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Eastman v. Doe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 22, 2018

JEFFREY EASTMAN, #S12167, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN DOE, VENERIO SANTOS, ROBERT MUELLER, WARDEN KINK, WARDEN STOCK, LISA KREBS, SGT. DOWNES, MAJOR JOHNSON, MAJOR MCABEE, WALKER, DEBORAH ZELASKO, ROBERT WEGMAN, ANN LAHR, WEXFORD HEALTH, and ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jeffrey Eastman, an inmate in Taylorville Correctional Center, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly occurred at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”) and Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”). In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims the defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical issues in violation of the Eighth Amendment and have failed to accommodate his disabilities. (Doc. 1). 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).

         As a part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that the practice of severance is important, “not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits “but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. This practice is encouraged. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently warned district courts not to allow inmates “to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.” Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017). See also Wheeler v. Talbot, 695 F. App'x 151 (7th Cir. 2017) (district court should have severed unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed one of them). Consistent with George, Owens, and Wheeler, unrelated claims will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers, and assessed separate filing fees.

         The Complaint In his Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff makes the following allegations: Plaintiff was born with a medical condition that causes the bones of his feet and ankles to collapse out of alignment when weight is put on them. (Doc. 1, p. 24). This misalignment and malformation causes Plaintiff's bones to bear weight in an unnatural way, and as a result, Plaintiff has difficulty walking. Id. This condition “causes extreme pain and discomfort that is only alleviated if [Plaintiff is] wearing braces that hold the ankles and feet in correct alignment.” Id. Plaintiff suffers from three types of pain: stabbing pain when he puts weight on his feet and ankles without corrective footwear; a dull, throbbing, burning pain that started in February 2015 and continues; and a sharp, sudden, stabbing, debilitating pain that began in March 2016 and occurs without warning when Plaintiff does not have something to support himself with, such as a cane. Id. This pain has caused Plaintiff to fall many times. Id.

         As a child, Plaintiff wore custom-fitted orthopedic braces until he was approximately 12-years old. Id. While Plaintiff was imprisoned at Big Muddy, Defendant Dr. John Doe prescribed him foam insoles, which he received August 20, 2014. Id. After he was transferred to Centralia, Plaintiff received medical lay-ins after suffering injuries on March 5, 2016 and April 11, 2016. Id. Dr. Santos issued Plaintiff the same type of foam insoles on March 5, 2016 after his first injury. Id. Dr. Santos ordered an X-ray after the April 11, 2016 injury. Id. The X-ray “showed the presence and progression of permanent damage/arthritis in the same areas affected by [Plaintiff's] medical condition.” Id.

         Dr. Garcia issued Plaintiff a slow-walker pass on September 21, 2016 and prescribed Plaintiff ACE wraps. Id. On October 26, 2016, Garcia renewed the slow-walker pass and issued Plaintiff a “No Prolonged Standing Order.” Id. On November 9, 2016, Garcia referred Plaintiff back to Dr. Santos for orthopedic shoes, but Santos denied them. Id. Garcia recommended orthopedic shoes on March 15, 2017. Id. Santos issued Plaintiff AFO braces on July 3, 2017, which Plaintiff received on July 17, 2017. Id. Santos also issued Plaintiff gel insoles on August 18, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 25). Dr. Baker issued Plaintiff a cane and ordered X-rays on September 22, 2017. Id. These X-rays showed “bi-lateral flat feet deformity.” Baker ordered lace-up ankle supports on November 28, 2017, which Plaintiff received on February 8, 2018. Id.

         All of the medical devices issued by the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) and Wexford have no corrective ability. Id. The insoles and gel do not provide ankle support or correct the ankles or arches. Id. The AFO braces are not designed for Plaintiff's medical condition and do not correct his bone alignment. Id. The ACE wraps are also not corrective but instead “simply wrap around the foot.” Id. The lace-up supports provide stiff support for Plaintiff's ankles but do not correct the alignment of his ankles or arches and “so are ineffective against [his] medical condition.” Id.

