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Guerrero v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

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

July 25, 2017



          John J. Tharp, Jr. United States District Judge

         Julio Guerrero, an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center, brings claims against a variety of prison employees (and Wexford Health Sources, which provides healthcare services at the prison, and several Wexford employees) for deliberate indifference to his foot deformity and resulting pain. The named employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) - Shanal Barnett, Michael Lemke, Dorretta O'Brien, Royce Brown-Reed, Salvador Godinez, and David Gomez - have moved to dismiss the counts against them under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.


         For the purposes of this motion, all factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the plaintiff's favor. See Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1427 (7th Cir. 1996). The Court summarizes only the facts that are relevant for the IDOC defendants' motion, and thus does not recite much of the medical information and grievances that are relevant to the healthcare defendants.

         Julio Guerrero has had a genetic deformity in his feet since childhood, which causes him to have “flat feet” with no arches and collapsed insteps. Am. Compl. (“Compl.”) ¶ 14, ECF No. 31. This condition causes him “extreme pain in his feet, knees, and lower back, rendering it difficult for him to walk or to perform any kind of physical activity” without custom orthotic shoes. Id. Guerrero had such shoes growing up, and he had such shoes in prison until June of 2012, when the shoes were lost in his transfer between prisons. Id. at ¶ 14-15. Beginning in late 2012, Guerrero tried to convince medical staff at Stateville to prescribe him custom orthotic shoes but struggled to even get appointments to see medical staff. See Id. at ¶ 17-24.

         The IDOC defendants first enter the picture on October 14, 2013, when a grievance officer denied one of Guerrero's requests for shoes and to see the doctor because according to Royce Brown-Reed (the Healthcare Unit Administrator) the medical staff had told Guerrero to purchase shoes from the commissary and he had done so. See Compl. Ex. E. Brown-Reed determined a referral to the Medical Director (the only doctor on staff) was not necessary. Id. Guerrero's grievance had specifically explained that the commissary shoes did not have the arch support he needed to alleviate his symptoms. See Compl. Ex. D. Warden Michael Lemke checked the “I concur” box on this grievance denial. See Compl. ¶ 26.

         The bulk of Guerrero's claims against the IDOC defendants stem from an October 29, 2013 cell house round performed by Lemke, Brown-Reed, [1] and Assistant Warden Dorretta O'Brien. See Compl. ¶ 28. During the rounds, Guerrero approached these defendants and explained that he needed an appointment with the Medical Director to receive treatment for his flat feet. See Id. at ¶ 29. He further explained that Wexford was failing to provide him with a remedy, an appointment with the Medical Director, or an appointment with an orthopedist. Id. Guerrero showed Lemke and O'Brien his shoes, which showed “balding on the insides of the shoes and Plaintiff's collapsed arches touching the ground.” Id. Finally, he explained his pain levels, to which Lemke and O'Brien responded “Wow, that's bad!” Id. They wrote Guerrero's name on a list and said they would look into it.

         At some point, O'Brien told Guerrero to speak with Brown-Reed directly, which he did. See Compl. ¶ 30. Guerrero also showed Brown-Reed his inadequate shoes and explained his pain. Id. At some point (it is unclear whether it was before or after the other conversations), Brown-Reed told O'Brien that Guerrero's problems were not covered by IDOC healthcare. Id.

         Later on October 29, Guerrero wrote a letter to Salvador Godinez, the Director of IDOC, summarizing the October 29, 2013 cell house round interactions and pleading with him to provide Guerrero with the medical care he sought. Compl. ¶ 30. It is not clear what, if any, response Guerrero received.

         In June 2014, Guerrero was finally allowed to see the Medical Director, and was granted over the counter insoles for his shoes, which he alleges did not assist with his problems. See Id. at ¶ 33-34. On July 23, 2014, he fell while playing basketball (as a result of the ill-fitting insoles) and injured his ankle. See id. at ¶ 35-36. Guerrero was treated by Shanal Barnett, a medical technician, over the course of three visits. See Id. at ¶ 36. During these visits, Barnett prescribed pain medication and monitored his condition, but did not determine the cause of his injury beyond the fall. Id. It does not appear that Guerrero ever discussed the insoles or his foot problem with Barnett.

         Guerrero continued through this period to file grievances and otherwise contest his inability to receive treatment by an orthopedist. On April 29, 2015, Deputy IDOC Director David Gomez was approached by Guerrero during cell house rounds. Compl. ¶ 42. In Spanish, [2] Guerrero explained that his pain was worsening and that he was not being treated. Id. He showed Gomez the balding shoes and that his arches touched the ground. Id. Gomez asked whether he had exhausted the grievance process, and when Guerrero confirmed that he had, Gomez wrote down Guerrero's name and number and said “I'll see what I can do, but I can't promise you anything.” Id. Gomez also told Guerrero “I know what I would do, ” which Guerrero alleges suggested litigation as a remedy. Id.


         This motion moves to dismiss Count II, which is against only Lemke, O'Brien, Godinez, and Gomez and only in their official capacities, and Count III, which is against all the IDOC and medical defendants in their individual capacities.[3] See Mot. at 2, ECF No. 65. Count II requests only injunctive relief, while Count III requests damages. The IDOC defendants argue that Count II should be dismissed because “the named Defendants are no longer situated in a capacity with Stateville or the IDOC to ensure that the injunctive relief would be carried out.” Id. They request Count III be dismissed because “Plaintiff fails to allege that the IDOC Defendants were personally involved in the alleged deprivation of rights, nor can it be inferred that Defendants' [sic] had the requisite knowledge.” Id. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is denied as to every defendant except Barnett (for all counts) and Gomez and O'Brien as to Count II only.

         I. Injunctive ...

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