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Centeno v. Wexford Health Sources Inc.

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

October 16, 2014

MELVIN CENTENO (K72719), Plaintiff,


JAMES B. ZAGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Melvin Centeno, who is in custody at the Stateville Correctional Center, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 based on his dissatisfaction with the care he received for chronic pain in his left knee. In February 2013, Centeno received knee replacement surgery. He contends that Wexford Health Sources (an entity that hires personnel who provide medical services to Illinois prisoners) and Arthur Funk, Imhotep Carter, and Liping Zhang (three doctors employed by Wexford) were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs because they delayed his surgery and provided constitutionally inadequate care beforehand. Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the following reasons, their motion is granted.


A. Local Rule 56.1

Because Centeno is proceeding pro se, the defendants served him with a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment, " as required by Local Rule 56.2. (Dkt. 138.) This notice explained the consequences of failing to properly respond to a motion for summary judgment and statement of material facts.

Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires a party moving for summary judgment to submit "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to judgment as a matter of law." Cracco v. Vitran Express, Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing L.R. 56.1(a)(3)). Under Local Rule 56.1(b)(3), the nonmoving party then must submit a "concise response" to each statement of fact, "including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). The nonmoving party may also present a separate statement of additional facts that requires the denial of summary judgment. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C); see also Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008).

Because Centeno is proceeding pro se, the court will construe his filings liberally. See Ambrose v. Roeckeman, 749 F.3d 615, 618 (7th Cir. 2014). Nevertheless, a plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with federal and local procedural rules. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993). "When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by [Local Rule 56.1], those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the [summary judgment] motion." Cracco, 559 F.3d at 632. Thus, district courts disregard Local Rule 56.1 responses that do not cite specific portions of the record or that contain irrelevant information, legal arguments, conjecture, or evasive denials. See id. ; see also Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006); Bordelon v. Chi. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2000).

In his response to the defendants' Local Rule 56.1 statement, Centeno largely directs the court's attention to relevant evidence that supports his position. However, to the extent that his denials are unsupported or unresponsive, the corresponding facts are deemed admitted insofar as they are supported by the record. With this in mind, the court turns to the facts.

B. Relevant Facts

Centeno was born in 1963 and is incarcerated at the Stateville Correctional Center. Wexford Health Sources hires medical personnel who provide medical services to Illinois prisoners. Dr. Funk is Wexford's regional medical director. Despite Centeno's unsupported assertion to the contrary, the record shows that Dr. Funk does not oversee daily operations at Stateville's Health Care Unit. Dr. Ghosh was Stateville's medical director from 2006 through March 31, 2011, when he retired. Dr. Carter was a Wexford physician at Stateville during the relevant time, and served as Stateville's medical director from July 25, 2011, through May 10, 2012. Dr. Zhang was another Wexford physician who worked at Stateville from May 3, 2008, to June 28, 2010.

1. The 2008 Lawsuit

Centeno filed a lawsuit in 2008 regarding treatment he received in Stateville for his left knee. In that case, Centeno alleged that from 2006 to 2008, orthopedic specialists told him that he needed knee surgery. He also alleged that the defendants failed to provide him with a prescription knee brace or appropriate pain medication. On June 17, 2009, Centeno settled the 2008 case. The release in that case covered "any past or future injuries or claims of injuries known or unknown to [Centeno's] left knee which arose or could have arisen from the subject matter of 08 CV 2756, currently pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois." (Dkt. 137-8 at 1) (emphasis in original.)

In 2011, Centeno filed the case that is presently before the court. He named Wexford, the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), and various Wexford and IDOC staff as defendants. As in the 2008 lawsuit, Centeno alleged that he did not receive necessary knee surgery and challenged the care he received for his knee.

2. Treatment Provided at Stateville for Centeno's Knee

Centeno was treated in Stateville's health care unit twenty times between 2008 and the filing of this lawsuit. As Centeno correctly observes, not all of these appointments addressed his knee issues. Although the records are frequently difficult to read, it appears that fifteen of these visits did so. Specifically, Centeno saw Stateville staff about his left knee on September 15, 2008, February 2, 2009, February 4, 2009, September 24, 2009, October 28, 2009, December 14, 2009, July 27, 2010, August 9, 2010, January 10, 2011, January 12, 2011, January 13, 2011, April 5, 2011, July 19, 2011, September 26, 2011, and October 6, 2011. In addition, a February 21, 2011, appointment appears to have indirectly addressed Centeno's knee, as on this date, Dr. Ghosh approved an order stating that Centeno did not have to wear leg irons for an appointment at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center ("UIC").

