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Hartstein v. Pollman

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 28, 2014

L. POLLMAN and DR. D. KRUSE, Defendants.


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate in the United States Penitentiary in Greenville ("Greenville"), brings this action pro se for alleged violations of her constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)[1] (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that in 2013 Defendants Pollman (Greenville's medical director) and Kruse (Greenville's clinical director) denied her request for an annual mammogram and breast examination by an obstetrician and/or gynecologist ("Ob/Gyn"). She now sues Defendants for violations of her right to receive adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment and her right to due process of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. She also asserts negligence claims against them. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief (Doc. 1, p. 6; Doc. 9).

Plaintiff filed this action on November 26, 2013, without paying a filing fee or filing a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). On the same date, the Clerk advised Plaintiff to pay the fee or file an IFP motion within thirty days (Doc. 2). On December 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting an extension of this deadline (Doc. 6). She has since paid the full filing fee of $400.00 (Doc. 7).

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 has received annual mammograms since she arrived at Greenville in 2006 (Doc. 1, p. 5). Each one has revealed "an issue" that necessitated further testing, such as a follow-up diagnostic mammogram or biopsy. Following one such biopsy in 2010, Plaintiff's medical provider specifically ordered annual mammograms and breast examinations. In 2013, however, Defendant Kruse refused Plaintiff's request for a breast examination and mammogram by a qualified Ob/Gyn due to a change in "the guidelines" (Doc. 1, p. 2). Other similarly situated inmates, who were the same age as Plaintiff with fewer risk factors, were offered annual mammograms (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Kruse and Pollman for negligence, as well as violations of her rights under the Eighth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.


For purposes of this discussion, the Court finds it convenient to divide the complaint into four counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants for denying Plaintiff's requests for a mammogram and breast examination in 2013;

Count 2: Due process claim against Defendants for unconstitutional administrative action;

Count 3: Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against Defendants for denying Plaintiff's request for breast cancer screening while offering the screening to other similarly situated inmates;

Count 4: State law negligence claim against Defendants for falling below the applicable standard of care in administering Plaintiff's medical care.

Count 1 - Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

At this early stage in litigation, the Court finds that the complaint states a colorable Eighth Amendment claim (Count 1) against Defendants Kruse and Pollman for exhibiting deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs. 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 ...

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