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McIntosh v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 21, 2017

DALLAS MCINTOSH, #B85114 Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Dallas McIntosh, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical issues and failed to protect him from harming himself during his time at St. Clair County Jail, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 1). 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).

         The Complaint

         In his Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: at all relevant times, Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee in custody at the St. Clair County Jail. (Doc. 1, p. 2). On or about October 10, 2013, Plaintiff was transported to the St. Clair County Jail from St. Louis University Hospital to await trial. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was listed in poor physical condition because he had recently had surgery for gunshot wounds, had upwards of twenty surgical staples in his abdomen, had a drain attached to his body, was urinating blood, and was forced to depend on a walked and wheelchair for mobility. Id. Because of these medical issues, Plaintiff was housed in the infirmary under the care of nurses and assigned correctional officers. Id. Plaintiff suffered great physical pain and discomfort during this time, and he was also severely depressed and stressed. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         On February 8, 2013, Plaintiff's bunk and property were searched, and a corrections officer discovered a suicide note, which was addressed to Plaintiff's friends and family members; in it, Plaintiff expressed the intent to end his life. Id. Plaintiff was then moved to the suicide watch room and placed in a suicide restraint chair. Id. Nurse Nancy Keen was on duty when the suicide note was discovered, and she was personally responsible for securing Plaintiff in the restraint chair and checking the restraints. Id. McLaurin also was aware of Plaintiff's circumstances and personally informed Plaintiff's family of the note. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff was eventually released from suicide watch to his previous housing in the infirmary. Id.

         In the days immediately following Plaintiff's return to the infirmary, Keen began to give a variety of prescription pills to Plaintiff during the times she was responsible for dispensing pills to the other detainees, as well as on other occasions. Id. Keen instructed Plaintiff on how to take the pills with respect to which pills, in what combinations, and at what time. Id. Keen told Plaintiff the pills would make him feel better. Id. These pills likely included sleeping pills, anxiety and depression pills, pain killers, and opioids. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff became heavily addicted to the medication, so Keen gave him more pills in greater strengths and provided him with excess pills so that he could last between her shifts. Id. This occasionally included several days-worth of pills at once being given to Plaintiff. Id. Keen suggested Plaintiff put the pills up, or conceal them from the correctional staff, when she gave him extra. Id.

         During the first six weeks of Plaintiff's prescription pill regimen, Plaintiff frequently experienced excruciating headaches, severe stomach pain, diarrhea, cramps, and nausea, which caused him to violently vomit, sometimes with blood, leaving his throat and esophagus painfully raw. Id. Plaintiff felt feelings of confusion, grief, depression, sadness, and anger; he also suffered mood swings and had increased and constant thoughts of suicide. Id. Plaintiff slept 16-18 hours per day in a state of narcosis, to the point where McLaurin, on at least one occasion, asked the other detainees if Plaintiff was “even alive.” (Doc. 1, pp. 8, 14). Plaintiff missed 2-3 meal trays per day due to his drowsiness and the medicine's suppression of his appetite. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff suffered abrupt weight loss, causing him to be placed on a high-calorie diet by the jail physician. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff was kept in this drug-induced state, completely addicted to the medication, for almost six consecutive months. Id. The corrections officers assigned to the infirmary witnessed Plaintiff's behavior, and instead of assisting him, eventually stopped trying to wake Plaintiff up during meal times and gave away his meal trays to other detainees. Id.

         On August 4, 2013, a shakedown of the infirmary supervised by Lieutenant Nancy Sutherlin took place. Id. Corrections Officer Chris Lazante searched Plaintiff's bunk and possessions and discovered multiple bundles of various pills, including Trazedone, Lortab, Phenegren, and Tramadol. (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). In total, 55 prescription pills were located in Plaintiff's property. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Nurse Barbara Rodriguez examined the pills and advised Sutherlin that Plaintiff was not prescribed any of them, nor were some of them from the Wexford formulary. Id. Keen and Rodriguez, the on-duty nurses at the time the pills were discovered, did not screen Plaintiff for suicidal ideation at this time. Id. Instead, McLaurin ordered Plaintiff be placed in punitive segregation, so Sutherlin, Lazante, Beattie, and Fulton moved him to cell block “F-Max” into a cell that was not suicide-proof. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11, 14). These defendants allowed Plaintiff to keep his mattress from the infirmary, which contained another bundle of pills. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff immediately sent a grievance explaining that he was given the pills over a period of several months. Id. Plaintiff also requested to speak to someone. Id.

         Plaintiff could not think straight given he was still affected by the pills. Id. He became increasingly depressed as the evening wore on, so he took more pills and started to contemplate suicide. Id. Plaintiff took the rest of the 10-15 pills and attempted to hang himself using a sheet as a rope. Id. The sheet came loose, causing Plaintiff to fall and strike his head on the bed frame and floor. Id. His head ached, his vision blurred, and he was very dizzy from the fall. Id. Plaintiff began to vomit violently, felt chest pains, and struggled to catch his breath. Id. Plaintiff then lost consciousness for several hours. Id. The assigned officers failed to regularly monitor or conduct a wellness check of Plaintiff during this time, which would have revealed that Plaintiff was unconscious. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Plaintiff believes the pills influenced him to attempt to overdose and hang himself, as he had never taken any actual, physical steps toward suicide before taking them. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         Several days later, Steve Strubberg informed Plaintiff that he was under criminal investigation concerning the pills that were discovered with his property. Id. Strubberg also told Plaintiff that he and the other defendants, given the discovery of the pills, realized why Plaintiff had been sleeping all the time and barely eating. Id. Plaintiff told Strubberg the situation was not his fault and that he wanted to file a grievance, but Strubberg told him that the first step in the grievance process would be the completion of the criminal investigation. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13). Without medication, Plaintiff began to suffer from withdrawal symptoms, including panic attacks, profuse sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and urinating in his sleep. (Doc. 1, p. 13). Plaintiff also suffered alternative ...

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