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Holtz v. Coe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 22, 2014

WILLIAM HOLTZ, # B-29766, Plaintiff,
v.
PHIL MARTIN and JOHN COE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff William Holtz, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), brings this action pro se for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). He claims that Phil Martin, the medical director, and John Coe, a doctor, have denied Plaintiff treatment for a broken hand since October 8, 2013. Plaintiff now sues Defendants Martin and Coe for violating his rights under the Eighth Amendment. He seeks monetary damages.

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

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).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff has been denied treatment for a broken left hand since October 8, 2013 (Doc. 1, pp. 6-10). On that date, Plaintiff visited Lawrence's healthcare unit ("HCU") with a swollen and painful hand (Doc. 1, p. 6). He received no treatment for it. After "suffering through a day of excruciating pain in [his] left hand, " Plaintiff returned to the HCU. A nurse gave him some Tylenol, which provided no relief. She also scheduled an x-ray of Plaintiff's hand, after noticing that it was warm to the touch.

On October 10, 2013, Plaintiff met with a nurse practitioner[1] (Doc. 1, p. 7). After an x-ray was taken of his hand, the nurse practitioner placed Plaintiff's hand in a splint and instructed him not to use it. She gave Plaintiff a low bunk permit and scheduled a follow-up appointment with Defendant Coe for the next week. Plaintiff did not see Defendant Coe, or any other medical provider, for more than a month. Even then, he met with the nurse practitioner instead of Defendant Coe.

It was during this appointment the following month that Plaintiff first learned the results of his x-ray. The x-ray showed an intra-articular fracture to the third metacarpal of Plaintiff's left hand. By the time Plaintiff learned these results, however, his broken hand had healed incorrectly. Plaintiff now describes his left hand, which is his dominant hand, as "non-functioning" (Doc. 1, p. 8). His attempts to use it cause pain.

Plaintiff alleges that he also made numerous attempts to obtain medical treatment from Defendant Martin and others[2] (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). He wrote Defendant Martin directly in November and December 2013 requesting treatment. However, Defendant Martin took no action to treat Plaintiff or to ensure that he was adequately treated (Doc. 1, p. 10).

Plaintiff now sues Defendants Martin and Coe for displaying deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 1, pp. 11-13). He seeks compensatory and punitive damages from both defendants.

Discussion

After fully considering the allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds that it states a colorable Eighth Amendment medical needs claim (Count 1) against Defendants Coe and Martin. 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, 837 (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 his medical needs, which is a subjective standard. Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). At this early stage, the complaint appears to satisfy both prongs of this test. Accordingly, Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with Count 1 against Defendants Coe and Martin at this time.

Pending Motion

Plaintiff has filed a motion for recruitment of counsel (Doc. 3), which shall be referred to a United States ...


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