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Nathaniel Todd, # R-12865 v. Wexford Health Care

December 20, 2012


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


Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is currently serving a fifteen year sentence for aggravated battery, and has been in custody since February 2009.*fn1 Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical condition.

Specifically, Plaintiff suffers from back and joint problems so severe and painful that he was to undergo back surgery and have his right knee joint surgically replaced (Doc. 1, p. 5). Although the handwritten complaint is difficult to decipher, it appears Plaintiff had been referred for these two surgical procedures in May 2008, prior to his incarceration. In addition, the knee replacement surgery was approved on October 23, 2009 while Plaintiff was in the Cook County Jail. Id. However, for the past two years while he has been in Lawrence, Defendant Wexford Health Care ("Wexford") and Defendants Martin and Fenoglio (both physicians at Lawrence) have refused to allow Plaintiff to undergo either surgery. Id. In addition, Plaintiff has endured long periods with no treatment at all for his "chronic excruciating severe pain" in his back and knees (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). In February 2011, Defendant Fenoglio refused to give him pain medications, and told him to buy over-the-counter painkillers at the commissary (Doc. 1, p.

8). At that time, Plaintiff had no funds to do so.

Plaintiff also complains that there was a seven month delay in providing him with

a walking cane, and he had to wait twelve months before he was given a low gallery permit to reduce the necessity for him to climb or descend stairs (Doc. 1, p. 8). Further, Plaintiff suffered new injuries to his back, knee, head and neck on June 30, 2012, when he tripped and fell. He was using his cane to walk, and his hands were cuffed (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). After this fall, he received no medical care for more than a week.

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, but does not request any injunctive relief.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated a colorable federal cause of action against Defendants Martin, Fenoglio, and Wexford Health Care for deliberate indifference to medical needs.

However, the claim against Defendant Godinez (the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections) shall be dismissed on initial review because the doctrine of respondeat superior is not applicable to § 1983 actions. In order to be held individually liable, a defendant must be "personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right." Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001)). See also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). There is no indication from the complaint that Defendant Godinez was in any way personally involved in any aspect of Plaintiff's medical care. Furthermore, where a prisoner is under the care of prison medical professionals, a non-medical prison official "will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable hands." Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 755 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 (3d Cir. 2004)). "A layperson's failure to tell the medical staff how to do its job cannot be called deliberate indifference; it is just a form of failing to provide a gratuitous rescue service." Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, Defendant Godinez shall be dismissed from the action with prejudice.

Though Plaintiff lists Defendants Handy and Brocks among the "Additional Defendants" on page 2 of the complaint, he fails to mention them elsewhere in the document. Plaintiff identifies Defendant Brocks as a nurse, but makes no allegations against her or Defendant Handy in the body of his complaint. Therefore, the Court is unable to ascertain what claims, if any, Plaintiff has against these Defendants. Plaintiffs are required to associate specific defendants with specific claims so these defendants are put on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can properly answer the complaint. "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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Thus, where a plaintiff has not included a defendant in his statement of the claim, the defendant cannot be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are directed against him. Furthermore, merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998). Because Plaintiff has not included any allegations against Defendants Handy and Brocks in his complaint, he has not adequately stated claims against these individuals, or put them on notice of any claims that he may have against them. For this reason, Defendants Handy and Brocks will be dismissed from this action without prejudice.

Finally, the Lawrence Correctional Center is not a proper Defendant in a civil rights action seeking damages. The Supreme Court has held that "neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under § 1983." Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). See also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages); Billman v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995) (state Department of Corrections is immune from suit by virtue of Eleventh Amendment). The Lawrence Correctional Center, which is a division of the Illinois Department of Corrections, is likewise not a "person" within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act, and is not subject to a § 1983 damages claim. See Will, 491 U.S. at 71.

Accordingly, Defendant Lawrence Correctional Center shall be dismissed from this action with prejudice.

Pending Motions

Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. 2) shall be referred to United States Magistrate Judge ...

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