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Clark v. Wexford Health Care Service Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 27, 2018

DENNIS CLARK JR., Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Dennis Clark, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his hypokalemia. Following screening, Plaintiff proceeds on his claim that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 8).

         This matter is currently before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 60). Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendants' Joint Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. 81) and Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 80); Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 82). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         The following facts have been taken from Plaintiff's deposition, with supplemental information from Plaintiff's medical records where noted. On or about June 26, 2015, Plaintiff Dennis Clark arrived at Lawrence from Stateville Correctional Center (Doc. 61-2 at 7). At the time he arrived at Lawrence, Clark was taking a potassium supplement (KTabs), 40 milliequivalents, twice per day (Id. at 7-8). Clark had been hospitalized due to symptoms of hypokalemia (low potassium) multiple times (Id. at 4).

         Dr. Coe ordered the same dosage of potassium supplement for Clark upon his arrival at Lawrence which he received on June 27, 2015 (Id. at 8). On July 23, 2015, Clark was seen by Physician Assistant James and self-reported his history of hypokalemia; James referred him to see a nephrologist via telemedicine (Id. at 8-9). Clark had a telemedicine visit with the nephrologist on August 6, 2015 - she made no change to his dose of supplemental potassium (he remained on a dose of 40 meq twice per day) (Id., Doc. 61-1 at 8).

         On August 17, 2015, Clark was examined by Dr. Coe for chest pain at which time he informed Dr. Coe of his history of low potassium since age 11 (Doc. 62-2 at 12, Doc. 61-1 at 12). Clark also reported that he was able to participate in athletic activities such as basketball without problems (Id.). Dr. Coe ordered an EKG which was conducted on August 21, 2015 (Doc. 61-1 at 13).

         Eight days later, Clark was seen by a physician assistant who enrolled him in the General Medicine Clinic to be seen every six months to monitor his history of low potassium syndrome, and ordered lab testing to be done in October 2015 (prior to the next clinic date) (Id.). Clark had no symptoms of low potassium during his time at Stateville or Lawrence prior to September 28, 2015 (Doc. 61-2 at 15).

         At approximately 12:48 a.m. on September 28, 2015, Clark woke up and could not move (Id. at 15-16). He called out for his cellmate, Corey Lee, and asked him to press the emergency button because his potassium was low and he could not get out of bed (Id. at 15-16). Lee lifted him out of the top bunk, brought him to the bottom bunk and put his head over the toilet so that he could vomit (Id. at 16). Lee then pressed the emergency button and C/O Buchannan responded (Id.). Lee told Buchannan that Clark needed medical attention and Buchannan said he would call the nurse (Id.). Buchannan came back to the cell approximately 15 minutes later and said the nurse would be over when she got a chance (Id.). Clark continued to vomit while he was waiting on the nurse (Id.). He felt pressure on his spine and was getting stiff from being slumped over vomiting (Id. at 17).

         Nurse Powell and Kevin Blevins arrived at Clark's cell to find him slumped over in his cellmate's bed vomiting (Id.). Powell asked Clark what he had eaten recently (Id.). He told her that he knew what was wrong with him…that his potassium was low because he had episodes like this before (Id.). Powell told the C/O to put Clark in a wheelchair and take him to HCU to take his vitals (Id.). Clark requested to be sent to an outside hospital because he could not move and his vision was going in and out (Id. at 18). Powell told him it was likely that he had eaten something that had made him sick (Id.). Clark alleges that Powell repeatedly cursed at him while she was assessing him (Id.).

         When Clark was in the HCU, Powell took his vitals and called Dr. Coe (Id.). Powell told Clark that Coe's order was just to see what was wrong with him (Id., Doc. 61-1 at 18). He asked Powell to call Dr. Coe a second time and explain to him that he was vomiting, that he could not breathe, and that heart was not beating right (Doc. 61-2 at 18). Clark heard Powell call Dr. Coe back, but she did not explain any of his symptoms and did not relay any information regarding Clark's condition worsening (Id.). Powell then told Clark he would be seen by Dr. Coe in the morning and that he was to be escorted back to his cell in the meantime (Id.). The C/Os transferred Clark back to his cell and put him back on the bottom bunk (Id. at 19).

         Clark continued to vomit and after approximately an hour, his cellmate pressed the emergency button again (Id.). Powell was called back to the cell and had the C/Os put Clark a wheelchair and transfer him to HCU (Id. at 20). Powell again called Dr. Coe when Clark arrived back in HCU (Id.). The medical records indicate that an EKG was performed and the results were read to Dr. Coe over the phone. However, Clark disputes that an EKG was conducted at that time (Id. at 23). After speaking to Dr. Coe over the phone, Powell asked the C/O to see if a bed was available in the infirmary (Id. at 20). The C/O checked the infirmary and reported back that there was no bed available (Id.).

         Clark alleges he was then transferred back to his cell (Id.). The medical records indicate that Clark was transferred to HCU just twice that night, but Clark recalls being transferred three times (Id. at 23). According to the RN Note, after the second transfer to the HCU, Dr. Coe ordered that Clark be held in the HCU until he was seen by him that day (Doc. 61-1 at 20).

         Approximately 30-40 minutes after being back in his cell, Clark was still vomiting, so the C/O and nurse were called back to his cell a third time (Id. at 21). He was again transferred to HCU and was placed in a Geri-chair in the HCU bullpen until the doctor arrived (Id. at 22-23). Powell put a pail on the floor for him to vomit in (I ...

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