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Monroe v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 15, 2018

STEVEN D. MONROE, # R-14337, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPT. of CORRECTIONS, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., JOHN R. BALDWIN, DAVE WHITE, JACQUELINE LASHBROOK, LORI F. OAKLEY, DR. SIDDIQUI, HOLLY HAWKINS, DR. SHAH, DR. MOLDENHAUER, JANE DOES #1 & #2 Med-Tech, JOHN DOE #1 Med-Tech, and JOHN DOE #2 Med-Tech, R.N., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the Complaint 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). 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, the Court finds that some of Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         On October 17, 2017, Plaintiff began having excruciating headaches, accompanied by a loss of hearing in his right ear. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Early that morning, he handed a request slip to a medical technician[1] making medication rounds, reporting his symptoms and asking to be seen immediately by a health care provider. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). Plaintiff was not called for an appointment until October 23, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 8). In the intervening 5 days, while Plaintiff continued to suffer severe pain and hearing loss, he made daily inquiries to his gallery officers regarding the status of his sick-call request. They contacted Health Care, and were told that Plaintiff was not on the list to be seen. (Doc. 1, p. 7). On October 22, 2017, Plaintiff submitted another request slip seeking emergency treatment.

         On October 23, 2017, Plaintiff submitted another emergency health care request slip. He was seen that morning by Med-Tech Jane Doe #1, who examined him and told him he had ear wax buildup, but she did not know why he was having headaches. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Based on the examination by Med-Tech Jane Doe #1, Dr. Moldenhauer prescribed medicated ear drops, ibuprofen, an antibiotic (Floxin), and scheduled Plaintiff to be seen in a week for an ear flush. Plaintiff notified Dr. Moldenhauer that he has a “PCN” allergy;[2] the doctor said the prescribed medication should not be a problem. Plaintiff began using the ear wax removal drops and ibuprofen.

         On October 25, 2017, Med-Tech John Doe #1 brought Plaintiff the medicated ear drops and antibiotic pills. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Plaintiff questioned whether these medications would trigger his PCN allergy. Med-Tech John Doe #1 said he would check on this and bring the medications back, but he never returned, so Plaintiff did not get his dosage for that day.

         On October 26, 2017, Med-Tech Jane Doe #2 brought Plaintiff's ear drops and antibiotics. Plaintiff explained his PCN allergy and asked if the medications were PCN-related. Med-Tech John Doe #1 did not know if they were, and left it up to Plaintiff to take the medications or not. He declined to take them, out of concern for a possible allergic reaction. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         The next day (October 27, 2017), no medications were delivered to Plaintiff; he sent a request addressed to the Medical Director explaining his symptoms and need to be seen immediately. (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         The next morning (October 28, 2017), Plaintiff was called to see a medical technician, who called Health Care and confirmed that neither the ear drops nor the prescribed antibiotic was PCN-related. Plaintiff began taking both as prescribed.

         Eleven days later (November 7, 2017), Plaintiff submitted a health care request to explain that his symptoms had not improved, the medications were not working, and he had not been called to have his ear flushed even though more than a week had elapsed. (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         The next day (November 8, 2017), Plaintiff saw Dr. Shah. (Doc. 1, p. 11). Plaintiff explained that his right ear was swollen and the pain was “10 out of 10.” Id. Dr. Shah said Plaintiff's ears would not be flushed unless he examined Plaintiff first. Plaintiff asked Dr. Shah not to push the audioscope tool all the way into his ear, but Dr. Shah did so anyway. This caused a “pop” noise in Plaintiff's ear, accompanied by severe pain and profuse bleeding. A Med-Tech then cleaned up the blood and flushed Plaintiff's ear. She told him to run water in his ear if it continued to bleed.

         When Plaintiff returned to his cell, he passed out from the pain. When he awoke nearly 2 hours later, his ear was still bleeding. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         Two days later (November 10, 2017), Plaintiff's ear was still swollen and bleeding, he was still having excruciating headaches, and he had not regained the hearing in his right ear. He submitted a health care request slip.

