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Adams v. Harrington

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 24, 2017

BYRON E. ADAMS, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Now pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Samuel Nwaobasi on May 16, 2016 (Doc. 101) and a Motion to Strike Reply filed by Plaintiff Byron E. Adams on October 21, 2016 (Doc. 120). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is granted, and the Motion to Strike is denied.


         This matter is proceeding on a second amended complaint filed by Plaintiff, Byron Adams, on October 6, 2014 (Doc. 34). Adams is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections who was formerly incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center in 2013 and 2014. He alleges that the floor of his cell at Menard was so hot that it caused second degree burns on his feet. Adams is particularly susceptible to such burns because he has diabetes and suffers from diabetic neuropathy in his feet. As a result of the burns, Adams's big toe was eventually amputated.

         Adams is proceeding on Count 1 for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against both Richard Harrington, the former warden at Menard, and Samuel Nwaobasi, a physician at Menard. Adams alleges that Warden Harrington was both aware of his medical condition and the condition of his cell but did nothing to alleviate his health concerns or living conditions, and Dr. Nwaobasi was deliberately indifferent to his medical condition. Adams also is proceeding on Count 2, a claim for excessive force against Bradley Stirnaman, a correctional officer at Menard. Adams alleges that C/O Stirnaman harassed, battered, and assaulted him while he was housed in the healthcare unit.

         Dr. Nwaobasi filed his motion for summary judgment as to Count 1 on May 16, 2016 (Doc. 101).[1] The motion was then stayed while Adams conducted expert discovery (Doc. 106). Dr. Nwaobasi filed a supplementary memorandum on August 29, 2016 (Doc. 109). Adams filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 116), and Dr. Nwaobasi filed a reply (Doc. 117). Adams then filed a motion to strike Dr. Nwaobasi's reply brief (Doc. 120), to which Dr. Nwaobasi filed a response (Doc. 121).

         Motion to Strike and Evidentiary Arguments

         Adams first objects pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(2) on the basis that the evidentiary material attached to Defendant Nwaobasi's motion is inadmissible (Doc. 120). In particular, Adams argues that his medical records are inadmissible hearsay, because they have not been authenticated, and that Defendant's expert report issued by Dr. John S. Daniels is inadmissible because it also has not been authenticated via an affidavit. Both the medical records and expert report can be readily authenticated, however, and would be admissible at trial. Medical records are exceptions to the hearsay rule, see Federal Rule of Evidence 803, and Adams has presented no Daubert motion that would render Dr. Daniels's expert opinions inadmissible. Accordingly, the Motion to Strike (Doc. 120) is denied.

         In deciding Dr. Nwaobasi's motion for summary judgment, the Court will consider Adams's medical records, Dr. Daniels's expert report, and Dr. Marla S. Barkoff's expert report (Plaintiff's expert) and give due weight to each piece of evidence. The Court also will consider Defendant Nwaobasi's reply brief; while the document itself is fifteen pages, the argument section is only five pages, and exceptional circumstances exist for the filing of the reply.

         Motion for Summary Judgment

         A. Factual Background

         It is undisputed that Adams has suffered from diabetes mellitus since at least 2012 and from diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes is a “chronic metabolic disorder . . . caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma.” Stedman's Medical Dictionary 529 (28th ed. 2006). In layman's terms, diabetes means that one's blood sugar is too high, causing various conditions including heart disease, and relative to this case, lack of sensation in the extremities, i.e., diabetic neuropathy. Id. 1313. This can in turn lead to various adverse consequences, including the amputation of digits. It is common knowledge that diabetes is a disease that requires management. Most persons who suffer from diabetes check their blood sugar levels regularly. They also undergo A1C testing, which provides an average blood sugar level for multiple months, [2] and take medication in the form of pills and/or insulin shots designed to lower or counter the effects of elevated blood sugar. Diabetes also requires an appropriate diet and exercise in order to avoid or minimize adverse consequences. (See Doc. 116-2, p. 12; Doc. 109-3, p. 6). There is no cure for the disease; however, if appropriate steps are taken, it can be managed successfully.

         Adams was incarcerated at Menard from January 9, 2013, to June 11, 2014 (Doc. 111, p. 2).[3] During this time period, the medical records reveal that there were numerous medical service providers who were involved in his care, including Dr. Robert Shearing, Dr. Samuel Nwaobasi, Dr. John Trost, Dr. Fe Fuentes, and Nurse Practitioner R. Pollion.

