometime in the Spring of 2011, he requested (several times) the diabetic shoes which he had worn at Menard and Stateville Correctional Centers. Defendants failed and refused to provide Askew any diabetic or special footwear. Between July and August 2011, other problems arose. Defendants repeatedly refused to give him cream/lotion to treat his feet, and suddenly stopped his prescription of Neurotonin. Askew personally spoke to Defendants Rector, Brown, Shah, and Davis about his deteriorating condition and ailments, but Defendants all denied or delayed his desperately needed care.

Defendants' actions caused Askew to be unable to participate in normal daily activities, resulted in great swelling and increased numbness in his feet, forced him to "walk around and work 5 days a week in unhealthy and unsafe condition" which placed him in peril (due to his diabetes), and subjected him to severe pain for three months.

Following lengthy recitation of "factual allegations," pages 19 through 22 of Askew's complaint are organized into two counts -- Count I alleging cruel and unusual punishment, and Count II alleging a denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment -- against the four named (PCC) Defendants. Askew seeks "nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages" from Davis, Brown, Shah and Rector, plus attorneys' fees and costs.

In addition to these allegations, Askew's complaint contains lengthy factual narratives relating to events that occurred at other institutions before he arrived at PCC. The best the Court can glean, Askew included this information about his previous medical treatment to furnish background to the instant lawsuit -- i.e., Askew was confined at Stateville Correctional Center between June 1999 and July 2004, during which time a physician diagnosed a diabetes-related chronic illness with Askew's feet and gave Askew special shoes to wear every day. Similarly, the complaint details how, while at Menard Correctional Center in December 2007, Askew was prescribed medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and while at Pontiac Correctional Center in March 2008, he was prescribed medications for his medical conditions (including diabetes) and given special insoles for his shoes. These allegations presumably provide background to his claim for denied medical treatment at PCC.

However, Askew also includes factual allegations critical of his medical treatment at Lawrence Correctional Center between roughly November 2008 and March 2009 and at Menard Correctional Center between late March 2009 and late summer 2009 (Complaint, pp. 7-11). The Court does not believe Askew intends those allegations to constitute claims against the Defendants he named in this lawsuit. For one thing, Askew has not named as a defendant herein any of the persons he blames for the alleged previous denials of care (e.g., Dr. Fuentes at Menard).

Furthermore, if Askew is attempting, via the complaint in the current case, to assert claims for denial of medical treatment at Lawrence or Menard, the latter would not be sufficiently related to his claims involving treatment at PCC to survive scrutiny under George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that unrelated claims against different defendants must be filed in (or severed into) separate lawsuits, to prevent the "morass" produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits and "also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees" under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (i.e., filing fees are required for every lawsuit, and ...

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