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Christmass v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 27, 2017

DEMOND CHRISTMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., ROBERT SHEARING, JOHN TROST, ERIC JOHNSON, RYAN SUTTERER, CHRISTINE LOCHHEAD, and GAIL WALLS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Phil Gilbert, U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Demond Christmas, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff requests declaratory relief, a permanent injunction, and monetary damages. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         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 any reasonable person would find meritless. 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. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Upon careful review of the Complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal. The Court also considered Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of his Compliant at Doc. 1-1.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that prior to arriving at Menard in 2012, he was assaulted by an officer at Cook County Jail, which resulted in severe facial damage, including a right orbital fracture. (Doc. 1, p. 11). After the initial assault, Plaintiff was taken to John Stroger Hospital in Chicago in July 2012, where a CAT scan was performed. Id. Although the CAT scan showed the broken bones, Plaintiff's face was still swollen, precluding surgery, and so the specialist ordered a follow-up visit. Id.

         Prior to receiving his follow-up visit at Stroger, Plaintiff was transferred to the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) and assigned to the Stateville Northern Reception Center, where Wexford Health Sources is the designated health care provider. Id. Plaintiff informed Stateville officials about his facial fractures and requested care. Id. On November 14, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to Menard Correctional Center. Id. Amy Lang, who is not a defendant here, performed a screening upon entry into Menard, but although she noted the fracture of the right eye socket, she erroneously noted that Plaintiff denied any pain. Id. Plaintiff alleges he was actually experiencing facial pain, severe headaches, dizziness, double vision, blurry vision, and ringing in his ears. Id.

         Plaintiff began requesting to see the optometrist, but despite writing a letter on December 14, 2012 and again on January 14, 2013, Plaintiff did not actually get to see Dr. Eric Johnson until January 30, 2013. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Upon information and belief, Plaintiff believes that Johnson was an employee of Eyecare Solutions, who was under contract with Wexford to provide medical optometry services. Id. Johnson failed to examine Plaintiff, and when Plaintiff told him that the Stroger specialist had recommended surgery, Johnson told Plaintiff that surgery would not fix his problems and that Wexford would not approve surgery due to the expense. Id. Johnson referred Plaintiff to the on-site medical director. Id. Plaintiff submitted a sick call slip 6 weeks later on March 15, 2013 when he still had not been seen; an unnamed nurse said she would put him in to see the doctor and gave him some Tylenol. (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13).

         On March 23, 2013, Plaintiff's blurry vision caused him to misjudge the edge of his bunk and fall off the top. (Doc. 1, p. 13). He hit his head on the floor. Id. Plaintiff saw Dr. Shearing on March 25, 2013. Id. Shearing told Plaintiff that he did not need surgery and that surgery was too costly. Id. Plaintiff told Shearing about his medical history and his current pain and suffering. Id. Shearing prescribed 2 weeks of ibuprofen. Id. Plaintiff's medical records show that Shearing received Plaintiff's records from Cook County Jail on April 26, 2013. (Doc. 1, p. 20).

         Plaintiff saw Shearing again on April 26, 2013. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Shearing again reiterated that Plaintiff would not be receiving surgery, no matter how many grievances he filed. Id. Shearing denied that any treatment, including pain medication, was necessary. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Shearing falsified the April 26, 2013 medical record entry to cover up his deliberate indifference. Id. Plaintiff wrote a grievances on March 25, 2013 regarding his medical care, to which Gail Walls responded on June 11, 2013, stating “You have seen the eye doctor, medical doctors, and nurses for sick call since being at Menard CC. The last time was on April 26, 2013 by Dr. Shearing. At that time he wrote you had received all treatment necessary for your issue and no further follow-up was necessary. If you have further issues, please put in for sick call.” Id. (Doc. 1, p. 47). Plaintiff wrote a grievance on Walls' response on June 18, 2013. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         In addition to Plaintiff's pain, he also experienced constant pus drainage from his right eye. Id. Plaintiff continued to experience pain and suffering. Id. He learned sometime in 2014 that Shearing had been replaced as site medical director and submitted another sick call request slip. Id. Plaintiff was seen on October 5, 2014 for his eye and nasal problems, and was told that he'd be referred to the MD and the eye doctor. Id. Plaintiff was seen by the new Wexford Medical Director, Dr. Trost, on October 9, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Trost prescribed Claritin, Bactrim, and Bleph to address the pus drainage and Plaintiff's allergies and referred Plaintiff to the eye doctor. Id.

         Plaintiff was seen by on-site optometrist Dr. Christine Lochhead on October 23, 2014. Id. Lochhead performed a brief eye exam, and prescribed a warm compress. Id. She told Plaintiff that Wexford would not prescribe surgery because Plaintiff's condition did not meet Wexford's policy requirements and because Plaintiff's injury had occurred prior to his time in IDOC custody. Id.

         Plaintiff saw on-site optometrist Lewis J. Eyrich on March 7, 2016. (Doc. 1, pp. 16-17). Plaintiff alleges that Eyrich performed the first complete eye examination he received at that time. (Doc. 1, p.17). Eyrich recommended an outside referral based on the ongoing mucus discharge that had not responded to treatment. Id. The referral was approved on March 15, 2016. Id. Plaintiff saw Dr. Donald Unwin of Quantum Vision Center (“QVC”) on April 12, 2016, who recommended a surgical consult for Plaintiff's broken right eye socket. Id. Eyrich also recommended a follow-up for potential glaucoma. Id. Plaintiff saw Trost again on April 29, 2016, who in turn referred Plaintiff back to the on-site optometrist. Id. When Plaintiff next saw the on-site optometrist, he told Plaintiff he did not understand why the April 12, 2016 recommendation had not been acted on and submitted a request for referral, which was approved on July 6, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 18).

         Plaintiff went off-site on August 15, 2016 and saw another unidentified eye specialist with QVC who also agreed that Plaintiff needed surgery, but declined to perform it because QVC was not equipped for the procedure. (Doc. 1, p. 18). This optometrist also recommended that Plaintiff be referred to a hospital for surgery and told Plaintiff that he could go blind without the surgery. Id. However, once Plaintiff returned to Menard, Trost delayed following up with Plaintiff and submitting his paperwork. Id. As a result, Wexford Utilization review did not approve the referral until September 23, 2016, and Plaintiff was not actually scheduled for a consultation until October 11, 2016. Id. The consultation was scheduled for December 1, 2016. Id. Plaintiff also saw Dr. Sutterer on October 7, 2016. Id.

         At the consultation, the specialist agreed that surgery was necessary, exactly as the specialist at Stroger had recommended more than 4 years prior. (Doc. 1, p. 20). Plaintiff finally had surgery on March 7, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 21). Plaintiff was also told at the December 1 visit that the pus draining from his eyes was due to his tear ducts being blocked, and was the cause of fevers, headaches, dizziness, double vision, and blurry vision. Id.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 4 counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a ...


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