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Fenderson v. Martin

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 15, 2014

AL-TAKKEY J. FENDERSON, # R32200, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WEXFORD HEALTH CARE, MARC HODGE, DR. JOHN COE, and DR. PHIL MARTIN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Al-Takkey Fenderson, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that during his incarceration at Lawrence, Defendants failed to provide him with adequate medical treatment for a broken leg, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, and a cell equipped with handrails, in violation of the ADA. He also claims that Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law. Plaintiff now sues Defendants Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), Wexford Health Care ("Wexford"), Marc Hodge (Lawrence's warden), John Coe (Lawrence medical doctor), and Phil Martin (Lawrence healthcare administrator/doctor) for monetary damages and injunctive relief, including a preliminary injunction.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Upon careful review of the complaint, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under Section 1915A to dismiss some of Plaintiff's claims, as discussed in more detail below.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff broke his lower right leg while playing basketball at Lawrence in April 2013[1] (Doc. 1, p. 6). X-rays confirmed that Plaintiff's leg required surgery. Defendants Wexford and Coe referred Plaintiff to an outside provider.[2] On May 7th, the outside provider placed metal plates and screws in Plaintiff's lower right leg.

Plaintiff was scheduled for a follow-up visit in July. For reasons unknown to him, the appointment was cancelled and never rescheduled. Plaintiff saw Defendant Coe on August 19th. He complained of excruciating pain, a grinding sensation, constant swelling, and difficulty walking. An x-ray taken two days later revealed that the screws placed in Plaintiff's leg during his May surgery had failed (Doc. 1, p. 7). Even so, Defendants Wexford, Coe, and Martin refused to send Plaintiff back to the outside provider for corrective surgery.

Also according to the complaint, Plaintiff should have received accommodations for his disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff has allegedly been placed on Lawrence's "disabled list" (Doc. 1, p. 7). According to the complaint, he requires a cell with handrails because his right leg cannot support his weight. Defendants Coe, Martin, and Hodge have denied Plaintiff's requests for such a cell.

Plaintiff now sues Defendants under the Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and ADA. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief, including a preliminary injunction.

Discussion

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint states a colorable claim against Defendants Hodge, Coe, and Martin under the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs, i.e., specifically, his need for corrective leg surgery (Count 1). "Section 1983 creates a federal remedy against anyone who, under color of state law, deprives any citizen of the United States... of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.'" Planned Parenthood of Indiana, Inc. v. Commissioner of Indiana State Dept. Health, 699 F.3d 962, 972 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). A defendant can never be held liable under Section 1983 for negligence, or even gross negligence. Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 2012). Relevant to Plaintiff's claim, the Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) ( per curiam ).

Deliberate indifference involves a two-part test. The plaintiff must show that (1) the medical condition was objectively serious, and (2) the state officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs, which is a subjective standard.

Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). At this early stage in litigation, the Court finds that the complaint satisfies the minimum pleading requirements of an Eighth Amendment medical needs claim. Accordingly, Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with Count 1 against Defendants Hodge, Coe, and Martin.[3]

The complaint also articulates a colorable claim against Defendants Hodge, Coe, and Martin under the ADA for denial of a cell with handrails (Count 2). Title II of the ADA provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, because of that disability... be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (2006). The Supreme Court has held that the ADA applies to prisons. In Penn. Dep't of Corr. v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206 (1998), the Supreme Court held: "State prisons fall squarely within the statutory definition of public entity'.... The text of the ADA provides no basis for distinguishing these programs, services, and activities from those provided by public entities that are not prisons." Id. at 210. The Court further held in U.S. v. Georgia, 546 U.S. 151 (2006), that an inmate may bring a private cause of action for damages pursuant to Title II of the ADA if the state actor's conduct also violates the Eighth Amendment. See Morris v. Kingston, 368 F.Appx. 686 (7th Cir. 2010). In the instant case, Plaintiff states a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation. He shall also be allowed to proceed with Count 2 against Defendants Hodge, Coe, and Martin.

However, the complaint fails to state a viable due process claim against any Defendants under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count 3) (Doc. 1, p. 7). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. A complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 ...


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