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Buford v. Obaisi

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 11, 2016

Jimmie Buford, Plaintiff,
Saleh Obaisi, et al., Defendants.


          Virginia M. Kendall United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Jimmie Buford, an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Stateville Placement Officer Karen Rabideau, Sergeant Daniel Berkley, Assistant Warden Roletta O’Brien, and Deputy Director for the Northern District of Illinois Department of Corrections David Gomez, claiming they violated his Eighth Amendment rights by acting with deliberate indifference in assigning, or allowing the assignment of Buford to a top bunk when he was allegedly incapable of climbing the top bunk due to a preexisting Achilles tendon injury to his right leg.

         He also brings claims against Dr. Saleh Obaisi and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. for their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs that arose when he fell attempting to climb the top bunk. Specifically, Buford claims Obaisi and Wexford were deliberately indifferent to his head, knee, and shoulder injuries and that their conduct resulted in continued shoulder pain, as well as numbness and tingling in his left hand and fingers, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.

         For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants Obaisi and Wexford’s Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 76). The Court also grants Summary Judgment with respect to Defendant O’Brien. (Dkt. No. 82). Summary Judgment is denied with respect to Defendants Berkley, Rabideau, and Gomez. (Id.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Buford is an inmate at Stateville where, at all times relevant to this lawsuit, Defendant Berkley was the Sergeant, O’Brien was the Assistant Warden, and Rabideau was a Placement Officer; Gomez was the Deputy Director for the Northern District of the Illinois Department of Corrections. (See Dkt. No. 84, ¶¶ 1-2; Dkt. No. 92, ¶¶ 1-2). Obaisi is the Medical Director at Stateville Correctional Center and a licensed physician in Illinois. (Dkt. No. 78, ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 90, ¶ 7). Obaisi is also an employee of Wexford. (Dkt. No. 90, Add’l Facts, ¶ 35; Dkt. No. 101-1, ¶ 35).

         A. Low Bunk Permits and Cell-Transfer Procedures

         Stateville medical staff issue low bunk permits to inmates on a case-by-case basis. (See Dkt. No. 92, Add’l Facts, ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 105, ¶ 6). Medical staff issue these low bunk permits due to medical necessity and the medical director reviews and approves each one. (Id.; Dkt. No. 88, Ex. F at 18). According to Defendant Berkley, medical staff retain a copy of the permit and also issue a copy to the inmate. (Dkt. No. 87, Ex. D at 17). If an inmate has a valid low bunk permit, IDOC provides the inmate a low bunk if there is one available. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 24; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 24). If there is not an available bunk, the inmate has to wait until one becomes available. (Id.) According to Buford, if an inmate’s low bunk permit is set to expire, he has to notify the health care unit to reissue the permit. (Dkt. No. 86, 88-89). If an inmate who previously did not have a low bunk permit when assigned to a cell receives one, it is the responsibility of “someone other than Ms. Rabideau” to notify Rabideau of the permit. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 23; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 23). Rabideau testified that if an inmate receives a new permit, the inmate will send her a note, the sergeant of the cellhouse will alert her, or occasionally medical will inform her office. (Dkt. No. 88, Ex. G at 22). O’Brien testified that it is not the inmate’s responsibility to notify the placement office of the new permit and, instead, the placement office receives a directive from the health care unit that a new permit was issued. (Dkt. No. 88, Ex. F at 18-19).

         The Offender Tracking System, a computing system used by the placement office, shows whether an inmate has a low bunk permit on file. (Dkt. No. 88, Ex. G at 11-12). However, it only shows the current status of an inmate - it does not provide the inmate’s background history. (Id. at 11, 15). The guards do not have access to the system because they do not have computers in the cell houses, but they may request access to it. (Id. at 13).

         Placement officers are the only officials authorized to move inmates. (Id. at 24). When a placement officer decides to move an inmate to a new cell, correctional officers receive a movement order containing the inmate’s name, ID number, the cell he is currently occupying, and the cell to which he has been reassigned. (Id. at 14). Correctional officers do not have the authority to cancel a transfer. (Dkt. No. 87, Ex. D at 14, 16). If an issue arises concerning the new cell, the officer transferring the inmate may place the inmate in a holding area while he attempts to resolve the issue. (Id. 14-15). In such a situation, all the officer is permitted to do is call the placement department and ask where the inmate should be moved. (Dkt. No. 88, Ex. F at 25). Inmates may also refuse the assigned housing and, if they do so, they are typically taken to segregation. (Dkt. No. 87, Ex. D at 18-19). Once an inmate refuses housing, however, the officer should alert his supervisor of the issue. (Id. at 18).

         Neither Berkley nor O’Brien ever received directives stating that inmates are not allowed to sleep on the floor. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶¶ 19, 20; Dkt. No. 92, ¶¶ 19, 20). Inmates are provided bunks, but some choose to sleep on the floor. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶¶ 18, 21; Dkt. No. 92, ¶¶ 18, 21). Gomez testified, however, that “[i]nmates don’t sleep on the floor” because it is “not an acceptable practice” due to “health, safety, [and] sanitation” reasons. (Dkt. No. 92, Add’l Facts, ¶ 22; Dkt. No. 105, ¶ 22).

         B. Buford’s Bunk Assignment

         In August 2012, Buford sustained an Achilles tendon injury and was issued a low bunk permit. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 92, Add’l Facts, ¶¶ 5, 9; Dkt. No. 105, ¶¶ 5, 9). This permit expired on August 22, 2013. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 12). About two weeks later, on September 4, 2013, Rabideau issued an order to move Buford to a new cell. (See Def. Ex. C at 54). That same day, Rabideau checked the Offender Tracking System and confirmed that Buford did not have a low bunk permit. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 11; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 11).

         Pursuant to Rabideau’s order, Berkley transferred Buford from cell F-346, a segregated cellhouse, to cell C-252, a general population cellhouse. (See Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 3; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 3). The bunk beds in C-252 do not have ladders leading to the top bunk. (Dkt. No. 92, Add’l Facts, ¶ 2; Dkt. No. 105, ¶ 2). At the time of his transfer, Buford still walked with at least one crutch from his Achilles tendon injury, though his low bunk permit had expired. (See Dkt. No. 92, Add’l Facts, ¶ 36; Dkt. No. 105, ¶ 36). When Rabideau authorized the move, she was not aware that Buford was on crutches. (See Dkt. No. 82, Ex. G at 40). Berkley verified there was no low bunk permit on file with Buford’s previous cellhouse. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 7).

         Upon his arrival at the new cell, another inmate-David Brunner-already occupied the low bunk. (Dkt. No. 92, Add’l Facts, ¶ 8; Dkt. No. 105, ¶ 8). Buford was unable to access the top bunk because of his crutches and asked Berkley to contact Rabideau to see if he could be moved to a different cell. (Dkt. No. 92, Add’l Facts, ¶ 10; Dkt. No. 105, ¶ 10). Berkley testified that he did not have the authority to move inmates to cells to which they are not assigned, though he may place an inmate in a holding area until he is able to “figure something out” if an issue comes up during a move. (Dkt. No. 84, ¶ 31; Dkt. No. 92, ¶ 31; Dkt. No. 87, Ex. D at 14). Berkley claims he offered Buford a cell with a low bunk in Gallery 4, that Buford refused because he did not want to go up the stairs, and ...

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