United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge.
before the court is Defendants' joint motion for summary
judgment. This case was set for trial on March 14, 2016. At
the pretrial conference held March 10, 2016, Plaintiff's
counsel made clear that after review of the medical testimony
in this matter, Plaintiff would be unable to prove what was
previously a central tenet of his case: that Defendants'
failure to provide him with eye drops while he was in lockup
caused his vision loss in his left eye. Counsel said instead
that Plaintiff would be seeking damages at trial related to
the anxiety he suffered during the time he was in custody
arising from his mistaken belief that the failure to
administer the eye drops would cause him to lose his
eyesight. Given the change in Plaintiff's theory, counsel
for the defendants asked for the opportunity to move for
summary judgment, which the Court allowed, and the trial date
was vacated. The motion for summary judgment has been fully
briefed. For the reasons set forth below, it is granted.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Court
considers the entire evidentiary record and must view all of
the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Ball v. Kotter, 723 F.3d 813, 821 (7th Cir. 2013).
To defeat summary judgment, a nonmovant must produce more
than “a mere scintilla of evidence” and come
forward with “specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Harris N.A. v.
Hershey, 711 F.3d 794, 798 (7th Cir. 2013). Ultimately,
summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could
not return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
facts, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
are as follows. On June 20, 2012 Plaintiff was stabbed in his
left eye and he suffered an extremely serious eye injury. He
had surgery the next day. Prior to the surgery, his vision
was limited to light perception. Following surgery, his
prognosis for useful vision in his left eye was poor. He was
prescribed three medications to prevent infection and reduce
inflammation in the eye. None of the three medications was
prescribed to restore Plaintiff's vision. One of the
prescriptions, an oral antibiotic, Plaintiff never filled.
The other two prescriptions were for eye drop
medications-one, a topical antibiotic to prevent infection,
and the other, a steroid to reduce inflammation. Both drops
were to be administered four times a day.
follow up appointment a week after the surgery, Plaintiff was
examined and found still to have vision limited to light
perception in his left eye, a poor connection of the nervous
tissue between the eye and the brain, as well as significant
bleeding within the globe. The prognosis for the eye remained
poor, and Plaintiff was told he would need a second surgery.
days after the follow up appointment, on June 30, 2012,
Plaintiff was arrested by the Chicago police sometime in the
late morning or early afternoon. At the time of the arrest,
he was wearing a large eye patch over his left eye and had
some medical supplies on his person, including a bottle of
eye drops. It is unclear from the record whether these eye
drops were the ones prescribed to Plaintiff after his
surgery. After his arrest, Plaintiff was taken to the Fifth
District police station. During his processing at the
station, he made no request for any medication or medical
attention. At 2:00 p.m. there was a shift change, following
which Plaintiff told one of the lockup keepers that he needed
to go to a doctor, although he did not tell him why. In
response, the lockup keeper told Plaintiff “this
ain't no hospital; should have thought of that before you
got here.” Several hours later, around 10:30 p.m., a
friend of Plaintiff's came to the police station with his
medication and asked an officer to give it to Plaintiff. She
told the officer that Plaintiff had recently undergone
surgery and that without the medication, he could lose his
eyesight. The officer refused to take the medication on the
basis that he did not know what was in the bottle(s).
was released from custody on July 1, 2012, less than 24 hours
after his arrest. He missed, at most, four doses of the
prescribed drops during that time. On July 20, 2012, he
underwent a second surgery on his left eye as planned.
Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful; there were no
improvements in Plaintiff's vision and his prognosis for
useful vision in the left eye remained poor. Significantly,
there is no dispute that none of the medications prescribed
following the first surgery would have prevented or limited
the scar tissue which formed in Plaintiff's left eye,
which is the reason the second surgery was unsuccessful.
sued a number Chicago Police Department employees for failure
to provide medical attention under Section 1983 and the
Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Because Plaintiff's claims arose prior to any preliminary
hearing, his claims are evaluated under the reasonableness
standard of the Fourth Amendment. See Ortiz v. City of
Chicago, 656 F.3d 523, 530 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Our
cases [ ] establish that the protections of the Fourth
Amendment apply at arrest and through the Gerstein
probable cause hearing, due process principles govern
pretrial detainee's conditions of confinement after the
judicial determination of probable cause, and the Eighth
Amendment applies following conviction.”). The
following four factors are relevant to determining whether an
officer's response to a pre-hearing detainee's
medical needs is “objectively unreasonable:”
“(1) whether the officer has notice of the
detainee's medical needs; (2) the seriousness of the
medical need; (3) the scope of the requested treatment; and
(4) police interests, including administrative, penological,
or investigatory concerns.” Id. The plaintiff
must also establish that the defendants' conduct caused
the harm of which he complains. Id. “[T]he
severity of the medical condition under this standard need
not, on its own, rise to the level of objective seriousness
required under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Instead,
the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness analysis operates
on a sliding scale, balancing the seriousness of the medical
need with the third factor-the scope of the requested
treatment.” Id. (quoting Williams v.
Rodriguez, 509 F.3d 392, 403 (7th Cir. 2007)).
the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, a
reasonable jury could find that at least some of the
defendant officers were on notice of Plaintiff's request
for medical treatment. Plaintiff had a very conspicuous patch
over his left eye and asked to see a doctor. A friend of his
came to the lockup with medication and explained to at least
one officer that Plaintiff had recently undergone eye
surgery. Still, no action was taken to address
Plaintiff's request for treatment.
failure to act despite notice of a serious medical
condition is not in itself “objectively
unreasonable.” See Williams, 509 F.3d at
401-02. Rather, for this failure to violate Plaintiff's
civil rights, he must show that at the time he was detained
and interacting with the defendants, he actually had a
serious medical need for the requested treatment.
See Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir.
2010) (a serious medical need is “a condition that
would result in further significant injury or unnecessary and
wanton infliction of pain if not treated”). Of course,
Plaintiff had a serious injury-the stab wound to his eye.
That is not the issue. The key question is whether he had a
serious medical need for the eye drops such that his failure
to receive them caused him further significant
injury. No reasonable jury could find that the
defendants' failure to respond to Plaintiff's request
for treatment caused or exacerbated the damage to his eye;
there is simply no evidence that Plaintiff's condition
worsened after missing his eye drops while in police custody.
Plaintiff did not develop an infection during or after his
time in custody nor did he suffer inflammation not otherwise
attributable to the stab wound or surgery. Despite
Plaintiff's serious medical condition, he had no serious
need for the prescribed medication during the relatively
limited period of time he was in lockup. This is fatal to his
ways, this is similar to the situation in Williams v.
Rodriguez. The plaintiff in that case had chronic asthma
and repeatedly requested his inhaler and emergency medical
treatment following his arrest. 509 F.3d 392. His requests
were ignored. Id. The Seventh Circuit found that
while the plaintiff's asthma had at times been serious
and even life-threatening, the condition alone was an
insufficient basis for a deliberate indifference claim where
the medical records showed that he did not require treatment
for asthma on the night of his arrest. Id. at
401-02. Williams teaches that it is the need for
treatment, and not just the condition itself that must be
objectively serious. Plaintiff's medical records show,
and Plaintiff concedes, that he did not need the prescribed
eye drops to prevent the further deterioration of his medical
condition. Indeed his medical condition, though ...