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Coe v. Atkins

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

May 15, 2017

ANDREW D. COE, Plaintiff,


          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants Darrin Atkins, Brandi Walker, and Damian Bragg's partial motion to dismiss [44]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' partial motion to dismiss [44] is granted. Plaintiff is given until June 16, 2017 to file a second amended complaint consistent with this opinion.

         I. Background

         This case involves the rare intersection of the Eighth Amendment and “Air Jordan” basketball shoes. According to the amended complaint, Plaintiff Andrew Coe is paralyzed below both ankles and cannot walk easily without leg braces supported by firm, high-top shoes. [29, ¶ 2.] Starting on September 26, 2014, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. Id. ¶ 12. Upon arrival, doctors from Wexford Health Sources, Inc. issued him a permit for braces and high-top shoes. Id. Plaintiff happened to be wearing high-top leather Air Jordans, and was allowed to keep those shoes for the time being. Id.

         On October 15, 2014, Defendant Dr. Stephen Ritz “refused to prescribe high-top shoes for Plaintiff”-a decision that Plaintiff contends was erroneous.[1] [29, ¶ 15.] On November 19, 2014, correctional officers Defendants Darrin Atkins and Brandi Walker confiscated Plaintiff's Air Jordans. Id. Coe was not left shoeless. Instead, he was given prison-issue shoes, but Plaintiff alleges that these shoes “did not support his braces and hold them in place.” Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff ultimately slipped out of those replacement shoes, and injured his feet-once on November 19 (injuring his right pinky toe) and again on December 10 (injuring the second digit on his left foot). He does not elaborate on the nature of his injury or the treatment he received.

         The amended complaint contains two other allegations of note. First, Plaintiff alleges that on November 19, after his injury, an unidentified IDOC doctor told Defendants Atkins and Walker that Plaintiff “needed the ‘Air Jordans' or equivalent high-top firm shoes, but they ignored that directive.” Id. ¶ 14. Second, Plaintiff alleges that two correctional officers- Defendants Lorient Stanback and Damian Bragg-intentionally delayed seeking medical attention for Plaintiff's December 10 injury for “an hour-and-a half” while Plaintiff was “screaming in pain.” Id. ¶¶ 17, 45-46.

         Plaintiff filed a four-count complaint [29], asserting Eighth Amendment claims for intentional interference with treatment against Officers Atkins and Walker (Count I), refusal to provide treatment against Dr. Ritz (Count II), intentional interference with treatment against Officer Stanback (Count III), and intentional interference with treatment against Officers Stanback and Bragg related to Plaintiff's December 10, 2014 injury (Count IV). Defendants Atkins, Walker, and Bragg moved to dismiss the specific claims asserted against each of them in Counts I and IV [44].

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given “fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)) (alteration in original). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the “speculative level.” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558. In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all of Plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007).

         III. Analysis

         Correctional officials and health care providers may not act with deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Fields v. Smith, 653 F.3d 550, 554 (7th Cir. 2011). “Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of a prisoner constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain forbidden by the Constitution.” Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 750 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Deliberate indifference has both an objective and a subjective element: the inmate must have an objectively serious medical condition, and the Defendant in question must be subjectively aware of and consciously disregard the inmate's medical need. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103-04; see also Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 862 (7th Cir. 2011).

         “An objectively serious medical condition is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention.” Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “A medical condition need not be life-threatening to be serious; rather, it could be a condition that would result in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain if not treated.” Id.

         To satisfy the subjective element of deliberate indifference, the official must have “acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Arnett, 658 F.3d at 751. That is, the official “must know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health.” Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Cir. 2008). The official must “both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists” and “must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; accord Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 993 (7th Cir. 1996) (“[P]laintiff still has the burden of demonstrating that the communication, in its content and manner of transmission, gave the prison official sufficient notice to alert him or her to ‘an excessive risk to inmate health or safety[.]'” (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837)). This state of mind is akin to recklessness, not negligence. Arnett, 658 F.3d at 751. Neither medical malpractice nor a mere disagreement with a doctor's medical judgment amounts to deliberate indifference. Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 441 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106).

         In the context of medical professionals, “[a] medical professional is entitled to deference in treatment decisions unless no minimally competent professional would have so responded under those circumstances.” Sain v. Wood, 512 F.3d 886, 894-95 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The medical professional's decisions must be “such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards, as to demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base the decision on such a judgment.” Id. at 895 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In contrast, “a non-medical prison official will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable hands.” Arnett, 658 F.3d at 755. The non-medical official must have “a reason to believe (or actual knowledge) that prison doctors or their assistants are mistreating (or not treating) a prisoner” to be found deliberately ...

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