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Miller v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 5, 2016

HARVEY MILLER, #S-00346, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. All of the Plaintiff’s claims stem from the same Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment theories of liability for deliberate indifference to his medical conditions. His claims arise from time he spent at the Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”) from approximately 2013-May 2016. Plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by Lawrence medical staff and their employer, Wexford Medical Source, Inc.. He also alleges deliberate indifference on behalf of Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) staff and administration for the named Defendants’ failures to respond to his medical grievances, to ensure he was receiving appropriate medical care, or to staff the institution with competent medical staff. In relation to the claims against medical personnel, Plaintiff names Defendants Wexford Health Source, Inc., John Coe (doctor), Tammy Kimmel (nurse), Brooks (nurse) and Higgins (nurse). In relation to the claims against IDOC personnel, Plaintiff names John Baldwin (IDOC director), Stephen Duncan (warden), Richard Moore (assistant warden), Beth Tredway (assistant warden of programs), Lori Cunningham (director of nursing) and Phil Martin (medical administrator).[1]

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner Complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Notably, the Court is now reviewing the First Amended Complaint, as the initial Complaint was dismissed for failure to state a coherent and cognizable claim. (See Doc. 9).


         In 2013 the Plaintiff began seeking medical care from providers at Lawrence (Doc. 1 at 5-6). He sought treatment for pain in his abdomen, rectal bleeding, bloody stool, a mass in his abdomen, and a mass on his testicle (Id.). On August 2, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by a medical provider, and the notes reflect vomiting and black stool (Id. at 6). On August 3, 2014, the Plaintiff was seen again, and the notes reflect that he complained of ongoing pain and showed medical staff bloody toilet tissue (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that he continued to visit the medical providers throughout 2015 and 2016, and that he constantly sought and requested various testing and treatment, but was denied care. Plaintiff claims that he has an extensive family history of cancer, and requested blood cancer tests repeatedly. He alleges that on one occasion, Dr. Coe told him that Wexford and Defendant Duncan “get mad at him when he spends money from the budget on inmates” (Id.).

         Plaintiff claims that the denial of treatment constituted cruel and unusual punishment and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs (Id.). He alleges that Defendants Wexford, Coe, Kimmel, Brooks and Higgins acted in furtherance of a formal or informal policy to delay and minimize medical treatment provided at Lawrence in order to increase Wexford’s profitability (Id. at 7). Plaintiff alleges that, in furtherance of the profitability scheme, the Defendants actions were intentional, deliberate, and contrary to sound medical care (Id.).

         Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that the administrators acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by refusing to act upon grievances he filed regarding his conditions and failing to otherwise take steps to properly oversee and administer medical care at Lawrence (Id. at 8-9). He further alleges that by failing to properly address his medical grievances or to maintain a functioning medical care system, these Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the consequences of their actions and that they caused delayed treatment and unnecessary suffering (Id. at 9-11).

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive and monetary relief from both the medical defendants and the administrative defendants (Id. at 8, 11).


         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se Complaint into the following enumerated claims, the enumeration tracks with that designated by counsel in the First Amended Complaint. 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 regarding their merit.

         Count 1:Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition claim against medical provider Wexford and its care providers at Lawrence; and, Count 2:Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference and failure to respond to grievance claims against IDOC administrators for their handling of Plaintiff’s medical needs and grievances at Lawrence.

         Count 1 shall be allowed to proceed against Defendants Wexford Medical Source, Inc. and Dr. Coe. Count 1 shall be dismissed as to Defendants Kimmel, Brooks and Higgins. Count 2 shall be dismissed in its entirety against all administrator Defendants.

         Count 1

         The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment. See U.S. CONST. amend. VIII. The Supreme Court has held that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners” may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) (per curiam). To state a medical claim under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that his condition “was objectively serious, ” and that officials acted with the requisite intent-deliberate indifference-towards that condition. Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 610 (7th Cir. 2000). Put differently, a plaintiff must make a two part showing-(1) that his condition ...

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