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Rasho v. Walker

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

March 28, 2014

ASHOOR RASHO, Plaintiff,
ROGER E. WALKER, et al., Defendants.


MICHAEL M. MIHM, District Judge.

Now before this Court are Defendants Dr. Willard Elyea, ("Dr. Elyea"), Dr. Wendy Navarro[1] ("Dr. Navarro"), Eddie Jones ("Jones"), Dr. John Garlick's ("Dr. Garlick") Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 60) and Defendant Dr. Michael F. Massa's ("Dr. Massa") Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 62) on Plaintiff's claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical need. For reasons stated herein, the Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 60 and 62) are GRANTED.


On August 16, 2011, Plaintiff Ashoor Rasho ("Rasho" or "Plaintiff") filed a three count Complaint (ECF No. 5) against Dr. Elyea, Dr. Navarro, Jones, Dr. Garlick and Dr. Massa[2]. In Count I, Rasho alleges that Defendants Dr. Elyea, Dr. Navarro, and Jones were deliberately indifferent to his mental illnesses because they were aware he "suffered from serious mental illnesses but they disregarded the risks posed by these serious mental illnesses." (ECF No. 5 at 10). In general, Rasho asserts that "[t]he failure to provide constitutionally-required mental health care to mentally ill inmates such as Mr. Rasho is the result of policies, practices, protocols, and/or customs enacted, implemented, and/or carried out by Defendants Walker, Elyea, Navarro, and Jones." (ECF No. 5 at 6).

In Count II, Rasho alleges that Defendant Jones placed him in Pontiac Correctional Center's North Segregation Unit which failed to meet the Eighth Amendment's minimal standards because prisoners housed in segregation are "given little or no mental health care, " and that certain studies have found that prisoners in isolation experience mental deterioration. (ECF No. 5 at 5).

In Count III, Rasho alleges that Defendants Dr. Garlick and Dr. Massa were deliberately indifferent to Rasho's mental illnesses because, despite their knowledge of his history of mental illness and self-destructive behavior, Defendants Dr. Garlick and Dr. Massa transferred him out of Pontiac's Mental Health Unit ("MHU") and into the North Segregation unit. Rasho claims this transfer was "not... for any legitimate medical or therapeutic reason" but "because [he] had complained about staff behavior in the mental health unit." (ECF No. 5 at 7). Rasho also alleges that although Dr. Massa and Dr. Garlick were aware of his serious mental illness as evidenced by their "consistent [prescription of] powerful combinations of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, " they ordered him back to the North Segregation unit and refused his requests to be returned to the MHU. (ECF No. 5 at 8).

The Defendants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment. Defendants Dr. Elyea, Dr. Navarro, Jones and Dr. Garlick contend that the undisputed facts demonstrate that they were not deliberately indifferent to the Plaintiff's serious mental health needs. (ECF No. 61 at 14, et seq.). These Defendants also argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 61 at 20, et seq.). Defendant Dr. Massa argues that summary judgment in his favor is appropriate because he was not deliberately indifferent to any serious medical need, there is a lack of personal involvement of Dr. Massa to prove liability under § 1983, Dr. Massa cannot be responsible under any respondeat superior or vicarious liability theory, the Plaintiff does not have the right to placement in any specific facility, that there is no evidence that Dr. Massa caused any physical injury to the Plaintiff, and he is entitled to qualified immunity. This Order follows.


"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A movant may demonstrate the absence of a material dispute through specific cites to admissible evidence, or by showing that the nonmovant "cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [material] fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). If the movant clears this hurdle, the nonmovant may not simply rest on his or her allegations in the complaint, but instead must point to admissible evidence in the record to show that a genuine dispute exists. Id .; Harvey v. Town of Merrillville, 649 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2011). "In a § 1983 case, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof on the constitutional deprivation that underlies the claim, and thus must come forward with sufficient evidence to create genuine issues of material fact to avoid summary judgment." McAllister v. Price, 615 F.3d 877, 881 (7th Cir. 2010).

At the summary judgment stage, evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, with material factual disputes resolved in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a reasonable juror could find for the nonmovant. Id.


Initially, it should be noted that Dr. Massa's Motion for Summary Judgment included over four hundred and fifty "undisputed material facts." (ECF NO. 62 at 3-75). Plaintiff objected to the "undisputed material facts" asserting that the majority of the purported facts had no bearing on the outcome of the case. (ECF No. 63 at 2). Ultimately, the Defendants agreed to withdraw some of the undisputed material facts and the Court directed the Plaintiff to focus on those facts that are truly material. ( See TEXT ORDER dated 4/12/-). Additionally, Defendants Dr. Elyea, Dr. Navarro, Jones and Dr. Garlick's Motion for Summary Judgment contains over one hundred purported "undisputed material facts." (ECF No. 60 at 2-14). Of course, many of the Defendants' purported "undisputed material facts" are not "undisputed" nor "material."

