United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Victor Nunez, an inmate with the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”), suffers from an eye
condition known as keratoconus. Keratoconus is a genetic
disorder characterized by an irregularly shaped cornea. Nunez
asserts in this lawsuit that the Defendants provided him
inadequate medical treatment for the condition while at
Pinckneyville Correctional Center
(“Pinckneyville”). The named defendants are Dr.
Dennis Els (prison contract optometrist), Christine Brown
(Pinckneyville Health Care Unit Administrator) and Jacqueline
Lashbrook, in her official capacity as the Pinckneyville
filed suit on May 6, 2015 (Doc. 1), and the Complaint was
screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A on May 28, 2015.
In the Screening Order, Nunez was found to have articulated a
colorable Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs claim against Brown, Dr. Els and Dr. Shah, a
prison physician. Because Nunez also seeks prospective
injunctive relief, Warden Thomas Spiller was added as a
defendant in his official capacity. The current Warden at
Pinckneyville, Jacqueline Lashbrook, was later substituted
for Defendant Spiller.
later filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 22) dismissing Dr.
Shah, but proceeding against the above-mentioned defendants.
Defendants now seek summary judgment. For the following
reasons, Dr. Els' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 50)
is DENIED. The motion for summary judgment
filed by Defendants Christine Brown and Warden Lashbrook
(Doc. 56) is GRANTED as to Warden Lashbrook
and DENIED as to Christine Brown.
following facts are drawn from Nunez's deposition unless
otherwise noted. Nunez has been an inmate with IDOC since
2001. (Nunez Deposition, Doc. 58-6, p. 3). In 2008, he was
diagnosed as having keratoconus by Dr. Carter at Hill
Correctional Center (“Hill”). Id. Dr.
Carter informed Nunez that keratoconus is a rare condition in
which a person's corneas are unusually thin and
susceptible to deformation. Id. For treatment, Dr.
Carter initially prescribed Nunez hard contact lenses.
Id. at p. 4. After Nunez experienced pain and
discomfort with the hard contact lens, Dr. Carter decided to
try the “piggy-back” method. Id. at p.
4. The piggyback method consists of wearing both hard contact
lenses and soft contact lenses at the same time. Id.
at p. 4. The soft contact lenses are placed directly on the
eye to protect the cornea and do not have a refractive index
(i.e., do not have a prescription strength). Id. at
p. 4. The hard contact lenses are then placed on top of the
soft contacts. Id. at p. 4. The hard and soft
contact lenses require different cleaning solutions and are
kept in separate cases. Id. at p. 4. Dr. Carter told
Nunez that a pair of the soft contact lenses would last
approximately 30 days, but the hard contact lenses are good
for up to five years. Id. at p. 5. According to
Nunez, he has experienced keratoconus related blurry vision
since his late teenage years - his vision significantly
improved after using the two sets of contact lenses.
Id. at p. 4.
early 2012, IDOC officials transferred Nunez from Hill to
Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”). On March
7, 2012, optometrist Dr. Montwill examined Nunez at Pontiac.
(Nunez medical chart, Doc. 58-5, p. 23). Dr. Montwill
continued Nunez on the piggy-back contact treatment plan.
(Doc. 58-6, p. 6).
2012, IDOC officials transferred Nunez from Pontiac to
Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”).
Id. at pp. 6-7. On December 13, 2012, Nunez was
examined by optometrist Dr. Dunn at Stateville. Id.
at p. 7. Dr. Dunn also continued the piggy-back treatment
plan. Id. at p. 7. Nunez's last optometry
examination at Stateville occurred on December 16, 2013 with
Dr. Dunn. (Nunez medical chart, Doc. 58-5, p. 24). Dr. Dunn
noted that Nunez was out of the soft contact lenses and that
he was having problems with his hard contact lenses.
Id. Dr. Dunn also wrote that new contacts would need
to be ordered after the current treatment plan is approved.
February, 2014, IDOC officials transferred Nunez from
Stateville to Pinckneyville. (Doc. 58-6, p. 8). Some of
Nunez's contact lens supplies were lost in transit, and
when he arrived at Pinckneyville, he only had a single pair
of both hard and soft contact lenses. Id.
February 26, 2014, optometrist Dr. Els examined Nunez at
Pinckneyville. Id. During the examination, Nunez
told Dr. Els that he needed new hard and soft contact lenses.
Id. at p. 9. Nunez also mentioned to Dr. Els that he
would like to go to an outside clinic for an examination.
Id. at p. 9. Dr. Els told Nunez that he was going to
have to “deal with it” and that he would not be
receiving any new contact lenses or going to an outside
clinic for treatment. Id. at p. 9. Dr. Els then
ended the examination. Id. at p. 9. Dr. Els charted
that Nunez shall continue to use the current contact lens
combination and prescription. (Doc. 58-5, p. 29). He also
ordered a new contact lens case and solution.
April 16, 2014, Nunez submitted a lengthy prison grievance
complaining about the lack of treatment for his eye
condition. (IDOC grievance form, Doc. 58-2, pp. 1-2). Nunez
wrote in the grievance that Dr. Els did not provide proper
treatment at the February, 2014 examination. Id. He
requested contact lens solution, a referral to an outside
clinic, and new hard and soft contact lenses. Id. at
p. 2. The grievance was then forwarded to Health Care Unit
Administrator Christine Brown. Id. at p. 1.
Nunez's counselor, “T. Krisro” responded to
the grievance, stating:
Per C Brown HCUA, you were approved for hard contacts in
2012. Contacts were issued to you. They're good for 5
years therefore in 2017 you may be issued another pair. Ms.
Brown stated you need soft contacts once per year. You will
be scheduled to see the eye Dr. for another evaluation to
ensure you receive what is medically indicated.
(Doc. 58-2, p. 1). Nunez's counselor then signed and
dated the grievance May 14, 2014. Id.
saw Dr. Els for a follow up examination on May 14, 2014.
(Doc. 58-6, p. 10).At the examination, Nunez requested new
soft contact lenses. Id. Dr. Els responded that
Nunez would not be receiving new soft contact lenses and that
he would have to wear the hard contact lenses directly on his
time, Nunez had stopped wearing his soft contact lenses
because they were completely worn out. Id. He only
wore his hard contact lenses for important occasions, such as
when writing letters to family. Id. When Nunez did
wear the hard contact lenses by themselves, he experienced
irritation and “a lot of pain[.]” Id. If
he wore no contacts at all, he was essentially blind.
Id. Nunez eventually did receive periodic refills of
contact lens solution. Id. at p. 11. However, prison
officials provided the wrong kind of contact lens solution -
Nunez was provided solution for soft contact lenses, but at
that point in time he only possessed his hard contact lenses.
Id. at p. 11.
the May 14, 2014 examination, Nunez submitted three
“Offender Request” forms asking Defendant Brown
if she could provide him with soft contact lenses and contact
lens solution. (Doc. 58-7, Doc. 58-8, Doc. 58-9). Nunez
submitted the forms in May and June of that year.
Id. He did not receive a response to the three
request forms. Nunez did, however, appeal his April 16, 2014
grievance to the prison grievance office. (Doc. 1-1, p. 6).
The prison grievance office recommended that the grievance be
denied, noting that “[i]t appears that [Nunez's]
medical concerns have been addressed by health care staff.