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Couch v. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 4, 2014

STEPHEN COUCH, # B-12125, Plaintiff,


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for review of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Docs. 27 and 27-1), filed pursuant to this Court's order of January 15, 2014 (Doc. 21). Plaintiff originally filed this case in the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial District of Illinois, Randolph County, Case No. 13-MR-81, on August 9, 2013. Defendant Coe removed the case to this Court on October 25, 2013 (Doc. 11).

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), where he is serving sentences of 26, 20, and five years for three drug offenses. The claims described in Plaintiff's complaint[1] arose in March 2013 and June 2013, while he was confined at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"). Some months earlier, Plaintiff had sustained injuries to his right knee and right shoulder.[2] Plaintiff obtained some treatment for the shoulder injury while at Lawrence, including physical therapy. However, Defendant Coe and others failed to ensure the continuation of this prescribed treatment when Plaintiff was transferred to Menard. Plaintiff asserts that the transfer was engineered in order to prevent him from obtaining necessary medical care, as well as in retaliation for his complaints over his medical treatment at Lawrence. He continues to suffer severe pain in his knee and shoulder, and fears the shoulder is permanently damaged due to the lack of ongoing therapy.

Plaintiff's specific allegations are as follows. Defendant Coe (Lawrence physician and medical director) was in charge of Plaintiff's medical treatment between May 15 and June 14, 2013 (Doc. 27-1, p. 2). Under his care, Plaintiff received physical therapy for his "frozen shoulder syndrome" at Lawrence. Plaintiff was also receiving pain medication for his shoulder. On June 4 or 5, 2013, Defendant Coe ordered another four weeks of physical therapy, and gave Plaintiff a front-cuff medical permit to last until November 13, 2013 (Doc. 27-1, pp. 4-5). However, unnamed Lawrence medical staff working with Defendant Coe revoked Plaintiff's front-cuff permit on June 11, 2013 (Doc. 27-1, p. 5).

Also on June 4 or 5, Plaintiff consulted Defendant Coe about his injured knee. Defendant Coe explained that he could only give Plaintiff pain medication for the knee, which he was already getting for his shoulder (Doc. 27-1, p. 5). Defendant Coe did not give Plaintiff a referral for further treatment, and Plaintiff did not get an x-ray or ultrasound of the knee.

On or about June 14, 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Menard, along with 40 other inmates, on orders of Defendants Godinez, Hodge (Lawrence Warden), Martin (Lawrence Health Care Administrator), and Coe (Doc. 27-1, pp. 1-3). He alleges, based on documents relating to the transfer orders, that inmates with "outstanding medical holds" should not have been transferred. Although Defendant Coe had just renewed his orders for Plaintiff's ongoing shoulder physical therapy and had ordered a repeat ultrasound (apparently for the shoulder), Defendant Coe failed to issue a "medical hold" for him (Doc. 27-1, pp. 4, 6). Nor did Defendant Coe devise a treatment plan to ensure he would get ongoing care (Doc. 27-1, p. 7). As a result of the transfer, Plaintiff never received the physical therapy Defendant Coe prescribed for him, which is not available at Menard. Plaintiff gives little information about what, if any, treatment he has requested or received for his shoulder and knee problems since he arrived at Menard. However, the complaint suggests that he never got the shoulder ultrasound ordered by Defendant Coe, and that his severe pain has not been addressed (Doc. 27-1, pp. 6-7).

Plaintiff claims that his transfer to Menard was part of a pattern of "patient dumping" within the IDOC to avoid the obligation to provide ongoing medical care for chronic conditions (Doc. 27-1, p. 4). In addition, Plaintiff asserts that he was transferred because he had complained about his care at Lawrence. Id.

Plaintiff further claims that LPN Stephanie Reed (who is not identified elsewhere as a Defendant) had the duty to perform a preliminary transfer screening and write a treatment plan for any inmate who needed ongoing care (Doc. 27-1, p. 8). She neglected to carry out these obligations in Plaintiff's case, and her "contributory negligence" led to Plaintiff being denied the care which had been prescribed for him.

Finally, Plaintiff describes an unrelated incident on March 22, 2013, where he was forced to have blood drawn by Lawrence LPN Sherry Collins (also not listed elsewhere as a Defendant)[3] (Doc. 27-1, pp. 9-10). At the time, Plaintiff was on a hunger strike. He refused to consent to the blood draw, but was threatened and "assaulted" by Major Richard Hall, who also charged him with a disciplinary violation (Doc. 27-1, p. 10). Defendant Martin allowed these other individuals to draw Plaintiff's blood and failed to report the incident to the local sheriff or state police.

As relief, Plaintiff seeks emergency medical care, a transfer to a facility where physical therapy is available, damages, and other injunctive relief (Doc. 27, p. 8).

When Plaintiff submitted his amended pleadings, he also filed a separate "Motion for Preliminary Injunction" (Doc. 24). That motion shall be referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for further consideration, insofar as it relates to the claims which survive threshold review. However, the motion contains additional factual allegations (Doc. 24, pp. 7-14), which Plaintiff did not include in the Second Amended Complaint (Docs 27, 27-1). Much of this material describes events that occurred at Western Illinois Correctional Center and Illinois River Correctional Center, and appears to have been included as background information rather than to assert additional claims in this action. However, Plaintiff also mentions attacks he suffered at the hands of a fellow inmate since he arrived at Menard, and indicates ongoing concern for his safety due to his physical limitations (Doc. 24, p. 13).

Consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), this Court does not permit claims to be presented in a piecemeal fashion in multiple documents (also known as amendment by interlineation). Therefore, only the factual allegations contained in the Second Amended Complaint (Docs. 27 & 27-1) are evaluated herein. If Plaintiff intended any of the additional allegations contained in the motion for preliminary injunction (Doc. 24) to be considered as further claims in this action, he must amend his complaint yet again, so that all claims against all defendants are set forth in a single document. Any new claims that may be asserted in a future amended complaint shall be subject to review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

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 has articulated the following colorable federal causes of action, which shall receive further review:

Count 1: Defendant Coe was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs by effectively discontinuing Plaintiff's prescribed physical therapy and testing for his shoulder condition, when ...

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