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Smith v. Coe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 31, 2016

VINCENT E. SMITH, #R11677, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Vincent E. Smith, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), brings this pro se action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 2). He alleges that the conduct giving rise to his claims occurred at Lawrence. In a prior Memorandum and Order, the Court severed Smith's claims into two separate cases. (See CM/ECF S.D. Ill., Case No. 16-cv-00745-MJR). This Memorandum and Order addresses Counts Three through Seven-the counts severed into the new case. These five counts allege deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and a failure to respond to grievances regarding Smith's medical condition. In connection with these claims Smith has named as defendants John Coe, Martin Phillips, Anne Tredway, Steve Duncan, and Lori Cunningham. Smith also makes reference to Phillip Shicker. Smith seeks monetary compensation for his injuries.

         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

         Smith alleges that in July 2014, a guard beat him during a search of his cell by Orange Crush tactical team members (Doc. 2 at 6). During the assault, his head was slammed into concrete on more than one occasion (Id.). After the assault, Smith was given ice for the lump on his head and accompanying headache (Id. at 7). Smith alleges that he never had head pain prior to the assault (Id.). He subsequently visited the medical unit on numerous occasions for head pain and vision issues (Id. at 7-11). Initially, in September 2014, a doctor opined that the head pain could be caused by an ingrown hair (Id. at 7). Smith grieved this diagnosis because he felt it was incorrect (Id.). In September 2014, he experienced head pain, dizziness, blurry vision, and pressure in his head and chest, for which he pressed the emergency button in his cell (Id.).

         According to the complaint, in October 2014, Smith saw Defendant Doctor Coe and informed him that he was suffering head pain as a result of the assault (Id. at 7-8). Smith alleges that Coe's ongoing course of treatment for his head pain was unsuccessful (Id. at 9-11). He saw Coe on numerous occasions for pain and pressure in his head, as well as accompanying vision impairment (Id.). Coe investigated the symptoms by pressing on the side of Smith's head and face and by shining a light in his eyes on multiple occasions (Id.). Each time, Coe stated that the head pain was likely the result of a swollen artery in Smith's head (Id.). Coe attempted to triage the condition by prescribing a variety of medications, which Smith continued to report were not working (Id.). On one visit, Coe told Smith that due to the budget he could not organize an MRI or other examination, but that once Smith was out of custody he should seek a functional MRI- the only way to apparently detect the underlying problem (Doc. 1-1 at 25-26). Coe indicated that absent such a scan, the best he could do was to provide relief from the symptoms with medication (Doc. 2 at 9-11). Coe then asked Smith what type of medication he would like (Id.). At some point, the course of treatment included medication and a permit to have ice packs for his head (Id. at 9-11). Smith mentioned that Coe recorded incorrect information in his medical record, and that he sought to correct it (Id. at 7-8).

         Smith alleges that Defendant Duncan was aware of the lack of proper care he was receiving via written grievances and a verbal conversation (Id. at 7, 10). Despite being on notice of the ongoing issue, Duncan did not take any actions to ensure that Smith received more comprehensive care (Id.). Instead, the grievance forms show that Duncan deemed Smith's complaints non-emergency and directed him to use the normal grievance channels (Doc. 2-1 at 2-3, 5-6, 8-9, 18-21). Likewise, Defendant Cunningham was aware of the lack of adequate care because Smith filed a written grievance directed to her (Doc. 2 at 10; Doc. 2-1 at 31-32, 36-37). She did not respond (Id.). Smith verbally notified Defendant Tredway of his medical issues and Tredway averred that she would look in to the problem, but Smith opined that no action was ever taken (Doc. 2 at 11).

         Smith also alleges that he sent a written grievance to Phillip Shicker, [1]the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) medical director, but received no response (Id.). Further, he submitted grievances seeking the names of the officers involved in his assault, but he was denied access to that information (Id.).


         The Court is using the same designation of counts set forth in the previous severance order, thus the pertinent claims are:

Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition claim against Duncan for failing to take action in response to Smith's written and verbal complaints that his head pain was not being adequately treated;
Count 4: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference for failure to treat a serious medical condition claim against Coe for pursuing a course of treatment he knew was ineffective and for declining access to treatment he opined would be effective in identifying the cause of Smith's head pain;
Count 5: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Cunningham for failing to address Smith's written grievance about the adequacy of medical care he was receiving for his head pain;
Count 6: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Tredway for failing to follow through on a verbal promise to look into the adequacy of medical care being ...

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