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Justi v. Wexford Health Sources

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 18, 2016

PATRICK JUSTI, # K-84385, Plaintiff,


          Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Jacksonville Correctional Center (“Jacksonville”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”). Plaintiff is serving a six-year sentence for burglary. He claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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).

         An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff’s claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff’s claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On December 23, 2014, Plaintiff sought medical treatment for injuries to his left arm and elbow (Doc. 1, p. 6). Defendant Shah examined Plaintiff on December 27, 2014, for what Plaintiff describes as a torn distal tendon.[1] Rather than address the torn tendon directly, Defndant Shah focused on Plaintiff’s obesity, and told him that if he would exercise and lose weight, the arm and elbow would feel better.

         Plaintiff notes that he had been treated by an orthopedist in the past for the torn left distal tendon, and had undergone physical therapy. When Plaintiff informed Defendant Shah of this history, Defendants Shah told him to perform physical therapy on his own (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         In February 2015, Plaintiff again sought medical attention for his left arm pain, as well as discomfort in his right shoulder. Defendant Shah saw Plaintiff on February 14 and did not address his pain, but did order Plaintiff’s previous medical records in relation to the problem with his right shoulder. Plaintiff was to return to see Defendant Shah in three weeks after the records came in.

         On April 4, 2015, Defendant Shah reviewed Plaintiff’s orthopedic records. As before, his recommendation for Plaintiff’s right shoulder pain was to exercise and lose weight.

         On April 23, 2015, Plaintiff saw Defendant Dr. Butalid after complaining that the range of motion in his right shoulder was decreasing, and his left arm/elbow problems continued (Doc. 1, p. 8). Defendant Butalid did not evaluate the left arm/elbow problem, but prescribed ibuprofen and prednisone for the right shoulder. Plaintiff asserts that these two drugs interact with each other and should not be taken together.

         On May 19, 2015, Plaintiff saw another doctor, Defendant Adams, for the right shoulder and left arm/elbow issues. Plaintiff complained that the left distal tendon tear had been ignored, and that he had a “stabbing sensation” in the front of his right shoulder. He had been taking the prescribed ibuprofen, but it had not worked. Defendant Adams discontinued the ibuprofen but did not give Plaintiff any other pain medication. Defendant Adams’ notes claim that he demonstrated exercises that Plaintiff could do for his shoulder and educated him on chronic shoulder injuries. However, Plaintiff disputes both those claims, asserting that he received none of this information (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         On June 18, 2015, Plaintiff saw Defendant Osmundson for these ongoing issues, noting that by that time, his shoulder had begun “freezing up” (Doc. 1, p. 10). Defendant Osmundson prescribed Naproxen 500 mg for the chronic shoulder pain, and ignored the left arm and elbow injury. Plaintiff notes that the prescribed pain medication “was never ordered.” Defendant Osmundson did order a shoulder x-ray, and advised Plaintiff to do “warm soaks.” Id.

         On July 2, 2015, Plaintiff advised a nurse that he had not received the prescribed pain medication. He was referred to Defendant Osmundson again, and saw him on July 9. He claims that the doctor “dismissed” his complaints of pain in his left arm and elbow. Plaintiff told him that the previously-prescribed pain medication had not helped, and as a result, Defendant Osmundson wrote in the record that Plaintiff “chooses not to take meds or follow exercises” (Doc. 1, pp. 11, 63). Plaintiff disputes this, stating that he has never refused pain medication, and that he was never shown what exercises or physical therapy he should perform.

         Plaintiff again put in for sick call for these problems on July 10, 2015. However, he was transferred to Jacksonville on July 15, 2015, before he was called to the health care unit. At Jacksonville, Plaintiff sought medical care again, and was sent to a specialist and physical therapist, who found that Plaintiff had decreased shoulder strength and range of motion, as well as a frozen shoulder. He was also sent to a specialist for the left arm/elbow pain, and was diagnosed by a physical therapist with decreased elbow and wrist extension (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         In a “Memorandum of Law” that follows the complaint, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Wexford Health Sources (“Wexford”) maintained a custom/practice of intentionally denying treatment of Plaintiff’s left arm and elbow problems, which caused the individual Defendant doctors to fail to treat this condition (Doc. 1, p. 18).

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 ...

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