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Tate v. Gaetz

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 21, 2013

ERICK D. TATE, # N-03505, Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving a 30-year sentence for second degree murder. Plaintiff claims that Defendants are deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition.

More specifically, Plaintiff suffers from type II diabetes and a neurogenic bladder disorder (Doc. 1, p. 7). The bladder condition requires that he catheterize himself four to six times each day (Doc. 1-1, p. 7). Plaintiff complains that Defendant Brown (Pinckneyville Health Care Administrator) has refused to give him sufficient medical supplies (catheters) to manage his condition (Doc. 1, p. 5). He claims he is supposed to change catheters every day and not re-use them. According to Plaintiff's exhibits, he is to receive only five catheters per week (Doc. 1-1, p. 18). Furthermore, the medical staff has provided him with the wrong size catheters.

Plaintiff has requested treatment from two outside specialists (a neurologist and urologist). However, Defendant Brown refused to refer him for outside treatment.

Defendant Gaetz (Pinckneyville Warden) approved Defendant Brown's denial of Plaintiff's grievances over his medical treatment and the specialist referral (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). Defendant Godinez (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections - "IDOC") likewise concurred with the disposition of Plaintiff's grievances, without conducting any formal investigation (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to ensure he receives all his medical supplies promptly, and that he be referred to the two specialists. He also requests damages.

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

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff may proceed with his Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Brown for deliberate indifference to medical needs, for failing to provide Plaintiff with adequate medical supplies (Count 1). At this stage, it is not clear whether Defendant Brown's failure to supply catheters amounts to a knowing or reckless disregard of a serious risk to Plaintiff's health, see Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994), or whether Plaintiff was denied proper supplies through inadvertence, negligence or malpractice, see Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008). Deliberate indifference is a constitutional violation; inadvertent error, negligence, and malpractice are not. Further factual development is necessary in order to determine whether Plaintiff has a viable civil rights claim.

However, Plaintiff's allegations regarding Defendant Brown's refusal to refer him to outside specialists (Count 2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and shall be dismissed. In addition, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against either Defendant Gaetz or Defendant Godinez for their denial of his grievances (Count 3).

Dismissal of Count 2

Plaintiff has suffered from diabetes and the bladder condition for some time, since before he was incarcerated (Doc. 1, p. 6). His allegations indicate that the bladder condition is serious enough to require ongoing treatment. However, not every condition requires the intervention of a specialist. Plaintiff has not articulated any reason why a specialist is needed in his case, other than his own preference to see the particular doctor who had treated him in the past, and his general assertion that his condition "can get worse if not cared for as needed" (Doc. 1, p. 7). To be sure, Plaintiff alleges in Count 1 that his condition is not being properly cared for because he has inadequate medical supplies. But he does not state that he has actually experienced any symptoms that might indicate complications or a worsening of his condition.

Mere disagreement with a health care provider's chosen course of an inmate's medical treatment does not amount to deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment. See Ciarpaglini v. Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 331 (7th Cir. 2003); Garvin v. Armstrong, 236 F.3d 896, 898 (7th Cir. 2001) (courts will not takes sides in disagreements about medical personnel's judgments or techniques); Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 591 (7th Cir. 1996). The Eighth Amendment does not give prisoners entitlement to "demand specific care" or "the best care possible, " but only requires "reasonable measures to meet a substantial risk of serious harm." Forbes v. Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 267 (7th Cir. 1997). Further, a difference of opinion between medical professionals concerning the treatment of an inmate will not support a claim for deliberate indifference. Norfleet v. Webster, 439 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2006); see also Garvin, 236 F.3d at 898. Here, the difference of opinion on the need for a specialist is between Defendant Brown, a medical professional, and Plaintiff, who gives no indication that he has any medical training whatsoever.

Under the above authorities and the facts pled by Plaintiff, Defendant Brown did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights when she ruled that his condition did not require a referral to a non-prison specialist. Likewise, neither Defendant Gaetz or Defendant Godinez violated the Constitution when they concurred in the decision to deny specialist treatment. When a prisoner is under the care of prison medical professionals, a non-medical prison official (such as the warden or IDOC Director) "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 ...

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