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Hill v. Lakin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 11, 2019

HUBERT D. HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN LAKIN, CHRISTOPHER EALES, DR. LOCKARD, and KAREN DEEMS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Hubert Hill, who is currently being held at the Madison County Jail, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of his constitutional rights. He seeks declaratory judgment, money damages, and injunctive relief.

         The Complaint is now before the Court for preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to screen prisoner Complaints and filter out non-meritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of the Complaint that is legally frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or requests money damages from an immune defendant must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). At this juncture, the factual allegations are liberally construed. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Complaint

          Plaintiff makes the following allegations in the Complaint:[1] On September 25, 2018, following arrest, Plaintiff was transported to Madison County Jail. (Doc. 1, p. 7). Due to an injury which occurred in early September, Plaintiff at the time of arrest was wearing a medical boot and had the following injuries to his right ankle and foot: (1) a displaced transverse fracture of the right distal fibula with soft tissue swelling; (2) Achilles tendon enthesopathy; and (3) a bone spur. Id. While in custody, Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Practitioner Karen Deems, who ordered x-rays, which showed the fracture and soft tissue swelling. Id. While showering without his medical boot, on October 7, 2018, Plaintiff twisted his right foot, heard a “pop” sound, and pain shot through his foot area. Id., p. 8. The next day x-rays were again taken, and it was believed that Plaintiff had a new fracture. Id. However, after a follow up visit to Dr. Paul Scherer's office, where another set of x-rays were taken, it was determined that there was no new fracture and that the existing fracture had healed. Id. Plaintiff was also allowed to remove the medical boot and given instructions to do various stretches and rehabilitative movements. Id. Despite doing the required movements twice a day for two weeks, Plaintiff experienced severe and lasting pain and so he submitted a sick call slip. Id. He was given Motrin, and when he requested that Deems do further testing such as an MRI she responded that “Madison County does not do MRI's.” Id.

         After submitting another sick call slip a few days later, Plaintiff was seen again by medical personnel on November 2, 2018. Id. He was informed by a nurse that “Madison County does not treat pre-existing conditions, ” and his complaints of pain were ignored. Id. Later in the month, Plaintiff submitted another call slip informing the medical staff that his pain was worsening and that the pain medication was no longer helping. Id., p. 9. The following day Deems reviewed his file and her only response was, “Okay noted[.]” Id. Plaintiff then filed an emergency grievance with the Jail Administrator, Christopher Eales. Id. Eales responded that he would contact Dr. Scherer. Id. Dr. Sherer's office declined to see Plaintiff, but stated that if complaints of pain continued then further testing should be considered. Id. On December 3, 2018, Deems ordered x-rays, which continued to show soft tissue swelling of the Achilles tendon, but no new fracture, and long term pain medication was ordered. Id. On January 25, 2019, Plaintiff again filed a grievance with Eales, informing Eales of his continued pain and stating that no one seemed concerned or to be doing anything to find out the cause. Id. Five days later, without notice, Plaintiff was taken off the pain medication. Id., p. 10. After submitting a sick call slip, Plaintiff was informed that Dr. Lockard was now in charge of the medical care at the jail, and he decided that Plaintiff no longer needed the pain medication. Id. Plaintiff submitted another grievance regarding the issue to Eales, who responded that Dr. Lockard was in charge of Plaintiff's medical care. Id. Plaintiff was seen by medical staff on February 7, 2019, who told him that Dr. Lockard would be willing to give him Tylenol. Id. When Plaintiff informed the staff that he has advanced stage cirrhosis of the liver and that he could not take that medicine, no other medicine or treatment option was offered. Id. In March, while Plaintiff was being seen by Dr. Lockard on a matter unrelated to his foot injury, Plaintiff again brought up his chronic pain and was told to do foot stretches and full motion movement. Id. After following the instructions of Dr. Lockard, Plaintiff was in severe pain and submitted a sick call slip. Id. He again was only offered Tylenol, which he declined due to his liver condition. Id.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations in the Complaint, the Court designates a single count. The parties and the Court will use this designation in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by this Court:

Count 1: Lakin and Eales, in their official capacities, and Lockard and Deems, in their individual capacities, were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's chronic pain.

         Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order is considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under Twombly.[2] Applicable Legal Standard

         Before screening the Plaintiff's constitutional claims, the Court must first consider what legal standard applies. The applicable legal standard for Plaintiff's claims depends on his status as a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner during his detention at the jail. The Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference standard articulated in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994), is applicable if Plaintiff was a convicted prisoner during the relevant time period. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 91 (1976). On the other hand, if Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee, the Fourteenth Amendment and the objective unreasonableness standard articulated in Miranda v. County Lake, No. 17-1603, 2018 WL 3796482, at *11 (7th Cir. Aug. 10, 2018), govern Plaintiff's claims.

         The Complaint does not indicate whether Plaintiff was in the Madison County Jail to serve a sentence pursuant to a criminal conviction, or whether he was held there as a pretrial detainee.[3]Regardless, the Complaint survives screening because the allegations support a constitutional claim under the most stringent of these standards, i.e., the Eighth Amendment. For purposes of this screening order, the Court looks to Eighth Amendment case law. Count 1 survives screening under this standard and the less stringent standards available to detainees. Accordingly, the Court need not resolve Plaintiff's legal status at this time.

         Count 1

          The Eighth Amendment has been held to prohibit deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical need. To state a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, an inmate must show: (1) that he 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). A medical professional's actions may also reflect deliberate indifference if he “chooses an easier and less efficacious treatment without exercising professional judgment or simply continues with a course of ...


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