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Ollison v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

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

November 29, 2016

ERIC OLLISON, Plaintiff,
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al., Defendants.


          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge.

         Eric Ollison brought this Section 1983 lawsuit[1] against a slew of correctional and medical personnel[2] at two Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) prisons. R. 1, Compl.[3] He claims that, while incarcerated, the Defendants ignored his chronic kidney disease, causing him to suffer acute renal failure in January 2014. Id. Several of the Defendants filed motions to dismiss part of the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. R. 38, Hardy's Mot. to Dismiss; R. 62, Stateville Wexford Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss; R. 69, Nicholson's Mot. to Dismiss; R. 48, IDOC Ill. River Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Sever and Transfer; R. 93, Gossett's Suppl. Mot. to Dismiss. The Illinois River Defendants also moved to transfer the entire case to the Central District of Illinois (where Illinois River is located), or alternatively to sever the claims against the Illinois River Defendants and transfer those to the Central District, R. 61, Wexford Defs.' Mot. to Transfer; R. 78, Einwohner, Sword, and Maurice's Suppl. Mot. to Transfer; R. 87, Reynolds's Suppl. Mot. to Transfer. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the motions to dismiss (rendering the motions to sever moot), leaving only the claims against certain Illinois River Defendants intact. The Court also grants the motions to transfer this lawsuit to the Central District of Illinois.

         I. Background

         For the purposes of this Opinion, the facts alleged in the Complaint are accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). At all times relevant to the Complaint, Ollison was a prisoner in IDOC custody. Compl. ¶ 6. Ollison's claims arise out of his treatment-or rather, the lack thereof-at two of the facilities where he was incarcerated, Stateville Northern Reception and Classification Center (located in the Northern District of Illinois) and Illinois River Correctional Center (located in the Central District of Illinois). Id. Ollison was imprisoned at Stateville for a short period from December 2011 to January 2012, when he was transferred to Illinois River. Id. ¶¶ 50, 55.

         Ollison had already been diagnosed with Stage III chronic kidney disease when he arrived at Stateville. Compl. ¶ 48. He also suffered from proteinuria, nephrotic syndrome, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension. Id. Before Stateville, Ollison had been detained at the Kankakee County Detention Center, where he received adequate medical treatment, including frequent laboratory work-ups. Id. ¶¶ 47, 49. Ollison took medication to regulate his various conditions-including the kidney disease-and had regular appointments with a nephrologist to monitor his status. Id. ¶ 49.

         Ollison's medical care deteriorated upon his arrival at Stateville. At intake, he was interviewed by Defendant Sarah Mays, a registered nurse, about his medical history, and given a physical examination by Dr. Steven Taller and Mary Schwarz, a physician's assistant. Compl. ¶ 50. Although Ollison told Mays, Taller, and Schwarz about his chronic kidney disease and other medical conditions, none of them noted that information in Ollison's medical chart. Id. ¶ 51. Nor did Stateville's medical personnel independently discover Ollison's kidney disease, even though laboratory tests performed by Dr. Taller yielded abnormal results suggestive of the disease. Id. ¶ 53. For these reasons, and because no one obtained Ollison's medical records from Kankakee, the kidney disease was omitted from Ollison's charts and he did not receive the care that he needed. Id. ¶ 54.

         On January 16, 2012, Ollison was transferred to Illinois River. Compl. ¶ 55. His transfer screening report-completed at Stateville-did not note that Ollison had a kidney disease. Id. When Ollison underwent an intake reception screening at Illinois River, the medical personnel there recorded that he had “no significant history”-despite Ollison informing them of his kidney problem-and that his “problem list was updated, ” yet the list did not note the kidney disease or any of Ollison's other conditions. Id. ¶¶ 62-63. Ollison's kidney disease remained unrecorded by Illinois River personnel over the next several months, despite several abnormal laboratory results that should have revealed it. Id. ¶¶ 66-69. After July 2012, no laboratory tests were performed on Ollison until March 2013-at which time they came back with seriously abnormal readings, including a high level of urine protein. Id. ¶¶ 70-71. It was only at this point that Ollison's prison doctor referred him to a nephrologist. Id. ¶¶ 72-73.

