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Brady v. Baldwin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

July 19, 2018

HARLEY M. BRADY, Y-13122, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Harley M. Brady, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”), brings this pro se action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On November 1, 2017, the Court screened the original Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. As part of screening, the Court severed unrelated claims into new actions. The claims remaining in this action, all of which were directed against an Unknown Party[1] did not survive preliminary review, and the original Complaint was dismissed without prejudice. On April 13, 2018, after receiving four extensions, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint.

         The Amended Complaint (Doc. 19) is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to Section 1915A. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims officials at Stateville Northern Reception and Classification Center (“Stateville NRC”) and Lawrence have violated his constitutional rights. As set forth below, the Court finds that the claims pertaining to Stateville NRC are not properly joined with the claims pertaining to Lawrence. Accordingly, the Court will exercise its discretion and sever unrelated claims into separate actions once again.

         Preliminary Review - Applicable Standard Section 1915A provides as follows:

(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).

         As a part of screening, the Court is also allowed to sever unrelated claims against different defendants into separate lawsuits. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). In George, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that the practice of severance is important, “not only to prevent the sort of morass” produced by multi-claim, multi-defendant suits “but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. This practice is encouraged. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently warned district courts not to allow inmates “to flout the rules for joining claims and defendants, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 18, 20, or to circumvent the Prison Litigation Reform Act's fee requirements by combining multiple lawsuits into a single complaint.” Owens v. Godinez, 860 F.3d 434, 436 (7th Cir. 2017). See also Wheeler v. Talbot, No. 15-3325, 2017 WL 2417889 (7th Cir. June 5, 2017) (district court should have severed unrelated and improperly joined claims or dismissed one of them). Consistent with George, Owens, and Wheeler, improperly joined parties and/or claims will be severed into new cases, given new case numbers, and assessed separate filing fees.

         The Amended Complaint

         In October 2014, Plaintiff was housed at Stateville NRC. (Doc. 19, p. 2). Approximately one month later, in November 2014, Plaintiff was transferred to Lawrence, which became his “parent facility.” Id. Since then, Plaintiff has been housed at Lawrence. Id. For approximately five months (from November 2014 through March 2015), however, Plaintiff was periodically transferred between Lawrence and Stateville NRC to attend hearings and status conferences in his criminal proceeding. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that officials at Stateville NRC (from October 2014 through March 2015) and Lawrence (beginning in November 2014) have exhibited deliberate indifference to his painful digestive symptoms and other medical issues. (Doc. 19, pp. 2-22). According to Plaintiff, his painful digestive symptoms include: (1) acid reflux symptoms that cause him to wake up in the middle of the night; (2) excessive, foul gas; (3) intestinal cramping; (4) bouts of constipation; (5) loose bowels, lasting for days at a time; (6) vomiting and dry heaving; and (7) being “painfully tired.” (Doc. 19, p. 11). Plaintiff also brings allegations pertaining to other medical issues, including thyroid problems, a suspected hernia, a rash that covers his back, and lumps in his throat. (Doc. 19, pp. 2-22). A more detailed summary of Plaintiff's claims, as they relate to each institution, is provided below.


         In October 2014, when Plaintiff was housed at Stateville NRC, Plaintiff began experiencing painful digestive issues and bowel problems. (Doc. 19, pp. 2, 11). Plaintiff yelled for help, but the nurses (Jane Does 1-10) and correctional officers (John and Jane Does 11-20) ignored him.

         On March 11, 2015, Plaintiff was transferred to Stateville NRC to attend a hearing. (Doc. 19, pp. 14-15). According to Plaintiff, “Unknown Party” failed to provide him with his prescription medication. (Doc. 19, p. 14).

         Additionally, while at Stateville NRC, between March 13, 2015, and March 15, 2015, Jane Doe Nurse No. 22 denied Plaintiff his prescription medication. (Doc. 19, pp. 14-15).

         Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance pertaining to being denied his medication. (Doc. 19, p. 15). Warden Williams denied the grievance, deeming it a nonemergency. Id.


         When Plaintiff arrived at Lawrence, Nurse Arbuckle (not a defendant in this action) completed his intake examination. (Doc. 19, p. 11). Plaintiff complained to Nurse Arbuckle about his digestive issues. Id. She explained that the purpose of an intake examination is to identify serious issues such as risk for a heart attack and suicidal ideation. (Doc. 19, p. 12). Nurse Arbuckle said she would place Plaintiff on sick call so another medical official could evaluate his digestive symptoms. Id.

         In early February 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Jane Doe Nurse No. 21. Id. Plaintiff complained to Jane Doe Nurse No. 21 about indigestion, gas, cramping, constipation, and loose bowels. Id. Jane Doe Nurse No. 21 referred Plaintiff for further treatment with a physician, but the referral was limited to treatment for indigestion and did not reference his other symptoms. Id.

         On February 11, 2015, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Coe. Id. Dr. Coe diagnosed Plaintiff with gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”) and prescribed antacids. (Doc. 19, pp. 13-14). Dr. Coe refused to discuss Plaintiff's other symptoms, stating he “was not here for that.” (Doc. 19, p. 13). Plaintiff also told Dr. Coe he believed his symptoms might be related to a food allergy or sensitivity and/or thyroid problems. Id. Plaintiff told Dr. Coe he suspected thyroid problems because his sister has thyroid issues. (Doc. 19, p. 14). Dr. Coe refused to address any of these issues. (Doc. 19, pp. 13-14).

