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Clay v. Downs

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

August 20, 2014

DUSTIN CLAY (R-23623), Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER CHARLES DOWNS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN J. THARP, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Dustin Clay, an Illinois prisoner confined at Stateville Correctional Center, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Stateville Correctional Officer Charles Downs, Officer Charles Wright, Sergeant Encarnacion, Dr. Partha Ghosh and Wexford Health Sources (the Pennsylvania corporation that provides medical services to Illinois inmates). According to Clay, on December 1, 2010, Officer Downs placed his forearm on Clay's neck and choked him for no reason other than to demonstrate to another officer how to harass an inmate. Wright and Encarnacion allegedly ignored Clay's complaints about Downs' harassment of Clay. Dr. Ghosh allegedly ignored Clay's requests for medical attention for his injuries from the December 1, 2010, incident, and Wexford allegedly has an unwritten policy encouraging its physicians to provide the least possible amount of medical care to inmates.

Pending before this Court is Dr. Ghosh and Wexford's ("Defendants") motion for summary judgment. They contend that Clay cannot establish deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Clay has responded. For the reasons stated in this opinion, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismisses the claims against them.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate "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); Jajeh v. County of Cook, 678 F.3d 560, 566 (7th Cir. 2012). All facts and reasonable inferences drawn from the facts are construed in favor of the non-moving party. Jajeh, 678 F.3d at 566. However, once the moving party demonstrates the absence of a disputed issue of material fact, "the burden shifts to the non-moving party to provide evidence of specific facts creating a genuine dispute." Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012). The non-movant must go beyond the pleadings and "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Hannemann v. Southern Door County School Dist., 673 F.3d 746, 751 (7th Cir. 2012). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is evidence "to permit a jury to return a verdict for" the nonmoving party. Egonmwan v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept., 602 F.3d 845, 849 (7th Cir. 2010).

When addressing a summary judgment motion, this Court derives the background facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 Statements, which assist the Court by "organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side propose[s] to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000).

In accordance with N.D.Ill. Local Rule 56.1(a)(3), Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement "consist[s] of short numbered paragraphs [with] specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon to support the facts set forth in [each] paragraph." Defendants complied with N.D.Ill. Local Rule 56.2 by forwarding to Clay a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment" that explained how to respond to a summary judgment motion and to the factual assertions set out in a Rule 56.1 Statement. (R. 101.) Clay responded to Defendants' summary judgment motion but not their Rule 56.1 Statement. (R. 120).

Although pleadings from pro se litigants are liberally construed, they must still comply with the Court's local procedural rules. Dale v. Poston 548 F.3d 563, 568 (7th Cir. 2008); Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006). Previously in this case, Clay responded to a different Rule 56.1 Statement filed by Defendants Downs, Encarnacion, and Wright for their motion for summary judgment, (R. 50), and the Court even noted that Clay complied with Rule 56.1(b) when it denied that summary judgment motion. (R. 58 at 4.) Despite Clay's proper response to a prior Rule 56.1 Statement and the Rule 56.2 Notices he received, he filed no response to the Rule 56.1 Statement of defendants Ghosh and Wexford. Accordingly, this Court deems Defendants' Rule 56.1 factual statements admitted, to the extent they are supported by the record. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006). The Court also notes that, in any event, Defendants' Rule 56.1 statements are based primarily on Clay's deposition testimony and Dr. Ghosh's affidavit, neither of which Clay challenges in his response to the summary judgment motion. (R. 120.) With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the facts of this case.

FACTS

On December 1, 2010, Clay was let out of his cell by Stateville Correctional Officer Downs, who was training a new officer. (R. 99, Defs. SOF ¶ 18.) According to Clay's deposition and complaint, as soon as he exited his cell, Officer Downs placed his forearm on Clay's neck, forced him up against a wall, and pressed using all of his weight. ( Id. ) After the incident, Clay experienced neck pain, right shoulder pain, and numbness and tingling in his index, middle, and pinky fingers of his left hand. ( Id. at ¶ 19.) The health care unit ("HCU") was not contacted that day about Clay's injuries. ( Id. at ¶¶ 20-21.) The next day, December 2, 2010. Clay was examined by Physician Assistant LaTanya Williams. ( Id. at ¶ 21.) Williams provided Clay with Motrin, Robaxin, and an analgesic balm, which helped relieve his symptoms. ( Id. at ¶¶ 21, 32.) Clay acknowledged that this prescribed treatment "helped a lot, " but he was given only a two week supply. (R. 99, Exh. A. Pl. Depo. at 80-81.) Plaintiff continued to experience periodic back pain for three months, and his neck pain and numbness in his fingers continued for three months. (R. 99, Defs. SOF ¶ 22.) Clay's pains and numbness stopped after three months and have not returned. ( Id. ) Clay states he lifts weights to exercise. After the December 1, 2010, incident, he did not lift weights for approximately three months, but was then able to do so to his full potential. ( Id. at ¶ 23.) Clay sometimes wakes up with numbness in his shoulders and neck, which he attributes to the mattress and pillow in his cell. ( Id. at ¶ 24.) He requested a double mattress and extra pillow permit on December 2, 2010, but was refused. ( Id. )

