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Terrell v. Scott

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 21, 2018

RONNIE TERRELL, # N-83826, Plaintiff,
DOCTOR SCOTT, VIPIN SHAH, JOHN DOE #1 Nurse, JOHN DOE #2 Nurse, and JOHN DOE #3 Nurse, Defendants.


          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center (“Pinckneyville”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to several serious medical conditions. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Additionally, the Court must consider whether all of Plaintiff's claims may appropriately proceed together in the same lawsuit. This initial review reveals that 3 of Plaintiff's claims are not properly joined in this action. These improperly joined claims shall therefore be severed into separate cases, where they shall undergo the required § 1915A evaluation.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 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). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, 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).

         Applying these standards, one claim that shall remain in this action survives threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff states that he brings his Complaint against the Medical Staff at Pinckneyville and Wexford Health Source, for violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. (Doc. 1, p. 9). However, he did not name Wexford Health Source among the Defendants.

         Plaintiff alleges that at some unspecified time, he told Dr. Shah about his “constant headaches” and his belief that they are related to a lump on the top of his head. (Doc. 1-1, p. 9). Dr. Shah responded that the lump was an “old injury, ” and Plaintiff should wait until he leaves IDOC custody to address it “because of the germ[s] around here.” Id. Dr. Shah's failure to use his knowledge, skill, and care to address Plaintiff's headaches was negligent, according to Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff further states that since he arrived at Pinckneyville, false information in his medical records has contributed to the inadequate care. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 4-5). The Intake Nurse (John Doe #1)[1] did not give him an examination, and wrote in his records that he had no complaints or medication orders. Plaintiff claims that in fact, his medical records from Cook County and 2 other facilities documented that he was on (unspecified) medication, and that he had the lump on top of his cranium. This lump is growing and Plaintiff's headaches are getting worse. When he brought it to the attention of medical staff, it measured 10cm around, but he estimates it is now 25cm. (Doc. 1-1, p. 5). It hurts periodically and causes headaches.

         Plaintiff alleges that if the Intake Nurse (Doe #1) had not altered his records regarding the lump on his head, he would have had a “fifty percent chance” of receiving adequate medical care. (Doc. 1-1, p. 6). Further, if he had received an examination at intake, Pinckneyville staff might have been better prepared for his need for medical assistance - he claims that this omission interfered with his medical permission slip for a lower deck and bottom bunk placement. He also claims to have had a second medical slip regarding a physical challenge that would allow him to participate in “ADA activity.” Id.

         Plaintiff's second experience with inadequate treatment was when he consulted Dr. Scott for pain in his right knee. Dr. Scott performed some simple exercises, prescribed medication for Plaintiff, and referred him to a therapist. (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). Plaintiff believed that Dr. Scott should have performed a blood test and ordered a knee x-ray before sending him to therapy. Three months later, Plaintiff was still having “extreme bad pain” in the knee, and asked for an x-ray. (Doc. 1-1, p. 3). The x-ray results showed “no damage” to Plaintiff's knee. Plaintiff, however, claims that this diagnosis is incorrect, because while he was housed at the Cook County Department of Corrections, an x-ray performed there showed results “totally the opposite” of Pinckneyville. Id. Plaintiff concludes that these allegedly different results (which he does not further describe) demonstrated inadequate treatment on the part of Pinckneyville medical providers.

         On yet another occasion, Plaintiff contracted food poisoning, which also affected other inmates who ate the same meal. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4). Plaintiff was seen by John/Jane Doe Nurse #2 and told her about his symptoms of light-headedness, vomiting, and “constantly stool usage.” Id. The Nurse was instructed to give out medication for this problem (which the Court assumes was diarrhea), but she told Plaintiff she had left it behind and would return with it later. She never came back to give Plaintiff the medication, which left him in “a lot of discomfort.” Id.

         Plaintiff describes a third medical issue, of “stomach discomfort.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 7). The John Doe Nurse #3 refused to accept the stomach problem as a “medical emergency” that would be immediately referred to a doctor. Because this nurse considered Plaintiff's issue a non-emergency, this meant that Plaintiff would only be referred to the doctor after he first made 3 visits to Health Care for the problem, paying a $5.00 co-payment each time. The Nurse (Doe #3) prescribed “Fill Fiber Lax Captabs” for Plaintiff, but he claims he did not need them, because his symptoms were much worse than a stool softener could relieve. (Doc. 1-1, p. 7).

         Plaintiff submitted another request slip for this problem, but when the same Nurse Doe #3 responded, he refused to see her. He then continued to endure the problem for another 2-1/2 months, after which it seemed to improve. Plaintiff asserts that he has a “common law right to refuse treatment [as] part of the doctrine of informed consent especially when a patient know[s] he's getting the wrong or useless medication for his symptom.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 8). He asserts that this Nurse Doe #3 violated his Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights.

         Ten months later, Plaintiff's same stomach problems recurred, and he submitted another request slip. This time, the nurse (apparently not Doe #3) referred Plaintiff straight to the doctor after he explained his symptoms. (Doc. 1-1, p. 7). Tests were run, and a doctor prescribed a 6-month course of Omeprazole for Plaintiff. (Doc. 1-1, p. 8).

         Plaintiff seeks damages and unspecified injunctive relief for the alleged violations of his rights. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 6, 8).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following 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 as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Dr. Shah for failing to provide any treatment for Plaintiff's headaches and the lump on his head;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against the John Doe #1 Intake Nurse for failing to examine Plaintiff or document the lump on his head, and for interfering with his medical permits;
Count 3: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Dr. Scott for failing to adequately treat Plaintiff's knee pain and for failing to diagnose the knee problem that had been ...

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