From 2008 through 2011, Centeno received a variety of special permits to accommodate his knee issues, including permits for a knee sleeve, a knee brace, a low bunk, a low gallery, and no stairs. On February 2, 2009, Centeno returned his knee sleeve, claiming it was too large. Two days later, Dr. Zhang gave Centeno a prescription for a DonJoy knee brace that duplicated a prescription for this brace written by another doctor in 2006 that Centeno had not received. Centeno received a DonJoy knee brace in September 2009 as part of the settlement of the 2008 lawsuit.

Stateville medical records indicate that Dr. Ghosh evaluated Centeno on January 13, 2011. Dr. Ghosh ordered a left knee X-ray and authorized an evaluation at UIC. Centeno received an X-ray that same day, which showed that he had minimal degenerative joint disease. On February 22, 2011, Centeno received another X-ray of his left knee, which showed an old fracture of his lateral tibial plateau with minimal depression but no new pathology. In July 2011, Centeno received a renewal of his medical permit for accommodations relating to his knee.

The notes for Centeno's September 26, 2011, appointment quote him as affirmatively stating that he did not want any pain medications. Instead, the notes state that Centeno represented that he made that appointment so he could find out the status of his outside consultation. (Dkt. 137-10 at 13) ("I don't want any pain meds, I want to see where my consult is status wise', I'm not here for any other reason.'").

On October 6, 2011, Centeno returned to Stateville's health care unit. Medical records reflect that Dr. Carter evaluated Centeno. Dr. Carter's notes state that Centeno requested a follow-up at UIC and incorrectly believed that he had been promised knee replacement surgery. Dr. Carter observed a normal gait and no apparent mechanical disturbance but indicated that Centeno complained about pain in his left knee. Dr. Carter believed Centeno's left knee was stable, but approved an outside hospital appointment for "collegial review." Centeno asserts that Dr. Carter merely approved a "collegial review" appointment, refused to evaluate him, and told him that he was there to save money, not save lives.[1]

3. Treatment Provided at UIC for Centeno's Knee

Centeno also received treatment outside Stateville from UIC medical staff. On December 17, 2009, Dr. Mark Hutchinson and Dr. Hasan Baydoun evaluated Centeno's left knee. Centeno told the doctors that he had experienced ongoing left knee pain for several years based on a 2002 tibial and fibular fracture. Dr. Hutchinson reviewed Centeno's MRI and X-rays. He noted that Centeno had some mild laxity in the AP plane, very mild posterolateral rotation, and a crack in his lateral tibial plateau which had healed with a widened lateral tibial plateau. He found, however, that Centeno's medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments were intact.

During this appointment, Dr. Hutchinson discussed the risks and benefits of surgical and non-surgical options. He opined that posterolateral corner and posterior cruciate ligament reconstruction usually do not improve grade 1 laxity. He also indicated that Centeno should return as needed. In response, Centeno stated that he wanted to get a second opinion and that he "might be leaning towards the option of a total knee arthoplasty." (Dkt. 137-6 at 2.)

On October 21, 2010, Centeno returned to UIC and saw Dr. Hutchinson and Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein. The notes, which are partially illegible, indicate that Centeno had some posterior laxity in the AP plane, as well as mild posterior lateral rotation, but no significant "spin out." Dr. Hutchinson and Dr. Goldstein ordered updated imaging studies to determine if Centeno was undergoing arthritic changes and gave Centeno prescriptions for glucosamine chondroitin sulfate, a DonJoy knee brace, and a neoprene knee sleeve. They also directed him to follow up after his imaging studies were complete.

According to articles submitted by Centeno, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help support healthy cartilage and some studies suggest they may benefit patients with osteoarthritis. (Dkt. 141, Exs. 5, 6.) Despite receiving prescriptions for glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, Centeno did not receive these nutritional supplements. Centeno wore the knee brace he received from the 2008 settlement from the time he received it until the date of his surgery. He does not appear to have received a second knee brace pursuant to the 2010 prescription.

On November 18, 2010, Centeno had MRI studies done for his left knee at UIC. The MRI revealed arthritic changes of the lateral tibial plateau and slight to mild progression of the condition of Centeno's knee. On January 28, 2011, Centeno returned to UIC and saw Dr. Benjamin Goldberg. Dr. Goldberg's notes indicate that he recommended a steroid injection and that Centeno "verbalized that he would like surgical intervention" and "is most interested in total knee arthoplasty." (Dkt. 137-6 at 10.) Dr. Goldberg advised Centeno that he had other options, including a diagnostic arthroscopy with debridement ( i.e., the removal of tissue), and that he believed that Centeno was "very young for a total knee." ( Id. ) Centeno "still stated that he would like a total knee despite being explained the ...

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