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Lyles v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 25, 2016

WILLIAM LYLES, #R-29099, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff William Lyles, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment rights at Menard (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that he was denied adequate medical care for a shoulder injury in 2015 (Doc. 1, pp. 1-12; Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-12). According to the complaint, he was repeatedly charged co-pays for appointments with unqualified medical providers, who failed to perform basic diagnostic testing or provide adequate treatment for his injury. Plaintiff maintains that he was denied appropriate care because of several cost-saving policies, customs, or practices at the prison. According to Plaintiff, the prison's healthcare unit is intentionally understaffed, inmates are routinely overcharged co-pays, and necessary diagnostic tests and treatments are avoided because of cost concerns (id.).

         In connection with this claim, Plaintiff now sues the following defendants: Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), John Doe (unknown IDOC director), Louis Schicker (IDOC medical director), Arthur Funk (IDOC regional medical director), Kimberly Butler (prison warden), Doctor Trost (prison medical director), Gail Walls (health care unit administrator), and Nurse Stephanie (prison medical technician). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and proper medical treatment for his injuries (Doc. 1-1, p. 11).

         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). The complaint survives preliminary review under this standard.

         The Complaint

         According to the complaint, [1] Plaintiff injured his shoulder while playing basketball at Menard in June 2015 (Doc. 1, pp. 9-12; Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-12). He submitted a sick call slip and, before meeting with a medical professional, paid a $5.00 co-pay. A medical technician, named Nurse Stephanie, examined him on June 25, 2015. Plaintiff told Nurse Stephanie that he was suffering from “excruciating pain”[2] (Doc. 1, p. 12). He rated the pain a “9” out of “10, ” with “10” being the most intense (id.). Despite his complaints, Nurse Stephanie would not refer Plaintiff to a doctor for further treatment (id.; Doc. 1-1, p. 4). Unqualified to diagnose or treat Plaintiff's shoulder injury, Nurse Stephanie offered him little more than nonprescription pain medication.

         Plaintiff endured several more rounds of sick call slips, co-pays, and appointments in the month that followed (Doc. 1, p. 12). During this time, he suffered from “constant pain” (id.). He was unable to perform basic tasks, such as brushing his teeth, washing his body, and dressing himself. He reported this to Nurse Stephanie. Plaintiff also told her that his shoulder was getting worse. After four or five rounds of appointments, Plaintiff was finally referred to a prison doctor on July 7, 2015 (id.; Doc. 1-1, p. 4).

         Plaintiff's call passes were repeatedly cancelled because the prison doctor could not accommodate an appointment with him (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). When Plaintiff finally met with the doctor, he received a recommendation for an MRI to properly diagnose his injury. By all indications, the test was never scheduled. When Plaintiff eventually requested an update regarding the status of this test, Nurse Walls told him that “he wasn't put in for a[n] MRI” (id.).

         In the meantime, Plaintiff complained of unremitting pain to the prison's medical technicians, nurses, and doctor (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). The Tylenol, ibuprofen, and naproxen he was given for pain proved to be ineffective. Plaintiff wrote letters to Doctor Trost, Director Schicker, Director Funk, and Nurse Walls to request proper medical care (id. at 1, 5, 7). These defendants took no steps to modify Plaintiff's diagnostic, treatment, or pain management plans (id. at 7). Plaintiff was instead told that he “would have to suck it up [and] deal with the pain because Wexford has a policy” of prohibiting all forms of nonprescription pain medication (id. at 1).

         In December 2015, Plaintiff wrote an emergency grievance to Warden Butler (id.). After reviewing the grievance, Warden Butler agreed that it presented an emergency (id. at 7-8). But, for reasons that are not set forth in the complaint, the warden took no action to ensure that Plaintiff received medical care (id. at 8-9).

         Plaintiff blames his inadequate medical care on several cost-saving policies, customs, and/or practices at the prison. First, he alleges that Wexford has not hired a sufficient number of qualified medical professionals to meet the needs of Menard's increasing prison population; Governor Rauner, Director Doe, Director Schicker, and Warden Butler have allegedly ignored the staffing shortage (Doc. 1, pp. 6-10). Second, Plaintiff alleges that the prison's policy of charging inmates co-pays for repeated visits or for chronic medical conditions frustrates inmates' efforts to obtain necessary medical care, and Doctor Trost, Director Funk, and Director Doe condone this policy (Doc. 1-1, pp. 1, 11). Third, Wexford's policy of delaying or denying more costly forms of medical care, such as MRIs and prescription pain medication, has resulted in a denial of Plaintiff's access to adequate medical care (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         Plaintiff now sues the defendants for violating his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 1-1, p. 11). He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief[3] (id.).

         Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court deems it appropriate to organize the claim in Plaintiff's pro se complaint into the following enumerated counts. 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:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against Defendants for denying Plaintiff adequate medical care for his shoulder injury and related pain at Menard.[4]
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against Defendants for conditioning the provision of medical care on the receipt of medical co-pays.

         As discussed in more detail below, Count 1 shall receive further review against Nurse Stephanie, Nurse Walls, Doctor Trost, Warden Butler, Director Funk, Director Schicker, and Wexford; this claim shall be dismissed without prejudice against the IDOC, IDOC director, and Governor Rauner. In addition, Count 2 shall be dismissed without prejudice against all of the defendants for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         Coun ...

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