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Johnson v. Pfister

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

July 17, 2017

RANDY PFISTER, et al., Defendants.


          James E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge.

         The matter now before the Court on the Defendants, ANDEREW TILDEN, M.D., DIANE POUK, and WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC.'s Motion [66] for Summary Judgment. Co-Defendant Joe Nemergut has joined this Motion. Plaintiff has filed a Response [69] and Defendants have filed a Reply [72]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion [66] is GRANTED.


         Plaintiff Isaiah Johnson is an inmate incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center. On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint alleging that his constitutional rights had been violated by Defendants Andrew Tilden, Diane Pouk, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”). In a merit review, this Court issued an Order [9] finding that Plaintiff's Complaint sufficiently stated one cause of action against the Defendants for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.

         Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent in the treatment of his inguinal hernia.[1] Plaintiff first noted the hernia on May 7, 2013. He complained to health care personnel on June 12, 2013, and was seen by Dr. Ojelade the following day. Dr. Ojelade found no signs of a hernia and did not prescribe any medication or treatment. Plaintiff next complained of a hernia in September of 2013. On September 15, 2013, he was seen by Dr. Tilden who performed an examination and found no signs of a hernia. He advised Plaintiff to return to the clinic as needed when the hernia was present.

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Tilden again on February 14, 2014. At that time, Dr. Tilden was not able to discern a hernia but prescribed Fiberlax to help with constipation. On October 30, Plaintiff was seen by Physician's Assistant James Caruso for complaints of an inguinal hernia on Plaintiff's left side. Caruso noted that that the left-sided hernia was easily reduced.[2] Caruso determined that no further treatment was needed, and Plaintiff did not need to return to the clinic. Dr. Tilden states that “[t]hroughout [his] examinations of Mr. Johnson, [he] never saw any indication that Plaintiff was suffering from an inguinal hernia.” Doc. 66, at 6.

         Plaintiff alleges that “Diane Pouk was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff [sic] serious medical needs because she was aware of Plaintiff's consistent complaining of pain.” Doc. 69, at 2. Plaintiff states that he wrote Defendant Diane Pouk letters about his pain which she ignored. Defendant Pouk never physically examined Plaintiff or provided him with medical care.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was injured due to a written Wexford policy to undertreat hernias. Private corporations such as Wexford may have liability under § 1983 when performing governmental functions. Iskander v. Village of Forest Park, 690 F.2d 126, 128 (7th Cir. 1982). Plaintiff cites the Wexford policy which provides, “[r]educible hernias, in which the herniated contents may be returned to the abdominal cavity either spontaneously or manually, generally pose no medical risk to the patient.” Doc. 69, at 13. Wexford's Medical Policies and Procedures also state, “[p]atients with stable abdominal wall hernias are not, in general, candidates for herniorrhaphy and will be monitored and treated with appropriate non-surgical therapy.” Doc. 69, at 14. Plaintiff asserts that Wexford has adopted this policy as a cost savings measure.

         Legal Standard

         I. Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Ruiz-Rivera v. Moyer, 70 F.3d 498, 500-01 (7th Cir. 1995). The moving party has the burden of providing proper documentary evidence to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotext Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a genuine issue for trial. Garcia v. Volvo Europa Truck, N.V., 112 F.3d 291, 294 (7th Cir. 1997). “[A] party moving for summary judgment can prevail just by showing that the other party has no evidence on an issue on which that party has the burden of proof.” Brazinski v. Amoco Petroleum Additivies Co., 6 F.3d 1176, 1183 (7th Cir. 1993).

         Accordingly, the non-movant cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or admissions that establish that there is a genuine triable issue; he “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)); Hot Wax, Inc. v. Turtle Wax, Inc., 191 F.3d 813, 818 (7th Cir. 1999). Finally, a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is not sufficient to oppose successfully a summary judgment motion; “there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.

         II. Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

         Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of state law, of the rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish an Eighth Amendment violation by a prison official for failure to provide adequate medical care, a prisoner “must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-106 (1976). Plaintiff must show that he suffered from a serious medical need and that ...

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