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Gonzalez v. Obaisi

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

December 13, 2016

SALEH OBAISI, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Oswaldo Gonzalez ("Plaintiff) sues Stateville designated healthcare provider Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford"); Dr. Saleh Obaisi ("Obaisi"); Physician Assistant Latonya Williams ("Williams"); former Stateville Acting Warden Marcus Hardy ("Hardy") and former Stateville Grievance Counselor Landria Dennis ("Dennis") (together, the "IDOC Defendants"); Stateville Correctional Center Lockdown Coordinator John Doe and Stateville Correctional Officer John Doe (together, the "Doe Defendants") (collectively, "Defendants") for violating Plaintiffs constitutional liberties pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court are Wexford's motion to dismiss and the IDOC Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint ("Complaint"). Obaisi and Williams answered the Complaint and thus do not have pending motions to dismiss before the Court. The Court addresses both the Wexford and IDOC motions in this opinion, and, for the following reasons, both motions are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his initial pro se complaint on August 13, 2013. The allegations concerned a July 17, 2012 accident in which Plaintiff, with his hands cuffed behind his back, slipped and fell headfirst down a flight of stairs. Plaintiff specifically spelled out a twenty-one-day delay in medical care and the alleged inadequacy of the care that the medical professionals eventually provided. After the Court's initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A, the Complaint proceeded against Obaisi and Williams, but Hardy and several other defendants were dismissed. Along with his initial complaint, Plaintiff moved to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiffs motion was granted on September 17, 2013.

         Plaintiff later submitted two motions for appointment of counsel-the first on May 1, 2014 and, while the first motion was pending, the second on October 1, 2014-due to his incarceration, limited legal acumen, and scarce access to the law library because of administrative segregation. Before the Court ruled on Plaintiffs motions, Obaisi and Williams moved for summary judgment on October 31, 2014. On December 19, 2014, the Court initially denied the motions for appointment of counsel without prejudice, with the caveat that the Court would examine the summary judgment briefs to determine whether the absence of counsel prejudiced Plaintiff. On March 23, 2015, the Court ultimately denied the summary judgment motion without prejudice and determined that complicated medical and legal issues necessitated counsel for Plaintiff. The Court recruited Plaintiffs present counsel on March 30, 2015 and ordered counsel to confer with Plaintiff within sixty days and report back to the Court as to additional discovery needed to proceed with the case. The parties appeared for several status hearings, and on January 8, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file this Complaint, which Plaintiff submitted on February 25, 2016. The Complaint renamed Hardy and added Wexford and Dennis as defendants for the first time.

         Plaintiffs Complaint alleges that on July 17, 2012, Plaintiff fell headfirst down a flight of stairs with his hands cuffed behind his back. Physician Assistant Williams examined Plaintiff that day. Plaintiff sustained injuries to his head and knee, which also prevented him from answering certain questions asked by Williams. The injuries left Plaintiff with head swelling, blurred vision, nausea, and headaches. The Complaint alleges that Williams provided a cursory examination and that Plaintiff had a conversation with Hardy in the infirmary that same day. Williams gave Plaintiff two Tylenol and a walking crutch. For twenty-one-days thereafter, Defendants allegedly deprived Plaintiff of medical care despite Plaintiffs repeated medical requests and grievances, complaining of headaches, nausea, blurred vision, dizziness, knee pain, and the lack of response by and care from various Defendants.

         From July 18, 2012 through August 8, 2012, Stateville was on lockdown. Plaintiff alleges that during lockdowns, the healthcare staff at Stateville is responsible for ensuring daily access to medical care for prisoners. Specifically, the Chief Administrative Officer, Hardy in this case, appoints a lockdown coordinator, who is responsible for ensuring daily access to medical care. As to sick call requests, the healthcare staff responds to inmate submissions. Plaintiff also states that responses to emergency medical requests and ensuring that inmates are timely seen by medical professionals fall under the purview of the healthcare staff.

         Beginning on July 18, 2012, the day immediately following the fall, through August 5, 2012, Plaintiff filed a series of medical requests and grievances. In total, Plaintiff alleges that he submitted twelve medical requests and four grievances. Dennis reviewed each of the grievances, and the grievances were forwarded to the Health Care Unit. Notably, Plaintiff directed only one such communication, an emergency grievance, to Hardy's attention. That occurred on July 20, 2012, just three days after the accident and Plaintiffs initial medical examination and Hardy's visit with Plaintiff in the infirmary. That grievance sought additional medical care for the injuries suffered from the fall. Therein, Plaintiff explained the treatment provided on the day of the fall and added that doctors informed him that headaches and pain could last for up to two months after the fall. The grievance stated Plaintiff was not provided with medication upon leaving the Health Care Unit and that his crutch was taken away. The Complaint does not indicate whether the crutch was removed for medical purposes or penological concerns. Plaintiff asserts that Hardy allowed the grievance to lie dormant for nearly one and a half months before responding on September 4, 2012. The Complaint does not elaborate as to the particular responsive actions taken by Hardy. The delay and inadequacy of the eventual treatment allegedly exacerbated Plaintiffs condition.

