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Shepherd v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 7, 2017

RADSHEEN W. SHEPHERD, No. R-12862, Petitioner


          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Radsheen W. Shepherd, an inmate in Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Plaintiff contends officials at Vienna Correctional Center (“Vienna”) (where Plaintiff was formerly incarcerated) and Pinckneyville have denied Plaintiff treatment for his hernia by refusing to approve surgical repair for the same. Plaintiff further contends his requests for surgical treatment are being denied as part of a policy or procedure implemented by Wexford and IDOC intended to save money. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff sues Wexford Health Sources, Inc., (corporate healthcare provider), Michael D. Scott (Pinckneyville physician), Vipin Shah (Pinckneyville physician), Paul Louis Shicker (IDOC medical director), Christine Brown (Wexford health care administrator), Jacqueline Lashbrook (former Pinckneyville warden), IDOC, and numerous unknown nurses and doctors (“Jane Doe and John Doe Doctors/Nurses at Vienna and Pinckneyville”).

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff sues all Defendants in their individual capacities. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, declaratory relief, and any other relief deemed appropriate. (Doc. 8-1, p. 9). Plaintiff's Complaint does not expressly seek injunctive relief. However, on March 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed a pleading titled “Closing Statements.” (Doc. 14). This pleading reiterates facts alleged in the Complaint and asks the Court to order Pinckneyville to surgically repair his hernia. Id. Plaintiff is advised that the Court does not accept piecemeal pleadings. Plaintiff's Complaint must stand on its own. Accordingly, Plaintiff's “Closing Statements” pleading shall be stricken. Nonetheless, considering the facts alleged in the Complaint, specifically Plaintiff's repeated claims that his hernia requires surgical repair, the Court construes Plaintiff's Complaint as including a request for injunctive relief at the close of the case.

         Plaintiff has also filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. (Doc. 16). As is discussed more fully below, the Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order shall be DENIED without prejudice. The Motion for a Preliminary Injunction shall be referred to the Magistrate Judge for review as soon as practicable.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that any reasonable person would find meritless. Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff suffers from an inguinal hernia that causes constant excruciating pain. (Doc. 8, pp. 3-4). The hernia is located in Plaintiff's pubic region. (Doc. 8-1, p. 5). Plaintiff's hernia is large and constantly causes sharp pains that interfere with Plaintiff's sleep, urination, bowel movements, and lifting “regular” objects. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 5-6). Plaintiff contends his condition is worsening and his pain is increasing. (Doc. 8-1, p. 5).

         Plaintiff generally alleges that, for more than 3 years, doctors at Vienna and Pinckneyville have denied Plaintiff's repeated requests for surgical treatment. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 3-4). Rather than allowing Plaintiff's hernia to be surgically repaired, Defendants have prescribed mild/ineffective pain medication and ill-fitting/ineffective hernia belts. (Doc. 8-1, p. 4; Doc. 8, p. 4). Additionally, Defendants have recommended that Plaintiff exercise and lose weight and, at times, have authorized Plaintiff to utilize a low bunk/low gallery permit. Plaintiff contends surgical treatment has been denied in furtherance of a policy implemented by Wexford and/or IDOC intended to save money. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 3-4). Plaintiff alleges several Defendants have informed him that IDOC does not surgically treat hernias because it is too expensive and Plaintiff will have to wait until he is released from IDOC custody, in August 2017, to have surgery. (Doc. 8, p. 4).

         As to each Defendant, Plaintiff brings the following specific allegations:

         Unknown Party (Jane Doe and John Doe Doctors/Nurses at Vienna and Pinckneyville)

         Between March 6, 2015 and April 14, 2015, while incarcerated at Vienna, Plaintiff was examined by various unknown nurses and doctors.[2] During these visits, Plaintiff's hernia was measured at 12.5 centimeters. (Doc. 8-1, p. 10). According to the Complaint, each nurse or doctor provided inadequate medical treatment (mild pain medication and/or a hernia belt that was the wrong type/size) and indicated that Plaintiff would never be approved for surgical repair. Id. Instead, Defendants indicated Plaintiff would have to pursue surgery after he is released from IDOC custody. Id.

         Between December 28, 2015 and June 18, 2016, while incarcerated at Pinckneyville, Plaintiff was examined by various unknown nurses and doctors.[3] During these visits, Plaintiff's hernia was examined. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 12 -14). Additionally, Plaintiff was measured for and received a hernia belt. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 13-14). On May 9, 2009, an unknown nurse informed Plaintiff that his hernia belt was not working. During a medical visit on December 28, 2015, an unknown nurse observed that Plaintiff's hernia was getting larger. (Doc. 8-1, p. 12). Plaintiff inquired about surgery and was told that IDOC will not operate on any hernia. Id.

         Vipin Shah

         While incarcerated at Pinckneyville, Shah examined the Plaintiff on at least two occasions (May 15, 2015 (Doc. 8-1 p. 11) and August 3, 2015 (Doc. 8-1, p. 12)). During these visits, Plaintiff relayed complaints regarding his hernia and severe pain. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 11-12). Shah issued a low bunk permit and directed Plaintiff to lose weight and drink more water. Id. Shah also indicated that IDOC does not provide surgical repair for hernias and does not care about Plaintiff's pain. Id. Shah told Plaintiff the only way he will receive surgery is when he is released from IDOC. Id.

         Michael D. Scott

         While incarcerated at Pinckneyville, Scott examined Plaintiff on several occasions (January 29, 2016 (Doc. 8-1, p. 12), May 12, 2016 (Doc. 8-1, p. 14), June 7, 2016 (Doc. 8-1, p. 15), June 24, 2016 (Doc. 8-1, p. 16), June 27, 2016 (Doc. 8-1, pp. 16-17)). During these visits, Plaintiff complained about his hernia and repeatedly requested surgical treatment. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 12-16). During one visit, Plaintiff complained that his hernia would not go back inside. (Doc. 8- 1, p. 16). Scott indicated that IDOC would never approve surgical treatment and that the only treatment available was mild pain medication and a hernia belt. (Doc. 8-1, pp. 12-16). The pain medication was inadequate and the hernia belt Plaintiff received was inadequate because it was the wrong size and type. (Doc. 8-1, p. 5). On or about June 27, 2016, Scott informed Plaintiff that his request for surgical repair had been formally denied. (Doc. 8-1, p. 16). When Plaintiff asked why the surgery was denied, Scott said: “Because of the State budget IDOC will not give you hernia surgery. Like I told you before, you will have to wait until 2017, when you go home.” (Doc. 8-1, pp. 16-17).

         Jacqueline Lashbrook

         On or about November 11, 2016, while incarcerated at Pinckneyville, Plaintiff wrote an offender request letter to Lashbrook. (Doc. 8-1, p. 22). In the letter, Plaintiff relayed complaints about his hernia and lack of treatment related to the same. Id. Plaintiff also asked to be seen by an outside specialist, alleged that IDOC and Wexford were implementing an ...

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