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Burt v. Harrington

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 3, 2017

RONALD BURT, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK HARRINGTON, SAM NWAOBASI, ANGELA CRAIN, MICHAEL MOLDENHAUER, LAKESHA HAMBY, DR. JOHN TROST, CHAD FRIERDICH, and WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Currently pending before the Court is the motion for summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion filed by Defendants Lakesha Hamby, Michael Moldenhauer, John Trost, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”) (Doc. 156). Based on the parties' representations, the Court has determined there are no material facts in dispute and thus the motion can be resolved without a hearing pursuant to Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2008) (See Docs. 183, 184). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff, Ronald Burt, is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). He suffers degeneration of his cervical spine as a result of an unspecified injury, which causes severe and chronic neck and back pain (Doc. 1, p. 3; Doc. 80-1). Plaintiff filed this action on August 5, 2013, alleging that various employees of the IDOC and Wexford, at both Menard and Stateville Correctional Centers, were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and engaged in a civil conspiracy to deny him adequate medical treatment (Doc. 1; Doc. 13).

         Following a threshold review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (Doc. 13) and one round of summary judgment motions on the issue of exhaustion (Docs. 99, 102), this matter proceeded only on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference against Samuel Nwaobasi, Jane Doe # 1, and Richard Harrington (Doc. 102). Several months later, Plaintiff was permitted to file an amended complaint, identifying Jane Doe #1 as Chad Frierdich, renaming Angela Crain as a Defendant, and adding Michael Moldenhauer, Lakesha Hamby, Dr. John Trost, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. as Defendants (Doc. 124, Doc. 125).[1] At this point, Plaintiff is proceeding on an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference against Dr. Nwaobasi, Chad Frierdich, Harrington, Crain, Moldenhauer, Hamby, Dr. Trost, and Wexford. (Doc. 158).

         After Plaintiff amended his complaint, a second round of summary judgment motions on the issue of exhaustion was authorized for the newly-added Defendants (see Doc. 138). Defendants Moldenhauer, Trost, Hamby, and Wexford filed their motion on March 7, 2016 (Doc. 156).[2] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 171), to which Defendants filed a reply (Doc. 174).

         Factual Background

         In order to provide context for the motion for summary judgment, the factual basis for Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Moldenhauer, Hamby, Trost, and Wexford is taken from the pleadings and the evidence submitted during the summary judgment proceedings and outlined here. The relevant grievance history, however, is outlined in the discussion section of this Order.

         Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from “continuous, severe and excruciating back and neck, ” and he has not been given proper medical treatment for his condition since at least 2007 (Doc. 158). He generally alleges that each Defendant, at one time or another, was responsible for the constitutionally inadequate medical treatment that he received by failing to adequately asses his condition, refusing to provide him with proper medication to manage with his severe pain, refusing him the opportunity to be examined and treated by physicians outside of the IDOC system, and/or refusing him surgery to cure his serious neck and back problems (Doc. 158). His specific allegations with regard to the moving Defendants are as follows.

         Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. is a private company that contracts with the IDOC to provide medical services and healthcare personnel at IDOC facilities (Doc. 158; Doc. 164). According to Plaintiff, Wexford maintains a policy of refusing to order necessary treatments in an effort to save money, and this policy is “the moving force” behind the constitutionally inadequate care he received at Stateville and Menard (Doc. 158).

         Defendant Michael Moldenhauer was a Physicians' Assistant/Nurse Practitioner employed by Wexford at Menard (Doc. 158; Doc. 165). Plaintiff alleges that he saw Moldenhauer on July 17, 2013, and

was given a cursory examination by Moldenhauer, who noted [Plaintiff's] chronic back pain. Moldenhauer claims to have discussed [Plaintiff's] x-rays with him. Despite [Plaintiff's] continuing severe back and neck pain, he was not seen by a doctor and Moldenhauer's only recommendation was the reduced prescription of Motrin Mr. Burt had received in the past that did nothing to help or cure his serious medical needs or end his excruciating pain.

(Doc. 158).

         Defendant Lakesha Hamby was a registered nurse employed by Wexford at Menard (Doc. 158; Doc. 166). Plaintiff alleges that he saw Nurse Hamby on November 26, 2013, for his neck and back pain (Doc. 158). Plaintiff further states,

The medical records indicate constant, continuing, burning pain in his neck and back. Despite the obvious nature of [Plaintiff's] serious medical problems, the only action Hamby took was to continue the pain medication [Plaintiff] had been on, which had not helped his condition. Hamby noted [Plaintiff]. Burt should see a medical doctor if his pain was ongoing, but did not schedule [him] to see a medical doctor, even though [his] pain was ongoing.

(Doc. 158).

         Defendant John Trost was a medical doctor employed by Wexford at Menard (Doc. 158; Doc. 163). Plaintiff generally alleges that Trost refused to provide him with prescribed pain medication and denied him any other kind of medical treatment (Doc. 158, ¶32). Plaintiff more specifically alleges that he was seen by Dr. Trost on December 24, 2013, and “Trost noted [Plaintiff] is suffering from narrowing of his vertebrates as a result of a degenerative spinal disease. Despite the obvious nature of [Plaintiff's] serious medical needs, Trost prescribed nothing more than exercises and meloxicam.” (Doc. 158, ¶54).

         Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment

         The standard applied to summary judgment motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is well-settled and has been succinctly stated as follows:

Summary judgment is appropriate where the admissible evidence shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A “material fact“ is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit. A “genuine issue” exists with respect to any such material fact . . . when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” On the other hand, where the factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is nothing for a jury to do. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, we view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

Bunn v. Khoury Enterprises, Inc., 753 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2014) (citations ...


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