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Langham v. Sood

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

February 21, 2018

ERIC LANGHAM, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se from his incarceration in Hill Correctional Center, pursues an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to his folliculitis/pseudofolliculitis. Defendants move for summary judgment, which is denied. Drawing inferences in Plaintiff's favor, a rational juror could find that Dr. Sood did not pursue an effective treatment because his employer, Wexford Health Sources, Inc., would not allow that treatment. A rational juror could find in Defendants favor, too, but that only demonstrates the existence of a disputed material fact.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A movant may demonstrate the absence of a material dispute through specific cites to admissible evidence, or by showing that the nonmovant “cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [material] fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(B). If the movant clears this hurdle, the nonmovant may not simply rest on his or her allegations in the complaint, but instead must point to admissible evidence in the record to show that a genuine dispute exists. Id.; Harvey v. Town of Merrillville, 649 F.3d 526, 529 (7th Cir. 2011). At the summary judgment stage, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, with material factual disputes resolved in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a reasonable juror could find for the nonmovant. Id.


         On or around September 14, 2014, Plaintiff noticed “three little . . . hair bumps” around the nape of his neck, which felt sore. (Pl.'s Dep. 15-16.) Plaintiff showed Dr. Sood (the Medical Director) the bumps that day during Plaintiff's routine check-up at the chronic hypertension/cardiac clinic. According to Plaintiff, Dr. Sood told Plaintiff not to worry about the bumps. (Pl.'s Dep. 17.) The medical record from that day indicates that A & D ointment was prescribed but Plaintiff maintains in his deposition that nothing was done for him that day. (Pl.'s Dep. 17.) However, in his response to the summary judgment motion, Plaintiff states that he did receive A & D ointment on September 16, 2014, two days after seeing Dr. Sood. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 6, d/e 42, and attached Exhibits B1, B2.)

         The bumps got worse, spreading, enlarging, and filling with pus. (Pl.'s Dep. 16.) On September 28, 2014, Plaintiff saw a nurse at sick call, who noted in the records, “from base of neck fanning up to back of head multiple fluid filled bumps, in many clusters.” (9/28/14 progress note, d/e 40-4, p. 16.) The nurse noted that there was no drainage, redness or bruising. Id. The nurse referred Plaintiff to the doctor.

         Dr. Sood saw Plaintiff the next day, on September 29, 2014. Dr. Sood diagnosed Plaintiff with folliculitis. The parties agree that folliculitis is an “inflammation of the hair follicles that can be caused by bacteria, yeast, or other types of fungus.” (Defs.' Undisputed Fact 5.) The condition can range in severity from mild to severe. (Defs.' Undisputed Fact 6.)

         Dr. Sood avers that he prescribed A & D ointment and a 10-day prescription for clindamycin. (De. Sood Aff. 6.) The parties agree that clindamycin is an antibiotic that can be used to treat skin infections. The parties also agree that clindamycin was a safe alternative to penicillin, to which Plaintiff is allergic. (Defs.' Undisputed Facts 11, 12.) The medical record from September 29, 2014, reflects that Dr. Sood actually prescribed Bacitracin ointment, not A & D ointment, but A & D ointment is what Plaintiff received. (9/29/14 progress note, d/e 40-4, p. 18.)

         Neither the clindamycin nor the A & D ointment helped, according to Plaintiff. On November 11, 2014, a nurse examined Plaintiff, noting multiple “fluid filled blister like vesicles” at the nape of Plaintiff's neck, with some dried vesicles. (11/11/14 progress note, d/e 40-4, p. 20.) The nurse referred Plaintiff to the doctor. Dr. Sood saw Plaintiff seven days later, on November 18, 2014. Dr. Sood observed that Plaintiff had “minor razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis.” (Dr. Sood Aff., ¶ 7.) The difference between folliculitis and pseudofolliculitis is not clear-Dr. Sood seems to use the terms interchangeably. In any event, Dr. Sood prescribed another round of clindamycin for 10 days. (11/18/14 progress note, d/e 40-4, p. 21.)

         Plaintiff attaches an unauthenticated document describing a condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae as “occur[ring] primarily in black males when the hair of the beard grows into an adjacent hair follicle and forms a small, curled-up mass within the follicle. Chronic infection is present.” (d/e 42-1, p. 3.)

         Dr. Sood does not address whether Plaintiff had this kind of pseudofolliculitis, but Dr. Sood does aver that pseudofolliculitis “commonly resolves itself with a change in grooming” and can be treated with topical antibiotic and anti-inflammatory creams. (Dr. Sood Aff ¶ 5.) The parties do not address whether or what kind of “change in grooming” might have helped Plaintiff's condition. One medical note indicates that Plaintiff kept his hair cut short, (7/23/16 progress note, d/e 40-5, p. 22), but Plaintiff stated in his deposition that he was “always bald-headed.” (Pl.'s Dep. 16.) A “Wikipedia” article attached to Plaintiff's response recommends that hair be allowed to grow out to remedy and prevent pseudofolliculitis. (d/e 42-1, p. 1.) Whether this approach was viable for Plaintiff is not addressed. If Plaintiff is bald, then Plaintiff obviously could not let his hair grow, but the Court does not understand how, if Plaintiff is bald, Plaintiff's “hair” could become trapped in adjacent follicles. In any event, the parties do not maintain that Plaintiff's condition could have been remedied by Plaintiff letting his hair grow, so the Court assumes this as well.

         Plaintiff disputes that he presented with “minor razor bumps” at the November 18 visit. Plaintiff contends that he had multiple, pus-filled clusters, “some bleeding seeping with puss and leaving areas of discharged puss on plaintiff's bedding, and shirt collars.” (Pl.'s Resp., p. 3, d/e 42.) Plaintiff's cellmate from August 2014 through February 2015 avers that Plaintiff's bumps started as 3-4 bumps in August 2014 and progressed in the next month or so to bumps “nearly covering the entire back part of his head, and now there is a large scar which looks horrible.” (Long Aff., ¶ 11, d/e 42-1.) The cellmate also observed some blood and puss on Plaintiff's mattress. (Long Aff., ¶¶4, 10-11.) At this stage, Plaintiff's description of the appearance of his condition governs.

         The second round of clindamycin and bacitracin did not improve Plaintiff's condition, according to Plaintiff. On December 1, 2014, Plaintiff saw a nurse, who scheduled Plaintiff for a follow-up appointment with the doctor. On December 9, 2014, Dr. Sood saw Plaintiff. Dr. Sood avers that Plaintiff's pseudofolliculitis was resolving, and in order to ensure complete resolution, Dr. Sood prescribed a third round of clindamycin and some therapeutic shampoo. (Sood Aff. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff disputes Dr. ...

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