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Gonzalez v. Obaisi

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 23, 2015

OSWALDO GONZALEZ (B40078), Plaintiff,
v.
SALEH OBAISI, & DR. WILLIAMS, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

CHARLES R. NORGLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Oswaldo Gonzalez (hereinafter, "Plaintiff") filed this pro se lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that defendants Dr. Saleh Obaisi and Physician Assistant La Tayna Williams (collectively, "Defendants") were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs after he suffered a head injury in a fall down the stairs at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville"). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff responded with several motions, including a motion for extension of time and a motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) stating that he needed additional discovery in order to respond. Plaintiff ultimately filed a substantive response to the motion. Based on this Court's review of all the materials submitted by both sides in connection with the summary judgment motion, the Court determines that Plaintiff is entitled to additional discovery, and, regardless, disputed issues of material fact preclude summary judgment. Further, in light of the complicated medical and legal issues raised by this case, the Court recruits counsel to represent Plaintiff. Gary S. Kaplan, of Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, 131 S. Dearborn St., Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60603, is recruited to represent Plaintiff in accordance with counsel's trial bar obligations under the District Court's Local Rule 83.37 (N.D. Ill.). Counsel should confer with Plaintiff within the next 60 days, and report to the Court as to what additional discovery he needs to proceed in this matter.

BACKGROUND

Given that counsel is being recruited, the Court provides only a brief recitation of the facts relevant to its analysis, with any disputes between the parties noted. On July 17, 2012, Plaintiff injured his head and left knee after falling down a set a stairs. Following the fall, Plaintiff was treated by Williams, who diagnosed him with a head contusion and a left knee contusion. Plaintiff was observed for 24 hours in the Stateville infirmary and received X-rays to his head and knee, which were negative. During the period of time from July 18, 2012, through August 8, 2012, Stateville was on lockdown. There is no dispute that this lockdown resulted in the re-scheduling of certain non-emergency medical appointments, although Plaintiff states in a declaration that he observed some inmates being taken to the Health Care Unit ("HCU") for treatment during this 21-day period.

During this period, Plaintiff sent 13 medical request slips, complaining of severe headaches, as well as nausea, vision problems, dizziness, and knee pain. He stated that he was in severe pain and had not been given any pain reliever upon his discharge from the infirmary. Additionally, on July 20, 2012, Plaintiff submitted several grievances regarding the fall and his medical care. The counselor who reviewed the grievances indicated that certain of them were forwarded to the HCU for response. On June 6, 2013, Plaintiff received a response from the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") Administrative Review Board ("ARB") to his July 20, 2012, grievances.

At one point, according to his medical records, Plaintiff was scheduled to see Dr. Obaisi on July 31, 2012, but the appointment was rescheduled to Aug. 9, 2012, due to the lockdown. The day before that appointment, however, correctional officers brought Plaintiff to the HCU after he vomited in the dining hall. Dr. Obaisi diagnosed Plaintiff with a migrane headache and prescribed certain medications, including a beta blocker, anti-nausea medications, and Motrin. Plaintiff alleges that the medications intensified his symptoms, rather than relieved them.

On August 29, 2012, Plaintiff suffered a seizure in his cell. He had no prior history of seizures before the accident in which he fell down the stairs. Dr. Obaisi evaluated Plaintiff, ordered a CT scan, and prescribed anti-seizure medication, as well as pain medication. Dr. Obaisi attempted to admit Plaintiff to the infirmary for 24-hour evaluation, but Plaintiff declined. Plaintiff contends the cells at the infirmary were dirty and often contaminated with feces, which caused him to decline the evaluation. Following his seizure, and until he was transferred from Stateville to Pontiac Correctional Center in August 2013, Plaintiff received treatment from Dr. Davis at Stateville's Seizure Clinic. Plaintiff does not complain about Dr. Davis' treatment of him. However, he does claim that the medications prescribed by Dr. Obaisi continued to intensify his symptoms and cause side effects until Jan. 18, 2013, when Dr. Obaisi prescribed him Tylenol 3, a different pain reliever. Plaintiff also alleges that Dr. Obaisi failed to provide proper treatment for his knee injury, resulting in unnecessary pain.

In their summary judgment motion, Defendants assert that when Stateville is on lockdown, inmates' access to medical care is restricted, and routine appointments for non-emergency conditions are rescheduled "pursuant to IDOC policies and procedures." Defendants also assert that neither Williams nor Dr. Obaisi reviewed any of the medical request slips submitted by Plaintiff between July 18, 2012, and August 8, 2012, nor were they made aware of those requests. In particular, Dr. Obaisi, in his declaration, stated that any written requests for medical attention submitted by inmates at Stateville are reviewed by medical technicians or administrative personnel for the IDOC, who then determine what action should be taken. Defendants did not submit any IDOC policies in support of their motion.

Following the filing of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff submitted a motion to pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), indicating that he required additional discovery to respond to the motion. In support of his motion, Plaintiff submitted to the court his discovery requests to Defendants and their responses. In particular, Plaintiff asked Defendants to produce any policies and directives governing the response to medical emergencies while the institution is on lockdown. Plaintiff also sought policies or directives governing sick call procedures in the cell house. The Defendants objected to these requests on the ground that they were unduly burdensome, vague, and ambiguous. Further, they contended that such policies were in the custody and control of the IDOC. Plaintiff ultimately filed a motion with this Court to subpoena those records from the IDOC.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the record as a whole, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

Pursuant to Fed. R. P. 56(d), a non-movant may show by declaration or affidavit that he cannot present facts essential to justify his opposition to a summary judgment motion. In such a circumstance the court may defer considering the summary judgment or deny it, and allow the non-moving party time to obtain the relevant discovery. Rule 56(d) motions should be denied where the evidence sought is not relevant to the plaintiff's case. Grayson v. O'Neill, 308 F.3d 808, 816 (7th Cir. 2002).

ANALYSIS

Defendants' motion for summary judgment argues: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to Dr. Obaisi; (2) Plaintiff did not suffer from a serious medical condition, and regardless, Defendants were not aware of his repeated requests for ...


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