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Jones v. Gaetz

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 27, 2017

LEVERT J. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD GAETZ, CHRISTINE BROWN, and VIPIN SHAH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Levert J. Jones, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging his Eighth Amendment rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). More specifically, Jones alleges that prison and medical personnel at Pinckneyville denied him surgery for removal of his colostomy bag.

         Following a screening of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, Jones was allowed to proceed on a deliberate indifference claim against Dr. Vipin Shah, Pinckneyville Nursing Director Christine Brown, and the former Pinckneyville Warden, Donald Gaetz.

         This matter is currently before the Court on the motions for summary judgment filed by Defendant Dr. Shah (Doc. 65) and Defendants Gaetz and Brown (Doc. 76). The Court has considered the briefs and all of the evidence submitted by the parties and, for the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Dr. Shah is denied, and the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Gaetz and Brown is granted.

         Factual Background

         The claims in this matter stem from an incident on June 23, 2013, in which Jones was shot in the back by a security guard during a “snatch and grab” attempt (Doc. 66-3, p. 11). The bullet entered Jones's body in the right lower quadrant (at the pubic bone) and exited above his left buttock in his lower back (Doc. 66-2, ¶13; Doc. 66-5, p. 1). Jones was taken to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital (“Good Samaritan Hospital”) and underwent emergency surgery, which entailed a small bowel and sigmoid resection, appendectomy, proctoscopy, and formation of a colostomy (Doc. 66-2, ¶13; see Doc. 66-5, pp. 1-2). Jones claims he was told by his surgeon following surgery that he should return in three to six months for a colostomy reversal surgery, because his colostomy was not permanent (Doc. 66-3, pp. 13-14; Doc. 75, p. 13, ¶9). There are no notations, however, regarding any required follow-up procedure or follow-up instructions in the records from Good Samaritan Hospital (see generally Doc. 66-5).

         Jones was discharged from Good Samaritan Hospital on June 28, 2013, and he was held at DuPage County Jail until he was placed into IDOC custody at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) on December 12, 2013 (Doc. 66-2, ¶¶14-15; Doc. 66-3, pp. 14-15). Approximately one month later, Jones was transferred from Stateville to Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”) (Doc. 66-3, p. 30; see Doc. 66-7, p. 1). Dr. Venerio Santos, the Medical Director at Centralia, requested copies of Jones's medical records from Good Samaritan Hospital on at least two occasions (see Doc. 66-8; Doc. 66-9).[1] It is not clear when (or if) the records were ever sent (or received). On August 25, 2014, however, Dr. Santos requested a consult for a colostomy reversal, and the procedure was denied on September 2, 2014, by Dr. Garcia “during collegial discussion with Dr. Santos” (see Doc. 66-7, pp. 5-6).

         Jones was transferred to Pinckneyville on September 9, 2014 (Doc. 66-2, ¶16; Doc. 66-3, p. 10; see Doc. 66-7, p. 7). On September 24, 2014, Jones was seen by a nurse and referred to a physician about having a colostomy reversal (Doc. 66-2, ¶18; see Doc. 66-7, p. 8). Defendant Dr. Shah saw Jones on September 26, 2014, and noted that the wound surrounding Jones's stoma for his colostomy bag was clean (Doc. 66-2, ¶19; see Doc. 66-7, p. 9). The Court is unable to decipher any of Dr. Shah's other notes from this appointment (see Doc. 66-7, p. 9), but Jones attests that he told Dr. Shah that his surgeon indicated his colostomy “could and should” be reversed in three to six months (Doc. 75, p. 14, ¶16).

         Jones testified that Defendant Dr. Shah was “[t]he most person I ever talked to” regarding his request for a colostomy reversal and indicated that Dr. Shah told him that “unless it's an emergency, we cannot do it” (Doc. 66-3, p. 18). Defendant Dr. Shah attests that during the time he has treated Jones, the colostomy site has remained stable and asymptomatic, and it is functioning with no problems (Doc. 66-2, ¶20). There are no other medical records before the Court, however, which reflect any further examinations of Jones's colostomy by Dr. Shah. Dr. Shah further attests that the records from Jones's surgeon do not indicate that the colostomy could be reversed, and most colostomies are permanent (Id. at ¶¶21-25). There is also no medical indication that a reversal of Jones's colostomy is necessary at this time and, as such, the procedure would be considered elective (Id.). Jones attests, however, that his colostomy causes frequent abdominal pain, and it has led to significant weight gain, high blood pressure, and severe mental anguish, including depression and anxiety (Doc. 66-3, pp. 19, 32; Doc. 75, p. 15, ¶19). Jones also indicates that he has been told that if he has the colostomy too long, it will become permanent (Doc. 66-3, p. 25).

         In addition to complaining about his colostomy and seeking a reversal from Dr. Shah, Jones also asserts that he wrote letters and grievances to Defendant Gaetz, and he spoke with Gaetz a couple of times, informing him that he needed a colostomy reversal and the medical personnel at Pinckneyville were not doing their jobs (Doc. 66-3, pp. 21-23). Defendant Gaetz never responded to Jones's letters or grievances and never followed up after he lodged his oral complaints (Id. at pp. 23-24). Jones could not definitively recall if he wrote any letters to Christine Brown, nor could he remember when he sent the letters; he also did not provide any testimony about the contents of the supposed letters (Id. at pp. 25-26). But Brown is the Director of Nursing at Pinckneyville, and Jones regularly informed the nurses that he needed a colostomy reversal (Id. at pp. 25-26). Jones also attests that Brown would have received his request slips seeking a colostomy reversal, but ignored his complaints (Doc. 82, p. 1, ¶1).

         Legal Standards

         Summary Judgment Standard

         The standard applied to summary judgment motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is well-settled and has been succinctly stated as follows:

Summary judgment is appropriate where the admissible evidence shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A “material fact” is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit. A “genuine issue” exists with respect to any such material fact . . . when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” On the other hand, where the factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is ...

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