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Cooper v. Mahone

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

September 29, 2014



ANDREA R. WOOD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Arsenio Cooper alleges that while in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), he was denied proper medical care by Defendants Sylvia Mahone and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford") in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, Cooper has brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment (the "Motion"). (Dkt. No. 82.) Because Cooper cannot show that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, the Motion is granted.


The facts underlying this action are substantially undisputed.[1] Cooper is a prisoner with IDOC, confined at the Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"). (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 95.) He alleges that he injured his right knee playing basketball there on April 30, 2011. ( Id. ¶¶ 7, 12.) That same day, he was examined at a Stateville hospital. ( Id. ¶ 13.) IDOC had contracted with Wexford to provide medical services at Stateville, and Mahone was a physician employed by Wexford as a medical director in the hospital unit where Cooper was examined. ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 3.) One of the medical technicians who saw Cooper on the day of his injury told Cooper that she thought he had fractured his knee, and prescribed a three day lay-in, Tylenol, and ice for his knee. ( Id. ¶ 14.)

On May 1, 2011, Cooper had a follow-up examination at Stateville, after which Mahone approved his transfer to the emergency room at Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet, Illinois for further examination. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-17.) Cooper was seen by St. Joseph emergency room physician Daniel Magdziarz later that day. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Magdziarz observed swelling of Cooper's knee, fluid within the knee joint, and possible internal damage to knee ligaments or cartilage. ( Id. ¶ 22.) An x-ray of Cooper's knee did not reveal any acute fracture, but Magdziarz could not rule out the possibility of hairline fractures that would have been revealed only by an MRI exam. ( Id. ¶ 21.)

Cooper was fitted with a knee immobilizer ( i.e., a knee brace) at St. Joseph. ( Id. ¶ 23.) His discharge form instructed him to wear the brace when he was awake, to use crutches to prevent weight-bearing use of the knee, and to take prescribed medications to relieve inflammation and pain. ( Id. ¶ 25.) He was instructed to seek a referral to an orthopedist and to return to the emergency room if his condition worsened. (Dkt. No. 93 at 7.) Magdziarz also signed a form that represented that Cooper was okay to be readmitted to Stateville. ( Id. at 9.) The readmission form stated that Cooper should wear the knee brace and use crutches to prevent weight-bearing activity, and specified that Cooper should follow up with an orthopedist within one week. ( Id. ) Cooper was not told how long he would need to wear the brace. (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 26, Dkt. No. 95.) He returned to Stateville on the night of May 1 wearing the brace. ( Id. ¶ 27.) That evening, Mahone issued a telephone order for Cooper to be provided with a low-galley bunk, Ibuprofen, and crutches. ( Id. ¶ 28.)

Stateville security officers removed Cooper's brace on May 2, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 29.) The officers told Mahone that Cooper could not have the knee brace because it contained metal bars. ( Id. ¶ 30.) Mahone examined Cooper on May 3 and observed minimal swelling in his right knee. ( Id. ¶ 32.) She prescribed medications for inflammation and pain, authorized a three-day exemption from his normal prison work responsibilities, and instructed him to refrain from sports activity for 30 days. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Mahone also ordered a metal-free brace for him. ( Id. ¶ 34.)

On May 5, 2011, Mahone conferred with a colleague and approved an MRI exam for Cooper's knee to check for internal injury. ( Id. ¶ 35.) She examined him again on May 13 and refilled his prescriptions for two medications. ( Id. ¶ 36.) Cooper was transferred to the University of Illinois - Chicago Medical Center ("UIC") on June 2 for the MRI. ( Id. ¶ 37.) That examination indicated that Cooper's patella had been dislocated and relocated, and that there were microfractures in surrounding bones, tears to nearby tissue, and damage to ligaments and cartilage. ( Id. ¶ 39.) Cooper's knee injury produced fluid and swelling. ( Id. ) Ejaz Shamim, the radiologist who interpreted the MRI results, did not prescribe treatment. ( Id. ¶ 40.)

Mahone next saw Cooper on June 3, 2011 and observed that he was walking without a cane. ( Id. ¶ 42.) She renewed his prescriptions for two medications and advised him not to put too much pressure on his knee. ( Id. ¶¶ 42-43.) She saw him again on June 8 and approved his transfer to UIC for an orthopedic evaluation. ( Id. ¶ 44.) Cooper was evaluated at UIC on June 10 and was given a home exercise plan consisting of knee stabilization exercises. ( Id. ¶ 45.) Cooper's prescriptions were refilled on July 20, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 46.) His knee was x-rayed on July 28, and the findings were negative. ( Id. ¶ 47.) Cooper still had not received a knee brace, and on September 16, 2011, Mahone requested that Wexford provide one for him. ( Id. ¶ 50.) Cooper finally received a knee brace in November or December 2011. ( Id. ¶ 51.)


Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The mere existence of a factual dispute is insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment; the nonmovant "must present definite, competent evidence in rebuttal." Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2012).

In his complaint, Cooper alleges that the condition of his knee worsened because of Defendants' failure to provide him with a knee brace and that this failure constituted deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Eighth Amendment, through the Fourteenth Amendment, imposes a duty upon states to provide adequate medical care to incarcerated individuals. Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1010 (7th Cir. 2006). That constitutional provision is violated by state officials who display deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners. Id.

Under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner's "medical need is sufficiently serious to require the attention of prison officials if it has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention." Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 865 (7th Cir. 2012); see also McGee v. Adams, 721 F.3d 474, 480 (7th Cir. 2013). "A medical condition need not be life-threatening to be serious; rather, it could be a condition that would result in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain if not treated." Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 857 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010)). The parties in the present action agree that Cooper's knee injury constituted a serious medical need for Eighth Amendment purposes. But they dispute whether Defendants acted with deliberate indifference.

To show deliberate indifference, a plaintiff need not establish that he was literally ignored. Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). But he must show more than mere negligence. Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008); see also McGee, 721 F.3d at 480 ("Deliberate indifference is more than negligence and approaches intentional wrongdoing."). To prevail, a plaintiff must show that the defendant knew of a substantial risk of harm to an ...

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