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Harmon v. Jordan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 11, 2014



MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.


Plaintiff Rickey Harmon brought this action for violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his 2012 Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need of vomiting and fainting after coming off a hunger strike. There are two Motions currently pending before the Court: a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the defendant nurses Farris, Joyce, Gale and Melvin (all of them employees of Wexford Health, the Illinois' Department of Corrections' medical contractor), and a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Cynthia Jordan, an officer at Pinckneyville Correctional Center.

Both dispositive motions were filed March 21, 2014. Plaintiff filed his Response to both Motions on June 30, 2014, (Doc. 81), and no reply has been filed. The motions are ripe for ruling.

For the following reasons, the Wexford Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 71) is GRANTED. Jordan's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 74) is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.


Summary judgment is proper only if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multiut Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating-based on the pleadings, affidavits and/or information obtained via discovery-the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the record in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" only if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party. Id. at 248.

At summary judgment, the Court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge witness credibility, or to determine the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether a genuine issue of triable fact exists. Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).


Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Rickey Harmon, previously incarcerated at Pinckneyville and now an inmate at Hill Correctional Center, brought this case on the theory Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by showing deliberate indifference to his medical needs because they failed to immediately address his vomiting after coming off of a hunger strike. As a result, he claims, he passed out and hit his head on two separate occasions. (Doc. 1). The threshold order divided Plaintiff's Complaint into two counts: 1) against Jordan, Farris, Joyce, and Gale based on Plaintiff's gastrointestinal problems and 2) against all Defendants based on Plaintiff's head injuries. (Doc 5).

Plaintiff has been incarcerated since 1997. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 8). Plaintiff was a resident of Pinckneyville Correctional Center from October 2007 through October 2009. On approximately August 20, 2009, Plaintiff began a hunger strike due to his placement on investigative status in segregation. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 13-14). There is some murkiness regarding the length of the hunger strike: in his Complaint, Plaintiff alleged it lasted 48 hours (Doc. 1, p. 6); in his Response, he alleges it lasted three days. (Doc. 81, p. 1). Plaintiff was placed in segregation intake with other prisoners on hunger strikes and/or suicide watch. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 16). In the hunger strike/suicide watch wing, a nurse is supposed to make the rounds daily and officers must walk to the wing every fifteen minutes. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 16). An inmate needed medical attention, is supposed to alert the officer. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 17).

On August 21, 2009, Plaintiff was taken to see the assistant Warden between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. to discuss his hunger strike. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 62). Plaintiff ended his hunger strike after that meeting. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 19-20). Health care was notified. (Doc. 72-5, p. 1). He testified that he saw Farris come past that morning and he tried to stop her, but she said she couldn't stop because she didn't have time. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 48). Plaintiff testified that Farris walked by in the morning, and somewhat inconsistently testified that there was already vomit everywhere (Pl.'s Dep. p. 49); later he testified that he did not begin throwing up until around noon. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 66). He implied that she did not see the vomit because she never stopped walking. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 49). An outsider could only see the whole cell if they looked through the chuckhole. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 84). The only other times Plaintiff saw Farris was when she was passing out meds to other inmates. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 50). Plaintiff also testified that he did not see a nurse until after he fell on the 21st. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 85). In his Response, Plaintiff alleges that he saw Farris before he fell while she was doing her rounds. (Doc. 81, p. 4). Farris has no recollection of seeing Plaintiff during the relevant time period, and her name is not in any medical records. (Doc. 72-1).

Plaintiff was not experiencing any gastrointestinal issues prior to ending his hunger strike. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 20, 55). He ate lunch that day around 11:15-11:30 am, and then threw up his food approximately fifteen minutes later. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 20, 55). He vomited and noted some blood in it. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 21). He also experienced stomach pains. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 21). The officer walking the ward saw the vomit on the floor and informed Lieutenant Cynthia Jordan. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 21). Plaintiff does not recall the officer telling Jordan that he was vomiting; he only recalls him stating that he needed medical attention. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 68). According to Plaintiff, Jordan responded by saying "F him, he shouldn't have been on hunger strike in the first place." (Pl.'s Dep. p. 48). Plaintiff testified that Jordan yelled: "Harmon, I ain't getting you shit. Fuck you." (Pl.'s Dep. p. 66). The nurse had not made her daily rounds at this time. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 21). Plaintiff did not hear any more of the guard's conversation, although he believes that Jordan and the guard talked further. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 70-71). Plaintiff testified that he did not see a nurse prior to his fall on August 21, 2009. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 22). Jordan submitted an affidavit stating that she was unaware that Plaintiff was experiencing medical issues prior to his fall. (Doc. 75-2, p. 2). Jordan was not aware that Plaintiff threw up blood and did not see any in his cell. (Doc. 75-2, pp. 1-2).

At approximately 3:00 pm on August 21, 2009, Plaintiff fell. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 22). Plaintiff believes Lt. Bradley found him, at which time the staff called a medical emergency and took Plaintiff to the health care unit. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 22, 73). Jordan submitted an affidavit that she found Plaintiff on the floor with a knot in his head near some clear liquid. (Doc. 75-2, p. 1). Plaintiff hit his head on the toilet and experienced significant swelling. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 23). Once at the infirmary, Plaintiff received Tylenol and a bag of ice. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 24). Staff also conducted an examination. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 24). Dr. Obadina prescribed a liquid diet for twenty-four hours and Tylenol and discharged Plaintiff back to segregation. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 24-25, 27) (Doc. 72-5, p. 1). Instructions were given to Plaintiff at approximately 3 pm and he verbalized understanding. (Doc. 72-5, p. 4). The medical records reflect that the nurse came by at 6:30 pm. (Doc. 72-5, p. 5). Plaintiff's headache was relieved by Tylenol, but he still had swelling and tenderness. (Doc. 72-5, p. 5). Plaintiff also reported that he threw up a little with supper. (Doc. 72-5, p. 5). The records reflect that Plaintiff was going to be moved to a different cell. (Doc. 72-5, p. 5). A nurse came by again at approximately 9:00 pm to give him some more Tylenol and check on him. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 29).

On August 22, 2009, Plaintiff was moved to the R5 segregation unit. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 30). Plaintiff asked the guard who transferred him if he could see the nurse. (Pl.'s Dep. pp. 31-32). He was told to put in a sick call slip, which he did. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 32). Plaintiff testified that he once again began experiencing dizziness and vomiting. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 33). Plaintiff saw nurses Joyce Lucas and Melvin on August 22 while they were passing out medication to other inmates. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 34). Plaintiff believes one of those nurses told him to put in a sick call slip. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 34). They did not stop at his cell. (Pl.'s Dep. p. 88). Plaintiff's medical records reflect that a non-defendant nurse checked on him at 9 pm on August 22, 2009, and Plaintiff reported that he was "doing ok" and had eaten his evening ...

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