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Jordan v. Welborn

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 18, 2017




         Now pending before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Steven Ritz, Jana South, and John Trost on November 4, 2016 (Doc. 110)[1]and Plaintiff Steven Jordan's responses to the motion (Docs. 156 and 161). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


         Plaintiff Steven Jordan, an inmate currently confined at Hill Correctional Center, is proceeding on a second amended complaint (Doc. 96) filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claim relates to a fall that occurred on June 20, 2014, while he was housed at Menard Correctional Center. Jordan claims that he passed out in his cell from heat stroke while standing at his sink, causing him to fall, and that Sergeant Welborn did not summon medical care. When he saw Nurse South and Dr. Trost a few days later, they did nothing meaningful to address his pain. And, Jordan claims, Dr. Ritz failed to approve necessary diagnostic testing, contributing to his prolonged pain and suffering. Jordan is proceeding on one count alleging that each Defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs (Doc. 95).[2]

         One week prior to his fall, Jordan saw Dr. Trost for complaints of chest pain that lasted less than one minute, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath (Doc. 111-1, p. 3). Dr. Trost gave Jordan a one-month prescription for ibuprofen (Id.). An x-ray also was taken that showed no active pulmonary disease (Id.). On June 24, 2016, four days after his fall, Jordan saw a nurse practitioner in a follow-up appointment for the chest pain, told her about his fall and back injury, and was directed to continue taking ibuprofen (Id., p. 4).

         Jordan saw Nurse South on June 26, 2014, for complaints of back pain due to his reported fall. Nurse South checked his vitals and noted a slightly elevated blood pressure and slow gait (Doc. 111-3, p. 2). She also observed two marks on his back that “looked like old road rash without infection, and did not appear to be the result of a fall” (Id.). Nurse South did not observe any abrasion marks or any other indications typically associated with a fall. She believed his complaints were inconsistent with her findings and only offered him ibuprofen (Jordan told her that he was already taking Tylenol) (Id.). When Jordan opted to see a doctor, Nurse South became angry and had him removed from the healthcare unit by correctional officers[3] (Doc. 156-2, p. 6).[4] As he was leaving, Nurse South noticed that he was walking normally (Doc. 111-3, p. 3), although Jordan was being hurried along by officers regardless of his pain (Doc. 156-2, p. 6).

         Shortly thereafter, Jordan was transferred to Stateville Correctional Center, returning to Menard on July 23, 2014. On July 25, 2014, he saw Dr. Trost and again complained of low back pain due to the fall (Doc. 111-1, p. 4). Dr. Trost did not observe antalgic gait, which is an abnormal gait indicative of low back pain (Id., pp. 2, 4-5). He nonetheless diagnosed low back pain, i.e., a muscle strain or a lumbar sprain soft tissue injury, and directed conservative treatment of ibuprofen, Robaxin (a muscle relaxant), light exercises, and no strenuous activities (Id., p. 4-5). Jordan told Dr. Trost that ibuprofen and Tylenol were not alleviating his pain (Doc. 156-2, p. 6).

         Jordan again was seen for low back pain on August 12, 2014 (Doc. 111-1, p. 5). The medical technician did not observe any problems with Jordan's gait and, like Dr. Trost, directed conservative treatment even though Jordan reported a six out of ten pain level (Id., p. 5). A month later, Jordan appeared with greater pain, eight out of ten, and was referred to a doctor or nurse (Id., pp. 5-6). When a nurse practitioner saw Jordan on September 23, 2014, he again was prescribed Robaxin but with Prednisone, a steroid used for muscle inflammation (Id., p. 6). The nurse observed that Jordan sat down with ease but that he was walking slowly. The first observation is counter-indicative of back pain and the second, by itself, is not indicative of back pain (Id., p. 6). Nonetheless, an x-ray of Jordan's thoracic and lumbar spine was ordered, and no abnormalities were revealed (Id., p. 6). A couple of weeks later, Jordan again presented with low back pain. A neurological test was negative for neurological deficits, but Dr. Trost still prescribed ibuprofen and Mobic (an anti-inflammatory) (Id., pp. 6-7). At some point in October 2014, Jordan told Dr. Trost he could not do any light exercises because of excruciating pain.

         In light of Jordan's continued complaints of pain without any physical or neurological evidence thereof, Dr. Trost elected to recommend an MRI, which he believed was a “likely overtreatment of Mr. Jordan's symptoms, and unlikely to reveal any physical problems” (Id., p. 8). The recommendation was sent for collegial review to Dr. Ritz (Id.). Dr. Ritz denied the request because of the lack of neurological deficits but suggested that Jordan undergo physical therapy (Id., pp. 8-9). Dr. Ritz noted that an MRI is “indicated for patients that will likely require back surgery” and that Jordan was not such a candidate because of the lack of any physical findings (Doc. 111-2, p. 2).

         Jordan again was examined on December 1, 2014, after he fell off a top bunk and injured his shoulder. Dr. Trost noted no improvement in his back condition; he was prescribed Naproxen, another anti-inflammatory, and his shoulder was x-rayed (Doc. 111-1, p. 9). The shoulder x-ray did not reveal any injury (Id., p. 9).

         On January 6, 2015, Jordan agreed to physical therapy, which was approved by Dr. Ritz on April 2, 2015 (Id., p. 10). Jordan agreed to physical therapy because he “was willing to try anything to alleviate the suffering, as well as follow Doctor's recommendation, ” and because he believed he would receive no other pain management or treatment options (Doc. 156-2, p. 10). On April 17, 2015, Jordan was evaluated by a physical therapist who concluded-like Dr. Trost-that his complaints were consistent with lumbar muscle sprain or strain (Doc. 111-1, p. 10). Jordan was instructed on how to perform home exercises (Id.). Dr. Trost did not believe that Jordan's injuries warranted either a front cuff permit or a low bunk/low gallery permit based on his examinations and Jordan's alleged injuries (Id., pp. 10-11).


         Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005); Black Agents & Brokers Agency, Inc. v. Near North Ins. Brokerage, Inc., 409 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970); Lawrence v. Kenosha County, 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004).

         A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving party “has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated that summary judgment is “the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the ...

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