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Watson v. Owikoti

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

September 21, 2017

MENELAUS WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CLAUDE OWIKOTI and DR. EVARISTO AGUINALDO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Menelaus Watson was incarcerated at the Illinois Department of Corrections' Northern Reception and Classification Center (NRC) from September 22, 2014 through March 24, 2015. Back in 2008, Mr. Watson suffered a gunshot wound in his back, and he has suffered from chronic pain ever since. He contends that he did not get appropriate treatment for this pain while at the NRC. Mr. Watson has sued Claude Owikoti, a physician's assistant, and Dr. Evaristo Aguinaldo, a physician, alleging that they violated his Eighth Amendment rights by their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The Court recruited counsel, Deanna Kunze and Maureen Mullen of Nixon Peabody LLP, to represent Mr. Watson and thanks them for their diligent prosecution of this case on Mr. Watson's behalf.

         Discovery has been completed, and the case is set for trial in mid-October 2017. Mr. Owikoti and Dr. Aguinaldo have moved for summary judgment. Mr. Owikoti and Dr. Aguinaldo contend that Mr. Watson lacks evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in his favor. They also contend that Mr. Watson failed to exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The Court will address these points in the same order in which defendants have made them.

         Facts

         Before being imprisoned, Mr. Watson was prescribed hydrocodone and a muscle relaxant for his back pain. IDOC records reflect that when he arrived at the NRC in late September 2014, Mr. Watson told IDOC staff that he was taking Tylenol (and only Tylenol) for his back pain. Mr. Watson says this is untrue.

         On October 15, 2014, Mr. Watson filed a grievance stating that "[t]he medical attention here is very poor. They refuse my sick call." But his grievance referenced chest pain and rashes, not back pain. A counselor's response to the grievance, inexplicably dated six weeks later, November 28, 2014, says that the grievance had been forwarded to the health care unit for review.

         On November 21, 2014, Mr. Watson filed another grievance. This one specifically referenced his gunshot wound and his back pain. He stated, "I got a gun shot wound in my back an[d] I have been seeking medical attention since I've been here at Stateville NRC. . . . I was currently taking pain medication in the world for my back. Now I'm incarcerated. My back is in very bad pain [and] I can't get any medical attention." A counselor's response to this grievance, dated November 27, 2014, likewise stated that it had been forwarded to the health care unit for review.

         Mr. Watson saw Mr. Owikoti on one occasion, on December 17, 2014. Records that Mr. Owikoti prepared state that Mr. Watson complained only of a rash on his lower back, and Mr. Owikoti has testified that he routinely asks each patient's current complaints and records what they say. Mr. Watson says that he told Mr. Owikoti about his back pain "and explained to him that I was on medication for my back before I got incarcerated." Watson Dep. at 68. Mr. Owikoti prescribed an antibiotic for the rash but nothing for the back pain (he says that Mr. Watson said nothing about back pain). According to Mr. Watson, Mr. Owikoti "didn't want to believe me" and "said he couldn't help me." Id. at 68, 70.

         On January 8, 2015, Mr. Watson filed another grievance. He said that he had submitted earlier grievances "about me not getting the proper medical attention for my back injury. . . . I been in back pain since I've been incarcerated at Stateville with no help. I was taking medication for my back when I was out [in] the world. Doctor [sic] Owikoti denied me medication for my back 12-17-14." He asked for "proper medical attention." A counselor's response, dated January 15, 2015, somewhat cryptically stated, "Answered this grievance on HCU" (the health care unit).

         Mr. Watson saw Dr. Aguinaldo once, on February 24, 2015. It appears to be undisputed that Mr. Watson reported his back pain to Dr. Aguinaldo. Dr. Aguinaldo testified, and records reflect, that he prescribed Motrin for Mr. Watson and counseled him to do exercises. He did not order an x-ray. He testified this was because there were no objective findings that warranted an x-ray. Mr. Watson testified that Dr. Aguinaldo prescribed Tylenol.

         A grievance officer's March 2, 2015 report regarding Mr. Watson's October and November 2014 grievances states, "Inmate complains of back pain from a GSW" (gunshot wound). The report further states that Mr. Watson "was seen by Dr. Augie [sic] ¶ 2/24/15 for his back pain. He had no pain when doing range of motion. He was given Tylenol [sic] for 10 days and was told to follow up as needed."

         Medical records reflect that Mr. Watson saw another doctor-unidentified-at the NRC on March 13, 2015. Records reflect that the doctor found "tenderness" in the right mid-back area "over [an] old wound." The same records reflect that the doctor prescribed Tramadol (a pain killer) and Robaxin (a muscle relaxant). Not too long after that, Mr. Watson was transferred to another prison.

         Discussion

         1. ...


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