         The next day (November 11, 2017), Plaintiff was called to see a Med-Tech, who saw dried blood, swelling, and scarring in his right ear canal. She told Plaintiff he would be immediately scheduled to see a doctor. (Doc. 1, p. 12). However, Plaintiff did not see Dr. Siddiqui until November 20, 2017, 9 days later. Id. Meanwhile, Plaintiff submitted a grievance complaining about inadequate medical care.

         After examining Plaintiff on November 20, Dr. Siddiqui opined that he never should have been given the ear drops or antibiotics. Plaintiff requested a referral to a specialist. (Doc. 1, p. 13).

         On November 30, 2017, Plaintiff received the response to his grievance from Dr. Siddiqui and Nursing Director Hawkins, stating that Plaintiff's issues were addressed in the November 20 visit. On December 6, 2017, Plaintiff submitted another health care request, stating that his headaches and hearing loss continued, and asking for a specialist referral. Plaintiff appealed his grievance to Grievance Officer Oakley, noting his problems were not resolved and he had not been sent to a specialist. Oakley ruled his grievance as moot, and Warden Lashbrook concurred with the decision. (Doc. 1, p. 14). Plaintiff appealed the grievance to White (Administrative Review Board) and Baldwin (Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, “IDOC”). (Doc. 1, pp. 14-15). On January 20, 2018, White and Baldwin denied the grievance appeal, stating that Menard officials had properly addressed Plaintiff's issues. (Doc. 1, p. 15).

         Plaintiff submitted another request slip seeking a specialist referral on December 18, 2017. On December 21, 2017, Dr. Siddiqui examined Plaintiff's ear, which was still red and showed scarring. Plaintiff reported his symptoms were no better. Dr. Siddiqui said he would schedule a specialist visit in 1 week. (Doc. 1, p. 14).

         On January 12, 2018, Plaintiff was seen by Med-Tech/R.N. John Doe #2, who announced he was the “institutional specialist.” (Doc. 1, p. 15). However, he had never before performed an ear test. After completing the hearing test, Med-Tech/R.N. John Doe #2 told Plaintiff that he “really [is] deaf” and he would be scheduled to see an off-site specialist. Id.

         The Complaint does not indicate whether that outside specialist visit ever occurred, or whether Plaintiff's condition was ever resolved.

         Plaintiff asserts that he received substandard medical care as a result of inadequate staffing of doctors and nurses at Menard, and the lengthy delays in obtaining treatment were a direct result of too few medical providers at the prison. IDOC and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., (“Wexford”) maintain policies and procedures that understaff Menard's Health Care department in light of the overcrowding of inmates there. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-17; 19-20). Under Wexford's policies/practices, medical providers fail to examine inmates' medical conditions, fail to timely respond to inmates' request slips, and fail to give adequate care for serious medical conditions. (Doc. 1, pp. 19-200. Wexford fails to adequately train medical staff. Id. In addition to the delays occasioned by inadequate staffing, providers have misdiagnosed Plaintiff's conditions. (Doc. 1, p. 17). Because of these policies/practices, Plaintiff's ear problem and headaches were not adequately treated and he has endured months of pain and suffering. (Doc. 1, p. 20).

         Plaintiff sues IDOC Director Baldwin in his official and individual capacity. (Doc. 1, p. 3). He asserts that he informed Baldwin of Menard officials' failure to provide him with adequate medical care and treatment for his serious symptoms through at least 13 letters and grievances submitted “to him and Menard officials” between October 17, 2017, and January 17, 2018. (Doc. 1, pp. 20-21). Referring to Plaintiff's narrative, this list includes Plaintiff's health care request slips submitted on October 17, 22, 23, and 27; November 7 and 10; and December 6 and 18, 2017; and Plaintiff's grievance submitted on November 20, 2017, which he appealed on December 14, 2017, and on January 10, 2018. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-15). Despite allegedly having knowledge of Plaintiff's serious medical condition and lack of adequate medical care, Baldwin did nothing to intervene. (Doc. 1, p. 22).

         Plaintiff repeats the above allegations with reference to White, Lashbrook, and Oakley, charging these Defendants with knowledge of the risk to Plaintiff's health ...


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