United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Herndon United States District Judge
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.
§ 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).
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).
these standards, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims
survive threshold review under § 1915A.
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).
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.
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
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).
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
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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