Nonetheless, this initial factual background is intended to provide an overview of the case, and additional facts (undisputed and/or disputed) that actually have bearing on the Parties' positions will be highlighted in the discussion section below. Parenthetically, the Court recognizes that this case has been separated from a larger action styled Rasho, et al. v. Director Roger E. Walker, Jr., et al., ILCD Case No. 07-cv-1298. The facts and findings herein are related only to this Plaintiff's individual action, and the positions and arguments presented herein. ( See e.g. ECF No. 72-10 at 11-12, Plaintiff's expert was not critical of the care Rasho received while in Pontiac's MHU. Put another way, this Order is not intended to assess IDOC's delivery of mental health services to mentally ill offenders in general.

Identification of the Parties and Plaintiff's Claims

Ashoor Rasho

Rasho is an inmate housed within the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). Rasho has been in the custody of IDOC since 1996. In 2003, Rasho was transferred to Pontiac Correctional Center. On or around April 6, 2004, Dr. Kowalkowski, a psychiatrist that treated Rasho, recommended that Rasho be transferred to MHU. Rasho has been diagnosed with various mental illnesses including "Axis I diagnosis of history of polysubstance abuse and dependence and Axis II diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. ( See ECF No. 62 at 49). In November 2006, Rasho was transferred out of the MHU, and has not since been transferred back to the MHU. As noted above, Rasho was transferred from MHU to Pontiac's North Segregation unit. In 2011, Plaintiff was transferred to Stateville Correctional Center, where he remained for approximately 11 months. Rasho then returned to Pontiac Correctional Center in 2012.

Dr. Michael Massa

Dr. Massa was employed at Pontiac Correctional Center from March 31, 2006, until July 26, 2011, as a staff psychiatrist, and his primary role was to diagnose and, treat patients and manage psychiatric medications. Dr. Massa contends that there were no differences with regard to the treatment available to prisoners in the MHU as compared to prisoners at Pontiac in other units. On May 25, 2006, Dr. Massa documented that the team recommended that Plaintiff be transferred off the MHU. In Dr. Massa's opinion, Plaintiff did not have a diagnosis or a set of symptoms that would be benefitted by his continuing in the MHU. When Defendant saw Plaintiff again on August 3, 2006, Defendant again recommended that Plaintiff be considered for transfer off the MHU and Defendant's handwritten note indicated that the treatment team was to consider Plaintiff's transfer off the MHU. On that date, Dr. Massa also documented that in his opinion, Plaintiff was clearly demonstrating a flare up consistent with antisocial personality disorder. Dr. Massa asserts that he recommended that Plaintiff be transferred off the MHU due to his diagnosis, his behavior, and his manipulation. Dr. Massa apparently believed that the MHU would not serve Plaintiff or anyone who has been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. At the time Dr. Massa was seeing Plaintiff, it was Dr. Massa's stated opinion that Plaintiff was not benefitting from being placed in the MHU and that Plaintiff was a detriment to others who were properly placed in the MHU. On November 4, 2006, Dr. Massa saw Plaintiff and in his stated opinion, Plaintiff was not demonstrating a need for pharmacologic intervention at that time. Dr. Massa believed he did not see Plaintiff again after November 4, 2006, and shortly after that date, as noted above, Rasho was transferred out of MHU and was placed under other psychiatrists' care. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Massa's decision to transfer Rasho out of the MHU constituted deliberate indifference to his medical needs.

Dr. John Garlick

Dr. Garlick is a psychologist and held the position of Psychology Services Administrator at Pontiac Correctional Center since 2004. Dr. Garlick was also on the placement review board at Pontiac, which reviews placement of inmates in the MHU. Dr. Garlick was a member of the review board that approved Rasho's transfer to the North Segregation unit. Plaintiff alleges that "Dr. Garlick knew, or obviously should have known, that a transfer from the MHU would be detrimental to Mr. Rasho's mental health." (ECF No. 72 at 49). Rasho also alleges that Dr. Garlick was aware of Rasho's serious mental health needs and not only disregarded them, but actively undermined the chances of Rasho receiving adequate treatment by transferring Rasho out of the MHU in a spiteful response to Rasho filing too many grievances.

Dr. Willard Elyea

Dr. Elyea was the Agency Medical Director for IDOC from 1999 to April 2007. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Elyea failed to properly supervise the contract between the IDOC and Wexford, the entity that provides health care services at various ...

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