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Thomass v. Hodge

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 18, 2017

FARRIS THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK HODGE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are cross Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Farris Thomas (Doc. 82) and Defendant Mark Hodge (Warden) (Doc. 84). For the reasons set forth below, Thomas's motion is denied, and Warden Hodge's motion is granted.

         Introduction

         Thomas filed this action alleging various medical providers at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”) exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical condition, an inguinal hernia. In September 2016, this Court found that each of those medical providers was entitled to summary judgment because no reasonable jury would find any of them acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. (Doc. 80).

         Thomas also alleged that Mark Hodge, who was at the relevant time the Warden of Menard, was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. Warden Hodge did not seek summary judgment at the same time as the other defendants. Because the other defendants were granted judgment on the same medical condition that forms the basis for Thomas's claim against Warden Hodge, however, the parties were directed to inform the Court why judgment should not be entered in his favor also. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f)(1) (permitting judgment in favor of a nonmoving defendant upon notice and an opportunity to respond). Thomas's claim against Warden Hodge is now before the Court for consideration.

         Background

         On February 5, 2013, Thomas's hernia was determined to be non-reducible, and he was approved for a surgical evaluation by Dr. Pontius. (Doc. 63-5, p. 5; Doc. 63-2, p. 12). Dr. Pontius recommended surgery on February 14, 2013; however, surgery was denied by Dr. Garcia later that month. (Doc. 63-2, p. 14).

         On February 28, 2013, Thomas submitted an emergency grievance based on the denial of surgery. (Doc. 82, p. 7). Warden Hodge found the grievance was not an emergency and directed Thomas to file a “grievance in the normal manner.” (Doc. 82, p. 7). As instructed, on March 11, 2013, Thomas submitted a non-emergency grievance setting forth the same complaint. (Doc. 82, pp. 8-9). After finding out from the health care unit that a follow-up ultrasound had shown the hernia was reducible and surgery was not warranted, the grievance officer recommended Thomas's grievance be denied. (Doc. 82, p. 10). Warden Hodge concurred with the recommendation on July 5, 2013. (Doc. 82, p. 10).

         Thomas submitted another emergency grievance six weeks later, this time elaborating on the pain he was suffering. (Doc. 82, p. 11). Again, emergency review was denied by Warden Hodge. (Doc. 82, p. 11). While Thomas subsequently submitted the grievance to his counselor (Doc. 82, p. 11), he has not provided any additional documentation or evidence that he also submitted the document to his grievance officer.

         A few months later, on September 7, 2013, Thomas spoke with Warden Hodge while he was on an inspection tour of the yard. (Doc. 82, p. 4). Thomas “explained that he was denied surgery and was going through severe pain with his hernia and left-testical [sic].” (Doc. 82, p. 4). In response, Thomas alleges Warden Hodge stated: “They are not gonna pay for a surgery if it's not life-threatening.” (Doc. 82, p. 4). The Warden, who does not recall speaking to Thomas, denies that he would have made such a statement to an inmate. (Doc. 85-2, p. 1).

         An “unscheduled inspection report” authored by Warden Hodge on the same day as the alleged conversation between Warden Hodge and Thomas states: “Eight house was on the yard and I spoke to several offenders regarding multiple issues. These will be followed up on Monday with my HCUA and CSS.” (Doc. 82, p. 12). Thomas had no further interaction with the Warden with respect to his hernia.

         Repair surgery was subsequently approved in the summer of 2014 (Doc. 63-2, p. 37), and Thomas underwent the surgery on September 5, 2014 (Doc. 63-2, p. 44).

         Discussion

         Generally, a prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment unless the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to an inmate's health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and must also draw the inference. Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Thus, without more, ...


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