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Grason v. Hardy

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

June 30, 2017

DANIEL HARDY, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Abigail Grason was involuntarily committed to the Elgin Mental Health Center after a jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity at the conclusion of a criminal trial. R. 21, Am. Compl. ¶ 26.[1] Grason has since filed a civil-rights suit, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against thirteen Elgin employees, [2] alleging that they violated her Eighth[3] and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[4] Am. Compl. ¶¶ 81-85. The Defendants now move to dismiss the Eighth Amendment claim for failure to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); R. 35, Defs.' Mot. Dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the partial motion to dismiss is granted and Grason's Eighth Amendment claim is dismissed with prejudice.

         I. Background

         For the purpose of deciding this motion to dismiss, Grason's factual allegations are accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Grason was initially admitted to the Elgin Mental Health Center in October 2006. Am. Compl. ¶ 22. At that time, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and prescribed medication for treatment. Id. ¶ 23-24. A few months later she was transferred to Cook County Jail. Id. ¶ 25.

         In March 2008, Grason was involuntarily committed to Elgin after a criminal jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity. Am. Compl. ¶ 26. Four years later, she was placed under the care of the Hartman unit treatment team.[5] Id. ¶ 27. The treatment team met weekdays to discuss and make decisions (as a unified body) about Grason's medical care. Id. ¶¶ 28-29.

         A. Tegretol Dosage

         Between March and June 2012, Defendant Jacqueline Jordan (Grason's psychiatrist at the time) began increasing Grason's dosage of the medication Tegretol. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30, 32-33. Jordan allegedly threatened Grason with indefinite confinement in order to get her to agree to the increase. Id. ¶ 35.

         In June 2012, Grason began experiencing episodes of double vision. Am. Compl. ¶ 36. These episodes lasted for hours and occurred as often as two times per day, five days per week. Id. ¶ 39. The treatment team did not tell Grason that these episodes could be a consequence of the increased dosage of Tegretol; instead, Grason was referred to a neuro-ophthalmologist. Id. ¶ 38.

         Grason was not actually seen by a neuro-ophthalmologist, however, until December 2014-nearly two years after she first started experiencing double vision.[6] Am. Compl. ¶ 54. The neuro-ophthalmologist did not find any neurological abnormalities that would cause Grason to experience double vision, and so recommended that Grason's dosage of Tegretol be lowered. Id. ¶¶ 54, 56. Only then did the treatment team act. Id. ¶ 57.

         Shortly after her dosage was lowered, Grason stopped experiencing double vision. Am. Compl. ¶ 58. Grason's hypothyroidism, however, had worsened by this time. Id. ¶ 59. The treatment team had not told Grason that Tegretol is not recommended for patients with thyroid disorders. Id.

         B. Lithium Prescription

         In January 2014, Defendant Ulsa Kartan (who had replaced Jordan as Grason's psychiatrist, Am. Compl. ¶ 43) proposed that Grason take lithium as a mood stabilizer. Id. ¶ 62. Grason did not want to take lithium, but Kartan told Grason that refusing to take lithium would negatively impact her ability to be released from Elgin in the future. Id. Defendant Daniel Hardy (Elgin's Medical Director) ultimately directed Kartan to prescribe the lithium. Id. ¶ 63. Hardy had never examined Grason, nor was he familiar with Grason's medical history. Id.

         Grason requested a second opinion regarding the prescription but that request was rejected. Am. Compl. ¶ 66. Because Grason felt coerced and threatened, she decided to take the lithium. Id. ¶ 67. At no point in time did a member of the treatment team inform Grason of the possible side effects of lithium, or of the dangers of lithium to patients with hypothyroidism. Id. ¶¶ 63-64.

         After she started taking lithium, Grason experienced abnormal thyroid readings, general neck pain, soreness in her throat, and difficulty swallowing. Am. Compl. ¶ 68. As a result, she was sent to an endocrinologist who ordered an ultrasound. Id. The ultrasound revealed a goiter and multiple nodules on Grason's thyroid. Id. ΒΆ 69. The endocrinologist initially diagnosed Grason with Hashimoto's disease, but a biopsy of her thyroid later ...

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