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Smock v. Veteran's Administration Medical Center

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 7, 2015

LENARD ALFRED SMOCK, JR., # B-89585, Plaintiff,
v.
VETERAN'S ADMINISTRATION MEDICAL CENTER, DONALD HUTSON, S.A. GODINEZ, D. STOLWORTHY, ZACHARY ROECKEMAN, DENNIS LARSON, C/O CASTEEL, and UNKNOWN PARTIES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Big Muddy River Correctional Center ("BMRCC"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also raises a claim that Defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. This matter is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

Plaintiff is a veteran, and suffers from a degenerative disc disorder in his spinal column, has degenerative joint disease in his lower back and limbs, and has had major reconstructive surgeries which included the placement of metal hardware in both lower legs. He claims that Defendants have confiscated and/or refused to return his physician-prescribed orthopedic boots which he needs because of these health conditions, and which he has used for 15 years (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 23).

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was transferred to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") on September 3, 2014. Upon his arrival at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), Defendant Casteel made him surrender his orthopedic boots. Two weeks later, he was transferred to BMRCC without the boots.

Plaintiff requested medical staff at both prisons to replace the boots, noting in a request dated September 18, 2014, that the Marion Veteran's Administration Medical Center ("VAMC") could verify his serious medical need for this footwear. His request was returned unanswered.

On September 22, 2014, Plaintiff sent an emergency/ADA grievance to Defendant Roeckeman (Warden of BMRCC), seeking replacement boots and reassignment to a lower bunk (Doc. 1, pp. 22-23).[1] Defendant Roeckeman did not respond, but Plaintiff met with Defendant Dr. Larson on September 25 regarding his medical needs. Defendant Larson "attempted to rediagnose" Plaintiff. Plaintiff told him that no new diagnosis was required, because his serious medical needs were documented in his records at the Marion VAMC.

Over the next several months, prison officials sought copies of Plaintiff's VAMC medical records. Defendant Larson was tardy with the required paperwork. In late October 2014, Plaintiff submitted a complaint to the IDOC's ADA Compliance Officer, and filed a new grievance over the deprivation of his prescribed boots (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff complains that Defendant Hutson (Director of the Marion VAMC), and unknown records clerks working under him, refused to provide the requested medical records (Doc. 1, p. 10).

On April 3, 2015, Plaintiff learned during an appointment with Defendant Larson that his VA medical records had been received. On April 30, Plaintiff learned that Defendant Larson had changed his diagnosis, resulting in the denial of Plaintiff's request for orthopedic boots. This action was approved by the Defendant Unknown Medical Director at BMRCC.

As a result of the deprivation of his prescribed orthopedic boots, Plaintiff has had to wear state-issued canvas deck shoes, which cause him to experience constant pain in his back and legs (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11). He also suffers from a number of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress syndrome and major depressive disorder, which have been exacerbated by his physical distress resulting from Defendants' actions.

Further, Plaintiff asserts that his physical disorders bring him within the protection of the ADA. The Defendants' refusal to provide him with orthopedic boots has excluded him from participating in recreation, such as outside yard and gym made available to other inmates (Doc. 1, pp. 11-12). His inability to exercise has also caused him to gain weight and placed him at further risk to his health. In addition, he raises an equal protection claim, noting that Defendants have provided other similarly situated inmates with orthopedic footwear and other adaptive devices for their serious medical needs while denying his request.

As relief, Plaintiff seeks an injunction directing Defendant Larson to immediately order his orthopedic boots. He also requests compensatory damages.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants Casteel, Larson, Roeckeman, the Unknown Party Medical Director (BMRCC), Godinez, and Stolworthy, for depriving Plaintiff of his orthopedic boots which are necessary to meet his serious medical needs;
Count 2: Claim against Defendants Larson, Godinez, and Stolworthy for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or Rehabilitation Act, in that Plaintiff is and has been excluded from participation in recreation and exercise opportunities due to the deprivation of his orthopedic boots;
Count 3: Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim against Defendants Larson, Roeckeman, and the Unknown Party Medical Director (BMRCC), for denying Plaintiff orthopedic boots when other similarly ...

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