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Waters v. Wexford Health, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 24, 2016

JERMAINE WATERS, #R-19718, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH, INC., RODERICK MATTICKS, KELLY LOUCKS, DENNIS ELS, TRACY PEEK, CHRISTINE L. BROWN, and UNKNOWN PARTY (Nurses/Doctors), Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         This pro se civil rights action, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Plaintiff filed this action while he was a prisoner incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), where his claims arose. Soon after the case was filed, Plaintiff was released on parole (Doc. 10). Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition of glaucoma.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must 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). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). 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 Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff was transferred to Pinckneyville on or about January 7, 2015 (Doc. 1, p. 8). Upon his arrival, he underwent a medical screening/intake with Defendant Nurse Loucks. Plaintiff told her that he had been diagnosed with glaucoma in his left eye. This information and the records of treatment he had received were in his medical documentation from Hill Correctional Center, his previous prison. Defendant Loucks promised to take note of this information, and she told Plaintiff he would be scheduled for a medical appointment in about three weeks, followed by treatment and monitoring of his condition.

         Four weeks later, Plaintiff still had not received a call pass for a medical examination. He filled out multiple request slips over the next weeks and months to be seen by Defendant Els (eye doctor), but never got any response (Doc. 1, p. 9). On June 5, 2015, Plaintiff directly contacted Defendant Nurse Peek regarding his glaucoma and need to see a doctor, but she did not arrange for a referral, despite her assurance that Plaintiff would see an eye doctor soon (Doc. 1, p. 15). On August 7, 2015, after his request slips had still not been answered, he wrote to Defendant Brown (Health Care Administrator) seeking evaluation and treatment for his glaucoma. She never responded (Doc. 1, pp. 17-18). He then wrote to Defendant Matticks, the regional medical director for Defendant Wexford Health Source, Inc., seeking help to get treatment. Again, he got no response (Doc. 1, p. 18). He had several visits with Unknown Party Medical Defendants (Jane/John Doe Nurses and Doctors) during 2015, but none of those providers would deal with his eye problems (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         Plaintiff's continued efforts to obtain medical care for his glaucoma were not answered until over a year after his arrival at Pinckneyville, when he finally saw a prison eye doctor (Dr. Brummel, who is not a defendant) on February 10, 2016 (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). At that time, Plaintiff's symptoms included “bleary vision, light flash, serious headaches, ” and loss of vision in his left eye (Doc. 1, p. 11). Dr. Brummel confirmed that Plaintiff was suffering from glaucoma and requested approval for him to be seen by a specialist outside the prison. Approval was given on February 16, 2016.

         Plaintiff saw the outside specialist (Dr. Ortiz) on March 23, 2016, and began treatment on that date. Dr. Ortiz informed Plaintiff that he should be taking medication for his condition and noted that if he had been treated earlier, his condition might not have become so bad (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Defendants' deliberate indifference to his condition (Doc. 1, p. 19).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following 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. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants Loucks, Els, Peek, Brown, and the Unknown Party (John/Jane Doe) Nurses and/or Doctors, for failing to treat and delaying ...

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