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Schlueter v. Barnhart

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

January 23, 2017

Richard Schlueter, Plaintiff,
Chris Barnhart, et al., Defendants.


          FREDERICK J. KAPALA District Judge

         Defendant Avitall's motion to dismiss [69] is granted. Defendant Shicker's motion to dismiss [75] is granted. All claims against these defendants are dismissed, and they are terminated from this action.


         In his third amended complaint, plaintiff raises a number of claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against various medical personnel and prison officials, including Dr. Boaz Avitall, a cardiologist working at the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center (“UIC”), and Dr. Louis Shicker, the Chief Medical Director for the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). These defendants have each filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, both motions to dismiss are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations in the complaint, which the court accepts as true for purposes of this order, plaintiff has been incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center (“Dixon”) since 2003. Prior to his incarceration, plaintiff was diagnosed with a cardiac condition known as bradycardia, which causes plaintiff to have a slow heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. This diagnosis was confirmed by unnamed physicians at UIC in February 2007 and June 2010, at which time no additional abnormalities were detected and plaintiff was informed that there was no need for him to have a pacemaker.

         Between June 2010 and March 2011, plaintiff complained to the medical personnel at Dixon about episodes of dizziness, fainting, and headaches. On March 14, 2011, plaintiff was scheduled to be seen by Dr. Imhotep Carter, another defendant in this case who was the Medical Director at Dixon during the relevant time period, but Dr. Carter refused to perform a physical examination of plaintiff at that time. Approximately eleven days later, however, with no recent examination or testing, Dr. Carter prescribed Propranolol for plaintiff, which is a beta-blocker primarily intended for patients with abnormally fast heart rates. After taking this prescribed medication, plaintiff's bradycardia condition significantly worsened. Over the next several months, despite plaintiff's complaints, various medical personnel at Dixon prescribed and/or provided plaintiff with various beta-blockers, including Propanolol, Metoprolol Tartrate, and Nadolol, all of which are cardiotoxic to someone who has bradycardia and caused plaintiff's condition to deteriorate.

         On October 26, 2012, plaintiff was taken to UIC to see a cardiologist and was subsequently admitted to the hospital for approximately seven days after his vital signs showed a dangerously low heart rate of 28 beats per minute. Plaintiff was not given any beta blockers while at UIC, and within 48 hours his heart rate returned to an acceptable level of 45-50 beats per minute. During this admission, Dr. Avitall advised plaintiff that he did not need a pacemaker. Upon his release from UIC, plaintiff was instructed to wear a “Holter monitor” for 30 days in order to provide an accurate picture of his heart functioning. While he was on the Holter monitor, the medical personnel at Dixon continued to give plaintiff his prescribed beta-blocker medications.

         On January 18, 2013, plaintiff returned to UIC and was seen by Dr. Avitall, who indicated that the results from the Holter monitor showed that plaintiff needed surgery to insert a pacemaker. According to plaintiff, at that time, Dr. Avitall “was, or should have been, aware of [plaintiff's] history of having been on beta-blocker medications, including during the time he was going through the Holter monitor test.” On February 5, 2013, plaintiff returned to UIC where Dr. Avitall performed the surgery to install the pacemaker. On February 7, 2013, plaintiff was back at Dixon and was seen by another defendant, Dr. Kevin Smith, who informed plaintiff that he should not be taking Nadolol since it has the effect of lowering one's heartbeat and immediately ordered the medication to be stopped. Dr. Smith further indicated that the results from the Holtor monitor test would have been affected by the fact that plaintiff was receiving a beta blocker at that time.

         According to plaintiff, Dr. Avitall and others “had a duty to provide appropriate medical evaluation and treatment to [plaintiff] at all times . . . consistent with the standards of practice for a physician, ” as well as “a duty to be familiar with their patient's applicable medical history and medical conditions.” Plaintiff further alleges that, as a result of the beta-blocker medications he was taking, the results of the Holter monitor “were improperly altered and were not a proper basis on which to make a decision to insert a pacemaker device.” As such, plaintiff claims that Dr. Avitall and others were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by, among other things, their “failure to be fully aware of [plaintiff's] health history and cardiac conditions.”

         II. ANALYSIS

         Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must 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 allegations in the complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” and must “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alterations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         A. Defendant Avitall's Motion to Dismiss

         In his motion to dismiss, Dr. Avitall argues, among other things, that plaintiff's allegations against him fail to state a claim because they do not rise to the level of deliberate indifference. A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment if he is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of a prisoner. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). “A deliberate indifference claim requires both an objectively serious risk of harm and a subjectively culpable state of mind.” Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 830 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). In this case, ...

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