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Gordon v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 24, 2018

JEROME GORDON, # B-51655, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lincoln Correctional Center (“Lincoln”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”). Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical condition. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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 “no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit.” 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. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Applying these standards, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On December 12, 2016, Plaintiff injured his leg while in the gym. He went to the Health Care Unit that evening and was given a crutch. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff was told that he would be seen by a doctor the next morning.

         The next day, however (December 13, 2016), Plaintiff was not on the call list to see a doctor. He asked the John Doe Correctional Officer #1 (R4-B-Wing)[1]to help him get medical attention, because he was in extreme pain. The John Doe Officer #1 asked Nurse Richardson to see Plaintiff, but Richardson refused. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         On December 14, 2016, Plaintiff again informed the John Doe Correctional Officer #2[2] on duty of his need for medical attention. The John Doe Officer #2 told Nurse Richardson again that Plaintiff was injured. Richardson again refused to see Plaintiff, telling the John Doe Officer #2 and the R4-Unit John Doe Lieutenant that Plaintiff would not be seen by anyone. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         On December 15, 2016, Plaintiff was seen in the Health Care Unit, where he was diagnosed with a torn tendon in his lower right leg. He was sent to an outside hospital on December 16, 2016, where he was assessed by Dr. Woods (who is not a Defendant), and scheduled for surgery. The tendon-repair surgery was performed on December 23, 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         On January 10, 2017, back at the prison, Nurse Rogers removed Plaintiff's stitches. He questioned her, because he had not yet returned to the specialist (Dr. Woods) for an assessment of the surgery site, but Rogers assured Plaintiff that it was proper for her to remove them. Later that day, Plaintiff showed the incision to another nurse (Helena, who is not a Defendant), who noted that the removal of the stitches had left a “large opening” in Plaintiff's leg. The nurse called an unknown doctor with this information, and the doctor told her to “use her judgment” to address Plaintiff's condition. She put 2 “taped stitches” over the wound, and told Plaintiff that his stitches had been removed too early. (Doc. 1, p. 16).

         Plaintiff continued to have serious problems with the surgical site. He suffered with “constant pain” from December 2016 through at least June 2017. On or before March 1, 2017, Plaintiff was prescribed antibiotics (sulfamethoxazole-TMP DS; generic for Bactrim). (Doc. 1, p. 19). On March 13, 2017, he was given a 4th round of this medication, and Dr. Butalid instructed Plaintiff to return for a follow-up in 10 days. (Doc. 1, p. 18). Butalid ordered a blood test, but this was not done until April 20, 2017. Despite the antibiotics, the wound continued to be painful. Id.

         Beginning around April 10, 2017, unidentified medical staff started sending Plaintiff call passes to go to the Health Care Unit once a day for dressing changes. (Doc. 1, p. 17). However, many times he would not get a pass, and a nurse would give Plaintiff bandages so he could perform the dressing change himself.

         On April 17, 2017, Plaintiff noticed green pus oozing from the wound. He told Nurse Brock, who advised him to write a grievance. Despite this advice, Brock refused to “do anything or talk to anybody else about” Plaintiff's condition. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Plaintiff went for a long period without seeing a doctor. At some point he asked Nurse Nancy for help to address his condition, and she refused. (Doc. 1, p. 18).

         On April 20, 2017, Plaintiff had the blood test which Dr. Butalid had ordered over a month before. He then had to wait for another “45 to 90 days” before seeing Dr. Butalid for a follow-up. When he saw the doctor, Plaintiff was given another round of antibiotics, because the wound continued to leak pus, soaking the bandages. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19).

         While taking the prescribed antibiotics, Plaintiff developed skin problems, including an itchy rash, scabbing, and bumps all over his body. This was diagnosed as scabies and treated accordingly. However, it was discovered much later (on May 30, 2017) that Plaintiff was actually having an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. (Doc. 1, pp. 19-20). Furthermore, Dr. Butalid diagnosed Plaintiff with high blood pressure that he stated was caused by the lengthy course of antibiotics. Dr. Butalid put Plaintiff on Lisinopril to control his blood pressure. (Doc. 1, p. 20).

         On June 2, 2017, Plaintiff was given Bactrim again. (Doc. 1, p. 22). He claims that this should not have been done, because of the allergic reaction that he had to this medication. He claims that “medical staff” failed to keep accurate medical records on his condition, and failed to follow the recommendations of his specialist/surgeon (Dr. Woods). Id.

         On June 15, 2017, Dr. Bob (who is not named as a Defendant), ordered a week-long course of medication for Plaintiff, to help reverse the allergic reaction. (Doc. 1, pp. 20-21). However, Nurse Jana failed to give Plaintiff this medication for the week. She created a false record stating that Plaintiff got the medication, when he in fact did not receive it. Plaintiff told Dr. Bob about the problem, but he just told Plaintiff to “tell somebody higher up.” (Doc. 1, p. 21).

         Plaintiff claims generally that all the John/Jane Doe Nurses (#1-20), John/Jane Doe Doctors (#1-6), John/Jane Doe Physician Assistants (#1-6), and John/Jane Doe Nurse Practitioners (#1-6), saw him throughout the 6 months he was treated following his surgery. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         In the end, Plaintiff had to undergo a second surgery on the same leg (he does not disclose the date of this surgery). Dr. Woods told Plaintiff that taking the antibiotics for 6 months and the ensuing allergic reaction caused “major damage” to Plaintiff's lower right leg. (Doc. 1, p. 21). Dr. Woods performed the second surgery at the John Doe Hospital in Herrin, Illinois. (Doc. 1, p. 22). The John/Jane Doe Anesthesiologist failed to do his/her job properly, because Plaintiff regained consciousness during the surgery, when he “felt digging sensations and sharp pains” and started talking. Id. The John/Jane Doe Anesthesiologist “went into a panic” and put Plaintiff back under. Id.

         Plaintiff further complains that Pinckneyville officials do not properly handle inmate grievances. (Doc. 1, pp. 22-25). The counselor does not consistently make grievance forms available, causing a delay in the process. The counselor, grievance officer, and Warden Jaimet deny grievances over medical care, which causes delay and more suffering. Plaintiff claims that he put these officials on notice of his need for medical care, but each denied his grievances. The Administrative Review Board and IDOC Director Baldwin failed to set up a medical committee to hear medical grievances, and they also denied Plaintiff's grievances.

         Finally, Plaintiff complains that Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), which employs the health professionals at Pinckneyville, has been sued numerous times over such problems as providing inadequate care to inmates and violating IDOC rules. (Doc. 1, p. 25). They improperly deny grievances. They have “cost induced policies” and fail to follow specialist recommendations. (Doc. 1, pp. 25-26). He claims that Wexford failed to send him to a specialist in a timely manner. Wexford fails to follow up, fails to hire competent employees, and fails to help inmates with their medical needs. He asserts that Wexford, as well as the other Defendants, were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.

         Plaintiff also invokes the Court's supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims arising from these facts. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, p. 27).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against John Doe Correctional Officers #1 and #2, and John Doe Lieutenant, for failing to obtain medical treatment for Plaintiff on December 13-14, 2016;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Nurse Richardson, for refusing to give Plaintiff medical attention on December 13-14, 2016;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Nurse Rogers, for removing Plaintiff's stitches prematurely on January 10, 2017;
Count 4: State law malpractice/negligence claim against Nurse Rogers, for removing Plaintiff's stitches prematurely on January 10, 2017;
Count 5: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Dr. Butalid, for failing to monitor Plaintiff's condition in a timely manner and continuing to treat Plaintiff with ...

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