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Espinozaa v. Justice

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 15, 2017



          MICHAEL J. REAGAN, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Representing himself, Carlos Espinoza (Plaintiff), an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that his civil rights were violated when defendants failed to adequately provide treatment for an injury to his right knee. This matter is before the Court on motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants Justice, Lynn, and Brown (Doc. 145), Defendant Varel (Doc. 138), and Defendant David (Doc. 134). Those motions are ripe for disposition. For the reasons described below, summary judgment is appropriate as to Defendants Lynn, Brown, and Varel.

         II. Summary of Key Allegations and Evidence

         In June 2009, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Center (Dixon). (Doc. 157-1, p. 2). On June 1, 2009, Plaintiff suffered an injury to his right knee during an altercation with another inmate. (Id.). An MRI performed on September 29, 2009 indicates that Plaintiff suffered a rupture of his ACL versus a high-grade sprain. (Doc. 157-2, p. 3). While Plaintiff was being escorted to segregation, he informed the escorting officer that he needed medical attention for his knee injury. (Id. at 2). The officer radioed his supervisor, Defendant Justice, to relay Plaintiff's request. (Id. at 3). Defendant Justice, however, refused to allow Plaintiff to see a nurse or a doctor for treatment. (Id.).

         Plaintiff received medical care the following day, June 2, 2009, though he does not recall the specific time. (Doc. 146-1, p. 88). Plaintiff was in pain until he was seen by the nurse and given ibuprofen. (Doc. 157-1, p. 17). Plaintiff had no further interaction with Defendant Justice regarding his failure to obtain medical care and/or his knee. (Doc. 146-1, p. 89). Plaintiff claims that he filed a grievance against Defendant Justice in September 2009, but did not receive a response. (Doc. 157-1, p. 15).

         Plaintiff was seen by nurses and doctors on numerous dates in June and July of 2009. (Doc. 113, p. 8). In September 2009, Plaintiff was sent to the University of Illinois Medical Center where he received an MRI of his right knee. (Doc. 146-1, p. 18; Doc. 157-1, p. 4). In October 2009, Plaintiff consulted with an orthopedic specialist, Dr. Chmell. (Doc. 157-2, p. 5). It was indicated that Plaintiff would be sent for some physical therapy and that Plaintiff was to follow up in three months. (Id.).

         Plaintiff transferred to Shawnee Correctional Center ("Shawnee") in early January 2010. (Doc. 157-1, p. 5). Once at Shawnee, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Dr. David. Plaintiff saw Dr. David for the first time on January 12, 2010. (Doc. 153, p. 8). Plaintiff informed Dr. David of his ACL injury and of the orthopedist's assessment and plan. (Id.). Plaintiff told Dr. David that the orthopedist ordered that Plaintiff be sent for physical therapy and then sent to the orthopedist's office for a follow up. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, he was told by the orthopedist that surgery might be necessary. (Id. at 9). Plaintiff requested that Dr. David send Plaintiff to an outside clinic for physical therapy. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, however, Dr. David stated that Plaintiff would not be sent either for physical therapy or to an outside orthopedic surgeon. (Id.). Dr. David recommended that Plaintiff do some exercises in his cell, which Plaintiff claims he was unable to do by himself due to the weakness and instability of his injured knee. (Id.). Plaintiff also asked Dr. David to provide a knee sleeve or brace due to the weakness and instability suffered by Plaintiff; however, Dr. David refused. (Id.).

         According to Dr. David, he reviewed the orthopedist's report. (Doc. 135-2, p. 2). Dr. David acknowledges that the orthopedist recommended physical therapy, but did not recommend surgery. (Id.). Dr. David's review of Plaintiff's records indicated to him that Plaintiff underwent physical therapy at Dixon from October 30, 2009 to November 13, 2009, but was then documented as a "no show" discharged on December 14, 2009. (Id.). Plaintiff told Dr. David that he was in segregation during the "no show" period. (Id.) Dr. David indicates that during his initial examination of Plaintiff, he found no swelling, tenderness, or deformity of his right knee. (Id.). Nor did he find any limitation, and he noted that Plaintiff had good muscle strength, as well as, the ability to walk without assistance. (Id.). In Dr. David's opinion, Plaintiff's knee was normal. (Id.).

