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Dunmore v. Lamb

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 10, 2018

JAMES E. DUNMORE, #R-64188, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff James E. Dunmore, an inmate currently housed at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Among other things, Plaintiff claims that Defendants have exhibited deliberate indifference to his chronic back pain. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint (Doc. 1) 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff underwent back surgery in 2011. (Doc. 1, p. 5). The back surgery left Plaintiff confined to a wheelchair. Id. Additionally, because of his back condition, Plaintiff suffers from serious “physical pain” and “nerve damage pain.” Id. In 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to Lawrence. Id. At that time, Lawrence physicians prescribed Tramadol (100 milligrams three times a day) and Neurontin (900 milligrams in the morning and afternoon and 1200 milligrams in the evening) to control Plaintiff's pain. (Doc. 1, p. 6). According to Plaintiff, this pain management regimen effectively controlled his pain. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that he is a mental health patient and that this pain management regimen was an important aspect of controlling his stress and anxiety. Id.

         Tramadol is a controlled medication. Id. Therefore, Plaintiff went to the Health Care Unit to obtain his midday dose from the nurses on duty. Id. On September 14, 2017, Dr. Ahmed told Plaintiff “the nurses no longer want [Plaintiff] to come to the Health Care Unit to receive his 12 noon pain meds, and wanted him (Dr. Ahmed) to take [Plaintiff] off his 12 noon dosage.” Id. Plaintiff objected, stating that Dr. Ahmad, and not the nurses, should be making decisions about Plaintiff's medication. Id. Dr. Ahmed explained that, even though he was the medical director, he needed to get along with the nurses because they run the Health Care Unit. Id. Accordingly, to avoid conflict, Dr. Ahmed complied with the nurses' request. (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Immediately after relaying this information, Dr. Ahmad had Plaintiff speak with Nurse Brooks, “so she [could] tell [Plaintiff] just what was going to take place from this point, not the doctor.” Id. Nurse Brooks told Plaintiff that, from now on, he would receive his pain medication in two doses - morning and night. Id. Plaintiff objected, telling Nurse Brooks that his prior physicians prescribed the noon dosage to address breakthrough pain. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff told Nurse Brooks that taking the same amount of medication in two (as opposed to three) doses would require Plaintiff to take too much medication at one time. Id. The Complaint suggests that Nurse Brooks disregarded Plaintiff's concerns. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 21-22).

         For the next few days, Plaintiff submitted several sick call requests regarding back pain, but did not receive a response. (Doc. 1, p. 7). At approximately 1:30 a.m. on September 19, 2017, Plaintiff began experiencing severe pain. Id. He spoke with the on-duty correctional officer, who said he would place Plaintiff on the sick call list. Id. Then, on the evening of September 19, 2017, Plaintiff spoke with Jane Doe #1 (described in the body of the Complaint as the on duty nurse responsible for delivering medication to inmates) about his severe back pain. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Jane Doe #1 said she would place Plaintiff on the sick call list, but declined to give Plaintiff additional pain medication. Id. Plaintiff waited all day on September 20, 2017, but was not called to see a physician. Id.

         On September 21, 2017, [2] Plaintiff called a family member, Ms. Machado, and explained that he was in severe pain but had not been called to see a physician. Id. Ms. Machado contacted Assistant Warden Brookhart and told him Plaintiff was in extreme pain and, despite several requests, had yet to receive medical attention. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Assistant Warden Brookhart said he would make sure Plaintiff received the necessary medical care. Id. Ms. Machado also called “IDOC in Springfield.” Id. “The IDOC told Ms. Machado that they would contact the Warden.” Id. The following day, Warden Brookhart called Ms. Machado and, once again, assured her Plaintiff would be given access to a doctor. Id.

         On September 23, 2017, Plaintiff “broke down and began screaming as a result of the pain he was experiencing.” (Doc. 1, pp. 9-10). A correctional officer contacted the Health Care Unit and learned that, per Assistant Warden Brookhart, Plaintiff was supposed to have been seen by a doctor on the previous day. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Accordingly, Plaintiff was taken to the Health Care Unit to be seen by Dr. Ahmed. Id.

