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Godfrey v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 31, 2017

CHARLES GODFREY, # K-56662, Plaintiff,


          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”) at the time he brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical condition. The Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On December 28, 2016, Plaintiff (who uses a cane to help him walk) tripped and fell down a flight of stairs while he was returning from the lunch hall to his cell on the upper gallery. (Doc. 1, p. 7). In the fall, Plaintiff hurt his right leg, knee, hip, ribs, and his lower back. He also aggravated an earlier right-knee injury dating back to May 2016, and he hurt a pre-existing hernia that dated back to November 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff was taken to see a nurse, who asked him why he had been placed on the top gallery when he uses a cane. He responded that the placement officer (whom the Complaint later identifies as Soloan) had put him there. Plaintiff alleges that Soloan was aware that Plaintiff was on crutches in May 2016 when he assigned Plaintiff to the top gallery. (Doc. 1, p. 12).

         Plaintiff notes he had previously requested Redding to move him to the lower gallery because of the medical problems that required him to use a cane. (Doc. 1, p. 8). He was not moved, however, even when he had to use crutches in May 2016 due to an injury to his right knee. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants “knew or should have known that their actions would result [in] further injuries” by placing him on the top gallery while he depended on a cane. (Doc. 1, p. 10). One hour after Plaintiff's fall, he returned from the health care unit to his housing area and learned that he had been moved from the top gallery to the lower gallery. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Long before Plaintiff fell in December 2016, he had been diagnosed with a torn or ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. At some time during 2016, Plaintiff saw an outside doctor (Dr. Davis) at a clinic in Marion, Illinois. Dr. Davis recommended reconstructive surgery for the right knee, and Plaintiff consented to the surgery. Dr. Scott (a physician at Pinckneyville) was asked to approve the surgery. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., (“Wexford”) denied permission for Plaintiff's knee surgery, however, and also denied a request for hernia surgery. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Without the surgery, Plaintiff has suffered from “excruciating pain and discomfort daily.” Id. On May 15, 2016, Plaintiff re-injured the right knee. Health care staff treated him with pills, an Ace wrap, ice, crutches, and followed up with an x-ray. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff met with Dr. Scott in September or October 2016, and they discussed giving Plaintiff a knee brace and a cane because the surgery was not going to take place.

         Plaintiff's hernia has caused him to suffer much stomach discomfort, forcing Plaintiff to bend over “into a knot” and making him vomit, sometimes twice a day. (Doc. 1, p. 10). He also suffers from shortness of breath and gas. Plaintiff has complained many times to Pinckneyville medical staff about these conditions.

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Soloan and Redding, for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical condition when they placed him and/or allowed him to remain on the top housing gallery, which he could not access without climbing the stairs while using a cane;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Wexford Health Sources, Inc., for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical need for knee surgery ...

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