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Jacobs v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 27, 2014

TIMOTHY JACOBS, # M-24548, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WEXFORD MEDICAL, and DR. CALDWELL, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate who is currently incarcerated in Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center ("Southwestern"), brings this action pro se under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights (Doc. 1). Plaintiff suffers from hydrocele, a condition that causes fluid buildup around his testicles (Doc. 1, p. 4). He experienced a flare-up of the condition in 2013, and three separate medical professionals recommended surgery (Doc. 1, pp. 4-7). At the time, Plaintiff was in the process of transferring from a federal institution in Kentucky to his permanent placement site in Illinois. Officials at each institution delayed surgery until Plaintiff reached his permanent placement facility. Even then, the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") and Wexford Medical ("Wexford") continued to delay the surgery, causing Plaintiff to endure more than eight months of pain. Plaintiff now sues IDOC and Wexford for implementing policies that caused the delay in his treatment. He also sues Defendant Caldwell, his doctor at Vandalia Correctional Center, for failing to expedite Plaintiff's surgery request. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and a review of IDOC and Wexford's policies.

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).

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). 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. Conversely, 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 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff suffers from hydrocele, a condition that causes fluid buildup around his testicles (Doc. 1, p. 4). In 2013, the condition became severe. On three separate occasions, Plaintiff was sent to the hospital. Each time, the diagnosis of hydrocele was confirmed, and surgery was recommended.

Problems began around February 14, 2013, as Plaintiff awaited extradition from a federal institution in Kentucky to Illinois (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff's testicles began to swell. The pain was unbearable. He was sent to a hospital in London, Kentucky. There, a doctor conducted a sonogram, diagnosed the condition, administered a shot for pain, and referred Plaintiff to a surgeon. Plaintiff was extradited to Woodford County, Illinois, before he met with a surgeon.

By the time he arrived in Illinois, the swelling had increased dramatically. Plaintiff alleges that his testicles were nearly the size of softballs. Plaintiff met with a general practitioner, who sent him directly to the emergency room. After undergoing a second sonogram, the diagnosis was confirmed (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). Plaintiff was again treated for pain, and he returned to the jail with orders for surgery.

Plaintiff's transfer to Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") was expedited because he needed surgery (Doc. 1, p. 5). He arrived at Stateville early the following week. A medical provider met with Plaintiff soon after his arrival, but decided to delay surgery until Plaintiff reached his permanent placement site. He was given Tylenol for pain.

Following his transfer to Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"), Plaintiff met with Defendant Caldwell, a doctor at Vandalia, on March 19, 2013. Defendant Caldwell could not understand why Plaintiff had not already undergone surgery. Defendant Caldwell agreed that surgery was necessary and said he would seek approval for it.

Five months later, Plaintiff continued to wait for surgery. He was in agony. Plaintiff enlisted the help of family members to advocate for the surgery. Plaintiff's family contacted Vandalia's warden and officials in Springfield, offering to pay for the procedure. The IDOC declined the family's offer.

At the end of this five-month period, Plaintiff was again sent to the hospital, where he received the same battery of tests he had already undergone twice. Once again, his diagnosis was confirmed. Once again, he learned that surgery was the only option.

Instead of authorizing the surgery, however, Wexford issued a 90-day denial of the surgery request. Plaintiff was also issued a support belt. The belt was not medically indicated and caused additional pain. Defendant Caldwell told Plaintiff that there was nothing more he could do until the denial period ended (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Meanwhile, Plaintiff's family continued to push for the surgery on his behalf. They eventually reached a Chicago-based doctor who works closely with the IDOC. This provider allegedly convinced the IDOC to approve the surgery, shortly before the 90-day period expired. Plaintiff ...


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