         When Adams first arrived at Menard, Dr. Robert Shearing initially ordered Glipiride and Metformin for his diabetes, but apparently did not believe that insulin was required (Doc. 102-4, p. 1). Dr. Shearing also ordered weekly accuchecks of Adams's blood sugars and ordered Adams to be added to the hypertension and diabetes clinics (Id. 4, 10).[4] On January 11th, two days after arriving at Menard, Adams reported to a medical technician that he was not getting his insulin (Id. at p. 2). The medical technician asked for a physician to review his chart and order the insulin (Id.). The following day, Dr. Nwaobasi conducted the chart review and ordered Adams to be seen in “combo clinic for further assessment and [follow up]” (Doc. 102-4, p. 2; Doc. 116-2, p. 6). The combo clinic occurred every two to three months and was for hypertension and diabetes check-ups and care (Doc. 102-1).

         On April 26, 2013, Adams was seen by Dr. Fe Fuentes for blisters on the balls of his feet, possibly from “ill-fitting boots” (Doc. 102-4, p 3). Treatment was ordered for two weeks (Id.). At that time, Adams's A1C was noted to be 8.1 (Id. at p. 4). Dr. Fuentes referred Adams to Dr. Nwaobasi for a follow-up appointment (Doc. 116-5, p. 21). Dr. Nwaobasi spent most of his medical career as a general surgeon and trauma surgeon (Doc. 102-1). While working at Menard, he did “a lot of small outpatient surgical procedures” that could be done under local anesthesia (Id.). On May 17th, Dr. Nwaobasi noted in the medical record that Adams had “bilateral feet ulcers secondary to diabetes mellitus” that “need to be evaluated for further care” (Doc. 102-4, p. 5). The next day, Dr. Nwaobasi saw Adams and debrided the wounds on his feet and changed the dressings (Id. at p. 6).[5] He ordered dressing changes every other day and a follow-up “by MD in one month for re-evaluation” (Id.). A few days later, Adams's A1C was tested and measured 8.4 (Doc. 109-10, p. 5). Adams was seen by Dr. Fuentes on July 1, 2013, and while the record is mostly illegible, it indicates that his “foot ulcers healed” (Id. at p. 7). By August 2013, Adams's A1C was decreased to 7.0 (Doc. 109-10, p. 10). Adams refused A1C testing in November 2013 (Doc. 102-4, p. 11).

         In January 2014, Adams began having problems with his feet again. He was admitted to the Health Care Unit on January 28th by Dr. Trost with second degree burns and blisters on both of his feet (Doc. 102-4, p. 13). Adams notified prison staff that the injuries were caused by the hot floors in his cell (Doc. 102-3, p. 4). Adams stayed in the Health Care Unit for the next thirty-six days. On his second day there, Dr. Nwaobasi was asked to see Adams (Doc. 102-4, p. 14). The doctor noted a history of diabetic neuropathy, and debrided and dressed his wounds (Id. at p. 14). The next day, Dr. Nwaobasi again debrided and dressed Adams's wounds (Id. at p. 15). Over the next five days, Adams's wounds were evaluated twice by Dr. Trost and once by Dr. Fuentes (Id. at pp. 16-18). Dr. Fuentes referred Adams to Dr. Nwaobasi to once again have his wounds debrided on February 4th (Id. at p. 18). The wounds were then evaluated by Dr. Fuentes on February 6th and by Dr. Trost on February 7th (Id. at pp. 20, 21). On February 8th, Adams saw Dr. Nwaobasi, who noted that the wounds were “healing satisfactorily” (Id. at p. 22).

         Over the next ten days, Adams's wounds were evaluated on three occasions by Dr. Trost and on three occasions by Dr. Fuentes (Id. at pp. 23-28). On February 18th, Adams saw Dr. Nwaobasi to have his wounds debrided for a fourth time (Id. at p. 29). Dr. Nwaobasi noted that the wounds on both feet were “drying up, ” and there was “no evidence of [a] secondary infection” (Id.). Adams saw Dr. Nwaobasi again the next day for a dressing change, and the doctor noted that the wounds on Adams's left foot “continue to show visible progress” and the “decubitus ulcers are healing well” (Id. at pp. 29, 30).

         Over the next five days, Adams's wounds were evaluated twice by Dr. Trost and once by Dr. Fuentes (Doc. 102-4, pp. 31-32; Doc. 102-5, p. 1). Then on February 26th, Adams saw Dr. Nwaobasi, who noted that Adams's burn wounds were “healing” (Doc. 102-5, p. 2). On Wednesday, March 5th, Dr. Nwaobasi noted that Adams was “stable and able to ambulate on his feet, ” and Adams was discharged from the Health ...

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