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Merritt v. Young

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 7, 2014

WARDEN YOUNG, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and incarcerated in Menard Correctional Center, seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis on his claim that Defendants failed to treat his rib fracture during his incarceration in Western Illinois Correctional Center.

The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour , 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Alexander v. U.S. , 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(quoted cite omitted).


During Plaintiff's incarceration in Lawrence Correctional Center on November 11, 2011, Plaintiff injured his rib cage in a fight. Plaintiff tried unsuccessfully to obtain treatment at Lawrence and fared no better at Western Correctional Center, where he was transferred later that month.

In particular, Defendant Dr. Baker saw Plaintiff on December 6, 2011, and described his rib injury, pain, and difficulty functioning. Dr. Baker refused to issue a low bunk permit and would not prescribe effective pain medicine, but did order x-rays. Dr. Baker told Plaintiff that the x-rays showed no fracture, which Plaintiff did not believe because Plaintiff's rib was visibly sticking out from its usual location. Dr. Baker and his colleagues told Plaintiff that Plaintiff has only a "knot" on his side which is cosmetic and does not require treatment. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Baker and his employer, Wexford Health Care Sources, Inc., have an unspoken policy of letting broken bones heal over before ordering x-rays and then declaring the injury cosmetic, in order to avoid expensive treatment.


The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, which in the context of this case means that Defendants cannot be deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. Gomez v. Randle , 680 F.3d 859, 865 (7th Cir. 2012). At this stage, the Court cannot rule out a deliberate indifference claim against Dr. Baker and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. Wexford cannot be liable unless it has a policy which caused Plaintiff's alleged constitutional deprivation, but that determination requires a more developed record. Jackson v. Ill. Medi-Car, Inc. , 300 F.3d 760, 766 n. 6 (7th Cir. 2002)(private corporations acting under color of state law are treated as municipal entities for purposes of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983).

However, no claim is stated against Warden Young, Grievance Officer Goines, or Administrative Review Board member Benton. These Defendants are all laypersons who responded to Plaintiff's complaints. As laypersons, they were entitled to rely on the professional assessment of Dr. Baker and his colleagues. Greeno v. Daley , 414 F.3d 645, 656 (7th Cir. 2005)("If a prisoner is under the care of medical experts.... a nonmedical prison official will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable hands.'")(quoted cite omitted). These three Defendants will therefore be dismissed.


1) Pursuant to its merit review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court finds that Plaintiff states an Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Baker and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. This case proceeds solely on the claims identified in this paragraph. Any additional claims shall not be included in the case, except at the Court's discretion on motion by a party for good cause shown or pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.

2) Defendants Young, Goines, and Benton are dismissed for failure to state a claim against them.

3) This case is now in the process of service. Plaintiff is advised to wait until counsel has appeared for Defendants before filing any motions, in order to give Defendants notice and an opportunity to respond to those motions. Motions filed before Defendants' counsel has filed an appearance will generally be denied as premature. Plaintiff need not submit any evidence to the Court at this time, unless otherwise directed by the Court.

4) The Court will attempt service on Defendants by mailing each Defendant a waiver of service. Defendants have 60 days from the date the waiver is sent to file an Answer. If Defendants have not filed Answers or appeared through counsel within 90 days of the entry of this order, Plaintiff may file a motion requesting the status of service. After Defendants have ...

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