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Eastman v. Santos

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 12, 2018

JEFFREY EASTMAN, #S12167,, Plaintiff,
v.
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

          STACI M. YANDLE, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case was severed on March 23, 2018, from Eastman v. Doe, et al., No. 18-cv-543-DRH-DGW (S.D. Ill.). (Doc. 2). It contains the claims designated as Counts 3 through 5 in the original case, described as follows:

Count 3 - Santos, Mueller, Kink, Stock, Krebs, Downes, Johnson, McAbee, Walker, Zelasko, Wegman, Lahr, Wexford, and IDOC showed deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical need involving a deformity and arthritis in his feet and pain associated therewith in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Count 4 - Santos, Mueller, Kink, Stock, Krebs, Downes, Johnson, McAbee, Walker, Zelasko, Wegman, Lahr, Wexford, and IDOC committed Illinois medical malpractice/negligence in their treatment or handling of a deformity and arthritis in Plaintiff's feet and pain associated therewith.
Count 5 - IDOC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by failing to accommodate Plaintiff's needs related to a deformity and arthritis in his feet.

         Plaintiff's claims, which pertain to his incarceration at Centralia Correctional Center (“Centralia”) are now before the Court for a preliminary review 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). Any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief, must be dismissed. 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). Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff's factual allegations relating to Counts 3 through 5 are summarized below.

         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 Correctional Center, a physician 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.

         None of the medical devices issued by the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) and Wexford have any 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.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Dr. Santos refused him 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 also refused to investigate Plaintiff's claims of medical device interference by a black box device, and 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.

         Majors Johnson and McAbee ignored Plaintiff's medical needs by forcing him to wear a black box device although 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, Zelasko and Wegman, along with 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, ...


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