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Sago v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 5, 2018

BRANDON SAGO, # R-59245, Plaintiff,


          STACI M. YANDLE District Judge.

         Plaintiff Brandon Sago, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights at Menard.[1] According to the Complaint, Plaintiff has been denied medical treatment for injuries that resulted from an old gunshot wound in his left arm. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-11). Plaintiff now sues the defendants for violating his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. (Doc. 1, p. 11). He seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages and injunctive relief. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Plaintiff also requests a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants to send him to an outside specialist for further evaluation and treatment. Id.

         This case is now before the Court for 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 in the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that the defendants have denied him medical care for an old gunshot wound in his left arm since 2014. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-11). A bony protrusion from Plaintiff's left elbow has allegedly caused nerve damage and pain that requires surgery. Id. Because surgery has been denied, Plaintiff's condition has deteriorated. Id. He suffers from numbness, pain and loss of movement in his left arm, hand and fingers. Id.

         Plaintiff first requested treatment for the injury when he arrived at Menard on March 27, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Despite his complaints of serious pain at that time, Plaintiff was not seen by a nurse or doctor until June or July. Id. When he finally met with an unknown nurse (“Nurse Jane Doe 1”), Plaintiff told her about his 2011 gunshot wound. Id. He stated that the injury never healed properly, and a “big piece of bone” still protruded from his elbow. Id. He reported that it not only caused nerve damage and pain that prevented him from sleeping and exercising, but it also prevented him from straightening his arm. Id.

         After examining Plaintiff, Nurse Doe 1 said that she could do nothing for him. Id. She stated that he needed surgery. Id. However, she would not refer him to an outside specialist or hospital because his injury was not life-threatening. Id. Plaintiff was escorted from the nurse's office without a referral or any pain medication. (Doc. 1, p. 5). He filed a grievance and submitted numerous sick call slips but received no response to them. Id.

         Several weeks later, Plaintiff met with another unknown nurse (“Jane Doe 2”) to discuss his treatment options. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Nurse Doe 2 responded to Plaintiff in the same manner as Nurse Doe 1. Id. In addition, she explained that Menard was not responsible for treating the injury because it did not occur at the prison. Id. Nurse Doe 2 nevertheless referred Plaintiff to the prison's doctor for further evaluation and provided him with a low dose of ibuprofen for his pain. Id. The ibuprofen was ineffective. Id.

         Plaintiff waited a month to see an unknown doctor (“John Doe 1”). (Doc. 1, p. 6). The doctor ordered an x-ray of Plaintiff's left arm and concluded that he needed surgery. Id. However, Doctor Doe 1 informed Plaintiff that surgery would do nothing for him. Id. Moreover, because his injury was not life-threatening, the doctor would not refer Plaintiff for further evaluation or treatment with an outside specialist. Id. Doctor Doe 1 told Plaintiff that his arm “w[ould] be this way for the rest of [Plaintiff's] life, ” and he “would just have to deal with it.” Id.

         After Plaintiff filed additional grievances, the prison grievance officer (“Jane Doe 3”) referred him for a second appointment with Doctor Doe 1 on or around September 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Doctor Doe 1 referred Plaintiff for an appointment with Doctor Trost. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). After examining Plaintiff's arm and reviewing his x-rays, Doctor Trost agreed with Doctor Doe 1. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Doctor Trost informed Plaintiff that nothing could be done for the old injury and that a referral request would likely be denied because his injury was not life-threatening. Id. Even so, Doctor Trost submitted a request on Plaintiff's behalf for treatment with an outside specialist. Id. The physician who reviewed the request, Doctor Ritz, denied it and recommended additional monitoring and treatment if Plaintiff's symptoms worsened. Id.

         For nearly a year, Plaintiff complained of additional symptoms and increasing pain in grievances and notes to Doctor Trost. (Doc. 1, p. 7). He explained that his pain medication was ineffective. Id. Although he was given a slightly higher dose of pain medication, it still did not work. Id. He also complained of increasing left arm numbness, loss of dexterity, and loss of sleep. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). Plaintiff was not scheduled for a follow-up appointment and received no response to his written requests for treatment. Id.

         After citing these symptoms in sick call requests in December 2016 and/or January 2017, Plaintiff was finally scheduled for another appointment with Doctor Trost in January or February 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Doctor Trost ordered another x-ray of Plaintiff's left arm. Id. The x-ray revealed a large bony protrusion in his left arm. Id. The doctor indicated that his condition had gotten worse, and he was also suffering from arthritis. Id. Doctor Trost explained that Plaintiff's elbow would likely need to be re-broken in order to remove the bony protrusion and reconstruct his arm. Id. The doctor submitted another referral request on Plaintiff's behalf. Id. Once again, Doctor Ritz denied the request, and Doctor Matticks recommended continued monitoring of Plaintiff's condition. (Doc. 1, p. 8; Doc. 1-1, p. 2). Plaintiff filed a grievance to challenge this decision but received no response. Id.

         On February 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance with Warden Jacqueline Lashbrook. (Doc. 1, p. 9). The warden agreed that his situation presented an emergency and referred the matter to Grievance Officer Kelly Pierce for further investigation. (Id.; Doc. 1-1, pp. 10-11). Grievance Officer Pierce recommended that the grievance be denied as moot because of Plaintiff's on-going treatment for the injury. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a second emergency grievance with Warden Lashbrook on March 22, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 9). He complained about his continued lack of treatment for the same medical issues. Id. Warden Lashbrook deemed this grievance to be a non-emergency. (Id.; Doc. 1-1, pp. 14-15). Plaintiff's attempts to appeal this decision to the Administrative Review Board were unsuccessful. (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). Warden Lashbrook also reviewed a third emergency grievance from Plaintiff dated September 12, 2017 and declared it a non-emergency on September 21, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 21).

         On November 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a fourth emergency grievance to complain about the loss of feeling in his fingers for two days, during which time his arm was stuck in the same position. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Warden Lashbrook again declared the grievance to be a non-emergency. (Doc. 1, pp. 18-19). Nursing Director Holly Hawkin and Medical Director Siddiqui reviewed Plaintiff's file and scheduled him for a ...

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