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Scott v. Harrington

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 2, 2015

CHRISTOPHER SCOTT, No. R31806, Plaintiff,


STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Christopher Scott, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights related to the medical care he was afforded when he fractured and displaced the fifth metacarpal of his right hand-his little finger.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal.- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, on December 17, 2013, Plaintiff was involved in a fight among several inmates. Guards broke up the fight, handcuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back, and took Plaintiff to the health care unit for medical care. Dr. Ruppert x-rayed Plaintiff's hand and confirmed that Plaintiff's little finger was fractured. Dr. Ruppert consulted with Dr. Fuentes and they agreed on the diagnosis and stated that surgery was needed. Nevertheless, Ruppert and Fuentes chose not to contact Wexford Health Sources (the contract health care provider for the prison) to get approval to send Plaintiff to a specialist for treatment. Instead, Plaintiff's hand was placed in a cast. Plaintiff asserts that Drs. Ruppert and Fuentes were deliberately indifferent and driven to save the prison money. Plaintiff immediately submitted an emergency administrative grievance, which Warden Richard Harrington deemed not to be an emergency. Refiling the grievance as a non-emergency was to no avail.

Plaintiff continued to experience severe pain and he began to have a burning sensation. Dr. M. Moldenhauer examined Plaintiff on January 6th and 28th, and again on February 6th. According to Plaintiff, Dr. Moldenhauer attempted a "cover-up" by not properly recording Plaintiff's subjective complaints, and falsely reporting that Plaintiff had good finger movement and the like. Plaintiff received no effective medical treatment from Dr. Moldenhauer and remained in severe pain.

On February 19th, Dr. Ruppert and Dr. Nwaobasi removed the cast, examined Plaintiff and x-rayed his hand. According to Plaintiff, his finger was visibly deformed, out of alignment and discolored, but-contrary to what the x-rays revealed-Dr. Ruppert and Dr. Nwaobasi both opined that all was well. Dr. Nwaobasis medical report exaggerated how well Plaintiff could move his fingers and make a fist, and failed to record pain and swelling. Plaintiff requested and was denied a front-cuff permit, a low-bunk permit and physical therapy. The doctors instructed him to buy a handball at the commissary-presumably to aid in regaining grip strength.

Plaintiff continued to have severe pain, numbness and loss of movement and feeling in his fingers. He was seen by Dr. Nwaobasi on March 29, 2014. Dr. Nwaobasi concluded that Plaintiff's finger was malaligned, and he had a flexion deformity. A subsequent x-ray confirmed that diagnosis, and Dr. Ruppert concurred. Plaintiff was referred to an orthopedic specialist.

Plaintiff contends Drs. Ruppert, Fuentes, Moldenhauer and Nwaobasi were each deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, and that they failed to follow prison rules regarding the provision of necessary medical care-leaving Plaintiff in severe pain for 64 days, causing him to have complications, and resulting in irreparable injury and chronic pain. Plaintiff further asserts that Warden Harrington also denied him proper care, in that Harrington denied his grievance(s), instead supporting the defendant physicians' unconstitutional ...

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