         Plaintiff claims that Dr. Coe refused to address his other symptoms because he was enforcing a cost-cutting policy implemented by Wexford. Id. According to Plaintiff, Wexford has implemented a policy directing staff to restrict sick call referrals and medical appointments to one medical issue per visit. Id. Pursuant to this policy, a prisoner may only discuss one medical issue per medical appointment; if a prisoner is experiencing multiple issues he must request additional appointments. Id. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Coe enforced this policy because, if he successfully controls costs, he receives financial incentives from Wexford. Id.

         On May 27, 2015, Plaintiff met with Dr. Paul (not a defendant in this action) via teleconferencing regarding his recent blood panels. (Doc. 19, p. 15).[2] The testing revealed Plaintiff's thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) was 3.42, which Plaintiff describes as being “high but in range” (according to Plaintiff normal range is .35 to 4.0). Id. Jane Doe Nurse No. 23 told Dr. Paul she would discuss the results with Dr. Coe and determine how he wanted to address any potential thyroid concerns. Id. Plaintiff was not immediately examined by Dr. Coe or put on thyroid medication at that time. Id. Plaintiff does not know why his treatment was delayed. Id.

         Sometime after the visit with Dr. Paul, Plaintiff ran out of the antacid medication previously prescribed by Dr. Coe. Id. As a result, Plaintiff claims his digestive symptoms returned. Id. According to Plaintiff, in an effort to cut costs, Wexford has implemented policies that delay prescription refills, meaning prisoners often run out of medication. Id.

         On July 7, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Kimmel. (Doc. 19, pp. 15-16). The purpose of the visit was to renew Plaintiff's antacid prescription. Id. Plaintiff told Nurse Kimmel he was experiencing the following symptoms: acid reflux, causing burning in his throat and nose; waking up at night with a choking sensation; excessive foul gas; intestinal cramps; constipation; loose stools; vomiting and dry heaving; and exhaustion. (Doc. 19, p. 16). Plaintiff suggested his symptoms could be related to food allergies and/or thyroid issues. Id. Plaintiff's suggestion angered Nurse Kimmel, and she stated, “McDonald's serves the same type of food and you ate that before you got locked up.” Id. Plaintiff disagreed, told Nurse Kimmel she was not qualified to make a diagnosis, and asked for a physician referral. Id. Nurse Kimmel then had an officer remove Plaintiff from the nurse's station. Id. Nurse Kimmel did refer Plaintiff for further treatment. Id. However, the referral was limited to treatment for Plaintiff's indigestion. Id.

         On July 13, 2015, Plaintiff was again examined by Dr. Coe. Id. At that time, Dr. Coe renewed Plaintiff's antacid prescription, but he refused to treat Plaintiff's severe gas and irregular bowel movements. Id. Plaintiff contends that Dr. Coe refused to discuss other medical issues in furtherance of Wexford's cost cutting policies and because he receives financial benefits for controlling costs. (Doc. 19, pp. 16-17).

         In July 2015, Plaintiff's symptoms worsened. (Doc. 19, p. 17). He was increasingly tired and constantly cold, and he developed a rash on his back. Id.

         On February 5, 2016, Plaintiff received additional blood testing, but thyroid testing was not performed. Id. Approximately one week later, Plaintiff met with Dr. Coe to request a refill on his antacid prescription. Id. Plaintiff told Dr. Coe his symptoms were getting worse. Id. He explained that he was constantly cold, had developed a rash, and was excessively tired. Id. Plaintiff requested additional thyroid testing and asked to see a specialist. Id. Dr. Coe prescribed more antacids, but the prescription was only for two months (as opposed to six months). Id. Dr. Coe refused Plaintiff's other requests. Id. In denying Plaintiff's request for thyroid testing, Dr. Coe noted that Plaintiff's previous TSH level, which was taken in May 2015, was high but in range. Id. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Coe refused to refer him to a specialist or to order additional thyroid testing in an effort to control costs. (Doc. 19, pp. 17-18).

         On February 18, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Paul via teleconferencing. (Doc. 19, p. 18). Dr. Paul told Plaintiff his liver enzymes were very high. Id. Plaintiff relayed his recent symptoms (weight gain, inability to stay warm, exhaustion, headaches, joint and back pain, and a rash on his back). Id. Dr. Paul indicated his symptoms could be related to thyroid issues. Id. Dr. Paul ordered additional blood testing, including another TSH test. Id.

         On March 2, 2016, Plaintiff received additional blood testing, and on March 16, 2016, Nurse Baker (not a defendant in this action) told Plaintiff his TSH level was 4.82 (normal range is .35 to 4.0). Id. Plaintiff believes that Nurse Baker, with the approval of Dr. James, placed him on medication to treat this condition and to treat the rash on his back. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff was prescribed Synthroid (to treat his elevated TSH level) and antibiotics (to treat his rash). Id.

         On March 23, 2016, Plaintiff received his prescriptions, but John Doe No. 3, the pharmacist, substituted Synthroid with Levothyroxine. Id. The pharmacist did not disclose the possible side effects of Levothyroxine. Id. Within a few days of taking Levothyroxine, Plaintiff began experiencing severe headaches, vertigo, difficulty swallowing, and a sensation of having lumps or knots in his throat. Id. Plaintiff complained to “medical” about his symptoms by submitting “2 requests.” Id. Plaintiff also submitted a third request to Cunningham, the healthcare administrator. Id.

         On April 1, 2016, Plaintiff received additional blood testing. (Doc. 19, p. 19). The testing revealed that Plaintiff's TSH level was 3.71. Id. Shortly thereafter, on April 7, 2016, Plaintiff's prescription for ...

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