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Richter v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

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

June 29, 2017



         Judge Gary Feinerman William Richter filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dr. Saleh Obaisi, Dr. Ann Hundley Davis, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Doc. 8. The court recruited counsel, who has performed ably, on Richter's behalf. Doc. 5 (Darrah, J.). Discovery has closed, and a jury trial is set for November 13, 2017. Docs. 49, 58. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. Doc. 60. The motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         The following facts are stated as favorably to Richter as permitted by the record and Local Rule 56.1. See Woods v. City of Berwyn, 803 F.3d 865, 867 (7th Cir. 2015). In considering Defendants' motion, the court must assume the truth of those facts, but does not vouch for them. See Arroyo v. Volvo Grp. N. Am., 805 F.3d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Richter, an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), was housed at all relevant times at Stateville Correctional Center. Doc. 62 at ¶ 1. Wexford contracts with IDOC to provide medical services to inmates at Stateville. Id. at ¶ 2. Dr. Obaisi is employed by Wexford and serves as Stateville's medical director. Id. at ¶ 3. Dr. Davis was employed by Wexford as a physician at Stateville. Id. at ¶ 4.

         Richter was involved in a workplace accident prior to his incarceration that left him with chronic back pain, and he also has a herniated disc of unknown origin. Id. at ¶ 8. To address these maladies, Richter took several narcotic pain medications on a daily basis before being incarcerated. Id. at ¶ 10. In June 2011, after being incarcerated, he developed swelling and discomfort in his left testicle, a condition later diagnosed as a hydrocele. Id. at ¶ 12. A hydrocele is a liquid-filled cyst that can cause discomfort. Id. at ¶ 43. Hydroceles do not pose a health risk if left untreated. Ibid.

         Dr. Obaisi first saw Richter on August 17, 2012. Id. at ¶ 41. Richter complained of lower back pain, and Dr. Obaisi noted the existence of the hydrocele. Ibid. Dr. Obaisi discontinued Richter's narcotic regimen (consisting of Ultram, id. at 39), and instead prescribed Motrin, Robaxin, and Neurotonin (a neurogenic pain medication), and also injected a long-acting steroid, Depomedrol. Id. at ¶¶ 45-46. Richter submitted a grievance complaining that this new regimen was inadequate and that he needed a special pillow, shoes, and pads to treat his chronic pain. Id. at ¶ 47.

         Dr. Obaisi saw Richter again on October 31, 2012; the hydrocele did not come up, but Richter continued to complain of back pain. Id. at ¶ 49. Dr. Obaisi renewed the Motrin prescription and added two doses of Tylenol. Ibid. Richter then submitted another grievance, again complaining that the treatment was inadequate for his back pain. Id. at ¶ 51.

         On May 17, 2013, Richter saw Dr. Davis for the first time. Id. at ¶ 52. Richter did not mention back pain, but instead complained of lower abdominal pain. Ibid. Dr. Davis examined Richter and found swelling of his left testicle, which she determined did not arise from a hernia but instead was a case of orchitis, an inflammatory condition that may be associated with a hydrocele. Id. at ¶¶ 52-53. To address any possible infection, Dr. Davis prescribed an antibiotic. Id. at ¶ 54.

         Shortly thereafter, Richter saw Dr. Davis again. Id. at ¶ 55. Richter again complained of testicular pain, and Dr. Davis detected the hydrocele, which swelling had prevented her from seeing at their first appointment. Id. at ¶ 56. Dr. Davis diagnosed Richter with testicular pain secondary to the hydrocele and prescribed Tylenol #3. Id. at ¶ 57. After this visit, Dr. Davis's role in Richter's treatment was limited to renewing his prescriptions. Id. at ¶¶ 71-72, 74, 76, 78.

         On May 29, Richter returned to Dr. Obaisi, again complaining of abdominal pain, but not back pain. Id. at ¶ 58. Dr. Obaisi confirmed the presence of the hydrocele and ruled out prostate issues, and then modified Richter's prescription regimen and ordered an ultrasound and other tests on the hydrocele. Id. at ¶¶ 58-59. On June 11, Richter saw Dr. Obaisi again, complaining of stomach pain and low back pain, but nothing related to the hydrocele. Id. at ¶ 60.

         On June 19, Richter underwent an ultrasound of his scrotum. Id. at ¶ 63. Although the radiologist who evaluated the ultrasound reported that the hydrocele was likely “secondary to epididymitis, ” Dr. Obaisi disagreed on the ground that prior ultrasounds of Richter's scrotum revealed no indication of infection. Id. at ¶¶ 63-64. Based on this, as well as on the fact that Dr. Davis's antibiotic treatment had ruled out infection, Dr. Obaisi concluded that the hydrocele was not secondary to infection. Id. at ¶ 64.

         From that point until May 16, 2016, Richter had twelve more appointments with Dr. Obaisi, where he raised a variety of complaints at different times, including hip pain, numbness, and oral pain, as well as back pain and the hydrocele. Id. at ¶¶ 65, 67, 70, 75, 87, 89, 91, 94-95, 97-98. At one appointment, Dr. Obaisi offered to aspirate (drain with a syringe) the hydrocele, but Richter reported that the pain was not “great” and thus declined that treatment. Id. at ¶ 75. In addition, at various points during Richter's time at Stateville, Dr. Obaisi renewed or modified his pain prescriptions. Id. at ¶¶ 73, 79, 82, 88, 92.

         Although both sides agree that Richter is, or at least may be, a “candidate for surgery” to treat his back pain, Doc. 74 at ¶ 11, they disagree over whether Dr. Obaisi referred Richter for offsite evaluation and treatment. Dr. Obaisi testified in his deposition that he offered to refer Richter for an offsite evaluation of his back pain. Doc. 62 at ¶¶ 24, 27 (Richter disputes Defendants' characterization of Dr. Obaisi's testimony, Doc. 72 at 2 ¶ 27, but not the testimony itself, so the court will ...

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