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Johnson v. Carter

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

September 18, 2017

JAMES JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
IMHOTEP CARTER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANDREA R. WOOD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff James Johnson claims that while in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”), he was denied proper medical care by Defendants Imhotep Carter, Darryl Edwards, and Nwadiutor Ifezue, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[1] Accordingly, Johnson has brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief. Before the Court are two motions for summary judgment-one filed by Defendant Carter and the other by Defendant Edwards. For the reasons detailed below, Defendant Carter's summary judgment motion (Dkt. No. 186) is denied and Defendant Edwards's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 189) is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed. At the time of the actions alleged in Johnson's complaint, Defendant Carter was the medical director at Stateville and Defendant Edwards was an assistant warden at Stateville.

         On March 25, 2012, Johnson was involved in a fight with another inmate. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 187; Edwards's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 190.) Stateville correctional officers responded to the scene and broke up the fight, macing Johnson in the process. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 34; Edwards's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 5.) The officers managed to restrain Johnson and place him in handcuffs. (Id.) As the officers were pulling Johnson's hands behind his back, Johnson heard his finger pop. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 34.) After he was handcuffed, Johnson was taken to the Stateville healthcare unit where he was treated by a nurse. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 11; Edwards's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 7.) The nurse flushed Johnson's eyes with water and a saline solution to remove the mace. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 11; Edwards's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 8.) According to Johnson, he told the nurse that his finger hurt badly and that he had heard and felt it “pop.” (Johnson's Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 194, 196.) Johnson testified during his deposition that the nurse did not provide him with any medical treatment for his broken finger. (Id. ¶ 7.) Instead, he was sent to segregation after his eye treatment concluded. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 11; Edwards's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 11.) Johnson also claims that his finger caused him extreme pain while he was in segregation and that he had trouble sleeping because of the pain. (Johnson's Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 8.)

         Johnson testified that he made several attempts to contact both Defendant Edwards and Defendant Carter regarding his injured finger. For example, Johnson claims that on March 27, 2012, he sent letters to sick call, Defendant Carter, and Defendant Edwards. In the letter to Defendant Edwards, Johnson wrote:

I have written to the hospital and let them know that my finger was broken on 3/25/12 . . . I showed [the nurse] my finger, but she refused to treat my finger. I am in a lot of pain. Could you please tell someone in the hospital about my finger and tell them to see me please?

(Edwards's Stmt. of Material Facts Ex. H, Dkt. No. 190-2.) Defendant Edwards has no recollection of receiving or reading this letter. (Id. ¶ 17.) Nonetheless, he claims that if he had received the letter, it would have been forwarded to the health care unit administrator. (Id.)

         The letters Johnson allegedly sent to sick call and Defendant Carter contain the following statement: “Could I please be seen because I think my finger is broken. . . . I was brought up to the hospital and the African nurse told me that the officer came first and she [refused to treat me]. I am in a lot of pain.” (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts Ex. A, Dkt. No. 187-1 at 107 of 120, 109 of 120.) According to Johnson's testimony, he sent follow-up letters to both sick call and Defendant Carter on April 6, 2012. In his letter to Defendant Carter, Johnson states:

Could you please see me because my finger is broken. I was seen by the med-tech and showed her my finger and she said that she thought that my finger looked broken, but she refused to give me a splint or anything for my pain. . . . I am unable to sleep because of the pain I'm in.

(Id. at 110 of 120.) Johnson makes similar complaints regarding his broken finger in his letter to sick call. (Id. at 108 of 120.) But according to Defendant Carter, even if those letters were actually sent, it was not part of his responsibilities as medical director to receive sick call requests or letters from inmates; those responsibilities are delegated to other employees. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 19.)

         On April 10, 2012, Johnson's medical records reflect a note from a Correctional Medical Technician that Johnson was complaining about an injury to his right hand and that he needed to see a doctor. (Id. ¶ 18.) Johnson claims that sometime before April 20, 2012 he was called to the health care unit. (Edwards's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 20.) Johnson states that he was put in a segregation holding cell for approximately 30 minutes before a medical technician informed him that he would not be seen because he was not scheduled to attend the health care unit. (Johnson's Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 14.) Johnson claims that he showed the medical technician his swollen finger and she placed his name on the sick call. (Id. ¶ 15.) Afterwards, according to Johnson, while he was waiting to be returned to his cell, he saw Defendant Carter coming out of the back of the health care unit. (Id. ¶ 16.) According to Johnson, he stopped Defendant Carter and showed him his broken finger. (Id.) Defendant Carter responded: “OK. It's swollen and bent. What do you want me to do about it?” (Id.) Upon learning how Johnson injured his finger in a fight, Johnson asserts that Defendant Carter denied him medical treatment, saying, “Oh, you fighting with officers, I can't do nothing for you. You got what you deserve.” (Id. ¶ 17.) Defendant Carter does not recall this conversation. (Carter's Response to Johnson's Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 16, Dkt. No. 204.)

         On the same day, Johnson claims to have spoken with Defendant Edwards and shown Defendant Edwards his swollen finger. (Johnson's Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 18.) Johnson asked Defendant Edwards to help him get medical attention because his hand was hurting so badly he could not sleep. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 19.) Defendant Edwards told Johnson to wait in the hospital holding cell and he would inquire about medical treatment. (Id. ¶ 20.) Defendant Edwards went into the health care unit, and when he returned he told Johnson he needed to drop a sick call request into the sick call box in order to receive treatment. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         On or around April 20, 2016-26 days after his finger was injured-Johnson was seen by a physician's assistant. An x-ray of Johnson's hand was ordered, he was prescribed Tylenol, and his finger was splinted. (Carter's Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 13.) On April 26, 2012, the x-ray was performed and it indicated that Johnson had an “avulsion fracture base of distal phalanx at insertion of extension tendon.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Johnson was told that his finger was broken but healing. (Id. ¶ 42.) Defendant Carter has testified that he reviewed the x-ray report on April 30, 2012, and directed the physician's assistant to tape Johnson's fingers together and repeat the x-ray in ten days. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.) The second x-ray was performed on May 6, 2012 and showed an “undisplaced bone base of distal phalanx 4th finger at insertion of extension tendon.” Defendant Carter ...


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