United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REBECCA R. PALLMEYER United States District Judge
Brown, an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center, filed
this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several
employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”) and the prison's medical care
provider, Wexford Health Sources, Inc., claiming, among other
things, that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his
medical need for a neck brace and crutch. After discovery,
all defendants moved for summary judgment. The court granted
that motion in part and denied it in part. (Mem. Op &
Order (Mar. 29, 2017) .) With respect to Defendants
Royce Brown-Reed, the health care unit administrator at
Stateville, and Marcus Hardy, Stateville's former warden,
the court observed that several grievances Brown directed to
them went ignored, and concluded that there are disputes as
to whether Brown-Reed and Hardy were deliberately indifferent
to his medical need for his neck brace. IDOC has filed a
motion to reconsider that determination.  As explained
here, the motion is denied.
should grant a motion to reconsider “to correct
manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered
evidence.” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v.
CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269 (7th Cir. 1996).
IDOC presents no newly discovered evidence, and instead
asserts that the court erred in finding that Brown notified
Brown-Reed and Hardy that he was at substantial risk of harm.
IDOC is correct that prison officials are deliberately
indifferent only where they “acted or failed to act
despite [their] knowledge of a substantial risk [of
harm].” Gray v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000, 1008
(7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 842 (1994)). There is no respondeat superior
liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Perkins v.
Lawson, 312 F.3d 872, 875 (7th Cir. 2002). A recipient
of a grievance, therefore, must independently meet the
elements of a deliberate indifference claim in order to be
liable for a constitutional violation; that is, the recipient
must know of and disregard a substantial risk to inmate
health. See Gray, 826 F.3d at 1008. The court
concludes there are disputes of fact concerning these issues,
precluding summary judgment
least two of Brown's grievances made their way to the
health care unit that Royce Brown-Reed supervised, where one
of her job responsibilities was investigating inmate
grievances related to health care. (Dep. of Royce Brown-Reed,
Ex. D to IDOC Statement of Facts [hereinafter
“Brown-Reed Dep.”] [155-4], at 23:22-24:5.) In
the first, on October 27, 2011, Brown complained that his
medical permits had not been renewed, and that being deprived
of the medical devices posed a threat of internal injury to
him. (Offender's Grievance #4070 (Oct. 27, 2011), Ex. 6
to Pl.'s Resp. to IDOC SOF [168-7] (“Without my
Medical [devices] there could be [internal]
injuries”).) A correctional officer at the institution,
Shawnnel Grubbs, confiscated Brown's brace the next day,
October 28, 2011 (IDOC Statement of Facts [hereinafter IDOC
SOF] , at ¶¶ 31-32), a result Brown evidently
anticipated when he filed the grievance. (See
Offender's Grievance #4070.) The grievance was
“forwarded to HCU for review and response”
(id.), but there is no response in the record.
the brace was taken from him, Brown filed a second grievance.
(Offender's Grievance #4155 (Nov. 8, 2011), Ex. 7 to
Pl's Resp. to IDOC SOF [168-8].) There was no substantive
response to this grievance; instead, the grievance counselor
deemed it a duplicate and notified Brown that he had already
received a response to this grievance on December 5, 2011.
(Id.) But the December 5 response is not in the
record, and neither is the grievance that the November 8
grievance supposedly duplicated. For the purposes of summary
judgment, the court accepts the grievance counselor's
assessment that an identical grievance had already made its
way to the healthcare unit, putting Brown-Reed on notice that
Plaintiff Brown's brace had been confiscated.
November 8, 2011 grievance does not explicitly say that Brown
was in pain, but a reasonable jury could find that the
recipient of such a grievance would understand that a person
in need of a neck brace faces a substantial risk of harm if
he is deprived of it. Brown-Reed should have been on notice
from the October 27, 2011 grievance that taking Brown's
brace away posed a substantial risk of harm to him.
Brown-Reed was free to perform an investigation and determine
that there was no genuine risk, but nothing in the record
memorializes any steps she may have taken. Given that absence
of response, a jury could be persuaded that Brown-Reed
completely ignored Brown's credible claims that he was at
serious risk of harm.
is not entitled to qualified immunity, as depriving an inmate
of necessary pain-relieving measures is a well-established
violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Miller v.
Campanella, 794 F.3d 878, 880 (7th Cir. 2015) (two-month
denial of anti-acid prescription to acid reflux sufferer
sufficient to survive summary judgment); Diaz v.
