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Dixon v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

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

September 30, 2016

Clinton Dixon, Plaintiff,
v.
Wexford Health Sources, Inc.; Marcus Hardy; Darryl Edwards; Imotep Carter; Milton Jones; and Ricardo Tejeda, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge.

         Clinton Dixon is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois. In his amended complaint, he alleges that, while he was in custody at Stateville Correctional Center, IDOC staff and medical service providers were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Counts I & II), and retaliated against him for filing this case (Counts III & IV). R. 75. Specifically, Dixon has sued Stateville's former Warden, Marcus Hardy; Stateville's former Assistant Warden, Darryl Edwards; correctional officer, Ricardo Tejeda; clothing room supervisor, Milton Jones; the IDOC's medical services provider, Wexford Health Sources, Inc.; and a doctor employed by Wexford, namely Imotep Carter, who served as Stateville's medical director. See Id. Defendants have filed motions for summary judgment. R. 104; R. 109. The Court appointed counsel for Dixon, and his counsel has prepared the amended complaint and papers opposing Defendants' motions. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Court considers the entire evidentiary record and must view all of the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Ball v. Kotter, 723 F.3d 813, 821 (7th Cir. 2013). To defeat summary judgment, a nonmovant must produce more than “a mere scintilla of evidence” and come forward with “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Harris N.A. v. Hershey, 711 F.3d 794, 798 (7th Cir. 2013). Ultimately, summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         Background

         Dixon worked as a “cellhouse worker” in Stateville. R. 117 ¶ 10. Dixon requested gloves for his job, but was told that he would not be provided gloves because he did not work outside. Id. ¶ 12. As part of his duties, on August 4, 2011, Dixon was pushing a heavy cart when another cellhouse worker's chart pushed the cell house's door into Dixon's cart, and Dixon's middle finger was smashed between the cart and the wall. Id. ¶ 10. The tip of his middle finger was severed. Id. Dixon claims that Stateville's failure to provide him with gloves caused his injury, and has sued Warden Hardy, Assistant Warden Edwards, and clothing room supervisor Jones, with regard to this claim.

         After he injured his finger, Dixon was immediately treated by Dr. Carter at Stateville and then transferred to a private hospital, where his finger's condition was stabilized. R. 121 ¶¶ 9-13. Over the next six days, Dixon was examined several times by a hand specialist at the medical offices of Alan Chen Surgical Associates, namely Dr. Victor Tsai, and had two surgeries. Id. ¶¶ 14-27. Dr. Tsai was ultimately unable to re-attach the tip of his middle finger. Id. Dixon does not dispute that his finger healed adequately despite Dr. Tsai's inability to reattach the tip of his finger. Dixon also does not claim that he received inadequate medical care with respect to the efforts to repair and heal his finger.

         Dixon alleges that he was given inadequate pain medication and was not provided necessary physical therapy, and has sued Warden Hardy, Assistant Warden Edwards, Dr. Carter, and Wexford with regard to these claims. At his initial hospital visit to treat his injury, Dixon was prescribed Norco, which is opioid pain medication. R. 121 ¶ 17. But when he returned to Stateville, Dixon was instead given Tramadol, a narcotic-like pain reliever with the brand name Ultram. R. 106-4 at 5. On August 5, 2011, Dr. Tsai prescribed Vicodin. R. 121 ¶ 22. But upon his return to Stateville, Dixon was again given Tramadol. Id. ¶ 23. Dixon saw Dr. Tsai again on August 9, 2011, but he was not prescribed any pain medication. Id. ¶ 25; R. 121-9 at 16. After performing surgery on Dixon's finger on August 11, 2011, Dr. Tsai prescribed Tylenol #3, R. 121 ¶ 28, but Stateville provided Dixon with Motrin. R. 121-7 at 14. Stateville continued to provide Dixon with Tramadol through the date of his transfer to Menard on September 17, 2012. See R. 121 ¶¶ 30, 43, 47, 53, 60; R. 121-7 at 36; R. 106-4 at 64.

         Dr. Carter referred Dixon for physical therapy on November 23, 2011. R. 121-7 at 36. Dr. Tsai also recommended physical therapy on December 8, 2011. R. 121 ¶ 58. Dixon testified that he never received physical therapy, and Defendants have not identified any evidence in the record to show that he did receive physical therapy. The parties dispute whether Dixon was ever instructed on how to do range of motion exercises on his own.

         Dixon filed this action on July 13, 2012. Two months later on September 17, 2012, Dixon was transferred to Menard Correctional Center (which is 400 miles further away from his family) based on an investigation that revealed that Dixon had threatened another inmate saying, “I'm gonna bag and tag the b****.” R. 111-1 at 101. Dixon contends that there was no basis for this investigation and that it was undertaken solely to create pretext for his transfer. See R. 116 at 6-7.

         Analysis

         I. Gloves

         Dixon argues that Warden Hardy, Assistant Warden Edwards, and clothing room supervisor Jones were deliberately indifferent to Dixon's need to wear gloves to safely complete his duties as a cellhouse worker. “In the context of a conditions of confinement claim . . . a convicted prisoner is entitled to be free from conditions that constitute cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 309 (7th Cir. 2015). To be cruel and unusual, “the alleged condition must be objectively serious . . . and the defendant prison official must possess a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Id. “An adverse condition amounts to a constitutional deprivation when it results in the denial of a basic human need, such as adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.” Id. at 309-10; see also Grady v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000, 1005 (7th Cir. 2016) (“lack of heat, clothing, or sanitation”). To have a sufficiently culpable state of mind a defendant must have been deliberately indifferent to the condition posing a serious risk. See Smith v. Sangamon Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 715 F.3d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 2013). Deliberate indifference “requires a showing that the [defendant] was aware of a substantial risk of serious injury to [the plaintiff] but nevertheless failed to take appropriate steps to protect him from a known danger.” Id.

         Dixon has failed to demonstrate that performing his cellhouse duties without gloves was an objectively serious risk. Pushing a cart (even if it was large and heavy) around the prison is not objectively dangerous work. Notably, Dixon's injury was caused by a freak accident when another cart was pushed into a door which in turn caused Dixon's cart to smash his finger against a wall. Dixon has not argued, let alone presented evidence, that an accident such as this was foreseeable such that officials at Stateville should have taken additional precautions such ...


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