         From October 2011 until July 2014, Plaintiff's complaints regarding his medical condition were ignored, as were his requests to see an orthopedic specialist. Id. These requests and complaints were directed at John Doe. (Doc. 1, p. 33). Then from October 2014 to November 2015 when Plaintiff complained that his foam insoles were ineffective, he was also ignored. (Doc. 1, p. 25). These events took place at Big Muddy. Id.

         At Centralia, Dr. Santos refused Plaintiff pain medication on two separate occasions. Id. During every visit with Santos after his March 5, 2016 fall, on at least 11 occasions, Plaintiff asked for and was denied a mobility aid to prevent falls, orthopedic shoes, and an exam with an orthopedic specialist. Id. Even after Dr. Garcia recommended orthopedic shoes, and after Plaintiff complained of falls, Santos insisted on issuing Plaintiff foam insoles knowing that he was already wearing the same insoles when he was injured. Id. Santos also would not schedule Plaintiff for any type of rehabilitation services after discovering that Plaintiff had arthritis. Id.

         Lisa Krebs, the Health Care Unit administrator, refused to intervene and allow Plaintiff to be seen by an orthopedic specialist. Id. She also refused to investigate Plaintiff's claims of ineffective treatment, and she lied in her written response to Plaintiff, which was later used to deny Plaintiff relief in a grievance. Id. Warden Mueller failed to investigate Plaintiff's claims of medical malpractice and deliberate indifference against Santos, as well as Plaintiff's claims “of medical device interference by a black box device against Majors Johnson and McAbee.” (Doc. 1, p. 26). He also refused to intervene and stop these alleged abuses. Id. Warden Kink and Warden Stock refused to investigate Plaintiff's claims of medical device interference by a black box device, and refused to intervene and stop these alleged abuses. Id.

         Sgt. Downes forced Plaintiff to stand against medical orders, “resulting in 11 falls and near-falls, and he also sadistically laughed about a comment he made of ‘kicking [Plaintiff's] legs out from under [him].'” Id. He could have allowed Plaintiff to sit down at a stone bench feet away from where he was standing. Id.

         Johnson and McAbee ignored Plaintiff's medical needs by forcing him to wear a black box device though it prevented Plaintiff from being able to use his cane. Id. They also refused to swap the black box for waist chains, which would have allowed Plaintiff to use his cane, or the cane for a wheelchair, which would have enabled the black box device to be used. Id. These solutions would have prevented unnecessary pain and suffering. Id. Plaintiff had a “near-fall as a result of Major McAbee's order to use the black box device on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. Major Johnson's unconstitutional order was made on Wednesday, October 4, 2017.” Id.

         Counselors Walker, Zelasko, and Wegman, along with Lahr, refused to allow Plaintiff's grievances to be reviewed by an ADA Coordinator. Id. Lahr also refused to investigate Plaintiff's claims in the two grievances that she reviewed. Id. “Because of the rules and regulations as stated, Counselors Walker, Deborah Zelasko, and Robert Wegman, along with Ann Lahr, were not permitted to review and answer [Plaintiff's] grievances.” Id.

         Wexford “knowingly employs officials who have a track record for not providing the correct type of care, or outright refusing to provide care at all, for serious medical needs.” Id. IDOC allowed employees and contractors to ignore Plaintiff's medical needs. Id. As a result of his condition and the pain he experiences walking, Plaintiff has missed meals, religious services, recreational periods, job assignment opportunities, mental health services, and other general activities. (Doc. 1, p. 28).

         Plaintiff requests a preliminary and permanent injunction requiring that he be seen by an orthopedic specialist, that he receive corrective orthopedic shoes, and that he be allowed to work “any job assignment that [he] otherwise qualif[ies] for.” (Doc. 1, p. 30). Plaintiff also seeks declaratory and monetary relief. (Doc. 1, pp. 30-31).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 5 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 regarding their merit.

Count 1 - While Plaintiff was at Big Muddy, John Doe showed deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical need involving a deformity and arthritis in his feet and pain ...

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