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Coe v. Brown

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 28, 2013

ANDREW D. COE, # R-07622, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving a three-year sentence for possession of a controlled substance and a twelve-year sentence for delivery. His claims arose during his incarceration at Pinckneyville Correctional Center[1] ("Pinckneyville"). Plaintiff alleges that five Pinckneyville Defendants, i.e., Christine Brown (health care unit administrator), Nancy[2] (registered nurse), Mary Rogers (registered nurse), Vipin Shah (doctor) and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford") (medical provider), denied him treatment for back spasms in violation of his constitutional rights (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff challenges a policy requiring three inmate sick call requests and corresponding co-payments to qualify for a physician/nurse practitioner referral, as violations of his constitutional rights and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO Act") (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff also claims that Wexford failed to train its medical staff. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages (Doc. 1, p. 14).

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from back spasms, which cause serious pain and require treatment with pain medication (Doc. 1, p. 6). On September 14, 2011, Plaintiff met with one of Pinckneyville's nurse practitioners, who ordered ibuprofen for his pain. Plaintiff never received the medication. He continued to suffer.

On October 9, 2011, Plaintiff met with Defendants Rogers and Nancy, two Pinckneyville nurses (Doc. 1, p. 6). They were aware of his prior back injury and current medical condition (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff communicated the details of the prior month's examination and his failure to receive pain medication (Doc. 1, p. 6). He complained of serious ongoing pain. He requested medical treatment and pain medication.

Defendants Rogers and Nancy denied Plaintiff's requests. Per Defendant Brown's policy, they instructed Plaintiff to put in three additional sick call requests, if he wished to see a doctor or a nurse practitioner (Doc. 1, p. 7). When Plaintiff then repeated his request for pain medication, Defendants Rogers and Nancy denied the request.

Plaintiff submitted multiple sick call requests (Doc. 1, p. 8). Each time, he was charged a co-payment of two dollars. Each time, he was interviewed by a nurse, who refused to give him pain medication. Each time, he was told that he would be referred to a doctor/nurse practitioner after his third request.

Defendants Brown and Shah, who were also aware of his medical condition and pain, denied Plaintiff's request for treatment and medication on October 9, 2011 (Doc. 1, p. 8). Defendant Shah denied Plaintiff's subsequent requests for medical treatment and pain medication on October 10 and 14, 2011 (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9). Defendant Shah also ignored Plaintiff's subsequent written requests (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Plaintiff claims that Wexford denied him adequate treatment for his medical condition in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Wexford failed to train, supervise, and control its employees and Defendants. Wexford also allowed Defendant Brown to issue an unconstitutional policy regarding sick call procedure, which he describes as "vague, confusing, contradictory, and inconsistent"[3] (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff sues all Defendants for violations of his Eighth Amendment right to receive adequate medical care for his medical condition. He also challenges the policy requiring three sick call requests and corresponding co-payments for one appointment with a doctor/nurse practitioner as unconstitutional and in violation of the federal RICO statutes.[4]

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

According to 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 constitutional claim against Defendants Brown, Nancy, Rogers, Shah, and Wexford for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need (Count 1).

However, Plaintiff has failed to state an actionable constitutional claim against any Defendants based on excessive or unconstitutional medical co-payments (Count 2). An inmate's constitutional rights are not violated by the collection of a fee for prison medical or dental services. Whether or not a statutory exemption should apply to the co-payment rule is a question of state law, not cognizable in a § 1983 action. Poole v. Isaacs, 703 F.3d 1024, 1027 (7th Cir. 2012) ("the imposition of a modest fee for medical services, standing alone, does not violate the Constitution"). Should Plaintiff wish to pursue this matter further, he must do so in state court. Count 2 shall be dismissed without prejudice.

Plaintiff's related RICO Act claim shall also be dismissed (Count 3). The federal RICO statutes impose criminal and civil liability against individuals for certain prohibited activities, as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1962. These proscribed activities include, among other things, "a pattern of racketeering activity" or the "collection of an unlawful debt." Id .; see also Elliott v. Chicago Motor Club Ins., 809 F.2d 347, 349 (7th Cir. 1986). Plaintiff appears to challenge the two dollar co-payments under the RICO Act as the "collection of an unlawful debt." Even at this early stage in litigation, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the co-payments are unlawful or that he has any viable claim under the RICO Act. Accordingly, Count 3 shall be dismissed with prejudice.

Pending Motions

Plaintiff's motion for recruitment of counsel (Doc. 3) shall be referred to United States Magistrate Judge Stephen C. ...

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