         On August 8, 2012, Plaintiff vomited in the cafeteria. Obaisi examined Plaintiff that same day. This was Plaintiffs second time being treated by a medical professional, but the first time Obaisi provided Plaintiff with medical care. The Complaint alleges that after Obaisi treated Plaintiff, the medication Obaisi prescribed exacerbated previous symptoms and caused side effects, including seizures. Plaintiff alleges that he then submitted several additional medical requests beginning on August 12, 2012, but it is unclear from the Complaint to whom such requests were directed. On August 29, 2012, Plaintiff suffered a seizure, and Obaisi again examined Plaintiff with a CT scan and treated Plaintiff with anti-seizure and pain medication. Plaintiff sent a medical request on November 26, 2012 explaining that he had not received headache medication prescribed by Obaisi. On January 18, 2013, Obaisi prescribed a pain reliever for Plaintiff. Although Obaisi prescribed a different pain reliever, Plaintiff alleges that he continues to suffer from these symptoms and seizures. Despite the alleged continuing ailments, the allegations do not reflect any further grievances or medical requests, emergency or otherwise, submitted by Plaintiff after August 5, 2012.

         The Administrative Review Board ultimately denied Plaintiffs grievances and then his appeal on June 6, 2013. Plaintiffs last day of incarceration at Stateville was August 13, 2013, the day on which he filed his initial complaint.


         A. Standard of Review

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint under the plausibility standard, Bell At!. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), not the merits of the suit, Gibson v. City of Chicago. 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). "[A] plaintiffs claim need not be probable, only plausible: 'a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'" Indep. Trust corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "To meet this plausibility standard, the complaint must supply 'enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' supporting the plaintiffs allegations." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in a plaintiffs complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor. Burke v. 401 N. Wabash Venture. LLC, 714 F.3d 501, 504 (7th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted).

         B. The Claims Against Wexford and Dennis Are Barred by the Statute of Limitations

         Plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. All individuals are sued in their individual capacities. Plaintiff sues Wexford under two theories of liability. First, Plaintiff asserts that Wexford maintained a policy, procedure, or practice at Stateville whereby its employees routinely ignored and refused to respond to inmate requests for medical care during Stateville lockdowns. Second, Plaintiff alleges that Wexford is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior for Obaisi and Williams' actions within the scope of employment and under Wexford's supervision. Both Wexford and Dennis argue that the applicable statute of limitations bars Plaintiffs claims.

         Generally courts do not dismiss claims as untimely on motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hollander v. Brown, 457 F.3d 688, 691 n.1 (7th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). Rule 8 instead does not require that a complaint "anticipate or overcome affirmative defenses such as the statute of limitations." Id. The general rule notwithstanding, "dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) on the basis of a limitations defense may be appropriate when the plaintiff effectively pleads [himself] out of court by alleging facts that are sufficient to establish the defense." Id. However, provided that there exists "a conceivable set of facts, consistent with the complaint, that would defeat a statute-of-limitations defense, questions of timeliness are left for summary judgment (or ultimately at trial), at which point the district court may determine compliance with the statute of limitations based on a more complete factual record." Sidney Hillman Health Or. of Rochester v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 782 F.3d 922, 928 (7th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). Because there is a sufficient factual record before the Court, the Court can rule at this early stage.

         The law treats § 1983 actions "as personal injury claims and [§ 1983] actions are governed by the personal injury statute of limitations and tolling laws in the state where the alleged injury occurred." Delgado-Brunet v. Clark, 93 F.3d 339, 342 (7th Cir. 1996); Wilson v. Gjesen, 956 F.2d 738, 740 (7th Cir. 1992) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 279 (1985)). Under Illinois law, the statute of limitations for personal injury is two-years. Delgado-Brunet, 93 F.3d at 342; 735 ILCS 5/13-202. Federal law, however, determines the accrual of the cause of action. Gjesen, 956 F.2d at 740 (citations omitted). Civil rights claims accrue when the plaintiff knows or should know that his constitutional rights have been violated. Id. (citations omitted); Behavioral Inst, of Indiana, LLC v. Hobart City of Common Council 406 F.3d 926, 929 (7th Cir. 2005). The Court must first determine the injury and then the date on which the plaintiff could have sued. Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 672 (7th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). That date supplies the time at which the plaintiff knew or should have known of the constitutional violation. Id.

         i. The Accrual Date For Plaintiffs Claim Is August 13, 2013

         Both Wexford and Dennis argue that Plaintiffs claim should accrue on August 8, 2012, the date on which Plaintiff obtained medical care after the alleged twenty-one day delay. Wexford and Dennis also acknowledge (and Plaintiff claims), however, that the latest possible accrual date is August 13, 2013, which is the date Plaintiff left the place of confinement. Wexford Mot. at p. 6, ¶ 16; IDOC Def.s' Mot. at 4; Pls Opp. at 6. In light of this acknowledgement and drawing all inferences in favor of ...

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