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Hardy v. Illinois Dept. of Corr.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 6, 2016

NEDRICK J. HARDY, #B-50437, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPT. OF CORR., WEXFORD HEALTH SERV. INC., KIMBERLY BUTLER, JOHN TROST, JOHN R. BALDWIN, SALVADOR GODINEZ JOHN DOE 1 BAIG, AMY LANG, JANE DOE 1 RAYBURN, JANE DOE 2 STEPHANIE, JANE DOE 3 LORI, GAIL WALLS, FE FUENTES, REGINA PRICE, LORI F. OAKLEY, SUSAN M. HILL, BETSY SPILLER, JOHN DOE 2 DENTIST, JANE DOE 4 CLENDENIN, JOHN DOE 3 MAIL ROOM SUPV., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief District Judge

         Plaintiff Nedrick Hardy, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (Doc. 46). Hardy's original complaint was dismissed for failure to state a claim, and he was simultaneously granted leave to file an amendment, which he did. Upon receipt of Hardy's Second Amended Complaint, the Court appointed counsel to assist Hardy and directed that a Third Amended Complaint be filed. Counsel complied and filed the Third Amended Complaint, which is now before the Court for threshold review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (Doc. 46). The Third Amended Complaint contains eleven or more distinct claims against twenty defendants. Within these claims, the following distinct groupings emerge: deliberate indifference to medical needs; conditions of confinement related to segregation; intentional infliction of emotional distress for medical issues, as well as for denying a funeral furlough; and lack of access to the courts. As to these areas of concern Hardy has named as Defendants: the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), Doctor John Trost, John Baldwin, Salvador Godinez, John Doe 1 (“Baig”), Nurse Amy Lang, Jane Doe 1 (Nurse Rayburn), Jane Doe 2 (Nurse Stephanie), Jane Doe 3 (Nurse Lori), Gail Walls, Doctor Fe Fuentes, Regina Price, Lori Oakley, Susan Hill, Betsy Spiller, John Doe 2 (dentist), Jane Doe 4 (paralegal Clendenin), and John Doe 3 (mail room supervisor). He seeks monetary and injunctive relief in the form of adequate medical treatment.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Third Amended 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

         Hardy generally alleges that upon arrival at Menard, officials and health care providers failed to accommodate his various medical needs (Doc. 46 at 6-10). For example, Menard staff refused to grant him permits for a waist chain, low gallery, or low bunk-accommodations he had at Stateville (Id. at 9). Hardy also did not receive access to prescription medications or treatment for chronic pain in his back, shoulders, and joints, among other things (Id. at 6-9). Hardy alleges that these shortcomings, and many others, are merely examples of the “widespread and persistent mistreatment of Illinois inmates needing ongoing medical and dental attention” (Id. at 13).

         After expounding upon his numerous medical and dental issues, Hardy's complaint launches into a defendant-by-defendant listing, wherein he alleges that each defendant participated in denying his needs or violating his rights, or knew of said denial or violation, and thereby violated his rights (Id. at 14-33). Many of the allegations as to individual defendants generically identify a series of dates upon which Hardy alleges that the defendants became aware of his issues via letters or written grievances, however, the complaint contains no description of the contents of the grievances, nor does it contain details about responses he did or did not receive (Id.). Aside from these generic assertions, Hardy's complaint identifies further particulars regarding a few defendants.

         As to Doctor Trost, Hardy alleges that on multiple occasions Dr. Trost specifically and intentionally ignored his serious medical needs and his pleas for attention (Id. at 20). Hardy states the same as to John Doe 1 (Id. at 21). Hardy alleges that he specifically asked Dr. Fuentes for care, and told Fuentes he was not getting care, but received no assistance (Id. at 22-23). He makes identical allegations as to Defendants Lang, Jane Does 1-3, Walls, and John Doe 2 (Id. at 24-27). As to Defendants Price, Oakley, Hill, and Spiller, he alleges that, despite learning of his needs, these defendants failed to investigate his grievances (Id. at 28-29). As to Jane Doe 4, Hardy apparently asked her for access to the courts and legal materials, but she denied his requests or otherwise failed to help him with legal matters (Id. at 31-32). Finally, as to John Doe 3, Hardy alleges that he failed to properly respect legal mail due to overcrowding at Menard (Id. at 32-33).

         After providing a factual overview of his medical needs and other grievances at Menard, and running through each defendant individually, Hardy then launches into 11 distinct counts. Notably, Defendants John Doe 2, Jane Doe 4 and John Doe 3 are not specifically named in any of these counts, though presumably they are included in Count 11-a ‘catch-all' count about the totality of the conditions at Menard. The complaint is now before the Court for preliminary screening.

