United States District Court, C.D. Illinois
DONALD M. JORDAN, Plaintiff,
DR. TILDEN, et al., Defendants.
MERIT REVIEW OPINION
JAMES E. SHADID, District Judge.
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center, brings the present suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging an Eighth Amendment violation for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The matter comes before the Court for merit review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing the complaint, the Court takes all factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 2013).
Plaintiff alleges that he underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer on or about December 31, 2011 while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). As a result, Plaintiff alleges he has, and is currently, suffering pain and digestive problems arising from complications related to his condition. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a hernia. Plaintiff was prescribed several medications at Menard to address these concerns.
Upon transfer to Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Baylor confiscated his prescription medications and refused to return them despite Plaintiff's pleas and descriptions of his medical conditions. Plaintiff alleges that, despite numerous requests, he was not seen in healthcare until approximately six (6) weeks after the medication was confiscated. Thereafter, Plaintiff was examined by Defendants Tilden and Doctor John Doe. Both doctors diagnosed Plaintiff with a hernia, and prescribed him medications to help with the symptoms. Plaintiff alleges that as his symptoms became progressively worse, the medications were ineffective, and the defendant doctors refused to provide additional medical treatment. At one point, Plaintiff alleges, Defendant John Doe stated "the institution rarely does surgery to remove hernias unless your literally about to die."
Deliberate Indifference to a Serious Medical Need
To implicate a violation of the Eighth Amendment for inadequate medical care, the Plaintiff must allege that the prison official 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 v. Sheehan, 245 F.3d 934, 938 (7th Cir. 2001). Liability attaches under the Eighth Amendment 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).
A life-threatening medical condition is not required. Rather, the Seventh Circuit has held that a medical condition is serious "where the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir.1997) (citation omitted). Plaintiff alleged that he suffered from constant pain, digestive issues, and other complications arising from a surgical procedure. Furthermore, the allegations that Plaintiff needed prescription medications is sufficient for the Court to infer that Plaintiff's underlying medical ailments required ongoing medical care. Therefore, Plaintiff has satisfied the first prong.
Next, Plaintiff must allege facts that show the prison officials acted with deliberate indifference towards his serious medical condition. Plaintiff alleges that he specifically informed Defendants Baylor and Zimmerman of his medical problems and the need for adequate treatment. Plaintiff also alleges that after Defendant Baylor's confiscation of Plaintiff's prescription medication, six weeks had elapsed before Plaintiff was examined by a medical professional. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Zimmerman refused to take steps to provide Plaintiff with emergency medical care and expressed a blatant lack of concern for Plaintiff's medical problems. Plaintiff's allegations of delay and the pain suffered as a result are sufficient to state a claim that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference at this stage in the proceedings. See Gonzalez v. Feinerman, 663 F.3d 311, 315 (2011) ("Delay in treating a condition that is painful even if not life-threatening may well constitute deliberate indifference...." (citations omitted)); Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 441 (7th Cir. 2010) ("A significant delay in effective medical treatment also may support a claim of deliberate indifference, especially where the result is prolonged and unnecessary pain." (citation omitted)).
To the extent that Plaintiff disagreed with the treatments administered by Defendants Tilden and Doctor John Doe, a mere disagreement with the course of treatment does not constitute a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 591 (7th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). Plaintiff, however, alleges that the treatment and medications he received were not effective and, in fact, his condition deteriorated over a period of approximately 5-6 months. A showing that medical professionals persisted in a course of treatment shown to be ineffective could support a finding of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. See Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 655 (7th Cir. 2005). Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need against Defendants Baylor, Zimmerman, Tilden, and Doctor John Doe.
Plaintiff also names several prison administrators in his complaint. "Section 1983 creates a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, liability does not attach unless the individual defendant cause or participated in a constitutional deprivation." Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991 (7th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). A plaintiff must plead that each official, "though the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). A government official may not be held liable under § 1983 on a theory of respondeat superior, that is, for the unconstitutional acts of his or her subordinates. Id. To be held liable, a government supervisor "must know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye...." Vance, 97 F.3d at 993 (quoting Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995)).
Plaintiff alleges that he personally informed Assistant Warden Mottler of his ongoing concerns about medical treatment. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Mottler inquired about whether Plaintiff had completed the necessary administrative steps to receive healthcare. Once satisfied that Plaintiff had done so, Defendant Mottler stated that the medical staff would take care of Plaintiff. Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant Mottler engaged in any specific acts that contributed to the alleged deliberate indifference of the other defendants. In addition, the Court cannot infer that Defendants Pfister and Arroyo had personal knowledge of Plaintiff's situation. Although Plaintiff alleges he wrote letters to Defendant Pfister, there are no facts from which the Court can infer that Defendant Pfister was personally aware. Even if the Court assumes he was, Plaintiff has not alleged how Pfister participated in or condoned the alleged constitutional deprivation. The same is true with regards to Defendant Arroyo. Accordingly, Plaintiff has not stated a claim against Defendants Pfister, Mottler, and Arroyo. Defendant Pfister, however, shall remain a defendant at this time for ...