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Haywood v. Wexford Health Sources

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 1, 2017

WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, et al., Defendants.


          AMY J. ST. EVE, District Court Judge:

         On March 23, 2016, Plaintiff Donald Haywood, an inmate within the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), brought the present Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by exhibiting deliberate indifference to his mental health needs. Plaintiff has sued Wexford Health Sources (“Wexford”), certain Wexford employees, and several members of the IDOC medical staff (collectively, “Defendants”). Before the Court is Wexford's motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant's motion to dismiss.


         Plaintiff is a prisoner currently in the custody of IDOC at Pontiac Correctional Center (“PCC”). (R. 16, Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) At all times relevant to this complaint, Plaintiff was incarcerated at either PCC or Stateville Correctional Center (“SCC”). (Id.) Wexford is a Pennsylvania corporation with a place of business in St. Charles, Illinois. (Id. ¶ 2.) Wexford provides health care services on behalf of IDOC to prisoners at PCC and SCC. (Id.) Wexford also has the responsibility for the implementation and oversight of health care policies at PCC and SCC. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that prior to his incarceration, he had a long history of diagnosed mental illness, including five suicide attempts. (Id. ¶¶ 23-25.) Plaintiff has been diagnosed with depression, antisocial personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and as a result, IDOC classified him as “seriously mentally ill” or “SMI.” (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Plaintiff alleges that, since June 2014, Defendants have failed to treat Plaintiff's mental illnesses and have instead punished him when he requested treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 32.)

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that while in segregation at SCC in June 2014, Catherine Larry, the Wexford doctor assigned to provide medical care to inmates in segregation, failed to visit Plaintiff or provide him with mental health treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) Beth Hart, a Wexford employee, also failed to provide treatment to Plaintiff or visit him in segregation. (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.) Plaintiff alleges that he filed multiple complaints and grievances in response to Larry and Hart's failure to treat him, and in response, Larry and Hart falsified reports indicating that they had in fact visited Plaintiff and that he was receiving medical care. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36, 41-42.) Plaintiff alleges that Larry and Hart commonly failed to provide mental health treatment to SMI inmates or other mentally ill inmates at SCC for whom they had a personal dislike. (Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff alleges that Larry and Hart personally disliked Plaintiff, and as a result, they denied him mental health treatment. (Id. ¶ 45.)

         On or about June 11, 2015, Plaintiff sought assistance from Jason Berry, a “Crisis Team” member, but Berry filed a disciplinary report against Plaintiff instead of providing him with treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.) On or about June 15, 2015, Plaintiff informed Charles Best and Lakeisha Acklin, members of the “Adjustment Committee, ” that Berry filed a disciplinary report against him in order to deny him mental health treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 57, 59.) Plaintiff alleges that Best and Acklin also failed to provide him with mental health treatment. (Id. ¶ 60.) On December 1, 2015, eighteen months after his initial request for treatment, Dr. Conrad, a Wexford employee, met with Plaintiff to provide medical treatment. (Id. ¶ 61.) Plaintiff alleges that he complained to Conrad about his lack of treatment, and Conrad threatened to discontinue Plaintiff's prescription medications. (Id. ¶¶ 62-63.) In response, on January 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed a written complaint seeking assistance in the treatment of his mental illnesses. (Id. ¶ 64.) Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of this complaint, various SCC correctional officers physically assaulted him. (Id. ¶ 65.)

         In July 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to PCC. (Id. ¶ 69.) Plaintiff alleges that on July 29, 2016, he met with Kelly Haag, a Wexford mental health therapist, but that Haag did not provide any mental health treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 70-71.) Plaintiff alleges that he requested additional treatment, but Haag did not meet with him again until the September or October 2016, at which point, Haag revoked Plaintiff's SMI status and placed him on suicide watch. (Id. ¶¶ 72-73.) Plaintiff alleges that he has since made multiples requests for mental health assistance, but PCC psychologists have refused to treat him and instead approved the revocation of his SMI status. (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.) Plaintiff alleges that no one at PCC has provided him with a mental health evaluation, and as a result, his mental health disorders have worsened. (Id. ¶¶ 77, 80.)


         “A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). 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 short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Put differently, 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) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In determining the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, courts must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs' favor.” Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016).


         In Count I of his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Wexford had policies and customs in effect that allowed Defendants to exhibit deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's mental health needs causing him physical injuries and mental anguish in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In Count II, Plaintiff seeks to hold Wexford liable under a theory of respondeat superior for the deliberately indifferent actions of the various individuals that denied Plaintiff mental health treatment. In its motion to dismiss, Wexford makes three arguments: (1) the Court should dismiss Count I because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); (2) the Court should dismiss Count II because there is no respondeat superior liability for § 1983 actions against private corporations; (3) Plaintiff is not entitled compensatory damages because he has not sustained a physical injury. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         I. Count I-Monell Claim

         In Monell, the Supreme Court established that a municipality may face liability for money damages under § 1983 only if the unconstitutional act about which the plaintiff complains was caused by (1) an official policy adopted and promulgated by its officers; (2) a governmental practice or custom that, although not officially authorized, is widespread and well settled; or (3) an official with final policy-making authority. Thomas v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 604 F.3d 293, 303 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 690). Wexford, a private corporation contracted by IDOC, is subject to a Monell claim just like any municipality would be. See, e.g., Minix v. Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824, 832 (7th Cir. 2010). “To establish municipal liability, a plaintiff must show the existence of an ‘official policy' or other governmental custom that not only causes but is the “moving force” behind the deprivation of constitutional rights.” Teesdale v. City of Chicago,690 F.3d 829, 833-34 (7th Cir. 2012). Thus, to prevail on his Monell claim against Wexford, Plaintiff must show that “his injury was caused by a Wexford policy, custom, or practice of deliberate indifference to medical needs, or a series of bad acts that together raise the inference of such a policy.” Shields v. Ill. Dep't of Corr., 746 F.3d 782, 796 (7th Cir. 2014). In addition, a ...

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