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Alvarez v. Lang

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 26, 2016

AIMEE LANG, Defendant.


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Now pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Aimee Lang (Doc. 50). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Heriberto Alvarez, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center. In particular, Alvarez alleges that Defendant Aimee Lang, a licensed practical nurse, refused to provide him either a referral to a physician or pain medication on December 29, 2013, in response to his complaints about severe shoulder pain. Following an initial screening of Alvarez's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, Alvarez was allowed to proceed on one count of deliberate indifference against Defendant Lang.

         On February 16, 2016, Defendant Lang filed a motion for summary judgment asserting she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Alvarez's deliberate indifference claim (Doc. 50). On February 29, 2016, Alvarez timely filed his response (Doc. 54).

         Factual Background

         The evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to Alvarez, establishes that sometime in 2011 or 2012, Alvarez dislocated his shoulder while playing soccer (Plaintiff's Deposition, Doc. 51-4, pp. 23, 43). Although Alvarez saw a doctor who realigned his shoulder immediately following this injury and put his arm in a brace, Alvarez has continued to suffer residual pain and stiffness, despite continuing to see various medical personnel on multiple occasions (Id. at pp. 24, 44).

         On December 29, 2013, Alvarez put in a sick call request, and Defendant Lang, a licensed practical nurse, came to his cell (Doc. 51-4, pp. 14, 21; Affidavit of Aimee Lang, Doc. 51-1, ¶ 2). Alvarez asked for stronger pain medication and a referral to a physician for his shoulder pain (Doc. 51-4, p. 21, 45). Alvarez explains that he was previously on a different medication that helped his shoulder pain, but he had to stop taking it because it interfered with his other medications (Doc. 51-4, p. 21, 23-25). Alvarez's request for medical assistance was denied as Defendant Lang stated she was “sick and tired” of seeing Alvarez for his shoulder pain (Doc. 51-4, p. 14; Affidavit of Heriberto Alvarez, Doc. 54-1, ¶ 8). Defendant Lang then instructed Alvarez to sign a medical services refusal form, indicating that if he did not sign it he would be taken to the “hole” (i.e. segregation) (Doc. 51-4, p. 14; see Doc. 51-3). Defendant Lang did not explain the form to Alvarez before he signed it (Doc. 51-4, p. 20).

         Although Alvarez testified at his deposition that Defendant Lang offered to provide him Ibuprofen during this encounter (but that Alvarez refused, indicating that he needed something stronger and he already had Ibuprofen in his cell), Alvarez's response to Defendant Lang's motion for summary judgment provides a different rendition of this encounter (Doc. 51-4, pp. 45-46; see Doc. 54, ¶ 12). Specifically, Alvarez asserts that he did not understand what was asked during the deposition, and he avers that he did not have any Ibuprofen in his cell as of December 29, 2013 (see Doc. 54, ¶ 8). Alvarez confirms, however, that he was prescribed Ibuprofen on December 12, 2013, receiving twenty-four, 200 milligram tablets (Doc. 54, ¶ 12; see Doc. 51-2, p. 6). Approximately two months after this encounter with Defendant Lang, Alvarez received additional pain medication (Doc. 51-4, pp. 39-40; see Doc. 54-1, p. 41).

         Legal Standards

         Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); See also: Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005); Black Agents & Brokers Agency, Inc., v. Near North Ins. Brokerage, Inc., 409 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970); See also Lawrence v. Kenosha Cnty., 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004). A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving party “has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated that summary judgment “is the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of events.” Steen v. Myers et. al, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (other citations omitted)).

         Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference

         The Supreme Court has recognized that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners” may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). In order to prevail on such a claim, Alvarez must show first that his condition was “objectively, sufficiently serious” and second, that the “prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable ...

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