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Nesbitt v. Williams

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

March 21, 2017

Raymond Nesbitt, Plaintiff,
v.
Tarry Williams; Nancy Pounovich; Gladyse C. Taylor, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections; Saleh Obaisi, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Hon. Thomas M. Durkin, United States District Judge

         Raymond Nesbitt is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) at Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois. He alleges that IDOC staff and Stateville medical personnel discriminated against him on the basis of his disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act (Counts I & II), and were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Count III). R. 19. Specifically, Nesbitt has sued Stateville's former Warden, Tarry Williams; former Stateville administrator Nancy Pounovich; former Acting Director of the IDOC, Gladyse Taylor; and Dr. Saleh Obaisi, and alleges that they are responsible for failing to provide Nesbitt with (1) a thicker mattress to alleviate his back and hip pain, and (2) special handcuffs that would have enabled him to visit medical specialists outside the prison without experiencing pain. Id. Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to a state claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 29; R. 33. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         Legal Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. See, e.g., Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While “detailed factual allegations” are not required, “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “‘A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Mann, 707 F.3d at 877.

         Background

         In June 2009, Nesbitt sustained back and right hip injuries while moving heavy boxes up a set of stairs at Stateville. R. 19 ¶ 10. Nesbitt alleges that he has suffered “excruciating pain in his lower back, right leg, right hip, and foot, as well as sciatica, ” ever since. Id. ¶ 11.

         Nesbitt's primary claim is that Defendants have prevented him from traveling to receive prescribed medical services by refusing to accommodate his physical condition by using “medical restraint” handcuffs rather than “black box” hancuffs during transport. Nesbitt alleges that he refuses to travel wearing the black box restraints because they cause him “tremendous pain.” Id. ¶ 14. According to the Seventh Circuit, “

[t]he ‘black box' is a hard plastic box placed over the lock apparatus that runs between the prisoner's handcuffs. The box does not cover the hands, but is situated between them. A chain runs through the box and encircles the prisoner's waist. The chain is tightened and then locked in back so that the prisoner's hand, restrained by handcuffs and the black box, are pulled against his stomach.”

Id. ¶ 14 n.2 (quoting Knox v. McGinnis, 998 F.2d 1405, 1407 (7th Cir. 1993)). Stateville sometimes uses “medical restraints, ” as an alternative to “black box” restraints, id. ¶ 14, presumably because they accommodate certain physical conditions. In fact, Nesbitt was allowed to use medical restraints for trips in 2012 and 2013. Id. ¶ 18.

         Nesbitt saw a doctor in 2012 who diagnosed him with arthritis. Id. ¶ 12. Nesbitt sought a second opinion through the prison grievance process. Id. While his request was pending, Nesbitt slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk on March 23, 2015. Id. ¶ 17. After his fall, Nesbitt was taken to Stateville's healthcare unit for an examination. Id. ¶ 19. Defendant Dr. Saleh Obaisi examined Nesbitt and prescribed an x-ray. Id. Nesbitt told Dr. Obaisi he would not be able to travel to receive the x-ray without a prescription for “medical restraints.” Id. ¶ 19. Despite Nesbitt's use of “medical restraints” in the past, Dr. Obaisi refused Nesbitt's request. Id. Nevertheless, Nesbitt eventually traveled to see a doctor at the University of Illinois in June 2015. Id. ¶ 13. It is not clear from Nesbitt's complaint whether this visit to the University of Illinois was in response to Dr. Obaisi's prescription for an x-ray or Nesbitt's grievance seeking a second opinion on his arthritis diagnosis. It is also not clear whether Nesbitt was provided with medical restraints or black box restraints for this trip. In any case, Nesbitt alleges that the doctor he saw at the University of Illinois in June 2015 prescribed hip replacement surgery. Id. ¶ 13. Nesbitt alleges that he has not received this treatment because he refuses to travel to appointments without medical restraints, which he alleges he continues to be denied.

         In addition to the failure to provide medical restraints, Nesbitt also alleges that, “on several occasions in 2013, ” he requested a “thicker mattress to help cope with [his] pain.” Id. ¶ 15. He alleges that defendant Nancy Pounovich reviewed his grievance request for the mattress. Id. Nesbitt alleges he received a notice that his request had been granted, but he never received the mattress. Id.

         Analysis

         I. ADA and Rehabilitation Act Claims

         Title II of the ADA (which is at issue here) and the Rehabilitation Act are “functionally identical, ” such that courts often construe them as a single claim. See Wagoner v. Lemmon, 778 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 2015); see also Jaros v. Illinois Dep't of Corr., 684 F.3d 667, 671 (7th Cir. 2012) (“the ...


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