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Williams v. Shah

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 6, 2015

KEVIN WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
VIPIN SHAH and DONALD GAETZ, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Before the Court are Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Vipin Shah (Doc. 48) and Defendant Tom Spiller[1] (Doc. 51) on December 5, 2014. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are granted.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Kevin Williams, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") who is currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. In his Complaint, Plaintiff named as defendants Dr. Vipin Shah, Warden Donald Gaetz (in both his official and individual capacity) and Health Care Unit Administrator Christi Brown (in both her individual and official capacity) (Doc. 1). Following the Court's initial screening, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed against Defendant Shah on one claim of deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, Plaintiff complains that upon his arrival at Pinckneyville in January 2012, his rescue inhaler was confiscated, and Defendant Shah refused to issue him another inhaler, although he is a chronic asthmatic. As a result of not having an inhaler, Plaintiff alleges that in March 2012, he suffered an asthma attack and had to use the panic alarm in his cell to receive treatment. Plaintiff further contends that after this incident he again requested an inhaler from Defendant Shah, but he was informed he would have to wait six months to receive one. Just two days later, Plaintiff claims he had to again be treated for an asthma attack. Defendant Gaetz is named as a defendant only in his official capacity for purposes of injunctive relief ( see Doc. 10).

Defendant Shah has moved for summary judgment asserting that Plaintiff cannot, as a matter of law, establish that he was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs (Doc. 48). Defendant Spiller has also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that his continued participation in this litigation is not necessary for injunctive relief against Pinckneyville (Doc. 51). Plaintiff has not filed a response to Defendants' Motions, despite having adequate notice ( see Docs. 52 and 53).

BACKGROUND

Prior to his transfer from Menard Correctional Center ("Menard") to Pinckneyville on January 18, 2012, Plaintiff was issued an Albuterol inhaler and QVAR inhaler for his chronic asthma (Plaintiff's Complaint, Doc. 1, p. 5; Plaintiff's Deposition, Doc. 49-2, p. 26)[2]. Plaintiff used his inhalers about three times per day while at Menard to control his asthma (Doc. 49-2, p. 27). During his initial intake at Pinckneyville, it was noted that Plaintiff's current medications were Albuterol and QVAR inhalers (Plaintiff's Health Status Transfer Summary, Doc. 49-3, p. 13). At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that the day after he arrived at Pinckneyville, he was seen by Defendant Shah. Defendant Shah allegedly took his inhalers to examine them, but failed to return them or provide him with new inhalers (Doc. 49-2, p. 30). Plaintiff submitted sick call requests to Defendant Shah over the course of the next three or four weeks asking about his inhalers, but claims he was never called to the health care unit and never received an inhaler ( Id. at 30).

Plaintiff testified that he saw Defendant Shah approximately three weeks after his initial intake. Defendant Shah told Plaintiff he had a prescription to get an inhaler, and he would receive one (Doc. 49-2, pp. 34-36). Plaintiff did not receive an inhaler after this examination and, upon making further requests for an inhaler, Plaintiff was told by unknown nurses that it was up to Defendant Shah and that it could take up to six months to receive an inhaler ( Id. at 36). Plaintiff subsequently saw Defendant Shah again after approximately four or five months. Defendant Shah indicated that it would not take six months to receive an inhaler, and Plaintiff had a prescription to get an inhaler, but Defendant Shah did not provide him with an inhaler at that time ( Id. at 34-35).

Plaintiff was seen by a nurse at Pinckneyville to monitor his chronic asthma approximately once a month ( Id. at 37). Specifically, Nurse Angel Rector regularly saw Plaintiff and told him that he needed to have an inhaler and that he was on the list to receive one ( Id. at 36-37). The nurses Plaintiff saw for his asthma indicated that they wanted to give him an inhaler, but they had to go through procedures and talk to Defendant Shah ( Id. at 48-49). Plaintiff further testified that he thinks Defendant Shah was trying to get him an inhaler, but the six month policy instituted by Wexford, the private entity that contracts with the IDOC to provide health care services, prevented him from issuing it ( Id. at 50). Aside from his regular visits to monitor his asthma, Plaintiff testified that he never had an issue with his asthma that required him a visit to the health care unit or required hospitalization ( Id. at 38-39). Plaintiff testified, however, that about two times per week he experiences an asthma attack, breathes into a bag, and drinks coffee to regulate his breathing ( Id. at 59-60).

Although Plaintiff's testimony is somewhat unclear, he indicated that he first received an inhaler while at Pinckneyville in 2012 or 2013, and subsequently received two refills (Doc. 49-2, p. 45). On the date of his deposition in October 2014, however, it had been approximately eight months since he had received his last refill ( Id. ). According to Plaintiff's medical records, Defendant Shah prescribed Plaintiff a Ventolin[3] inhaler on February 14, 2012, to use every six hours as needed to control his asthma (Plaintiff's Medication Administration Record, Doc. 49-3, p. 52). Defendant Shah is not responsible for ensuring a prescription is filled once prescribed (Dr. Shah's Affidavit, Doc. 49-1, ¶ 5).

There is no other documentation in Plaintiff's medical records pertaining to any treatment provided by Defendant Shah. The records note that his asthma was regularly monitored in the asthma chronic clinic, approximately three times per year ( see Plaintiff's Medical Records, Doc. 49-3, pp. 16, 18, 22, 23, 28, 35, and 37). During these examinations, Plaintiff's condition was described as "intermittent" and in "good control" ( Id. ). It was never noted that Plaintiff had difficulty conducting normal activities ( Id. ). Plaintiff's medical records document certain occasions when it was noted that Plaintiff did not have an inhaler. Specifically, Plaintiff indicated he did not have an inhaler on June 13, 2012, June 17, 2013, August 6, 2013, and October 15, 2013 ( Id. at pp. 18, 28, 29, 35). On August 8, 2013, Plaintiff was seen in the health care unit by Nurse Rector who evaluated his need for a new inhaler ( Id. at 30). Plaintiff had been overusing his inhaler and was instructed on appropriate inhaler use ( Id. ). It was further noted that Plaintiff had not been to the health care unit for any breathing problems ( Id. ). Plaintiff's medical records do not evidence any other instance when Plaintiff specifically complained about not having an inhaler.

LEGAL STANDARD

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005); Black Agents & Brokers Agency, Inc. v. Near North Ins. Brokerage, Inc., 409 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970). See also Lawrence v. Kenosha County, 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004). A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving party "has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of a nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated that summary judgment is "the put up ...


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