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Williams v. Harmston

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 30, 2018

DERRICK STEFAN WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
WESLEY HARMSTON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          The Honorable Marvin E. Aspen United States District Judge.

         Presently before us is Defendant Dr. Wesley Harmston's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Derrick Stefan Williams, a former pretrial detainee at the Will County Adult Detention Facility (“WCDF”), filed this civil rights action against Dr. Harmston pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Dr. Harmston behaved in an inappropriate manner during two medical examinations of Williams in the fall of 2014. (Compl. (Dkt. No. 1) at 4-5.) For the reasons stated herein, we grant Dr. Harmston's motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Williams was a pretrial detainee at WCDF starting in August 2014 and at all times relevant to his claims. (Def.'s L.R. 56.1(a) Statement of Undisputed Facts (“SOF”) (Dkt. No. 88) ¶ 1.) From June 2012 to June 2015, Dr. Harmston was a licensed doctor providing medical services to inmates at the jail. (SOF ¶ 2.) Williams' claims of sexual harassment against Dr. Harmston stem from medical examinations Dr. Harmston conducted of Williams' elbow, neck, back, and ribs, which Williams contends were injured during his arrest in August 2014. (SOF ¶¶ 3-4, 8-9.) As relevant here, Dr. Harmston saw Williams on September 22, 2014 to examine an elbow injury. (Dkt. No. 86-2 at PageID #:673-75.) Williams returned for treatment on October 6, 2014 complaining of an injury to his ribs after allegedly being kicked by police during his arrest. (Id. at PageID #:676-78.)

         During the October 6, 2014 medical appointment, Dr. Harmston asked Williams to remove his shirt to examine his chest, back, neck, and abdomen both by visual examination and palpation. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13-14.) Dr. Harmston maintains that it would be impossible to examine Williams' rib injuries without having Williams remove his shirt, as he needed to perform a visual examination and palpate the injured areas to assess tenderness, irregular movement, changes to the skin, and symmetry. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 14-15.) Williams disputes whether it was medically necessary to remove his shirt and have his neck, arm, chest, and rib area visually examined and palpated. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Dr. Harmston also ordered an x-ray in order to rule out acute rib fractures and dislocations, as undiagnosed rib fractures may be life threatening. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)

         In addition, Plaintiff alleges that during the October 6 visit, Dr. Harmston asked Williams if he wanted a prostate exam. (Id. ¶ 18.) Williams declined the offer, and Dr. Harmston never performed a prostate exam. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Dr. Harmston contends that he did not discuss Williams' prostate health again, never touched Williams “on or in the vicinity of his genitals or rectum, ” and never “forced or coerced” Williams into undergoing a prostate exam. (Id. ¶¶ 19-22.) Dr. Harmston asserts that he asked Plaintiff about the exam because “as an African American male over the age of forty-five . . . Plaintiff was a member of at least two populations who experience increased risk of prostate cancer.” (Id. ¶ 23.) Dr. Harmston further asserted that Williams had not had a prostate exam for years, and such exams are an important tool in early detection of prostate cancer. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 26.)

         While Williams admits that Dr. Harmston did not perform a prostate exam, he disputes that Dr. Harmston never again discussed prostate health or touched Williams on or near his genitals or rectum. (Pl.'s L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B) Resp. to Def.'s SOF (“Pl.'s Resp. SOF”) (Dkt. No. 88) ¶¶ 20-22.)[1] Williams maintains that despite being a member of a population at high risk for prostate cancer, Dr. Harmston had insufficient grounds to inquire into prostate health, and the inquiry was not documented on the medical visit reports. (Id. ¶ 27; Pl.'s Statement of Add'l Facts (“PSAF”) (Dkt. No. 88) ¶ 1.) Williams argues his complaints and injuries were unrelated to prostate cancer, and because Dr. Harmston was not examining him for a yearly routine exam, a prostate exam was “not part of the ‘normal standard of care'” for his complaints. (Pl.'s Resp. SOF ¶ 26.)

         Underlying Williams' claim and the reason he alleges he felt humiliation is his assumptions about Dr. Harmston's sexual orientation. (SOF ¶¶ 5-6.) Williams testified:

Q. Had you ever discussed prostate health with Dr. Harmston before -
A. Dr. Harmston is a fag.
Q. Okay. I noticed in one of your records that you mentioned to the mental health professionals that you thought Dr. Harmston was gay?
A. He is. He a fag.
Q. Okay. Why did you think that was worth mentioning?
A. Because he looked like a fag. He talked - he looked like a fag. He talked like a fag.
Q. Okay. Why did you think that was important for the mental health professionals -
A. Because I wanted to let them know they need to get rid of this dude.
Q. Because he's gay?
A. Yeah, gay.
* * * Q. And you saw Dr. Harmston complaining of various ...

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