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Poole v. Duncan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 26, 2014

DeMARCO POOLE, # S-00804, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN STEPHEN DUNCAN, DR. J. COE, UNKNOWN NURSE, and SCANNING PINCKNEYVILLE, [1] Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff DeMarco Poole, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). According to the complaint, Plaintiff received inadequate medical care for a painful lump next to his left ear during his incarceration at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence") (Doc. 1, pp. 6, 8-9). Plaintiff now sues three Lawrence officials, including Warden Duncan, Dr. Coe, and an unknown nurse ("Nurse Doe"), for the denial of proper medical treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and a prison transfer (Doc. 1, p. 7).

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 Section 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). As discussed in more detail below, the Court finds that the complaint survives threshold review under Section 1915A.

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff felt a bump next to his left ear on March 29, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 6). He noticed an increase in its size beginning in July. The steady increase in size of the bump coincided with headaches and pain on the left side of his face. Plaintiff submitted multiple written requests for an appointment with medical staff. In each, Plaintiff described migraines and left facial numbness.

Nurse Doe eventually examined the bump next to Plaintiff's ear and opined that it was a cyst. She referred Plaintiff to Dr. Coe, who also initially diagnosed the bump as a pea-sized cyst. Dr. Coe recommended that Plaintiff apply hot water to the area to reduce swelling. When Plaintiff explained that constant pain, migraines, and numbness prevented him from sleeping, Dr. Coe provided him with no pain relievers, such as Ibuprofen (Doc. 1, p. 8).

Plaintiff returned to Nurse Doe with "pounding" head pain a couple weeks later. By this time, the cyst had doubled in size. Nurse Doe again referred Plaintiff to Dr. Coe for an appointment. At this second appointment, Dr. Coe changed his diagnosis. Instead of a cyst, Dr. Coe opined that the swelling was occurring in a lymph node and could be a sign of cancer. Allegedly unable to decide what next steps to take in the diagnosis and treatment process, however, Dr. Coe took no action at all.

Plaintiff submitted four subsequent requests for an x-ray. He met with Nurse Doe again. He even had his family contact the prison. Meanwhile, the bump continued to grow. When Plaintiff finally met with Dr. Coe again around September 30th, Dr. Coe gave him pain pills for the first time, all the while agreeing that the bump might be indicative of cancer. The complaint does not allege whether any further treatment was provided.

Plaintiff now sues Dr. Coe, Nurse Doe, and Warden Duncan for violating his Eighth Amendment right to receive medical care (Doc. 1, p. 8). He seeks monetary damages and a prison transfer (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Discussion

Count 1 - Medical Needs Claim

Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with his Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim (Count 1) against Dr. Coe and Nurse Doe. The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) ( per curiam ). To state a claim, a plaintiff must show that: (1) the medical condition was objectively serious; and (2) the state ...


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