United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.
Plaintiff Richard Hindes, who is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"), brings this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In the complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff claims that several officials at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois ("USP-Marion"), deprived him of adequate medical care in the form of testosterone injections. Plaintiff now sues four of these officials in connection with this medical claim, including Defendants Leslee Duncan (physician's assistant), Paul Harvey (doctor), Patrick Cunningham (registered nurse), and Robert King. He also names the BOP Medical Staff as a defendant. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 8).
Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
This matter 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). After considering the allegations in light of this standard, the Court finds that the complaint survives preliminary review under Section 1915A.
In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his testicles were surgically removed as a result of a childhood illness. He has received testosterone injections during his entire adulthood. For years, the dosage has not changed.
Upon his arrival at USP-Marion, Plaintiff's bloodwork showed testosterone levels that the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") deemed to be high. Plaintiff asked officials not to alter his dosage. He expressed concern that his testosterone levels could drop dangerously low. Defendant Duncan disagreed, and Defendant Harvey proceeded to reduce Plaintiff's dosage "multiple times." Plaintiff asked Defendants Cunningham and King to intervene and correct the dosage, but they, too, declined. Plaintiff was repeatedly told, "You won't die" (Doc. 1, p. 5).
The injections were then administered on an inconsistent basis. Plaintiff was supposed to receive them every fourteen days. Instead, he received a prescription for the injections when it was convenient for the staff. As much as twenty-five days passed between prescriptions. As a result, Plaintiff's testosterone levels fell "below 30, " which he claims is dangerously low. For six months, Plaintiff suffered from "lethargy, pain, night sweats, and extreme mood swings" (Doc. 1, p. 5).
Plaintiff now sues Defendants Duncan, Harvey, King, and Cunningham. He also names the BOP Medical Staff as a defendant. Plaintiff seeks $10 million in damages, and he alleges that he intends to donate this money to children's cancer research (Doc. 1, p. 6).
The allegations in the complaint plead a violation of the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment arising from the provision of inadequate medical care and give rise to a cause of action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) (Count 1).In Bivens, the United States Supreme Court recognized an implied cause of action for damages against federal officers who allegedly violated the petitioner's Fourth Amendment rights. See Bivens, 403 U.S. at 397. The Supreme Court subsequently found such a remedy available for violations of an individual's rights under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause. See Hui v. Castaneda, 559 U.S. 799, 803 n.2 (2010) (citing Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 17-19 (1980)). It is on this basis that Plaintiff shall be allowed to proceed with Count 1 against Defendants Duncan, Harvey, Cunningham, and King.
Relevant to Plaintiff's claim, the Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment." 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 ). Deliberate indifference involves a two-part test. The plaintiff must show that: (1) the medical condition was objectively serious, and (2) the state officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs, which is a subjective standard. Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 619 (7th Cir. 2000).
The pleadings satisfy both threshold requirements for an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against Defendants Duncan, Harvey, Cunningham, and King. The allegations suggest that Plaintiff's need for testosterone injections was objectively serious; the condition required monitoring by a physician and regular hormone treatments. Further, the complaint suggests that these defendants responded to Plaintiff's condition with deliberate indifference by manipulating the dosage of testosterone and supplying the injections inconsistently, despite their alleged awareness of the consequences to Plaintiff. Although the Court takes no ...