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Knox v. Powers

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 26, 2015

CHRISTOPHER KNOX, Plaintiff,
v.
MARVIN POWERS and ANDREW TILDEN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, a prisoner at Pontiac Correctional Center, brought this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to his serious medical condition. Plaintiff alleges that he self-mutilated himself in November 2010, while housed at Tamms Correctional Center, by inserting a foreign object, an ink cartridge from a ball point pen, into his urethra. After ruling on a summary judgment motion filed by the various defendants in the case, the only claim which remained for trial was Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Marvin Powers, who treated Plaintiff after he inserted the foreign object at Tamms in 2010 (Doc. 182). Also remaining in the case for trial was a claim for injunctive relief to have the foreign object removed from his urethra ( Id. ). To the extent Plaintiff sought injunctive relief, the Court added Dr. Andrew Tilden in his official capacity for purposes of implementing any injunctive relief awarded to Plaintiff.

This case was referred to the undersigned on September 8, 2014. At the request of the Defendants, and with the consent of Plaintiff, this Court severed Plaintiff's damages claim and claim for injunctive relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b). The Court held a bench trial on Plaintiff's request for permanent injunction on June 19, 2015. The Court heard testimony from Plaintiff Christopher Knox and Dr. Andrew Tilden. Before reviewing its findings of fact, the Court will articulate the relevant standards that will guide its conclusions of law.

LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard for Permanent Injunction

For permanent injunction to issue, the plaintiff must show: (1) success, as opposed to a likelihood of success, on the merits; (2) irreparable harm; (3) the benefits of granting the injunction outweigh the injury to the defendant; and (4) that the public interest will not be harmed by the relief requested. ADT Sec. Servs., Inc. v. Lisle-Woodridge Fire Prot. Dist., 672 F.3d 492, 498 (7th Cir. 2012).

In the context of prisoner litigation, there are further restrictions on the court's remedial power. The scope of the court's authority to enter an injunction in the corrections context is circumscribed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Westefer v. Neal, 682 F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). Under the PLRA, prospective injunctive relief "shall extend no further than necessary to correct the violation, " and courts may not grant injunctive relief unless "it finds such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation, " and is "the least intrusive means to do so." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1)(A). Injunctive relief is only available when there is an ongoing or threated violation of federal law. Vickery v. Jones, 100 F.3d 1334, 1346 (7th Cir. 1996). Absent such a continuing violation, injunctive relief is improper. Kress v. CCA of Tenn., LLC, 694 F.3d 890, 894 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 73 (1985)).

B. Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference

The Supreme Court has det n clared that a prison official's "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, ' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). In order to prevail on such a claim, a plaintiff must first show that his condition was "objectively, sufficiently serious" and that the "prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind." Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 652-53 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

The second prong of the deliberate indifference analysis requires that a prisoner show that prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind, namely, deliberate indifference. "Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104 (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). "The infliction of suffering on prisoners can be found to violate the Eighth Amendment only if that infliction is either deliberate, or reckless in the criminal law sense." Duckworth v. Franzen, 780 F.2d 645, 652-53 (7th Cir. 1985). Negligence, gross negligence, or even "recklessness" as that term is used in tort cases, is not enough. Id. at 653; Shockley v. Jones, 823 F.2d 1068, 1072 (7th Cir. 1987).

Put another way, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the officials were "aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists" and that the officials actually drew that inference. Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653. "Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, ... and a fact finder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994) (citations omitted). An inmate does not have to prove that his complaints of pain were "literally ignored, " but only that "the defendants' responses to it were so plainly inappropriate as to permit the inference that the defendants intentionally or recklessly disregarded his needs." Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 524 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 611 (7th Cir. 2000)).

The Seventh Circuit has noted that the standard is "a high hurdle... because it requires a showing as something approaching a total unconcern for the prisoner's welfare in the face of serious risks.'" Roasrio v. Brawn, 670 F.3d 821-22 (7th Cir. 2012) ( Collins v. Seeman, 462 F.3d 757, 762 (7th Cir. 2006)). "Even if the defendant recognizes the substantial risk, he is free from liability if he responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ...


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