United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.
The Court denies the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Boswell Pharmacy Services. . Boswell shall answer the third amended complaint by November 25, 2014.
Pro se Plaintiff Anthony Boyce is currently incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center. This action is one of a total of eight lawsuits Boyce filed about the conditions of confinement at the Stateville Correctional Center, where he was previously housed. Boyce also has an additional conditions of confinement lawsuit ( Boyce v. Hale, 14-cv-1199-JES-JEH) pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, where the Pontiac Correctional Center is located. Before the Court is a motion to dismiss based pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant Boswell Pharmacy Services. For the following reasons, the Court denies the motion.
The Court draws the following facts from Boyce's third amended complaint and accepts them as true for purposes of the motions to dismiss. See Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 946 (7th Cir. 2013). In addition, the Court will construe Boyce's allegations liberally because he is proceeding pro se. See Ambrose v. Roeckeman, 749 F.3d 615, 618 (7th Cir. 2014).
Boyce filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Boswell Pharmacy Services (an entity responsible for filling prescriptions for Stateville prisoners), Jackie Martella (Boswell's CEO), Frederick Nash (a correctional officer at Stateville who handcuffed Boyce), Latanya Williams (a physician's assistant at Stateville who treated Boyce), and Marcus Hardy (Stateville's warden at the relevant time). The factual allegations about Boswell in the third amended complaint are scant. Boyce expected Boswell to fill his prescriptions, presumably because Boswell was responsible for filling prescriptions submitted on behalf of inmates at Stateville. (R. 81, Third Am. Compl., ¶ 15.) After Boswell did not fill a prescription for a refill of a previously prescribed medication, Boyce's family called Boswell in an unsuccessful effort to prompt Boswell to process Boyce's prescription. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Boyce also wrote a letter addressed to "Boswell Pharmacy Service/J. Martella" stating, "Could you please refill my medication Naproxen you could help me if you wanted to thanks." ( Id. Ex. 41.) Boyce asserts, with no supporting details, that Boswell has an "unconstitutional unwritten policy" of interfering with the ability of Stateville prisoners to obtain prescription medication that is meant to cause the affected prisoners to experience unnecessary pain. ( Id. ¶ 19 and p. 9.)
"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). A complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). Thus, a plaintiff's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. This means that a complaint must contain sufficient factual content "to allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Charleston v. Board of Trs. of Univ. of Ill. at Chicago, 741 F.3d 769, 772 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Put differently, a complaint "must provide enough details about the subject matter of the case to present a story that holds together." Mehta v. Beaconridge Improvement Ass'n, 432 Fed.Appx. 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007); Swanson v. Citibank, 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010)). The Court asks "whether the story could have happened, not whether it did." Id.
To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant who was acting under color of state law violated his rights under the Constitution or laws of the United States. Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. Cnty. of Madison, Ill., 746 F.3d 766, 775 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983). The "under color of state law" requirement means that "defendants in § 1983 cases are usually government officials." London v. RBS Citizens, N.A., 600 F.3d 742, 746 (7th Cir. 2010). Nevertheless, a private entity can violate § 1983 if: (1) "the alleged deprivation of federal rights [was] caused by the exercise of a right or privilege created by the state, a rule of conduct imposed by the state, or someone for whom the state is responsible" and (2) the private party "may fairly be said to be a state actor." Id.
In the context of medical care provided by private entities at state correctional institutions, "[a] business like Wexford [Health Sources] that contracts to provide medical care to prisoners undertakes freely, and for consideration, responsibility for a specific portion of the state's overall [constitutional] obligation to provide medical care for incarcerated persons... acts under color of state law for purposes of § 1983." Shields v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections, 746 F.3d 782, 797 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations omitted); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 54 (1988) (holding that "a physician employed by North Carolina to provide medical services to state prison inmates  acted under color of state law for purposes of § 1983 when undertaking his duties in treating petitioner's injury. Such conduct is fairly attributable to the State."). In contrast, "medical providers who have only an incidental or transitory relationship with the penal system generally are not considered state actors." Shields, 746 F.3d at 797-98 (internal quotations omitted).
As noted above, Wexford is a state actor. Shields, 746 F.3d at 797. Construing Boyce's third amended complaint liberally, he alleges that Boswell is ultimately responsible for filling inmates' prescriptions and that Boswell acts in concert with Wexford and at its direction to ensure that inmates at Stateville receive prescription medication. This is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss based on § 1983's state action requirement. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 824-27 (7th Cir. 2009) (concluding that the state action analysis turns on "the degree to which the work of the private medical provider is controlled or influenced by the state.").
The Court adheres to this conclusion notwithstanding Boswell's claim that it is not a state actor because it is a private entity that contracted with Wexford (as opposed to the Illinois Department of Corrections) to provide pharmaceutical supplies at various correctional institutions. (R. 103, Boswell Memo., p. 3.) According to Boswell, its employees occasionally visit Stateville "for the purpose of accessing and developing their contract with Wexford" but it does not maintain an onsite pharmacy at Stateville. ( Id. at 5-6.) Instead, it contends that it merely ships prescription medications for inmates to Stateville pursuant to Wexford's directions and its contractual relationship with Wexford. ( Id. ) Based on the lack of a direct relationship with the State of Illinois, Boswell argues that it did not act under color of state law in connection with Boyce's prescription and thus cannot be ...