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Breckenridgee v. Santos

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 24, 2018



          Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge.


         In August 2016, Jeremy Breckenridge filed a pro se civil rights complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against two Defendants - a physician (Venerio Santos) and an administrator (Lisa Krebs) at Centralia Correctional Center, where he was confined. On threshold review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A the next month, the undersigned District Judge dismissed certain claims and allowed other claims to proceed (Doc. 8). Specifically, a claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs was allowed to go forward against Defendant Santos. Defendant Krebs was dismissed from the lawsuit with prejudice. Claims for medical malpractice were dismissed without prejudice, because Breckenridge had not complied with the affidavit or healthcare professional report requirements of 735 ILCS 5/2-622 (see Doc. 8, pp. 8-9).

         The central allegations of the deliberate indifference claim which went forward are as follows. Breckenridge (Plaintiff) has a documented allergy to the drug “Cipro.” Despite being aware of that fact, on December 29, 2015, Dr. Santos prescribed Plaintiff the medication Bactrim, when Plaintiff presented with a urinary tract infection. Bactrim is in the same class of drugs as Cipro, and it caused a similar allergic reaction in Plaintiff. After Plaintiff returned to the healthcare unit and advised Dr. Santos that he was experiencing allergic reactions, Santos gave Plaintiff Benadryl and sent him back to his cell. Plaintiff's symptoms worsened there (e.g., swelling, shaking, skin turning dark red). Ultimately, Plaintiff was admitted to a local hospital, diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and stayed four and one-half days while his skin blistered. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Santos was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical condition and delayed medical treatment when Plaintiff presented with symptoms of Stevens-Johnson syndrome.[1]

         Defendant Santos answered in November 2016, raising the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies (Doc. 13, p. 13). A trial practice scheduling order was entered, and the case was set for trial on January 7, 2019 (see Docs. 18-19). On March 8, 2017, Santos moved for summary judgment on the ground of lack of exhaustion (Docs. 22-23). Plaintiff timely responded thereto (Doc. 26).

         The Honorable Stephen C. Williams, United States Magistrate Judge, held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on November 27, 2017 (Docs. 32, 34). Now before the Court is a Report and Recommendation (“R&R” - Doc. 33) issued by Judge Williams, recommending that the undersigned District Judge grant Santos' summary judgment motion. Plaintiff objected thereto on December 11, 2017 (Doc. 37), and Defendant Santos responded on December 29, 2017 (Doc. 39).

         Timely objections having been filed, the undersigned District Judge must review de novo the portion of the R&R to which Plaintiff specifically objected. 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Southern Dist. of Illinois Local Rule 73.1(b). The undersigned can accept, reject, or modify Judge Williams' recommendations, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to Judge Williams with instructions. Id. For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts Judge Williams' R&R in its entirety.

         Analysis begins with the standards governing analysis of Defendant's motion.

         II. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper only “if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multi Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted), citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7thCir. 2005).

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing --based on the pleadings, affidavits, and/or information obtained via discovery -- the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986), quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Ballance v. City of Springfield, Ill. Police Department, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2005); Hottenroth v. Village of Slinger, 388 F.3d 1015, 1027 (7th Cir. 2004). A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         Generally a district court's role on summary judgment is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, judge witness credibility, or determine the truth of the matter. It is only to determine whether a general issue of triable fact exists. Nat'l Athletic Sportwear Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). A slightly different standard applies to summary judgment on the issue of exhaustion.

         A motion for summary judgment based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies often involves a hearing to determine contested issues regarding exhaustion, and the judge may make limited findings of fact at that time. Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008). The case proceeds on the merits only after any contested issue of exhaustion is resolved. Pavey, 544 F.3d at 742. In the case at bar, Judge Williams conducted a hearing in light of contested factual issues (see Doc. 33, p. 4).

         B. Exhaustion Under the PLRA

         Lawsuits brought by prisoners are governed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C 1997e. The PLRA requires that “no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until … administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a).

         Exhaustion is a condition precedent to suit in federal court, so the inmate must exhaust before he commences his federal litigation; he cannot exhaust while his lawsuit is pending. See Perez v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7thCir. 1999); Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 488 (7th Cir. 2002). If the inmate fails to exhaust before filing suit in federal court, the district court must ...

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