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Garciaa v. Wexford Health Sources Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 21, 2017

JUAN GARCIA, Plaintiff,


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         While incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center in December 2015, Juan Garcia filed the above-captioned lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Garcia (Plaintiff) named five healthcare professionals (three doctors, a nurse, and a nurse practitioner) plus the private corporation that contracts with the Illinois Department of Corrections to provide medical care to Illinois inmates (Wexford Health Sources, Inc.). The complaint alleges that Defendants ignored Plaintiff's medical needs arising from cysts and growths on his testicles. On threshold review under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the undersigned found the complaint stated a claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution (see Doc. 6).

         The case comes now before the Court on a motion for summary judgment and supporting memorandum (Docs. 34-35) filed by five of the six named Defendants - (1) Mike Moldenhauer, (2) Robert Shearing, M.D., (3) John Trost, M.D., (4) Hector Garcia, M.D., and (6) Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (Wexford).[1] Where helpful herein, the Court refers to these six Defendants collectively as the “Wexford Defendants.” The motion and memo assert that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to four of five Wexford Defendants - all of them except Dr. Trost (see Doc. 34, p. 1) - as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.[2] Plaintiff responded to the motion (Doc. 37). The deadline for a reply has passed, the motion is ripe for disposition.

         In his response, Plaintiff concedes that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to Defendants Moldenhauer, Shearing, and Garcia (Doc. 37, p. 2). Plaintiff asks that the Court dismiss those Defendants (id.). The Court DISMISSES without prejudice Defendants Moldenhauer, Shearing, and Garcia. The question is whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies as to Defendant Wexford. The Court finds that Plaintiff did exhaust as to Wexford and thus GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the summary judgment motion (Doc. 34), for the reasons explained below.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Though Plaintiff filed multiple grievances relating to the matter at issue in this suit, one grievance (the August 18, 2014 grievance) is clearly dispositive, and the Court need not discuss any others. On August 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed a grievance complaining of Dr. Trost and Wexford (Doc. 35-5). Plaintiff asserted that Trost and Wexford violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they “acted with deliberate indifference when they denied [his] request to have … cysts surgically removed from [his] testicles” (Id. at 1). He claimed that he was suffering from pain due to the cysts and that he had reported the pain to the Menard healthcare unit as early as November 2013 (id.). Plaintiff further grieved that he had requested to have his cysts surgically removed on July 24, 2014, and his request was denied by Trost and Wexford (id. at 2). He wrote that Trost and Wexford were “forcing [him] to live with … constant pain and are refusing to properly treat [his] mass” (id.). Among the relief he requested was to have his cysts surgically removed, as well as to be provided with monetary compensation (id. at 1).

         Plaintiff's counselor received the grievance on September 6, 2014 and penned a response on September 20, 2014 (id.). The response provided a brief summary of Plaintiff's written care and indicated that Plaintiff would be seen by Dr. Trost for further care (id.). Plaintiff sent his grievance to the grievance officer, who responded on January 22, 2015 (Doc. 35-6). The grievance officer found Plaintiff's grievance to be moot, due to recent treatment (id.). The chief administrative officer concurred with the grievance officer on January 30, 2015, and Plaintiff appealed his grievance to the Administrative Review Board (ARB) on February 5, 2015 (id.). The ARB responded on September 21, 2015, indicating that Menard had properly addressed Plaintiff's grievance (Doc. 35-7). Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on December 15, 2015.

         In the January 2016 merits review Order, the undersigned found that Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that Defendant Wexford denied his requests for surgical removal of his cysts due to policies maintained by Wexford that place costs as a priority over patient care (id. at 3). The Court found that these allegations sufficiently stated a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation against Wexford (Id. at 5).

         III. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment Motions

         Summary judgment is proper only if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multi Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011), citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing -- based on the pleadings, affidavits, and/or information obtained via discovery -- the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986), quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2).

         A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Ballance v. City of Springfield, Ill. Police Dep't, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2005); Hottenroth v. Village of Slinger, 388 F.3d 1015, 1027 (7th Cir. 2004). A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position is not sufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party.” Harris N.A. v. Hershey, 711 F.3d 794, 798 (7th Cir. 2013). On summary judgment, the district court construes the facts and draws the reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Cole v. Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University, 838 F.3d 888, 895 (7th Cir. 2016).

         While generally a district court's role on summary judgment is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, judge witness credibility, or determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether a general issue of triable fact exists, a different standard applies to summary judgment on the issue of ...

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