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Williams v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 28, 2017

SHAUN WILLIAMS, #09770-029 Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, JEFFREY S. WALTON, FERNANDO CASTILLO, LESLEY DUNCAN-BROOKS, M. BAGWELL, RANDALL PASS, and PAUL HARVEY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Phil Gilbert U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Shaun Williams, an inmate formerly housed in the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the defendants ignored his complaints of pain and delayed the treatment of his serious and painful foot condition, exasperating the problem and causing permanent damage. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff also seemingly intends to make claims, based on the same conduct, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-80. 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 allow this case to proceed past the threshold stage.

         The Complaint

         In his Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: on September 21, 2012, Plaintiff complained to Marion medical staff defendants regarding severe pain in his feet, though upon inspection, they found there was no malalignment or deformity. (Doc. 1-1, p. 10). Plaintiff returned to medical on October 12, 2012 complaining of pain and “crowding” of his toes due to bunions, but Marion medical staff did not treat Plaintiff for this condition. Id. Soon thereafter, defendant Leslee Dunkin [sic], a physician's assistant, noted there was some deviation with respect to Plaintiff's condition, but that it was insignificant. (Doc. 1-1, p. 11). A few days later, an outside podiatry specialist produced a formal report on Plaintiff's condition finding hallux valgus and hammertoe, with Plaintiff's left foot at 20 degrees and his right foot at 33 degrees. (Doc 1-1, p. 12). Plaintiff continued to complain of pain from his bunions to the Marion medical staff, but his complaints were ignored. Id. In late November 2012, Marion medical staff members acknowledged lower back degenerative changes in Plaintiff, but claimed there were no surgical options to fix it, despite Plaintiff's belief that the changes were caused by his feet. Id.

         In late December, the Marion medical staff ignored Plaintiff's x-ray results, claiming they showed nothing. Id. In February 2013, a report from Dr. Szoke showed that Plaintiff's deformity had increased to 22 degrees on his left foot. Id. Despite this, and Plaintiff's continued complaints of pain, the Marion medical staff did nothing. Id. In May 2013, Plaintiff requested a soft shoe pass from Marion medical staff to alleviate some of his pain and suffering, but the pass was not approved and Plaintiff's pain was ignored. (Doc. 1-1, p. 10). In July 2013, Marion medical staff ignored obvious changes to Plaintiff's deformity, despite a Southern Illinois Podiatry Report calling them “severe.” Id. In August 2013, Dr. Paul Harvey, among others, failed to address Plaintiff's deformity, which by then was documented to be “exceeding the threshold required for surgery.” (Doc. 1-1, pp. 10-11). Plaintiff was given an oversized pair of orthopedic shoes to accommodate his pain and suffering, but they did not fit. (Doc. 1-1, p. 11).

         In September 2013, upon review of a podiatry consultation report, defendant Paul Harvey moved to deny Plaintiff consideration for surgery due to its being considered “elective, ” and defendant Duncan informed Plaintiff his requested surgery would not be approved for that reason. Id. The defendants on Marion's medical staff continued to ignore Plaintiff's pain and suffering after that, and Plaintiff endured 12 months without care. Id. In October 2014, the Marion medical staff defendants told Plaintiff his shoes should fit, despite his complaints that they did not, and soon thereafter they agreed to allow Plaintiff to return the shoes for replacement, but his shoes were never replaced. Id.

         In February 2015, the Marion medical staff defendants provided Plaintiff the criteria for surgery. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 13). Plaintiff had qualified for surgery as early as two years prior, and this information was known by the Marion medical staff. Id. At this time, Marion medical staff also acknowledged that Plaintiff's request for surgery would be honored and that Plaintiff's deformity qualified as “severe.” Id. Defendant Pass called Plaintiff's issue a “significant deformity.” Id. In April 2015, Castillo, another physician's assistant, told Plaintiff his condition was not debilitating, despite his having surpassed surgical thresholds long before. Id.

         In sum, the Complaint alleges that Plaintiff's condition worsened from a moderate and treatable condition, bunions, to a more severe and damaging condition that involved severe pain, arthritis, bone malunion, angular deformity, an uneven gait, shin and lower back pain, hammer toe, and the need for formal bone reconstructive surgery. (Doc 1-1, p. 14). This advanced condition resulted from the neglect and deliberate indifference of the defendants. Id. Walton, Bagwell, Castillo, Brooks, Pass, and Harvey, during the relevant time period, all reviewed relevant medical records pertaining to Plaintiff's condition, and the medical staff defendants examined Plaintiff on multiple occasions during which the deterioration affecting Plaintiff was noted yet ignored. Id. Plaintiff now has a permanent disability, requiring him to endure bone reconstructive ...


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