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Karim v. Godinez

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

September 14, 2017

SAMUEL KARIM, Plaintiff,
DR. SALEH OBAISI, et al., Defendants.


          Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff, Samuel Karim, is an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”) in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). (Wexford SOF ¶ 1.)[1] He brings this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deliberate indifference to his constitutional rights. First, Karim claims that defendants Ada Johnson, Stanley Jenkins, Allen Hopkins, and Joseph Panozzo, all employees of IDOC, were deliberately indifferent to his constitutional rights by failing to maintain his cell in good living condition. (Id. ¶¶ 81-87.) Second, Karim brings a § 1983 claim against defendants Saleh Obaisi, Megan Pinas, Aveen Naqpal, and Marcus Hardy for alleged deliberate indifference to Karim's medical conditions, which included a collapsed lung and pneumonia. (Id. ¶¶ 88-94.) Third, Karim brings a § 1983 claim against defendants Kenneth Brooks, Michael Lemke, Ricardo Tejeda, and Jacqueline Mitchell for deliberate indifference to Karim's dental needs stemming from an abscessed tooth. (Id. ¶¶ 95-101.) Finally, Karim brings a Monell claim against Wexford Health Sources (“Wexford”), alleging that the organization, which provides medical care to inmates at Stateville and acts under color of law, instituted policies and practices that created an environment in which employees did not respond to inmate's needs in an adequate or timely fashion, in violation of inmates' constitutional rights. (Id. ¶¶ 102-110.)

         The following defendants now move for summary judgment: Johnson (cell conditions), Obaisi, Pinas, and Hardy (collapsed lung), and Brooks, Lemke, Mitchell, and Tejeda (abscessed tooth).[2] Wexford also moves for summary judgment, arguing that if its employees are entitled to summary judgment, then as a matter of law, it cannot be liable for an underlying constitutional violation. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [118, 122] are both denied in part and granted in part.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.

         a. Abscessed Tooth

         On May 17, 2012, Karim attended a regularly scheduled bi-annual dental appointment with Dr. Kenneth Brooks, a dentist employed by Wexford who treated inmates at Stateville. (Wexford SOAF Resp. ¶ 63; IDOC SOF ¶ 9.) At that appointment, Dr. Jacqueline Mitchell, the Lead Dentist at Stateville and an IDOC employee, also saw Karim, and ordered a series of routine x-rays. (Dkt. 144-2 at 1.) Those x-rays did not reveal any pathology. (Id.) However, the dentists scheduled Karim for another appointment on July 5, 2012, in order to fit Karim with a nightguard and adjust the filling on his number eighteen tooth. (Id.) At Karim's July 5 appointment, Dr. Brooks discovered a possible periapical abscess (an infection of the tooth) on tooth eighteen. (Wexford SOF ¶ 27.) Brooks later confirmed that this was a localized buccal abscess, [3] which he believed antibiotics and painkillers could control for several weeks. (Wexford SOF ¶ 31.) Brooks prescribed a one-week course of Motrin (pain medication) because abscesses frequently become painful, as well as a one-week course of penicillin (an antibiotic) to keep the abscess from growing. (Wexford SOF ¶ 29; Pl. Wexford Resp. ¶ 29; Dkt. 119-5 at 34:16-35:1.) Karim took the medication, which reduced the pain in his mouth. (Wexford SOF ¶ 29.) However, extraction is the ultimate treatment for this sort of abscess. (Id. ¶ 32.) As such, Dr. Brooks scheduled Karim for a follow-up appointment on September 17, 2012, more than two months after his initial appointment and long after his antibiotics and pain medicine ran out.[4] (Id. ¶ 34.)

         Karim did not appear for this appointment, so Dr. Mitchell, the dentist with whom Karim had the appointment, rescheduled Karim for September 19, 2012. (Id. ¶¶ 36-37.) However, Karim also missed that appointment. (Id. ¶ 38.) According to Karim, he did not show up for these appointments because nobody notified him about them. (Pl. Wexford Resp. ¶ 37-38.) It is undisputed, however, that Dr. Mitchell prepared a call-line pass for the dental appointments on September 17 and September 19.[5] (Id. ¶ 39.) Karim's patient record indicates that following the second missed appointment, Dr. Mitchell sent a “refusal form” to Karim, on which he could indicate whether he chose not to receive dental care.[6] (Wexford SOF ¶ 40; Wexford Ex. E, IDOC 129.) Karim did not return this form (Id. ¶ 40), and claims that he never received it. (Pl. Wexford Resp. ¶ 40.) Dr. Mitchell also called Karim's cell house to inquire as to why Karim missed his appointments, but received no explanation. (Dkt. 119-5 at 90:22-92:18.)

         On February 18, 2013, Karim wrote a letter to the Dental Unit[7] requesting an appointment to have a dentist care for his painful abscessed tooth. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 72.) There is no evidence that the Dental Unit ever received this letter. (Wexford SOAF Resp. ¶ 72.) On March 21, 2013, Karim wrote another letter to the Dental Unit informing them that he still had not been seen for his abscessed tooth. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 73.) He added: “I'm in pain please help me.” (Id.) As with the first letter, there is no evidence that the Dental Unit ever received this second letter. (Wexford SOAF Resp. ¶ 73.) On May 15, he wrote a third letter on the same topic, but again there is no evidence that the Dental Unit ever received this letter either. (Wexford SOAF Resp. ¶ 74.) Mitchell indicated in her deposition that the letters were not marked “received, ” and it was her practice to write that on all requests for treatment she received from inmates. (Dkt. 119-5 at 62:13-68:9.) Karim testified that on or before June 25, 2013, he spoke to Mitchell in person, described his abscess, and requested that she put him on the schedule to get treatment. (Pl. IDOC SOAF ¶ 104.) His contemporaneous grievances also reference a discussion with Mitchell, although Mitchell did not recall speaking with Karim. The Dental Unit did not place him on the schedule following this conversation. (Id.)