Clay's claims against Dr. Ghosh and Wexford are that he did not receive follow up care after the December 2, 2010, examination. Clay expected to see Dr. Ghosh after Williams' exam. ( Id. at ¶25.) Clay does not recall being told or seeing a medical record stating that he needed or would receive a follow up exam with Dr. Ghosh ( id. ); nor does he recall seeing a policy stating that follow up care was required. ( Id. at ¶ 26.) Rather, he assumed follow up care was the standard procedure. ( Id .; see also R. 99, Exh. A, Clay Depo. at 54-56.) He further believed that only Dr. Ghosh could conduct a follow up exam. (R. 99, Defs. SOF ¶ 25, citing Exh. A, Clay Depo. at 94.) Clay's symptoms subsided and resolved even without receiving follow up care. ( Id. at ¶ 25.)

Dr. Ghosh was Stateville's medical director from June 18, 2003, to March 31, 2011. ( Id. at ¶ 27.) In addition to providing medical services to inmates, Dr. Ghosh reviewed records of medical services provided by other Stateville health care providers and determined whether any necessary course of treatment was needed. ( Id. at ¶ 28-29.) Other health care providers, such as physician assistants, would refer a patient's record to Dr. Ghosh if the required treatment was outside of the services the physician assistant could provide. ( Id. at ¶ 30.)

Having reviewed Clay's medical records, Dr. Ghosh states in his affidavit that Clay requested emergency care on December 2, 2010, and that he was examined that day by Physician Assistant Williams. ( Id. at ¶ 31.) Clay reported that he was involved in a maneuver by an officer the day before that resulted in a stiff, sore neck; right shoulder pain; and numbness in the fingers of his left hand. ( Id. ) Williams examined Clay; assessed that he was experiencing an alteration of comfort in the soft tissue area of the neck, cervical spine, and right shoulder; and prescribed an analgesic balm, Motrin, and Robaxin. ( Id. at ¶¶ 32, 39.) Williams noted on Clay's chart that he was to return to sick-call for follow up care if needed. ( Id. ) (the Court is unable to find Williams' December 2, 2010, Progress Notes in the record; however, Clay, Dr. Ghosh, and Dr. Saleh Obaisi all similarly describe Williams' notes and there is no dispute as to the contents of the notes, see id. at ¶¶ 32 and 39; R. 120, Pl. Resp. at 2-3.) After review of Clay's medical records, Dr. Ghosh determined to a degree of medical certainty that Clay did not suffer an objectively serious medical condition, and thus needed neither a referral for additional medical care by another physician nor a follow up exam. (R. 99, Defs. SOF at ¶ 33.) Although Clay alleges he sent Dr. Ghosh a letter on December 17, 2010, requesting a follow up exam, Dr. Ghosh has no recollection of receiving such a letter. ( Id. at ¶ 34.) However, if Clay wanted additional medical attention, he could have submitted a sick call request, a procedure well known by Stateville inmates. ( Id. ) Clay never returned to the HCU between December 2, 2010, and March 31, 2011, which is when Dr. Ghosh retired his position from Stateville. ( Id. at ¶ 35.)

There is no written or unwritten policy to provide minimal medical services for cost saving reasons. ( Id. at ¶ 36.) According to Dr. Ghosh and Dr. Saleh Obaisi, Stateville's current medical director, if an inmate had a serious medical condition requiring treatment, such treatment would be provided regardless of financial implications. ( Id. at ¶¶ 36, 44.) Decisions as to what treatment inmates receive are based upon ...


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