         Discussion[1]

         Based on the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to adopt the division of claims set forth by Plaintiff Hardy. 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 regarding their merit.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition claim for failing to provide Hardy with his prescription medications;
Count 2: Intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) claim for failing to provide Hardy with his prescription medications for nine months, beginning in October 2014;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement and deliberate indifference to medical needs claim for placing Hardy in a hot segregation cell, despite the fact that it irritated his mental health infirmities;
Count 4: IIED claim for the hot segregation cell and lack of deference to Hardy's mental health condition;
Count 5: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claim for failing to issue Hardy permits for a waist chain, low gallery, or low bunk, in accord with previously identified medical needs;
Count 6: IIED claim for denying the various medical permits Hardy previously had at other IDOC facilities;
Count 7: Claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for denying Hardy various medical permits for low bunk, low gallery, etc., in violation of his physical needs;
Count 8: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim for failing to address or treat Hardy's chronic medical conditions including back pain, degenerative disk disease, arthritis in his shoulder, acromioclavicular joint pain, acid reflux disease, a deviated septum, and urinary tract issues;
Count 9: IIED for failing to address Hardy's chronic medical conditions;
Count 10:[2]IIED for denying Hardy's furlough request to attend his daughter's funeral; and,
Count 11: Eighth Amendment claim that the totality of the conditions of confinement are grossly inadequate at Menard.

         The Court will also note that, in a number of places in the Third Amended Complaint, Hardy makes reference to Defendant Wexford alleging that it maintains a custom or policy with regard to the medical care it provides at Menard. However, the claim was not set forth as an enumerated count. In light of this deficiency, the Court is dismissing any claim under this theory without prejudice for failure to clearly state the parameters of the claim.

         A majority of the claims in this action relate to allegations of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, so this section of the memorandum will begin with a basic overview of applicable precedent. The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const., amend. VIII; see also Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435 (7th Cir. 2010). Prison conditions that deprive inmates of basic human needs, such as inadequate nutrition, health, or safety, may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981); see also James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992). Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment when their conduct demonstrates deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of an inmate. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1369 (7th Cir. 1997). To establish deliberate indifference to a medical condition, a prisoner must show a condition that is sufficiently serious (objective component) and that an official acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind in failing to address the condition (subjective component). Id. Whether an injury is serious enough is a very fact specific inquiry-seriousness may be shown if an ordinary doctor opined an injury warranted treatment, if an injury significantly impacted an individual's daily activities, or if an injury caused chronic or substantial pain, among other things. Id.

         As to the subjective component, an official “must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Jackson v. Ill. Medi-Car, Inc., 300 F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2002). If an official reasonably responds to a risk, even if harm was not averted, deliberate indifference does not exist. Id. A claim for medical negligence does not amount to deliberate indifference. Gutierrez, 111 F.3d at 1369. Additionally, a reasonable response differs depending on the capacity of the alleged wrongdoer. A non-medical prison employee-one who for example handles grievances, or supervises prison operations-will generally not be liable for deliberate indifference if he or she believes the prisoner is receiving adequate medical care, or takes steps to verify that the inmate is receiving care. See Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 655-57 (7th Cir. 2005). However, individual liability may arise on behalf of a non-medical defendant if the defendant is made aware of a specific constitutional violation via correspondence from the inmate and the individual declines to take any action to address the situation. See Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 781-82 (7th Cir. 2015). Simply put, a prison official may not escape liability by turning a blind eye to serious harms. Id. at 781 (“deliberate indifference may be found where an official knows about unconstitutional conduct and facilitates, approves, condones, or ‘turns a blind eye' to it”). At the screening stage of § 1915A review, the district court must consider if “discovery will shed light on whether [. . .] the grievance defendants took the needed action to investigate [a plaintiff's] grievances, and reasonably relied on the judgment of medical professionals” in responding to a given grievance. Id. at 782.

         In a case where an inmate claims a delay in treatment as opposed to a total denial, the plaintiff must offer some evidence that the delay caused lasting harm. See Conley v. Birch, 796 F.3d 742, 749 (7th Cir. 2015) (finding that a plaintiff may be able to prove to a jury that a delay constituted deliberate indifference where the treating doctor testified that the bones in the hand would begin fusing quickly after an injury, and thus permanent damage may occur quickly). There is no bright line standard for how much of a delay is too much. There is also no bright line standard for how much care must be provided to avoid liability for deliberate indifference. A doctor or prison official is not required to follow the most preferable course of care with precision, but ignoring recommendations of an outside provider may constitute deliberate indifference if doing so would result in the provision of such inadequate care that no reasonable medical official would agree with the course of care provided. See Perez, 792 F.3d at 778-79 (collecting cases) (“allegations that a prison official refused to follow the advice of a medical specialist for a non-medical reason may at times constitute deliberate indifference”); Holloway v. Delaware Cnty. Sheriff, 700 F.3d 1063, 1074 (7th Cir. 2012) (stating that a prison doctor “is free to make his own, independent medical determination as to the necessity of certain treatments or medications, so long as the determination is based on the physician's professional judgment and does not go against accepted professional ...


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