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Smith v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

November 14, 2017

KENNETH E. SMITH (K-54173), Plaintiff,


          Gary Feinerman Judge

         In this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit, Kenneth E. Smith, an Illinois prisoner, alleges that Stateville Correctional Center Warden Tarry Williams and Dr. Saleh Obaisi, Stateville's medical director, were deliberately indifferent to his knee pain, and also that Dr. Obaisi's employer, Wexford Health Sources, Inc., had a policy of sacrificing patient care in favor of saving money. Doc. 29. (Smith voluntarily dismissed a claim against another defendant regarding his request for a lower bunk permit. Docs. 45, 59.) Defendants have moved for summary judgment. Docs. 74, 80. Smith did not respond, despite having been given ample opportunity to do so. Docs. 86, 91. Defendants' motions are granted.


         Consistent with the local rules, Defendants filed Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statements of undisputed facts with their summary judgment motions. Docs. 76, 81. The relevant factual assertions in the Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statements cite evidentiary material in the record and are supported by the cited material. See N.D. Ill. L.R. 56.1(a) (“The statement referred to in (3) shall consist of short numbered paragraphs, including within each paragraph specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon to support the facts set forth in that paragraph.”). Also consistent with the local rules, Defendants served Smith with Local Rule 56.2 Notices, which explain what Local Rule 56.1 requires of a pro se litigant opposing summary judgment. Docs. 78, 83. Miller did not file a response brief, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) responses to the Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statements, or a Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement of additional facts.

         “[A] district court is entitled to decide [a summary judgment] motion based on the factual record outlined in the [Local Rule 56.1] statements.” Koszola v. Bd. of Educ., 385 F.3d 1104, 1109 (7th Cir. 2004) (third alteration in original), overruled on other grounds by Ortiz v. Werner Enters., 834 F.3d 760, 764 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880, 886-87 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Because of the high volume of summary judgment motions and the benefits of clear presentation of relevant evidence and law, we have repeatedly held that district judges are entitled to insist on strict compliance with local rules designed to promote the clarity of summary judgment filings.”); Patterson v. Ind. Newspapers, Inc., 589 F.3d 357, 360 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We have repeatedly held that the district court is within its discretion to strictly enforce compliance with its local rules regarding summary-judgment motions.”); Ammons v. Aramark Unif. Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004) (“We have … repeatedly held that a district court is entitled to expect strict compliance with Rule 56.1.”). Smith's pro se status does not excuse him from following Local Rule 56.1. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”); Coleman v. Goodwill Indus. of Se. Wis., Inc., 423 F. App'x 642, 643 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Though courts are solicitous of pro se litigants, they may nonetheless require strict compliance with local rules.”); Wilson v. Kautex, Inc., 371 F. App'x 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2010) (“[S]trictly enforcing Local Rule 56.1 was well within the district court's discretion, even though Wilson is a pro se litigant.”) (citation omitted); Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006) (“[E]ven pro se litigants must follow rules of civil procedure.”).

         Accordingly, the court will accept as true the factual assertions set forth in Defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statements, and will view the facts and inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to Smith. See N.D. Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) (“All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.”); Olivet Baptist Church v. Church Mut. Ins. Co., 672 F. App'x 607, 607 (7th Cir. 2017) (“The district court treated most of the [defendant's] factual submissions as unopposed, because [the plaintiff] failed to contest them in the form required by Local Rule 56.1(b). We have held that the district court is entitled to enforce that rule in precisely the way it enforced the rule in this litigation.”); Rao v. BP Prods. N. Am., Inc., 589 F.3d 389, 393 (7th Cir. 2009) (“In accordance with [Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C)], the district court justifiably deemed the factual assertions in BP's Rule 56.1(a) Statement in support of its motion for summary judgment admitted because Rao did not respond to the statement.”). That said, the court is mindful that “a nonmovant's … failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1 … does not … automatically result in judgment for the movant. The ultimate burden of persuasion remains with [the movants] to show that [they are] entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). The court thus will recite the facts in Defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statements, and then determine whether, on those facts, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment.

         At all relevant times, Smith was incarcerated in Stateville Correctional Center, where Dr. Obaisi was the onsite medical director. Doc. 76 at ¶¶ 3-5; Doc. 81 at ¶ 1. Dr. Obaisi, who specializes in internal medicine, is employed by Wexford, the contractual provider of specified medical clinical services to Illinois prisons. Doc. 76 at ¶¶ 4-5. Williams was warden of Stateville from April 1, 2014, through July 12, 2015. Doc. 81 at ¶ 2.

         Multiple medical and IDOC personnel are involved in patient care and the scheduling of examinations. Doc. 76 at ¶¶ 9-10. Written requests for medical treatment are reviewed by IDOC correctional medical technicians or administrative personnel. Id. at ¶ 10. Generally, triage and initial medical evaluations of inmates are made by physician's assistants, registered nurses, licensed practice nurses, and correctional medical technicians, who can refer patients for further intervention by other medical providers based upon their observations. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 14, 16. When an inmate complains of pain, a medical provider will determine a course of action based upon the reported pain, along with objective observations such as swelling, redness, deformity, or warmth at the site, or issues with range of motion or gait. Id. at ¶ 22. Dr. Obaisi does not schedule his own appointments or follow-ups, but relies upon other staff members to do so. Id. at ¶ 10. Institutional lockdowns instituted by prison staff may restrict inmate medical care. Id. at ¶ 12.

