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Owens v. Duncan

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 7, 2017

JAMES OWENS, #K-83253 Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHEN DUNCAN, JOHN COE, CLAUDIA DOWTY, MIKE HIGGINS, LYNN C. PHILLIPPE, UNKNOWN PARTY, and TAMMY KIMMEL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         In October 2015, while incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center, James Owens (Plaintiff) filed a pro se complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his federally-secured constitutional rights. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that various officials at Lawrence denied him adequate medical care and retaliated against him by refusing to refill two medications (Chlorphenamine and Naproxen, which he used to treat sinus pressure and arthritic pain, respectively), and that these actions/inactions were based on Plaintiff's filing of a prior lawsuit in this Court (Case No. 14-cv-0510, “the 2014 case”).

         On threshold review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A, the undersigned organized the allegations as a claim of retaliation in violation of the First Amendment (Count 1) and a claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Count 2). The Court ordered both counts to proceed against defendants Stephen Duncan, John Coe, Phillipe[1], and Unknown Party (identified as “medical staff who canceled Plaintiff's sick call passes after April 30, 2014”), and allowed Duncan (the Warden) to remain in the suit for purposes of requested injunctive relief. Five other defendants were dismissed without prejudice, because the complaint stated no cause of action against them. (Doc. 6, pp. 4-6).

         In November 2015, the Court granted a motion to consolidate this case with the 2014 case, directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint in the combined action, and (after reviewing the January 2016 amended complaint) entered an Order clarifying which claims proceeded against which defendants in the now-consolidated lawsuit. (Doc. 32). That resulted in the addition of defendants Claudia Dowty, Mike Higgins, and Tammy Kimmel.

         Now before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Claudia Dowty and Tammy Kimmel (collectively referred to in this Order as “Defendants”). Defendants allege that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to them as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) before filing this lawsuit. The Court finds Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies as to both these Defendants. Therefore, as described below, the Court denies Defendants' summary judgment motion (Doc. 53).

         II. Summary of Key Allegations and Evidence

         This case has a convoluted procedural history, most of which is not material to resolution of the motion now before the Court. Relevant here is the fact that Plaintiff's January 26, 2016 amended complaint (Doc. 35) sufficiently alleged that Defendants Kimmel and Dowty, both nurses, were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See Doc. 11, p. 3; Doc. 32; Doc. 35).

         The gist of Plaintiff's complaint is that on numerous occasions, he was denied medication that had been prescribed to him. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant John Coe, a doctor, prescribed him Chlorphenamine and Naproxen. (Doc. 35, p. 3). Plaintiff alleges that he was prescribed Chlorphenamine on February 13, 2014 and was prescribed Naproxen on August 13, 2014. He also alleges that he received Naproxen from Defendant Higgins, a nurse, as early as February 19, 2014. (Id. at 2, 3). Though Plaintiff's amended complaint contains a litany of instances when Plaintiff allegedly was denied medicine, he directs only three allegations against the moving Defendants.

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 1, 2014 and on March 27, 2014, his medical records suggest that he received Chlorphenamine and Naproxen per Defendant Kimmel (a licensed practical nurse), but he in fact did not receive the medication. (Id. at 4). He also alleges that though the records say that on April 30, 2014 he received medication from Defendant Dowty, he did not actually receive the medicine on that date either. (Id.). Plaintiff maintains that he did not receive his Chlorphenamine refill until May 12, 2014, and he did not receive his Naproxen refill until June 27, 2014. (Id.).

         In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants submitted documents they received from Lawrence and from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Administrative Review Board (ARB) in response to their subpoenas in this lawsuit. (See Docs. 54-2 - 54-11). Combined, those documents total around 400 pages. (See id.). In his memo opposing Defendants' motion, Plaintiff points to six grievances he argues demonstrate that he exhausted as to Dowty and Kimmel. (Doc. 57, p. 1, 2).

         The first grievance is dated April 20, 2014. (Id. at 16). In that grievance, Plaintiff claimed he was prescribed Chlorphenamine on March 9, 2014, and his prescription was to expire on August 13, 2014. (Id.). Plaintiff grieved that he was in need of a refill and had been requesting a refill for over a month, including by sending kites and by informing nursing staff during sick call visits and med rounds, and he still had not received the medications. (Id.). Neither Defendant Dowty nor Defendant Kimmel is specifically mentioned in this grievance. (Id.).

         The April 20, 2014 grievance was submitted both on a regular basis and on an emergency basis. (Id. at 15, 16). As to the emergency submission, Plaintiff sent the grievance to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), who deemed it a non-emergency on April 21, 2014. (Id. at 16). Plaintiff then submitted the grievance to the ARB, which received it on May 2, 2014 and responded on July 31, 2014, indicating that the grievance had been deemed by the CAO to be a non-emergency and that Plaintiff should go through the normal grievance procedure. (Id. at 17). The next five grievances are dated in 2015, beginning on June 2, 2015 and ending on September 16, 2015. (Id. at 19 - 25). Though the grievances are medical-related, they all pertain to issues Plaintiff was having beginning on May 26, 2015 and after. (See id.).

         III. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Summary ...


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