         Karim also filed an emergency grievance in July 2013 with the office of the warden, Michael Lemke, regarding his dental problems. (Dkt. 135-14.) Lemke's staff reviewed the document (Lemke himself never did), and determined that the dental issue did not constitute an emergency. As such, the warden's office did not order expedited dental care for Karim. (Id.; Dkt. 123-4 at 74:10-23.)

         On July 29, 2013, Karim filed an emergency grievance with the Dental Unit requesting immediate attention, as his tooth was bleeding and exuding pus. (Wexford SOAF Resp. ¶ 75.) On August 1, 2013, almost one year after his initially scheduled extraction, the Dental Unit received the grievance and scheduled Karim for an appointment on August 6, 2013. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 77.) At the August 6 appointment, another dentist discovered that the abscess had eroded the bone around Karim's tooth and gave him some medication and scheduled him for an extraction on August 8. (Id.) That appointment was rescheduled, however, due to a prison lockdown. (Id. ¶ 78.) According to Karim, he saw warden Lemke before the August 8 appointment and showed him the abscess, but Lemke refused to allow him to attend his appointment due to the lockdown. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 116.) Lemke acknowledges that he had the authority to permit inmates to attend appointments during lockdowns, but he does not recall this conversation or seeing the abscess. (Id. ¶ 113; IDOC SOAF Resp. ¶ 117.)) On August 23, 2013, Dr. Mitchell prescribed additional medication before extracting the tooth on August 26. (Dkt. 119-5 at 56:6-24.)

         b. Collapsed Lung

         On November 11, 2012, a Certified Medical Technician and IDOC employee, Defendant Aveen Naqpal saw Karim in response to his complaints of difficulty breathing and chest pain. (Pl. Wexford SOAF ¶ 48.) According to Karim, he informed Naqpal that he was feeling bad and wanted to be seen by a medical professional. (Id.) Naqpal gave Karim some cold medication. (IDOC SOF ¶ 13.) Karim did not see another medical professional until November 17, six days later. (Pl. Wexford SOAF ¶ 48-49.)

         On November 14, 2012, Karim wrote a letter to Dr. Obaisi, a doctor employed by Wexford at Stateville indicating that he was experiencing shortness of breath and pain in his chest. (Wexford Pl. Resp. ¶ 16.) Obaisi, however, does not read letters from inmates, as letters are not a recognized method of communication between prisoners and healthcare providers at Stateville. (Wexford SOF ¶ 16.) Like all letters from inmates, Obaisi did not receive or read the letter from Karim. (Id.) There was a policy in place whereby nurses screened such letters and would ask doctors questions about them if they determined that was necessary. (Dkt. 119-5 at 43:3-17.) Obaisi does not recall a nurse ever approaching him with regard to a grievance letter from Karim. (Id.)

         On November 17, 2012, at 2:50 a.m., Nurse Megan Pinas, a Wexford employee saw Karim in the “cell house.” (Pl. Wexford Resp. ¶ 8.) Karim complained of difficulty breathing and pain in the center of his chest. (Id.) At that time, his pulse oximeter reading was 93% and his respiration rate was eighteen. (Wexford SOF ¶ 9.)[8] According to Pinas's report, Karim did not show signs of distress and he was not gasping for breath. (Dkt. 119-4 at 53:14-22.) Pinas believed that Karim had a serious medical condition, but not a critical one. (Id. at 63:21-24.) As such, she provided Karim with Tylenol, requested that Karim return to his cell to lie down, and indicated that she would continue to monitor him, but did not listen to his chest. (Wexford SOF ¶ 10.)

         Nurse Pinas saw Karim again at 5:35 a.m. that same morning. (Id. ¶ 12.) At that time, his pulse oximeter reading had increased to 95% and his respirations remained constant at eighteen, both of which are normal. (Id.) At this meeting, she scheduled Karim for a same-day sick-call with a doctor but did not listen for breath sounds. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Later that same day at 9:25 a.m., a nurse initially saw Karim at sick call. (Id. ¶ 14.) Karim's vital signs at that time indicated an oximetry reading of 93%, and an elevated respiratory rate of twenty-two. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, Obaisi examined Karim and noted no breath sounds on the right side of Karim's chest and began administering oxygen. (Id. ¶ 15.) Obaisi then spoke to an emergency room physician at St. Joseph's Hospital before ordering that Karim be transferred to St. Joseph's emergency room. (Id.)

         Later that same morning, Karim was admitted to the emergency department at St. Joseph's Hospital in stable condition. (Id. ¶ 21.) The emergency room physician diagnosed Karim with a spontaneous pneumothorax (collapse) of the right lung. (Id. ¶ 22.) The pneumothorax appeared to be developing into a tension pneumothorax, which necessitated the insertion of a chest tube into his lungs. (Pl. Wexford Resp. ¶ 22.) Karim ended up spending three days at St. Joseph's Hospital before being transferred to the University of Illinois Hospital, where he spent an additional two days. (Pl. Wexford SOAF ¶ 62.)

         LEGAL ...

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