         Smith first experienced knee pain on or about December 11, 2013. Id. at ¶ 27; Doc. 81 at ¶ 10. Over the next two days, he separately told two medical staffers that his knee hurt. Doc. 76 at ¶¶ 27-28. Medical records indicate that on January 7, 2014, Smith complained to a correctional medical technician of knee pain and was scheduled to see a nurse on January 13, 2014. Id. at ¶ 29; Doc. 81 at ¶¶ 11-12. Smith reported intermittent pain in his left knee for a month; the nurse observed no swelling and ordered ibuprofen for pain, an x-ray of the knee, and a two-week follow- up appointment. Doc. 76 at ¶ 29; Doc. 81 at ¶ 13. Smith's knee was x-rayed that day, and Dr. Obaisi evaluated the film the following day and determined that it was negative for fracture. Doc. 76 at ¶¶ 29-30; Doc. 81 at ¶ 14.

         On January 27, 2014, Smith saw a nurse for a scheduled follow-up and reported severe pain on the inside of his knee while walking. Doc. 76 at ¶ 31; Doc. 81 at ¶ 15. The nurse documented crepitus (a crackling sound) but no swelling, edema, eurhythmia, or bruising. Doc. 76 at ¶ 31. She informed Smith that the x-ray was negative for fracture, noted that his “gait” was “steady” and that he did not appear to be in acute distress, Doc. 84 at 3, and prescribed an analgesic balm and ibuprofen, Doc. 76 at ¶ 31; Doc. 81 at ¶ 16. On February 7, 2014, at an asthma clinic visit during which no complaint of knee pain was documented, Smith was issued a six-month low gallery permit. Doc. 76 at ¶ 32; Doc. 81 at ¶ 18.

         On February 10, 2014, Smith saw a nurse for his knee pain; she found no ecchymosis, redness, bruising, swelling, or tenderness. Doc. 76 at ¶ 33; Doc. 81 at ¶ 19. Smith reported taking his pain medication off and on as needed. Doc. 76 at ¶ 33, Doc. 76-1 at 34 (Tr. 104:19-21.) Smith's range of motion in the knee was “within normal limits, ” and the nurse prescribed hot and cold packs and told him to follow up if the pain worsened. Doc. 76 at ¶ 33.

         A physician's assistant (“P.A.”) prescribed Smith Tylenol 325 mg on February 18, 2014. Id. at ¶ 34; Doc. 81 at ¶ 17. A week later, the P.A. again examined Smith for his knee pain, which Smith said had worsened. Doc. 76 at ¶ 34; Doc. 81 at ¶ 21. The P.A. found no deformities and that Smith had full range of motion “and negative anterior and posterior drawer test, ” Doc. 76 at ¶ 34, indicating no injury to the cruciate ligaments. The P.A. referred Smith to the medical director (Dr. Obaisi) for follow-up and prescribed Naprosyn 500 mg. Ibid.; Doc. 81 at ¶¶ 21-22.

         Smith was scheduled to see Dr. Obaisi on March 19 and May 22, 2014, but neither appointment took place. Doc. 76 at ¶¶ 35, 38; Doc. 81 at ¶¶ 23-24. The May 22 appointment appears not to have been rescheduled. At his request, on August 8, 2014, Smith was placed on Dr. Obaisi's schedule for September 10, 2014. Doc. 76 at ¶ 39; Doc. 81 at ¶ 25. That appointment was rescheduled to October 9, 2014, due to a prison lockdown. Doc. 76 at ¶ 40; Doc. 81 at ¶ 26. Plaintiff saw medical providers on September 12 and October 2, 2014, but the records of those visits reflect no complaints of knee pain. Doc. 76 at ¶¶ 41, 42. On November 26, 2014, no medical provider was available, and Smith was rescheduled to January 6, 2015. Doc. 81 at ¶ 27.

         On January 6, 2015, Dr. Obaisi finally saw Smith, who reported that his knee had hurt for six months with occasional swelling. Doc. 76 at ¶ 44; Doc. 81 at ¶ 28. Dr. Obaisi found no swelling or heat, explained that Smith's x-ray was within normal limits, diagnosed a “sprained medial collateral ligament, ” and prescribed Motrin 400 mg twice a day for four weeks. Doc. 76 at ¶ 44. On January 23, 2015, Smith was scheduled to see a nurse but did not attend due to a conflicting personal visit. Id. at ¶ 46. On February 10, 2015, Dr. Obaisi again examined Smith, who reported ongoing pain. Id. at ¶ 47; Doc. 81 at ¶ 29. Again, Dr. Obaisi observed no heat or swelling and found the knee to be within normal limits. Doc. 76 at ¶ 47. Dr. Obaisi prescribed a knee sleeve, a device intended to reduce knee pain by taking pressure ...

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