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Curry v. Dr. Caldwell and Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 18, 2014

ELVIN K. CURRY, Jr., # M-03359, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. CALDWELL and ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Elvin Curry, an inmate at Vandalia Correctional Center ("Vandalia"), brings this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that during his incarceration at Vandalia he was denied adequate medical care for a knee injury, knee tumor, and osteoarthritis. He now sues his treating physician, Dr. Caldwell ("Defendant Caldwell"), and the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") under the Eighth Amendment and Illinois negligence law (Doc. 1, pp. 6-11). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 10).

Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). After reviewing the allegations in light of this standard, the Court finds that the complaint survives preliminary review under Section 1915A.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a knee injury and osteoarthritis, following a fall on Vandalia's gym floor on February 19, 2014[1](Doc. 1, p. 6). He was not examined by a medical provider in Vandalia's healthcare unit ("HCU") until February 24th. Plaintiff's treating physician, Defendant Caldwell, did not provide him with a knee brace until March 3rd. Plaintiff returned to the HCU in pain on April 10th, but five days passed before he was referred to Defendant Caldwell for another appointment.

At the appointment, Defendant Caldwell took an x-ray of Plaintiff's knee. The x-ray allegedly revealed that his knee was "bad." Defendant Caldwell diagnosed Plaintiff with osteoarthritis. He explained that this condition would eventually affect Plaintiff's joints, hands, hips, and lower back (Doc. 1, p. 7). It would also cause severe pain and could prevent Plaintiff from working. The complaint alleges that medication, physical therapy, and surgery are among the few treatments available for this condition.

Rather than providing Plaintiff with any of these forms of treatment, however, Plaintiff was given a single crutch on May 9th. He was allowed to keep it for four days. Once it was taken away, Plaintiff fell again.

On June 10th, Plaintiff fell while trying to climb up onto his bunk bed (Doc. 1, p. 8). An x-ray confirmed that the osteoarthritis had spread to Plaintiff's hip, and he was in need of hip replacement surgery. Plaintiff claims that he also should have been given a low bunk permit and prescribed COX-2 for pain, but he was provided with neither. In addition, Defendant Caldwell failed to diagnose or treat a bony tumor located on Plaintiff's knee, which Plaintiff first learned about when reviewing his medical file on June 26th. Defendant Caldwell never revealed, diagnosed, or treated the tumor.

Plaintiff now sues Defendant Caldwell and the IDOC for depriving him of adequate medical care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and committing medical malpractice, in violation of Illinois state law (Doc. 1, p. 10). He seeks only monetary relief (Doc. 1, p. 11).

Discussion

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds that the complaint states no claim against the IDOC under the Eighth Amendment or Illinois negligence law. Further, although a colorable Eighth Amendment claim (Count 1) has been articulated against Defendant Caldwell, the Illinois state negligence ...


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