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Laktas v. Wexford health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 20, 2018

STANISLAUS LAWRENCE LAKTAS, # R-12404, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., V. SHAH, MICHAEL SCOTT, DR. BUTALID, CHRISTINE BROWN, DR. MATTRICK, and LOUIS SHICKER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Herndon 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 have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical conditions. 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 Plaintiff's claims survive threshold review under § 1915A.

         The Complaint

         By way of background, Plaintiff states that he suffered a broken neck and damaged spine in an accident while in the Rock Island County Jail. He was transferred to IDOC (Illinois Department of Corrections) custody in May 2002 with those injuries. (Doc. 1, p. 5). In September 2007, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, he had surgery to place 3 titanium plates in his neck and to fuse the broken vertebrae. (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         For the next 2 years, Menard doctors tried unsuccessfully to manage Plaintiff's severe pain (a consistent 7-8 level on a scale of 10) with medications. In August 2009, Plaintiff had 2 more surgical procedures at an outside hospital, where a neurostimulation system manufactured by Medtronic, Inc., was implanted in his abdomen. This system was effective in relieving Plaintiff's pain. It included a 2-piece wireless hand-held device which allowed Plaintiff to reprogram the implant's settings for conditions such as traveling in his wheelchair over a bumpy sidewalk, or moving from a prone position to a seated one. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). The unit required periodic maintenance, including battery replacement and rebooting, and might need total replacement at some point. The hand-held unit had a display to notify the user when the device needed to be serviced. A technician was available to respond within 72 hours to any request for servicing of the neurostimulation unit.

         In August 2011, Plaintiff was transferred to Pinckneyville. Well into 2014, his neurostimulation system continued to work to reduce his pain by 40-60% from the level he endured without the implant. (Doc. 1, p. 7). However, on October 13, 2014, Plaintiff notified Dr. Shah that the device was malfunctioning and his pain level was increasing. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Dr. Shah did not see Plaintiff until November 10, 2014, and would not allow Plaintiff to explain his condition or his history with the device. By this time, Plaintiff's pain levels were consistently back up to 7-8, and sometimes 9 or 10 when traveling over rough ground in his wheelchair. Dr. Shah told Plaintiff he would check his records and get back to him.

         On November 21, 2014, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Shah for a follow-up consultation, but Shah had not yet reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and took no action regarding Plaintiff's situation. On November 24, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to Christine Brown (Pinckneyville Health Care Administrator), explaining his need to have the implant system serviced, and pointing out Dr. Shah's failure to address his condition. (Doc. 1, p. 8). Brown took no action in response to this letter. (Doc. 1, p. 19). On December 12, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to his counselor about the problem, explaining that the implant was malfunctioning and he was in excruciating pain. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         On December 16, 2014, Dr. Shah informed Plaintiff that he would be sent on a medical furlough to have the unit serviced. (Doc. 1, p. 9). However, on December 26, 2014, Dr. Shah called Plaintiff back in to say that he and Wexford Health Services, Inc., (“Wexford”) had concluded that Plaintiff “was getting along fine without the device.” Id. Shah prescribed Ultram for pain relief.

         In January 2015, Plaintiff wrote to Medtronic, Inc., requesting servicing of the implant. Plaintiff informed Shah on January 11 and 14, 2015, that the Ultram was ineffective and was causing dizziness; he again requested the implant be serviced because his pain was nearly unbearable. (Doc. 1, p. 9).

         In February 2015, Plaintiff saw a physical therapist, who diagnosed him with a serious carpal tunnel condition and recommended treatment for that as well as service for the neurostimulation implant. (Doc. 1, p. 10). Soon thereafter, Dr. Mattrick (Regional Medical Director) agreed that Plaintiff needed carpal tunnel surgery as well as repair of the implant, stating that “No one, not even an inmate, should have to beg to have medical issues treated.” Id. However, Mattrick failed to schedule Plaintiff for the surgery. (Doc. 1, p. 19).

         Also in February 2015, Plaintiff wrote to the Health Care Unit to say that his 8-year-old neck brace had deteriorated to the point of ineffectiveness. (Doc. 1, p. 10).

         On March 5, 2015, Shah informed Plaintiff that he would be sent to see a neurosurgeon for the carpal tunnel and shoulder issues; that he was recommending replacement of the neck brace; and that a Medtronics technician would service the neurostimulation implant. (Doc. 1, p. 10). On March 25, 2015, Plaintiff went to the Brain and Spinal Cord Center in Carbondale, where a Medtronic technician reset the implant and replaced the hand-held unit. Both the hand-held device and the antenna had been “dead” for, he estimated, 161 days. A replacement antenna would be mailed to Pinckneyville. The technician noted that if a problem occurred, the doctor could call Medtronic, and someone would come out to service the unit within 72 hours. Plaintiff learned that he had not been scheduled to see a neurosurgeon after all for his carpal tunnel problem.

         On April 11, 2015, the implant malfunctioned again, and Plaintiff could not control the settings. His pain level went back up to 7 or higher on a scale of 10. Plaintiff wrote to the Health Care Unit numerous times between April 11 and October 18, 2015 asking for pain relief and servicing of the implant, to no avail. (Doc. 1, p. 11).

         Plaintiff wrote to Dr. Shicker (the IDOC Health Care Director) on October 19, 2015, detailing his history of problems with his “medical issues” and the lack of response by Pinckneyville staff. (Doc. 1, pp. 11-12). Dr. Shicker took no action in response. (Doc. 1, p. 20).

         On November 16, 2015, Plaintiff went back to the Brain and Spinal Cord Center, where Dr. Bryant confirmed that Plaintiff was in serious need of carpal tunnel surgery, and had a growth ...


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