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Scott v. Smith

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

February 18, 2015

DENNIS SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVIS SMITH, et al., Defendants.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT OPINION

HAROLD A. BAKER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and a resident at Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The case is before the court for ruling on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). All facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in his favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). The party moving for summary judgment must show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In order to be a "genuine" issue, there must be more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

FACTS

Plaintiff Dennis Scott is a resident of Rushville Treatment and Detention Facility ("Rushville"). Plaintiff has been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires regular dialysis treatment. Typically, Plaintiff is scheduled to receive dialysis treatment on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 a.m. within the health care unit at Rushville. Plaintiff receives the treatment from Nurse Alice Ore ("Nurse Ore").

On Monday, March 25, 2013, inclement weather delayed Nurse Ore's arrival at Rushville. At approximately 8:00 a.m., Defendant Smith notified Plaintiff that Nurse Ore had arrived, and informed Plaintiff that he had ten (10) minutes to report for treatment. When Plaintiff arrived at the guard station, Defendant Smith refused to allow Plaintiff to leave the housing unit. Defendant Smith stated that Plaintiff had failed to report within ten (10) minutes of being called for treatment ("10-minute rule"). Therefore, Defendant Smith explained, Plaintiff would not be allowed to go to the health care unit. Plaintiff protested and informed Defendant Kerr, a supervisor on the day in question, that he was being denied his dialysis treatment. Defendant Kerr told Plaintiff that he would address Plaintiff's concerns when he returned from another unit. Defendant Kerr left the unit and never returned. Plaintiff did not receive dialysis treatment until Wednesday, March 27, 2013, five days after his previous treatment on Friday, March 22, 2013.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Smith and Kerr were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need. As a resident at Rushville, Plaintiff's claims arise under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, rather than under the Eighth Amendment. Mayoral v. Sheahan, 245 F.3d 934, 938 (7th Cir. 2001). As a practical matter, however, there exists little difference between the two standards. Id. (citations omitted). To prevail, a plaintiff must show that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976). Deliberate indifference is more than negligence, but does not require the plaintiff to show that the defendants intended to cause harm. Mayoral, 245 F.3d at 938. Liability attaches when "the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). To survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must make a sufficient showing of evidence for each essential element of its case on which it bears the burden at trial." Kampmier v. Emeritus Corp., 472 F.3d 930, 936 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23).

Plaintiff's Serious Medical Need

"An objectively serious medical need is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." King v. Kramer, 680 F.3d 1013, 1018 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations omitted). Both definitions are met here. The underlying condition requiring the dialysis clearly constitutes a serious medical need. See Adkins v. Walker, No. 08 C 0815, 2010 WL 2232137, at *5 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2010) (holding that treatment of condition requiring dialysis constitutes a serious medical need). In addition, the parties do not dispute that Plaintiff is scheduled to receive dialysis three times per week at Rushville, and Defendants' reliance on Nurse Ore's "10-minute rule" indicates that the Defendants were aware of Plaintiff's need for dialysis on an ongoing basis. Finally, dialysis is a common treatment for serious medical conditions. It is not a stretch to say that a lay person would recognize the need for a doctor's attention at the mere mention of such treatment. Thus, Plaintiff has made a sufficient showing that he had a serious medical need.

Deliberate Indifference

Defendants argue that Defendants Smith and Kerr were not deliberately indifferent because they, as nonmedical prison officials, were entitled to rely upon the judgment of the medical staff. Specifically, defendants argue that because Nurse Ore had a policy related to Plaintiff's medical treatment, that Defendants Smith and Kerr could enforce said policy as an extension of Nurse Ore's medical judgment.

Courts in this Circuit have been reluctant to impose constitutional liability upon nonmedical prison officials in cases where the official deferred to the judgment of the medical staff. See Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 440 (7th Cir. 2010) (nonmedical prison officials "are entitled to defer to the judgment of jail health professionals" so long as the inmate's complaints are not ignored (citations omitted)); Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 527 (7th Cir. 2008) (no deliberate indifference where nonmedical prison official investigated inmate's complaints and referred then to medical providers who could be expected to address the concerns); Greeno v. Daley, 414 ...


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