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Nairobi Stephenson v. C/O Neisler*Fn1

September 13, 2012


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


Thursday, 13 September, 2012 01:26:00 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


Plaintiff proceeds pro se and is incarcerated in Logan Correctional Center. He pursues claims arising from injuries he sustained in a vehicle accident in March 2009. Defendants have filed motions for summary judgment. For the reasons below, the motions will be denied except as to Defendant Lawson.


"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A movant may demonstrate the absence of a material dispute through specific cites to admissible evidence, or by showing that the non-movant "cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [material] fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(B). If the movant clears this hurdle, the non-movant may not simply rest on his or her allegations in the complaint, but instead must point to admissible evidence in the record to show that a genuine dispute exists. Id.; Harvey v. Town of Merrillville, 649 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2011). "In a § 1983 case, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof on the constitutional deprivation that underlies the claim, and thus must come forward with sufficient evidence to create genuine issues of material fact to avoid summary judgment." McAllister v. Price, 615 F.3d 877, 881 (7th Cir. 2010).

At the summary judgment stage, evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, with material factual disputes resolved in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a reasonable juror could find for the non-movant. Id.


The events occurred in Logan Correctional Center ("Logan"), where Plaintiff remains incarcerated.

Logan was on "level IV lockdown" on March 13, 2009, due to a prior staff assault. The lockdown required officers to escort inmates to their job assignments. Plaintiff was scheduled to work in dietary that day, so Defendant Correctional Officer Neisler handcuffed Plaintiff behind his back and escorted him to a van for transport to the dietary unit. Plaintiff contends that a level IV lockdown did not require handcuffs during this escort. He also contends that Defendant Neisler was not authorized to use the van but instead was supposed to walk inmates to their various locations. However, these disputes are not material. See Thompson v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 454 (7th Cir. 2006)("[T]his court has consistently held that '42 U.S.C. § 1983 protects plaintiffs from constitutional violations, not violations of state laws or . . . departmental regulations and police practices.'")(quoted cite omitted).

Plaintiff was placed in the van along with several other inmates, his hands cuffed behind him. According to Plaintiff, Plaintiff asked Neisler to buckle Plaintiff's seatbelt, but Neisler refused, stating that no seatbelt was needed because Plaintiff was only being transported around the corner. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 8, d/e 48-1.) Neisler denies that Plaintiff asked for his seatbelt to be fastened, but the Court accepts Plaintiff's version at this stage. Plaintiff testified that Neisler drove the van around the premises at an "alarming speed," dropping inmates off at their various destinations. Id. Neisler "proceeded to back up at alarming speed to Housing Unit Nine where he met [Defendant] Officer Lawson and additional inmates . . . ." (Pl.'s Dep. p. 8.) Neisler then "made a U-turn, proceeded to drive toward division room at alarming speed. And he dropped Officer Lawson off and the inmate for the visit. He proceeded to drive around the whole facility at an alarming rate, came around, and he finally pulled up into the Heath Care Unit parking lot." (Pl.'s Dep. p. 9, d/e 47-1.) After dropping off an inmate at the health care unit, Neisler backed out across a street, again at an "alarming" speed which Plaintiff estimates at 35-40 miles per hour. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 14.) Speeding in reverse at this pace for about 60 feet, the van came to an abrupt halt upon hitting a light pole. Id. The impact bent the side of Plaintiff's seat, caused Plaintiff's neck to snap back and forth, and caused his low back to "pop." (Pl.'s Dep. p. 14, d/e 47-1; Pl.'s Resp. p. 2, d/e 51.) Plaintiff immediately experienced neck and back pain but was told to go ahead to his work station.

Defendant Dr. Obaisi saw Plaintiff on the day of the accident for reports of neck and lower back pain. Dr. Obaisi examined Plaintiff and prescribed him Naprosyn and a one day "lay-in," which means an exemption from work assignments and other physical activity. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 11, d/e 47-1.)

The next week Dr. Obaisi saw Plaintiff for a follow-up visit. By this time, Plaintiff was experiencing a sharp pain which traveled from his left lower back, through his left buttock, and down the back of his left leg. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 18, d/e 47-1.) His "left heel would go numb, and it felt like a bunch of pins and needles." Id. Dr. Obaisi continued to prescribe pain medicine, lay-ins, and low bunk permits.

Plaintiff continued to experience pain. On April 16, 2009, Dr. Obaisi ordered an x-ray, which states in pertinent part:


1. No acute bony abnormality

2. Mild scoliosis may be positional.

3.Soft tissue indistinct margin on the right may be artifactual. Please correlate clinically and image further if clinically indicated. (4/23/09 radiology report, d/e 55-4.)

On May 26, 2009, Plaintiff experienced excruciating pain which caused him to fall to the ground. He turned on his right side to reduce the pain and was taken by wheelchair to the health care unit, where he saw Dr. Obaisi later that afternoon. Dr. Obaisi renewed the pain medication and ordered another one-week lay-in. Dr. Obaisi gave Plaintiff a steroid injection on June 30, 2009.

Plaintiff continued to experience what he describes as level 8 pain, sharp and excruciating, traveling down his left leg. When his lay-in expired in September, 2009, Plaintiff tried to lift a50 pound bag at work but could not because of the pain. Plaintiff continued to seek health care for the pain and asked repeatedly to be sent to an outside specialist. Dr. Obaisi continued to renew the pain medicines, muscle relaxants, lay- ins, and low bunk permits. Plaintiff lost about 30 pounds between March and August 2009, from 260 pounds to 230 pounds. He stands 6 feet, 1 inch tall, according to a 9/8/11 neurosurgery consult. (Pl.'s Ex. 105, d/e 58-4.)

In December, 2009, Dr. Obaisi ordered another x-ray, which revealed no fractures but did note "mild scoliosis of the lumbar spine convex to the left." (Dr. Obaisi Undisp. Fact 32, d/e 55.) Once in 2008, about one year before the accident, Plaintiff had injured his back lifting a cooler, but apparently ...

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