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Thornton v. Baker

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

August 24, 2016

CHARLES THORNTON #2010-0720078, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, Charles Thornton, a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail (the “Jail”), brings a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that he was pushed down while trying to get out of the way during a fight that occurred in the bullpen at the Jail on January 7, 2014. Plaintiff asserts that defendants, Dr. Baker and Nurse Onyeachanom, were deliberately indifferent to his resulting objectively serious medical condition. Before the Court is defendants' summary judgment motion, which is denied for the reasons explained below.


         Plaintiff was shot in the head in 2009, and the bullet remains near his spinal cord. (R. 53-2 at 8:11-13.) Plaintiff was treated for his gunshot wound at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County (“Stroger Hospital”). (R. 53-3 at 22:3-7.) Dr. Baker and a doctor from Stroger Hospital told plaintiff that the bullet could not be removed because it is too close to his spinal cord and surgery may result in paralysis. (R. 53-2 at 19:16-20.)

         On January 7, 2014, a fight broke out in the Jail bullpen, where plaintiff was present. (R. 53-2 at 26:23.) Roughly thirty inmates were involved in the fight. (Id. at 29:15.) Plaintiff was pushed down while trying to get out of the way of the inmates who were fighting. (Id. at 30:9-10.) When plaintiff fell, he landed on his right arm and rolled on his back. (Id. at 35:19-20; 36:3-4.) Plaintiff felt pain in his back and his shoulder as a result of the fall. (Id. at 36:8-11.)

         When plaintiff returned to his tier, he told a correctional officer that he was hurt. (Id. at 39:1-3.) The correctional officer allowed plaintiff to go to the dispensary. (Id. at 42:5-7.) There, plaintiff spoke with Nurse Onyeachanom. (Id. at 44:11-12.) Plaintiff told her that he had pain in his neck, shoulder and back, and that the right side of his body hurt. (Id. at 45:11-12.) Plaintiff says that he could barely turn his neck and head and that he had “sharp, shooting, radia[ting] pain running up and down [his] back.” (Id. at 54:14-16.) Because he was sore, plaintiff was also limping after the fall. (Id. at 54:21.) Despite plaintiff's being told he would be seen by a doctor and sent to Cermak for x-rays, neither occurred. (Id. at 46:1-18, 20.) At some point, plaintiff was told to leave the dispensary and did. (Id. at 55:2.)

         Plaintiff returned to the dispensary the following day. (Id. at 55:5.) He was seen by a unit manager and Nurse Onyeachanom. (R. 51-1 at 310.) Plaintiff complained of pain in his neck and shoulder. (Id.) Plaintiff then saw Dr. Baker, who ordered a refill of plaintiff's prescriptions for 800 milligrams of gabapentin and 750 milligrams of methocarbanol.[1] (Id. at 377, 500.) According to plaintiff, Dr. Baker did not perform a physical examination of him. (R. 51-2 at 60:21-22.) Plaintiff was still in pain when he left the dispensary, and he believed that he had been denied proper medical attention. (Id. 64:12, 17-18.)

         On January 29, 2014 and February 20, 2014, plaintiff saw Nurse Onyeachanom. (R. 53-1 at 315, 323.) Both times, Nurse Onyeachanom instructed plaintiff to continue his medication and reminded him that he was scheduled for an appointment with his primary care physician. (Id.)

         On April 3, 2014, Dr. Baker ordered refills of plaintiff's prescriptions for gabapentin and methocarbanol. (Id. at 503.) On April 9, 2014, plaintiff saw Dr. Baker, at which time plaintiff complained of stiffness in his neck, back pain, and difficulty turning his neck to the right. (Id. at 380.) Ultimately, Dr. Baker ordered three different kinds of radiological exams, which were performed on April 11, 2014. (Id. at 634-636.) These exams showed no acute fractures of the cervical spine. (Id.)


         A. Legal Standards

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must construe the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, here plaintiff. See Kvapil v. Chippewa Cty., 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014); McKinney v. Cadleway Props., Inc., 548 F.3d 496, 499-500 (7th Cir. 2008). A factual dispute is “genuine” only if a reasonable jury could find for either party. Nichols v. Mich. City Plant Planning Dep't, 755 F.3d 594, 599 (7th Cir. 2014).

         B. Analysis

         Jail officials violate an inmate's constitutional rights “when they display ‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs'” of the inmate. See Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 652-53 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)); Cty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 849-50 (1998) (explaining that deliberate indifference claims brought by pretrial detainees against jail personnel arise under the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment but are analyzed under the same standard). Jail officials may exhibit deliberate indifference to a known condition through inaction, Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 623-24 (7th Cir. 2010); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Service, 577 F.3d 816, 832 (7th Cir. 2009), or by delaying necessary treatment and thus aggravating an injury or needlessly prolonging an inmate's pain, Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 865-66 (7th Cir. 2012). To prevail on a claim of deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must ...

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