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Brand v. Wexford Health Care Services

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 8, 2016

OLSEN BRAND, #A-93715, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH CARE SERVICES, AFUWAPE, CALDWELL, KLEIN, CLAUDE OWIKOD, MARY JOHNSON/KLIEN, E. AFUWAPE, SETH TOWNSEND, JACY FAULK, JENNY BEHRENDS, CRAIG FOSTER, JOHN BLALDWIN, BRUCE BAUNER, and TEARAH HARTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Olsen Brand, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Vandalia Correctional Center (“Vandalia”), brings this pro se action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Specifically, Brand claims that his Eighth Amendment rights have been violated by Defendants’ deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. He also claims that his Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated by Defendants’ failure to adequately address his grievances. Finally, he alleges that Defendants’ offensive actions were part of a policy or scheme to save money on health care. In connection with these claims, Brand sues Wexford Health Care Services, Claude P. Owikod (doctor), Mary Johnson/Klien (health care administrator), E. Afuwape (doctor), Seth Townsend (nurse), Jacy Faulk (nurse), Jenny Behrends (nurse), Craig Foster (warden), John R. Baldwin (director of the Illinois Department of Corrections--“IDOC”), Bruce Rauner (governor), [1] and Tearah Harter (counselor/grievance officer). Brand seeks monetary compensation.

         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). It should be noted the Court is reviewing the First Amended Complaint. The initial complaint (Doc. 1) was dismissed for failure to state sufficient factual or legal grounds upon which relief could be granted (Doc. 6).

         The First Amended Complaint

         Brand brings a number of claims all related to the medical care he has received for his asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”), and neuropathy of his hands and feet (See Doc. 12 at 19-24). His complaints begin on October 1, 2015, when he was processed into the IDOC system at Stateville Correctional Center (Id. at 17). According to Brand, during intake Defendant Owikod noted his asthma and COPD in his medical file (Id.). On October 14, 2015, Brand arrived at Vandalia where he also told Nurse Michel about his asthma and COPD (Id.). On October 28, 2015, Brand saw Defendants Afuwape and Townsend, who checked his vitals at the asthma clinic (Id.). Brand alleges that despite these initial medical consultations, he did not receive any treatment for his conditions (Id.). In fact, he alleges that Defendants Afuwape and Townsend checked boxes indicating they gave him medications and reviewed proper inhaler technique, but that they did not actually do so (Id. at 17-18).

         Following his visit with Defendants Afuwape and Townsend, Brand began to experience chest pain (Id. at 18). On November 5, 2015, Brand visited the health care unit for back pain, chest pain, and hand and foot pain (Id.). Defendant Behrends required him to go through the sick call line twice and to pay the fee twice to address his conditions (Id.). Brand returned to the health care unit on November 10th and 13th for the same conditions (Id.). On November 18, 2015, he sent a request to Defendant Johnson/Klien to find out why his medical conditions were not being addressed by Defendant Afuwape (Id. at 18-19).

         In response to his request, Defendant Johnson/Klien called Brand to her office on December 8, 2015, to inquire about his medical needs (Id. at 19). As Brand explained the situation, she cut him off and sent him to segregation for complaining about the care he was receiving (Id.).

         On December 11, 2015, Dr. Caldwell visited Brand’s dorm to check on diabetic inmates (Id.). Brand confided in Dr. Caldwell about his neuropathy and asthma, and Caldwell said he would put Brand down for the asthma clinic (Id.). On December 23, 2015, Brand sent Defendant Johnson/Klien another request asking what he needed to do to get treatment for his asthma and COPD (Id.). That same day, Brand requested an appointment with Defendant Owikod (Id.).

         On December 25, 2015, Brand experienced chest pain, difficulty breathing, and unstoppable coughing (Id.). He was taken to the medical unit where he received a breathing treatment (Id.). After the treatment his pain and coughing continued (Id.). On December 27, 2015, he requested to be taken to the medical unit again because his breathing was labored (Id.). His request was honored, but at the medical unit, Defendant Faulk refused a breathing treatment, instead measuring Brand’s vitals and telling him he had a cold (Id. at 20-21). At a visit on December 28, 2015, Defendant Afuwape asked Brand if he smoked and then prescribed a COPD pump (Id. at 21). Brand returned to medical on December 29, 2015, because he continued to experience a cough, chest pain, a sore throat, and congestion (Id.).

         Brand alleges that Defendant Wexford has a contract with IDOC for the provision of medical services, which includes a term for per-prisoner funding (Id. at 22). As a result of the funding structure, Brand alleges that Wexford purposefully provides substandard care and withholds follow-up care to save money (Id.). Inmates are often unwilling to pay the five-dollar fee to be seen for illnesses, especially more than once, so the funding policy creates a domino effect of perpetual illness amongst inmates (Id. at 22-23).

         Brand also complains that his counselor, Defendant Harter, has not properly addressed his grievances or provided him with copies of the grievances, in violation of internal policy (Id. at 23).

         Brand claims that he still has a cough and chest pain (Id. at 24). He believes that the inadequate medical care has done irreparable damage to his lungs and health (Id.). Brand has now filed this action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se complaint into the following enumerated claims. 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 claim for deliberate indifference to Brand’s asthma and COPD;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to Brand’s neuropathy of his hands and feet;
Count 3: First Amendment retaliation claim for placing Brand in segregation as a result of his medical grievances; and
Count 4: Fourteenth Amendment claim for failing to respond to grievances regarding ...

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