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Robles v. Spiller

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 24, 2017

LUIS ROBLES, # Y-14824, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical condition, and that Defendant Wolfe discriminated against him on the basis of his racial/ethnic background. The Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         An action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On November 4, 2016, Plaintiff injured his left knee while playing soccer at Pinckneyville (this was an approved recreational activity). (Doc. 1, p. 4). He could not walk on his own. He immediately notified Lt. Wolfe that he was injured and needed medical attention. Wolfe refused to call for help, telling Plaintiff that he did not like “people like you.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff is a United States citizen originally from Mexico; he assumed Wolfe was referring to his Hispanic background when he refused to summon medical assistance. Additionally, Wolfe was aware that Plaintiff could not walk on his own and had an injury requiring medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Two other inmates helped Plaintiff back to his cell. That movement was excruciatingly painful, and Plaintiff could feel tissue in his knee tearing. On the way, Plaintiff told C/O Clark that he could not walk and needed to go to the HCU (Health Care Unit). Clark told Plaintiff that she would not call in a medical emergency but would inform the next shift of his needs. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Nobody came to assist Plaintiff during the next shift, so he relayed a message to Wing Officer Spiller through an inmate porter that he could not walk because of his injury and needed medical attention. The inmate returned shortly and relayed Spiller's response that Plaintiff should submit a sick-call request. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Plaintiff climbed to his top bunk, which caused more pain and tissue tearing. He was in too much pain to climb down to go to dinner. Plaintiff's cellmate informed Major Lively of Plaintiff's injury and his need for immediate medical care. Lively wrote down the information and promised the cellmate he would check it out, but he failed to follow up on the request. When no help came, Plaintiff's cellmate filled out a sick-call form for Plaintiff and gave it to a nurse that evening.

         The next day, November 5, 2016, Plaintiff saw Nurse Williams during sick call. He had to hop on one leg in order to get there, and he suffered more pain and tissue damage as a result. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff explained to Williams that he was unable to walk, could not get to meals, and could not access the top bunk without severe suffering. Williams offered Plaintiff ibuprofen but told Plaintiff nothing else could be done until he saw the doctor on Monday, November 7.

         On November 7, when nobody came to take Plaintiff to the HCU, he hopped to the phone and called his mother. She in turn called Warden Lashbrook to relay Plaintiff's condition and ask that he be given crutches or a wrap to immobilize the knee. Around 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, Plaintiff was taken to the HCU in a wheelchair. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Nurse Knope gave Plaintiff crutches, but did not wrap or immobilize his knee, or allow him to see the doctor. Plaintiff continued to suffer excruciating pain and stress to his knee while walking with the crutches. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         On November 8, Plaintiff again called his mother to say he had not yet seen a doctor and the pain was nearly unbearable. Later that day, Plaintiff was taken to the HCU, where he saw Dr. Scott. Dr. Scott berated Plaintiff for having his family call and told him his situation was not an emergency because he had returned to his cell “just fine after the injury” and had been going to chow. Plaintiff responded that those statements were a lie; he had gone to the dining hall only once since receiving his crutches and did not try again because it was too hard to maneuver over the wet floor. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Dr. Scott wrapped Plaintiff's knee with a cloth bandage, gave him two 400 mg ibuprofen pills, and ordered an x-ray.

         Dr. Scott issued Plaintiff a bottom-bunk permit, which Plaintiff received on November 11. Plaintiff's cellmate already had a low-bunk permit, however, and Plaintiff stayed on the top bunk because the cellmate was an older man in his sixties. Plaintiff continued to suffer tissue damage from climbing to the top bed.

         On November 17, Dr. Scott told Plaintiff that the x-rays showed no broken bones, and he recommended physical therapy for what was likely ligament damage. Plaintiff told Dr. Scott that he was unable to use the bottom bunk despite the permit, but Dr. Scott responded that it was not his problem, and he would do nothing else. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         On January 9, 2017, Plaintiff was screened for physical therapy, but was informed it would not help his injury. On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff was sent to an outside hospital for an MRI. He learned on March 16, 2017, that the test revealed “extensive ligament displacement and damage.” (Doc. 1, p. 13). Dr. Dan (who is not a Defendant) planned to give Plaintiff 8-12 weeks of physical therapy to try to realign the misplaced ligaments. Between March 16 and May 4, 2017, Plaintiff had seven therapy sessions. Dr. Dan then ended the therapy and sent Plaintiff to a specialist at the Orthopedic Institute of Southern Illinois, where on May 30, 2017, he had more x-rays and two injections into his knee. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff still struggles to mobilize. His pain medication has been interrupted, and he must buy his own meals from the commissary because he cannot navigate over the wet dining room floor with his crutches.

         On January 3 and March 9, 2017, Plaintiff wrote to Health Care Administrator Brown to tell her of his severe pain, his difficulties in continuing to receive prescribed medication, the worsening of his condition, and inadequate medical care. (Doc. 1, p. 14). For example, the pain medication prescribed by Dr. Scott would only last for twelve days, and Nurse Williams refused to issue more medication or schedule Plaintiff to see Dr. Scott to receive more. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Plaintiff lists a number of steps that each Defendant could have taken, but did not, that would have protected him against further knee damage and pain. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-20).

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment and an injunction to require Dr. Scott to issue Plaintiff a knee brace, and to direct Lashbrook to have Plaintiff's meals served to him in his cell while he is on crutches. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, pp. 22-23).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the prose action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is ...

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