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Taylor v. Ritz

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 12, 2018

JAMAL TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
RITZ, SMITH, and WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jamal Taylor, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff requests monetary damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. This case is now before the Court for a 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 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

         For 8 years, Plaintiff suffered chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain. (Doc. 1, p. 16). On January 23, 2017, he received a CT scan, which showed straightening of the cervical lordosis, anterior spondylosis, degenerative disc disease, disc bulging, and mild central canal stenosis. Id. Plaintiff has been referred by staff physicians to an orthopedist multiple times to address his back pain, most recently by Dr. Siddiqui at Menard on May 22, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Dr. Ritz denied Siddiqui's recommendation during a collegial required by Wexford and ordered physical therapy instead. Id. Plaintiff completed the physical therapy, but the final report indicated that his pain had increased with therapy. Id. As a result, Siddiqui once again presented his request for an orthopedic referral to Wexford's collegial board. Id. This time the request was denied by Dr. Smith, who recommended neuropathic pain medication in lieu of an orthopedic consult. (Doc. 1, p. 18). Plaintiff alleges that he tried such medication multiple times during the 9 years that he has been having symptoms, to no avail. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Ritz and Smith are deliberately indifferent to the bulging discs in his back. (Doc. 1, p. 19). He further alleges that they are acting pursuant to a policy and practice of Wexford's to prefer the most cost-effective treatment over options like surgery. (Doc. 1, p. 20).

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into 2 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 following claims survive threshold review:

Count 1 - Ritz and Smith were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's back problems in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they denied the prison medical director's request for an orthopedic consult;
Count 2 - Wexford has a policy or practice of denying inmates needed orthopedic consults in order to be cost-effective in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         Prison officials impose cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they are deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Chatham v. Davis, 839 F.3d 679, 684 (7th Cir. 2016). In order to state a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, an inmate must show that he 1) suffered from an objectively serious medical condition; and 2) that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to a risk of serious harm from that condition. Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 727 (7th Cir. 2016). An objectively serious condition includes an ailment that has been “diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment, ” one that significantly affects an individual's daily activities, or which involves chronic and substantial pain. Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997). The subjective element requires proof that ...


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