Godinez, No. 16-2639, 2017 WL 2116175, at *2 (7th Cir.
May 15, 2017) (“As we have explained repeatedly,
turning a blind eye to a prisoner's complaints of readily
treatable pain can constitute an Eighth Amendment violation,
even if the condition is not life-threatening and the failure
to treat does not exacerbate the condition.”) The
motion to reconsider is denied as to Royce Brown-Reed.
Brown filed the grievances described above as
“emergencies, ” they were directed to
Stateville's warden at the time, Marcus Hardy. IDOC
argues that Hardy did not personally review the grievances
and therefore did not have knowledge that Brown was at risk
of harm. (IDOC SOF ¶ 21.) Brown asserts that Hardy was
on notice of the risk because (1) the grievances were
returned to him signed “Marcus Hardy, ” and (2)
Brown had a conversation with him in which he notified Hardy
that he needed his neck brace back.
claims that he created a system in which he typically did not
review grievances, and a designee merely signed his name to
them. (IDOC SOF ¶¶ 19-21). Such a review system may
not be constitutionally deficient. See Thomas v.
Knight, 196 Fed. App'x 424, 429 (7th Cir. 2006)
(prison superintendent not responsible for designee's
denial of grievance); 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.805(a)
(permitting wardens to delegate responsibilities). But the
court is hesitant to endorse a system that immunizes prison
supervisors from § 1983 liability who delegate grievance
review to an individual who, at least in this case, was
unidentified until the supervisor's deposition. See
Goodman v. Carter, No. 2000 C 948, 2001 WL 755137, at *5
(N.D. Ill. Jul. 2, 2001) (denying summary judgment where
designee not identified and warden's name appears on
grievance); see also Zirko v. Ghosh, No. 10 C 08135,
2015 WL 6447768, at *15 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 26, 2015) (citing
Goodman for the conclusion that a warden may not use
Illinois code provisions that permit delegation “to
escape personal knowledge and liability, . . . ‘without
disclosing to whom [the task of reviewing grievances] was
submitted several grievances that returned to him signed with
Marcus Hardy's name, and Hardy's ipse dixit
does not eliminate all disputes of fact regarding whether he
knew about a grievance upon which his signature appeared.
See Gray, 826 F.3d at 1008 (“The response he
received was signed by Warden Hardy.”). Hardy's
name on the grievance is not conclusive evidence that Hardy
knew of the grievance, but Hardy's testimony that he knew
nothing of the grievances does not by itself require summary
judgment in his favor. Furthermore, if Hardy did insulate
himself from knowledge of Brown's grievances, a jury find
those circumstances suggest he turned a blind eye to serious
grievances like Brown's. See Childress v.
Walker, 787 F.3d 433, 440 (7th Cir. 2015) (warden that
“instituted, condoned or willfully turned a blind eye
to a practice” that caused prisoners to incur
additional jail time would violate Eighth Amendment); see
also Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir.
1995) (denying summary judgment where prisoner alleged warden
established policy of depriving inmates of First Amendment
constitutional rights). A reasonable jury could further
conclude, as above, that Hardy's failure to respond posed
a risk of substantial harm to Brown.
aside, Brown claims that he had a conversation with Hardy in
which he notified Hardy that his neck brace had been
confiscated. Brown recalls that Hardy responded by telling
him to sign up for sick call to get his permits back.
(Pl.'s Resp. to IDOC SOF [168-1], at ¶ 22.) But
Brown had already been down that road, having been seen
several times by the medical staff and not having received
his permits. (Pl.'s Resp. to IDOC SOF ¶ 36(a)-(d).)
Brown may be able to persuade a jury that Hardy's telling
him to return to the beginning of the bureaucratic line when
he was immediately at risk of significant pain constituted
deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Cf. Diggs
v. Ghosh, 850 F.3d 905, 911-12 (7th Cir. 2017) (issue of
material fact existed where prisoner asserted he had five
conversations with warden about medical needs). Though IDOC
attempts to distinguish Diggs on the grounds that
the prisoner there asserted more conversations and
specifically mentioned his pain to the warden, more than one
conversation is not required to create a dispute of fact on
above, Hardy is not entitled to qualified immunity. Cf.
Miller, 794 F.3d at 880. IDOC argues that there is no
clearly-established law that makes delegating review of
grievances a constitutional violation, but the law need not
be defined at that level of specificity. There is sufficient
evidence in the record to survive summary judgment that Hardy
was deliberately indifferent to ...