United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
B. Gottschall United States District Judge.
Willie Harper (“Harper”), presently in custody at
Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”),
brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. In his complaint, Harper alleges that he has been
subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at
Stateville because he has been unable to obtain adequate
medical care for his various ailments. Harper names as
defendants Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
(“Wexford”), the health care provider for the
Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC); Imhotep Carter
(“Carter”), the former medical director at
Stateville; Saleh Obaisi (“Obaisi”), the current
medical director of Stateville; and Donald Stolworthy
(“Stolworthy”), the current director of IDOC.
Wexford, Obaisi, and Stolworthy individually moved to dismiss
Harper's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”).
This court denied their motions to dismiss in an order filed
March 17, 2016. (“Harper I”) (Memorandum
Opinion & Order, Dkt. 88.) After their motions to dismiss
Harper's FAC were denied, Harper filed his Second Amended
Complaint (“SAC”). Wexford has filed a motion to
dismiss the SAC under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). For the reasons discussed below, Wexford's
motion to dismiss is denied.
court draws the following facts from Harper's SAC and
accepts them as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss.
See Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d
939, 946 (7th Cir. 2013). From as early as 2006, and while an
inmate, Harper has suffered from a variety of
gastrointestinal ailments causing acute pain and distress,
including diverticulitis, a hiatal hernia, and twisted bowel.
(SAC ¶ 11, Dkt. 101.) Additionally, Harper was diagnosed
with deep vein thrombosis in April 2013. (Id. ¶
13.) While in custody, Harper sought treatment for his pain
and distress from Wexford and Obaisi. (Id. ¶
15.) He alleges that they responded with “wholly
inadequate measures like aspirin or Tylenol for the stomach
pain, or a compression stocking for the leg pain.”
(Id. ¶ 18.) In 2011 and 2013 when Harper
received a recommended course of treatment from physicians in
the gastrointestinal unit at the University of Illinois at
Chicago Hospital (“UIC Hospital”), Obaisi
disregarded and failed to implement the recommended course of
treatment. (Id. ¶ 24.) Additionally, in 2013,
UIC Hospital wanted Harper to be returned and readmitted
within three weeks to treat his acute pain and suffering, but
Obaisi failed to have Harper returned and readmitted, and
there was no follow up visit until 2015. (Id.
¶¶ 25-26.) In 2015, after Harper repeatedly
complained of his acute pain and suffering, Wexford, and its
co-defendants, allowed him to return to UIC Hospital where he
received appropriate treatment for his pain. (Id.
¶¶ 27-29.) Throughout his incarceration, Harper has
repeatedly filed grievances about his inability to receive
adequate treatment or medical help for his pain and
suffering, but all have been denied. (Id.
¶¶ 37-39, 42-43.)
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a
complaint must “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must
include a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement must
“give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). Its factual allegations
must “raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Id. at 555-56; see also Swanson v.
Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir.
2010) (“[P]laintiff must give enough details about the
subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds
together.”). Plaintiffs need not meet a heightened
pleading standard for § 1983 claims to survive a motion
to dismiss. See Heyde v. Pittenger, 633 F.3d 512,
516 (7th Cir. 2011). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the
court takes all facts alleged by the plaintiff as true and
draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the
plaintiff's favor, but “conclusions and conclusory
allegations merely reciting the elements of the claim are not
entitled to this presumption, ” Virnich v.
Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011), as
amended (Jan. 3, 2012).
not explicitly stated as such, Harper's SAC against
Wexford alleges a claim pursuant to Monell v. Department
of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Harper's
SAC differs from his FAC by providing additional allegations.
(SAC ¶¶ 31-43, dkt. 101.) In its brief, which
accompanies its motion to dismiss Harper's SAC, Wexford
raises no arguments that were not addressed in Harper
I. (Dkt. 88.) However, in its reply brief
(“Reply”), Wexford raises-for the first
time-arguments based on what it calls “Northern
District precedent” decided after Harper
I. (Reply 2, dkt. 122.) Because Harper's FAC
survived Wexford's motion to dismiss while alleging fewer
facts than his SAC, the court need not reexamine that which
it has already decided. See, e.g., Universal
Guar. Life Ins. Co. v. Coughlin, 481 F.3d 458, 462 (7th
Cir. 2007) (holding where a court actually decided the issue
in question, law of the case applies). Therefore, the court
will consider only the content of Wexford's reply.
are two questions presented by Wexford's reply. First,
whether the cases cited establish precedent that would
warrant a reexamination of the court's March 17, 2016
decision denying Wexford's motion to dismiss. And second,
whether Wexford has waived its arguments raised for the first
time in its reply by failing to raise them in its initial
memorandum supporting its motion to dismiss.
Northern District Precedent
reply asserts that Harper's claim must be dismissed based
on “Northern District precedent.” (Reply
2) (emphasis added.) But no such rule exists. The Seventh
Circuit holds “a district court decision does not have
stare decisis effect; it is not a precedent.”
Midlock v. Apple Vacations W., Inc., 406 F.3d 453,
457 (7th Cir. 2005). The district court rulings cited in
Wexford's reply provide persuasive authority, not
reply claims the following three cases establish precedent
that renders Harper's claim insufficient “to
survive [its] motion to dismiss.” (Reply 2.) In the
first case Wexford cites, Arita, plaintiff Arita, an
inmate, alleged Wexford violated his constitutional rights
pursuant to § 1983 and Monell by failing to
treat his inguinal hernia. Arita v. Wexford Health
Sources, Inc., No. 15-cv-01173, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis
150106, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 31, 2016). He further alleged
that Wexford maintained a policy of “ignoring
inmates' medical needs.” The court determined that
Arita's “single conclusory allegation that Wexford
has a policy of treating other inmates in the same fashion as
he has been treated [was] insufficient to survive a motion to
dismiss.” Id. at *8 (citing Taylor v.
Wexford Health Sources, Inc., No. 15-cv-05190, 2016 U.S.
Dist. Lexis 76341, at *4 (N.D. Ill. June 13, 2016)) (other
citations omitted). The court granted Wexford's motion to
dismiss for two reasons. First, Arita failed to assert
specific facts to bolster his claim that other inmates
received treatment similar to Arita's. And second, Arita
failed to assert what specific policy might lead to
“the systematic disregard of inmates' medical
needs.” Id. at *10 (citation omitted). The
case at bar, however, is distinguishable from Arita.
Harper has alleged a specific policy-cost-cutting. (SAC
¶ 45, dkt. 101.) Harper alleges Wexford's policy of
cost-cutting has prevented him from receiving “adequate
and timely medical treatment, in willful indifference or
disregard to [his] acute pain and suffering.”
(Id. ¶ 6.) Furthermore, unlike Arita,
where the court determined that plaintiff's complaint
failed to suggest that his experience was something other
than a random event, Harper alleges a series of facts that
suggest his experience was not a random event or an isolated
incident of delayed medical treatment. Including, among other
things, repeatedly seeking relief from severe pain and being
denied (id. ¶ 15, 17); being prescribed a
course of treatment by specialist physicians at UIC Hospital
and having that course of treatment ignored (id.
¶ 23-24); and failing ...