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Willis v. Loftin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 4, 2014

BENNY L. WILLIS, Plaintiff,
DR. MARY LOFTIN, Defendant.


JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Benny L. Willis, an inmate at the Robinson Correctional Center ("Robinson") between February 17, 2010 and April 19, 2011, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Robinson's medical director, Dr. Mary Loftin.[1] Willis alleges that Loftin failed to properly treat his eczema in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Currently before the court is Loftin's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 66). For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.[2]


Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To determine whether any genuine fact issue exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In doing so, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). The court may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations. Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir. 2011).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). If a claim or defense is factually unsupported, it should be disposed of on summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.


I. Willis's Eczema

Willis began exhibiting symptoms of severe, chronic eczema as a child. (Dkt. 74 ("Def. L.R. 56.1 Resp.") ¶ 1.). When not treated properly, his eczema causes him to scratch his skin relentlessly, leading to bleeding and scarring. ( Id. ) Willis, who has spent much of his adult life in and out of prison, believes that he was first diagnosed with eczema while incarcerated in 1997. He subsequently has been treated by doctors at various penitentiaries throughout the state. (Dkt. 69 ("Pl. L.R. 56.1 Resp.")[4] ¶¶ 10-11.) These doctors have tried a variety of treatments for Willis's eczema, including antihistamines and topical steroids in both ointment and lotion form. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Willis's eczema was most successfully treated during his incarceration at Danville Correctional Center ("Danville") between 2000 and 2002 when he received Cyclocort lotion, a topical steroid, and Vitamin E cream. (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 2.) Willis testified that this combination is the only treatment that has ever provided him with "permanent relief" for his eczema. (Dkt. 68, Ex. 2, Deposition of Benny Willis ("Willis Dep.") at 119:4-9.)

II. Willis's Treatment At Robinson Correctional Center

Willis entered Robinson Correctional Center ("Robinson") on February 17, 2010, and remained there until he was released on parole on April 19, 2011. (Dkt. 68 ("Def. L.R. 56.1") ¶ 3.) Loftin treated Willis during his incarceration. ( Id. ¶ 4.) When Willis arrived at Robinson, he had a prescription for a cortosteroid ointment called Triamcinolone that he had obtained at another facility. ( Id. ¶ 24.) Loftin renewed the prescription for one month until she was able to examine him in person. ( Id. )

A. Initial Treatment

Loftin first examined Willis on March 19, 2010. During the examination, Willis told Loftin that Cyclocort lotion and Vitamin E cream was the most effective treatment for his eczema and that the Triamcinolone ointment he currently was using made him itch more. ( Id. ¶ 26.) Loftin's examination notes reflect that Willis had "large areas of thick, dark, hyper-pigmented skin" on his extremities and trunk but no evidence of any infection. ( Id. ¶ 25.) She diagnosed a severe eczematous rash. ( Id. ) After the visit, Loftin replaced Triamcinolone with Lidex ointment, which contains a stronger steroid than both Triamcinolone (Willis's current medication) and Cyclocort (Willis's preferred treatment). (Dkt. 68, Ex. 6, Deposition of Mary Loftin ("Loftin Dep.") at 42:20-43:15.) She also decided not to prescribe Cyclocort because if it had been as effective as Willis claimed, then his skin would not be as damaged as it was. ( Id. at 44:21-25.) Additionally, Lidex was on the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") formulary, whereas Cyclocort was not. ( Id. 43:9-15.) Loftin chose the ointment form of Lidex instead of the lotion form because, in her experience, it provided patients with more hydration.[5] ( Id. at 63:17-21.) Loftin also prescribed Benadryl to help reduce Willis's scratching at bedtime. ( Id. at 42:22-43:6.) In addition, Loftin purchased a bottle of Vitamin E lotion at a local store with her own money for Willis.[6] ( Id. at 45:21-23.)

Two months later, on May 15, 2010, Willis complained to a nurse that he could not sleep due to itching. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 39.) The nurse contacted Loftin, who was off-site, and Loftin authorized a two-day prescription of Vistaril, a more potent antihistamine that she believed would help Willis sleep. ( Id. ¶ 40.) A few days later, on May 19, 2010, Willis asked a nurse for Cyclocort lotion. ( Id. ¶ 41.) The nurse contacted Loftin, who was off-site again and did not have access to Willis's records. ( Id. ¶¶ 41-42.) Loftin authorized a prescription for Triamcinolone ointment and scheduled Willis for a punch biopsy.[7] ( Id. ¶ 42.) Loftin performed the biopsy on June 2, 2010. It was the first punch biopsy performed on Willis. ( Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) Loftin also permanently changed Willis's antihistamine from Benadryl to Vistaril to reduce Willis's itching and improve his sleep. ( Id. ¶ 46.)

B. Dermatologist Visit and Post-Visit Treatment

Loftin met with Willis again to explain the results of the punch biopsy, which showed that Willis did not have any more serious condition than eczema. She also prescribed Lidex ointment and calamine lotion after Willis complained again about itching. ( Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) In addition, Loftin referred Willis to an outside dermatologist. She was the first IDOC physician to do so for Willis. ( Id. ¶¶ 49-52.)

Willis saw a dermatologist's physician assistant ("PA") at an outside dermatologist office on August 10, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 53.) The PA diagnosed Willis's condition as "eczematous dermatitis/irritant dermatitis" and recommended that Willis use Triamcinolone cream and an over-the-counter moisturizer. ( Id. ) But because Willis had said that Triamcinolone did not work, Loftin submitted a non-formulary request for "1 bottle [of] Cyclocort." ( Id. ¶ 55; dkt. 68, Ex. 3, Medical Records of Benny Willis ("Willis Records") at 9.) She did not specify whether the request was for the ointment or lotion.[8] The brand name version of Cyclocort was no longer produced so Willis received the generic version, Amcinonide, in ointment form. (Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 57.) He continued to receive, and accepted, Amcinonide ointment each month from August 21, 2010 through March 14, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 58.) He also requested and received an over-the-counter moisturizer, Minerin cream, several times between September 1, 2010 and his release. ( Id. ¶¶ 58, 59.) Loftin testified that there was no objective change in Willis's ...

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