         After seeing a nurse practitioner on several occasions, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. David again on March 8, 2010. (Doc. 153, p. 9 - 10). Plaintiff told Dr. David that he needed something for the pain he was experiencing with his knee. (Id. at 10). Plaintiff had previously been prescribed naproxen by the nurse practitioner. (Id.). Dr. David again determined that Plaintiff's knee was normal; however, Plaintiff points out that the nurse practitioner had previously noted some crepitus, which, according to Dr. David, is a crackling sound that can be heard from a joint in some conditions. (Id; Doc. 135-2, p. 2). Dr. David continued Plaintiff's order for naproxen, and again advised him to continue performing range of motion exercises to maintain the normal function of his right knee. (Doc. 135-2, p. 3).

         Between March 10, 2010 and March 16, 2010, Plaintiff claims he continued to experience pain, weakness, and instability on his injured knee. (Doc. 153, p. 11). During this time, Plaintiff again saw Dr. David, and informed the doctor that Plaintiff's knee would sometimes give out on him. (Id.). Dr. David continued Plaintiff on naproxen and gave Plaintiff a low bunk permit for three months. (Id.).

         Dr. David next saw Plaintiff on November 9, 2010, after a referral from a visit with the nurse practitioner. (Id. at 12). Plaintiff complained of his treatment, and told Dr. David that he was having occasional pain to his right knee. (Id.). Again, Dr. David continued Plaintiff on his naproxen order, advised Plaintiff of his range of motion exercises, and removed Plaintiff's low bunk/low gallery permit. (Id.). He advised Plaintiff to be careful going up and down the top bunk. (Id. at 13). According to Dr. David, he performed some tests on Plaintiff's knee which came back negative. (Doc. 135-2, p. 4).

         On August 11, 2012, Plaintiff reported to nurse sick call and complained that he had slipped and hurt his right knee while in the shower. (Doc. 153, p. 14; Doc. 135-2, p. 5). Dr. David indicates that he noted no swelling, tenderness, crepitus, or limitation of movement. (Doc. 135-2, p. 5). The doctor found the right knee to be normal. (Id.). He noted that Plaintiff had degenerative joint disease or arthritis, and advised Plaintiff to rest his right knee and do range of motion exercises as tolerated. (Id.).

         On November 28, 2012, Plaintiff saw a Dr. Shepard, who was filling-in for Dr. David. (Doc. 153, p. 15). Dr. Shepard performed testing that indicated that Plaintiff may have reinjured his right knee. (Id.). Dr. Shepard referred Plaintiff to an orthopedic surgeon for an evaluation. (Id.). At a collegial, however, a Dr. Haymes determined that Plaintiff should be sent to an offsite physical therapist rather than an orthopedic surgeon. (Id.). Plaintiff saw a physical therapist on December 28, 2012. (Doc. 135-1, p. 76). The therapist found that Plaintiff presented with an old ACL tear and ordered home exercises. (Id.).

         After meeting with the physical therapist, Plaintiff saw Dr. David again on March 5, 2013 regarding complaints of occasional pain to his right knee. (Doc. 153, p. 17). Plaintiff informed Dr. David that he had been doing the exercises recommended by the physical therapist. (Id.). Dr. David noted that Plaintiff was walking normally, that there was no swelling of the right knee, that Plaintiff had normal range of motion, and that there was no crepitus. (Id.). To ensure that the exercises were performed as shown by the physical therapist, Dr. David ordered that Plaintiff be scheduled on the treatment line every other day for 30 minutes for two months to perform his exercises, and that nursing staff should document and chart the exercises to make sure Plaintiff is doing them properly. (Id.).

         Plaintiff next saw Dr. David on May 7, 2013 for a follow-up after completing his home exercises. (Id. at 18 - 19). Plaintiff reported that he was suffering from worse, sharp, knee pain and that his knee was weak, popping, and was giving out on him. (Id. at 19). Plaintiff also informed Dr. David that he has to support himself to prevent himself from falling. (Id.). Dr. David's physical examination found that Plaintiff's knee was not swollen or tender, but that there was some crepitus when Plaintiff shifted his leg. (Id.). Dr. David then ordered an x-ray of Plaintiff's right knee. (Id.). The x-ray was performed on May 9, 2013. (Id.). The x-ray came back negative. (Doc. 135, p. 7). It did not show a joint effusion, acute displaced fracture, or a dislocation. (Id.).

         Plaintiff presented to Dr. David again on July 17, 2013, at which time he told Dr. David that his knee had gotten worse. (Doc. 153, p. 20). Plaintiff indicated that his knee was still giving out and made a popping noise when walking. (Id.). Dr. David indicated that he would review Plaintiff's medical records again and possibly represent Plaintiff at a collegial for referral to an orthopedist. (Id.). Dr. David then completed a referral for Plaintiff to be seen by an orthopedist on July 22, 2013. (Id.). He discussed the ...

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