         The nephrologist saw Ollison in March and April 2013, and ordered various tests. Compl. ¶¶ 74-79. But neither the nephrologist nor Ollison's primary care physician developed a comprehensive treatment plan to control the disease. Id. ¶¶ 79-80. What's more, Ollison's appointments with the nephrologist were discontinued after April 2013. Id. ¶ 81. In July 2013, Illinois River received Ollison's medical records from Kankakee County Detention Center; the records traced the history of Ollison's kidney disease. Id. ¶ 84. But even after receiving these records, the Illinois River medical staff still did not take affirmative actions to monitor or manage his condition. Id. ¶ 85.

         In November 2013, Ollison began to feel unwell. He complained of sluggishness, dry mouth, chills, shortness of breath, and a salty taste in his mouth that refused to go away. Compl. ¶ 87. He began vomiting regularly for weeks on end, and his face and legs started to swell. Id. He went days without urinating. Id. Although he informed the medical staff many times about these symptoms-which were classic signs of renal failure-Ollison received no treatment for his kidneys. Id. ¶¶ 86, 88-89. Indeed, the medical staff failed to order so much as a laboratory test, much less refer Ollison to a nephrologist. Id. ¶¶ 90-91. All they did was take Ollison's blood pressure and treat him for acid indigestion and heartburn. Id. ¶ 93.

         Ollison filed three grievances complaining of his lack of treatment, two in December 2013 and one in January 2014. Compl. ¶ 94. In the grievances, Ollison “begg[ed] … to have [himself] fully checked out, ” stressing that “there is no way [his] body should be reacting this way.” Id. ¶ 95. But his complaints were dismissed as “moot” and not an emergency, or ignored entirely. Id. ¶¶ 96, 98, 100-01.

         On December 30, 2013, after repeatedly vomiting throughout the day, Ollison collapsed on the floor of his cell and began writhing in pain and shivering and shaking uncontrollably. Compl. ¶¶ 105-07. His cellmate hit the emergency button, calling a corrections officer over. Id. ¶ 106. The corrections officer sent for a nurse, but when she arrived she merely gave Ollison Ibuprofen and Maalox. Id. ¶ 108. Over the next two weeks, Ollison saw a number of physician's assistants, nurses, and doctors at Illinois River, but all of them dismissed his complaints, and no laboratory tests were performed until January 16, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 109-114. Those tests were reported to the nephrologist, who recommended that Ollison be sent to the hospital immediately. Id. ¶ 116.

         Ollison was admitted to the emergency room at Graham Hospital and diagnosed with acute renal failure. Compl. ¶ 117. Due to the severity of Ollison's condition, he was transferred from Graham to the larger St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois. Id. ¶ 119. There, Ollison began hemodialysis. Id. ¶ 120. But by that point, his condition was so serious that it soon led to complications. He developed paralysis on his left side, and began having seizures. Id. ¶ 121. He suffered acute respiratory failure. Id. Eventually, he went into a coma. Id. ¶ 126.

         Because Ollison was a prisoner and ward of the state, the power to make medical decisions on his behalf was vested in Greg Gossett, the Warden at Illinois River. Compl. ¶ 124. Gossett did not inform Ollison's family of his hospitalization, and they only learned of it after a family member called the prison to ask about Ollison's whereabouts. Id. ¶ 125. After Ollison's family discovered what had happened to him, they also learned that a do-not-resuscitate order had been instituted for Ollison-against their wishes-and were advised that “the plug should be pulled.” Id. ¶ 127.

         In February, however, Ollison began to recover and was finally discharged from the hospital in April 2014. Compl. ¶¶ 128-29. Although his condition has improved, Ollison has not made a full recovery and will likely suffer permanent injury, including the loss of full functionality in his limbs and the loss of some mental functions. Id. ¶ 130. On January 15, 2016-nearly two years after he was admitted to Graham Hospital with acute renal failure-Ollison filed suit against the Defendants under Section 1983, claiming that their deliberate indifference to his kidney disease caused him injury and violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint need only include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Seventh Circuit has explained that this rule “reflects a liberal notice pleading regime, which is intended to ‘focus litigation on the merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that might keep plaintiffs out of court.” Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)).

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7,570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). A “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at ...

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