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Keefer v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 5, 2014

CLAYTON A. KEEFER, #R-03516, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, S.A. GODINEZ, WEXFORD MEDICAL, DR. ELYEA, DR. GIEBY, AND DR. CALDWELL Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff now sues the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"); IDOC Director, Salvador Godinez; Wexford Medical ("Wexford") (the organization that contracts to provide medical services to Illinois inmates); and Wexford's Chief Medical Administrator, Dr. Elyea; Dr. Gieby (an Illinois River Correctional Center physician); and Dr. Caldwell (a Vandalia physician). Plaintiff claims that Defendants have denied him adequate medical treatment for an open wound on his right ankle. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff seeks treatment for his condition and monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

Plaintiff filed this action on November 20, 2013 in the Northern District of Illinois. On February 10, 2014, the case was transferred from the Northern District of Illinois to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Doc. 7). The complaint comes now before the Court for a preliminary review 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).

The Complaint

Prior to his arrest and incarceration, in late September 2012, Plaintiff was diagnosed with necrotizing facitis in his left foot. (Doc. 1, p. 4). He underwent two surgeries and a skin graft on his foot while being hospitalized for nearly two months. ( Id. ) According to the complaint, the skin graft covering his right ankle failed and left a seven by four inch area of exposed flesh. ( Id. ) Plaintiff continued to be treated by the surgeon who had performed the skin graft until Plaintiff was arrested in January 2013 and taken into custody at Peoria County jail. ( Id. ) While in custody, Plaintiff was sent out to see a specialist at the Methodist wound clinic in Peoria, who ordered hyperbaric oxygen treatment and a specific protocol for dressing changes and medication. Plaintiff received daily treatments at the wound clinic up until the time he was transferred to Stateville Reception Center on March 14, 2013, following his sentencing. ( Id., p. 5). On Plaintiff's last visit to the Methodist wound clinic, the specialist outlined a continuing care treatment plan, which directed that Plaintiff should continue receiving the hyperbaric oxygen treatment. A copy of the orders from the specialist was placed in Plaintiff's IDOC medical file.[1] ( Id. )

Upon entering Stateville, Plaintiff was seen by a general healthcare practitioner who reviewed the orders, but said that none of the orders could be followed until Plaintiff was transferred to a permanent institution. ( Id. ) Plaintiff does not name this particular healthcare provider. The provider ordered a "simple dressing change" instead. ( Id. )

In late April 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Vandalia Correctional Center and seen by Dr. Caldwell. ( Id., p. 6). Plaintiff claims that Dr. Caldwell said that it would be tough to get approval for the treatments and medications recommended by the wound clinic specialist, due to cost considerations, and ordered "nothing more than a daily dressing change." ( Id. ) It is unclear from the complaint whether Dr. Caldwell ever attempted to seek approval for the recommended course of treatment.

In late May 2013, Plaintiff was transferred again, this time to Illinois River Correctional Center, and seen by Dr. Gieby. ( Id. ) According to the complaint, Dr. Gieby agreed that Plaintiff needed to be treated at an outside wound clinic, but told Plaintiff that it was unlikely such treatment would be approved, due to its cost. ( Id. ) Again, it is unclear from the complaint whether Dr. Gieby ever sought approval for the recommended course of treatment. However, the complaint does recount that Dr. Gieby had a medical hold placed on Plaintiff because she "believed that if she couldn't get the Dept. of Corrections to approve the continued care and send [Plaintiff] back to the wound clinic or follow the orders sent" then she could at least follow Plaintiff's progress herself. ( Id. )

Plaintiff claims that since being taken under the custody of IDOC his wound has begun to open back up in places where it had previously healed ( id. ) and he has suffered multiple infections and pain in his foot and ankle ( id. ). Finally, Plaintiff asserts that the injury was initially so severe that the director of the Peoria County Jail requested that the prosecutor's office release Plaintiff on a medical furlough to avoid the risk of amputation due to infection. ( Id., p. 7).

Analysis

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint sets forth two actionable claims: Count 1 states a claim for damages against only Defendants Gieby and Caldwell under the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need; Count 2 states a claim for injunctive relief against Defendant S.A. Godinez, in his official capacity as Director of IDOC. Defendants Elyea, Wexford Medical, and IDOC are dismissed for the following reasons.

Count 1: Claim for Damages

To establish an Eighth Amendment medical needs claim, Plaintiff must show that: (1) the medical condition was objectively serious; and (2) the state officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs. See Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). The complaint satisfies the objective prong of this test. The Seventh Circuit has held that a medical need is objectively "serious" where it has either "been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment" or where the need is "so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997). The complaint alleges that Plaintiff needs hyperbaric oxygen treatments to ensure that the wound on his foot heals properly. (Doc. 1, p. 5). According to the complaint, Plaintiff entered IDOC with a large, open wound that resulted from a failed skin graft. Plaintiff had been under the care of a physician until he was taken into custody at the Peoria County Jail, and even then he was sent out to see a specialist in order to receive appropriate medical care. The complaint implies that without proper treatment, Plaintiff's wound could deteriorate to the point that amputation would become necessary. These allegations meet the threshold requirement for a "serious" medical need.

The complaint also satisfies the subjective component of an Eighth Amendment medical needs claim against Defendants Gieby and Caldwell. To establish deliberate indifference, Plaintiff "must demonstrate that prison officials acted with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind.'" Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991)). Officials must "know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health" by being "aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists'" and "draw[ing] the inference.'" Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653 (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). With respect to Defendants Gieby and Caldwell, the complaint asserts that both individuals knew of the previously prescribed treatment plan for Plaintiff's wound, but declined to follow the medical orders because they ...


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