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Velazquez v. Kane County Jail Adult Judicial Center

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

July 9, 2013

Jose Velázquez (#K-68874),
v.
Kane County Jail Adult Judicial Center, et al.

STATEMENT

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

The plaintiff, currently an Illinois state prisoner, has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claims that the defendants, a correctional officer and two nurses at the Kane County Jail, violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. More specifically, the plaintiff alleges that he was denied needed medical care after he stumbled and fell, severely injuring his foot. This matter is before the court for ruling on pending motions.

Defendant Thomas, the correctional officer in question, has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim against him. It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 681, 687 (7th Cir. 2006). Pro se submissions are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009). When considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court assumes all factual allegations in the complaint to be true, viewing all facts-as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom-in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 563 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)); Parish v. City of Elkhart, 614 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2010). 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." Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556.

Nevertheless, the factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. at 555. While a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than mere labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The court "need not accept as true legal conclusions, or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). "The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 463 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Here, the facts alleged support a colorable cause of action against defendant Thomas.

FACTS

The plaintiff alleges the following facts, as they pertain to defendant Thomas: At the time of the events giving rise to this action, the plaintiff was incarcerated at the Kane County Jail. On May 2, 2011, the plaintiff was taken to an outside dentist. The plaintiff exited the transport van and began walking on the street, escorted by defendant Thomas. At some point, the plaintiff's leg shackles became tangled in a drainage grate. The plaintiff fell, severely fracturing his foot.

Defendant Thomas called for assistance. A nurse arrived at the scene and examined the plaintiff's foot but told him that there was no x-ray technician available that day. She indicated that she would have to make arrangements for a consultation with a doctor at a later date. Over the plaintiff's objections that he was in pain and discomfort, Thomas continued on to the dentist instead of taking the plaintiff to a hospital emergency room.

By the time the plaintiff left the dentist, his foot was so swollen that he could not wear leg shackles. The foot had turned purple, and the plaintiff could put no weight on it. The plaintiff pleaded with Thomas to be taken to the hospital, but a shift commander directed Thomas to return with the plaintiff to the jail.

Upon arriving at the jail, the plaintiff was taken directly to the health care unit. He was seen by two nurses, who gave him ice and ibuprofen.

DISCUSSION

Accepting the plaintiff's allegations as true, the court finds that the complaint states a tenable (if borderline) claim against Officer Thomas. The plaintiff's claims against Thomas are better resolved by way of a motion for summary judgment.

In Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976), the Supreme Court held that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain'... proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." This is true "whether the indifference is manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care...." Id. ; see also Fields v. Smith, 653 F.3d 550, 554 (7th Cir. 2011). Likewise, the Due Process Clause prohibits deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of a pretrial detainee. Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 779 (7th Cir. 2008); Chapman v. Keltner, 241 F.3d 842, 845 (7th Cir. 2001).

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, 837 (1994); Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103-04; see also Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 862 (7th Cir. 2011). In the case at bar, the plaintiff can arguably satisfy both prongs.

The court will assume for purposes of the motion to dismiss that the plaintiff's broken foot constituted a serious medical need. A serious medical condition is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would know that a doctor's attention was needed. See Foelker v. Outagamie County, 394 F.3d 510, 512-13 (7th Cir. 2005); Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830-831 (7th Cir. 2007). A condition is also objectively serious if "failure to treat [it] could result in further significant injury or unnecessary and ...


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