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Roberson v. Ping

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 26, 2016

JACKIE ROBERSON, M11673, Plaintiff,
v.
NALTER PING and LPN OLIVER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief Judge United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Jackie Roberson, who is currently incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two nurses who were involved in administering him a single dose of the wrong medication at Shawnee on March 25, 2016 (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6, 8-9). Plaintiff claims that this incident violated his constitutional rights. He describes the situation as an emergency, but requests no relief (id.).

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

         This case is before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 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).

         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). 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 Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). The complaint does not survive preliminary review under this standard and shall be dismissed.

         The Complaint

         On March 25, 2016, Nurse Ping administered Plaintiff a single dose of the wrong medication for his chronic hypertension (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6, 8-9). Plaintiff noticed that the pill looked different than his usual medication. He pointed this out to Nurse Ping. In response, the nurse said, “[I]t's what was in stock for you” (id. at 8). Plaintiff ingested the pill.

         The same day, an unknown correctional officer informed Plaintiff that he had been given the wrong pill. The correctional officer ordered him to return to the medication line. When he did, Nurse Oliver confirmed that Plaintiff was given the wrong medication, but the nurse assured him that it would cause no harm. Nurse Oliver then provided Plaintiff with the correct medication, and he took it.

         An hour later, Plaintiff began suffering from sharp chest pains and shortness of breath (id. at 8-9). He informed C/O Johnson of his symptoms, and the officer summoned help (id. at 9). C/O Lyle and a nurse placed Plaintiff in a wheelchair and took him to the prison's healthcare unit. There, a doctor and nurse examined Plaintiff and monitored his heart using an electrocardiogram. He was then transported to Heartland Regional Medical Center's emergency room for further evaluation and treatment.

         Plaintiff now asserts that Nurse Ping and Nurse Oliver violated his constitutional rights in connection with this incident. He describes the situation as an “emergency, ” but he seeks no actual relief (id. at 6).

         Discussion

         The allegations in the complaint do not support a constitutional claim against Nurse Ping or Nurse Oliver. Plaintiff's claim arises under the Eighth Amendment, which “imposes a duty on government officials to provide medical care to prisoners.” Townsend v. Cooper, 759 F.3d 678, 689 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976)). Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment when they respond to a prisoner's serious medical needs with deliberate indifference. Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 750 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104). To state a claim, a prisoner must demonstrate that his medical condition is objectively serious. Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1970)). He must also demonstrate that the defendants responded to his serious medical needs with deliberate indifference, which is a subjective standard. Id. For purposes of this Order, the Court assumes, without deciding, that the allegations satisfy the objective component of this claim.

         However, the complaint must also satisfy the subjective component, and it does not. To do so, Plaintiff must allege that the defendant in question knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to inmate health. Greeno, 411 F.3d at 653. The Seventh Circuit has held that the denial of medication on a single occasion does not typically rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation. See Gil v. Reed, 381 F.3d 649, 662 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1375 (7th Cir. 1997) (“isolated instances of neglect in the course of treatment may not be enough to make out a claim for deliberate indifference”). Similarly, standing alone, the administration of unneeded medication does not support an Eighth Amendment claim. See Bowers v. Seymour, 436 F.App'x 676 (7th Cir. 2011) (nurses who routinely provided inmate with unneeded medication were not deliberately indifferent to inmate's medical needs). The subjective component of this claim requires a substantial departure from accepted medical judgment, practices, or standards. Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 610 (7th Cir. 2000). This may occur when the failure to dispense the correct medication is deliberate and potentially malicious. Gil, 381 F.3d at 662.

         In the instant case, the allegations suggest no such thing. Nurse Ping administered Plaintiff a single dose of the wrong medication on March 25, 2016. Plaintiff noticed that the pill looked different. He even pointed this out to the nurse. The nurse did not explicitly state that Plaintiff was receiving the correct medication. Nurse Ping instead said, “[I]t's what was in stock for ...


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