         During this visit, Dr. Ahmed reiterated that the nurses did not want him to prescribe midday pain medication for Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 23-24).[3] Dr. Ahmed said he did not want to upset the nurses or have any problems with them. Id. Dr. Ahmed then spoke with Plaintiff's ADA Assistant, telling him the same thing. Id. When Plaintiff objected, Dr. Ahmed contemplated prescribing Tylenol-3. Id. Plaintiff told Dr. Ahmed that, like Tramadol, Tylenol-3 was a controlled medication. Id. Accordingly, Tylenol-3 also had to be dispensed by the nurses. Id. Dr. Ahmed told Plaintiff he would have to speak with one of the nurses. (Doc. 1, p. 24). Shortly after Dr. Ahmed made that statement, Nurse Collins entered the examination room, “telling the doctor what to do.” Id. Ultimately, Dr. Ahmed did not prescribe Tylenol-3 (or any other midday pain medication). (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 24). Instead, “once again Dr. Ahmed did as the nurses told him.” (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         Plaintiff submitted emergency grievances to Warden Lamb on September 21, 22, and 23. (Doc. 1, pp. 9, 21-26). In the grievances, Plaintiff claimed as follows: (1) following back surgery in 2011, Plaintiff had been “confined to a wheelchair with both physical and serious nerve damage pain;” (2) between 2011 and 2017 he had an effective pain management regimen, which had been prescribed by previous physicians; (3) on September 14, 2017, Dr. Ahmed and various nurses withdrew Plaintiff's midday Tramadol prescription for nonmedical reasons; and (4) the change in Plaintiff's pain management regimen was causing Plaintiff severe pain. (Doc. 1, pp. 21-26). Warden Lamb concluded the grievances were not an emergency and directed Plaintiff to submit his grievances in the normal manner. Id.

         Between September and November, Plaintiff continued to experience pain and submitted numerous sick call requests. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11). He also “stop[p]ed everyone that he [saw] to try and get him to see a doctor for the pain he [had] been suffering with because Defendants at the Health Care Unit failed to adequately manage [his] pain.” (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff claims that the ongoing pain put his “mental stability in question[, ]” requiring him to contact his mental health specialist. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Plaintiff was not given access to the Health Care Unit again until November 15, 2017. The examining nurse “Jane Doe” expressed annoyance and asked what Plaintiff was crying about. (Doc. 1, p. 11). She then said Plaintiff should see the doctor on November 16, 2017. However, Plaintiff was not called to see the doctor on November 16, 2017.

         In connection with the above allegations, Plaintiff states that he is pursuing claims for deliberate indifference, failure to intervene, civil conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1, pp. 11-18). Plaintiff is seeking monetary damages. (Doc. 1, p. 19).

         Dismissal of Certain Defendants

         Before outlining Plaintiff's claims, the Court finds it appropriate to address Plaintiff's failure to include sufficiently specific allegations against Health Care Unit Administrator Cunningham, IDOC Medical Director Meeks, Nurse Dowty, Jane Doe Nurse #2, Jane Doe Nurse #3, and the three groups of John Doe Correction Officers. Plaintiffs are required to associate specific defendants with specific claims, so that defendants are put on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can properly answer the complaint. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Where a plaintiff does not include a defendant in his statement of claim, or includes only conclusory legal statements against him, the defendant cannot be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are directed against him. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998). See also 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”). Furthermore, merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not sufficient to state a claim against that individual. Collins, 143 F.3d at 334. And in the case of those defendants in supervisory positions, the doctrine of respondeat superior is not applicable to § 1983 actions. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).

         As is set forth more fully below, the Complaint does not include sufficiently specific allegations as to Health Care Unit Administrator Cunningham, IDOC Medical Director Meeks, Nurse Dowty, Jane Doe Nurse #2, Jane Doe Nurse #3, or the John Doe Correction Officers. As such, these defendants will be dismissed without prejudice.

         John Doe ...

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