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Gabb v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 17, 2019

Tyrone Gabb, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Wexford Health Sources, Inc., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued March 28, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois No. 15-cv-01415 - J. Phil Gilbert, Judge.

          Before Ripple, Manion, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Manion, Circuit Judge.

         While serving a prison sentence at the Lawrence Correctional Center in Illinois, Tyrone Gabb experienced severe back pain whenever he stood too long (15 to 20 minutes). After treatments he received did not relieve his pain, Gabb sued two members of the medical staff at Lawrence, Dr. John Coe and Nurse Tammy Kimmel, alleging they were deliberately indifferent to his back pain in violation of his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments. Gabb also sued Wexford Health Sources, Inc., the private company that provided medical services at Lawrence. The district court granted summary judgment to all defendants, and Gabb appeals. Because Gabb has not presented any evidence showing the defendants caused him any harm, we affirm.


         This case comes to us on appeal from the grant of summary judgment, so we present the facts "in the light most favorable to [Gabb] and draw all inferences in [Gabb's] favor." Estate of Simpson v. Gorbett, 863 F.3d 740, 745 (7th Cir. 2017).

         Dr. Coe was the medical director at Lawrence. He first saw Gabb for back pain in January 2014. Coe performed an x-ray, but he did not prescribe medication. When he saw Gabb a month later, Coe confirmed Gabb had pain in his lower back, but he again did not prescribe medication.

         In September 2014, Gabb underwent another x-ray. This time, Coe diagnosed Gabb with chronic back pain and prescribed the painkiller Motrin and the muscle-relaxer Robaxin. When Gabb saw Coe again a month later, he told Coe the medications did little. Coe ordered Gabb a back support and changed Gabb's painkiller prescription from Motrin to Naproxen. Later that month, Gabb complained to a nurse the back support and the painkillers were not providing relief. In February 2015, a physician's assistant discontinued Gabb's Naproxen and prescribed Tylenol instead.

         In March 2015, Gabb reported to the infirmary with abdominal pain and encountered Nurse Kimmel. Gabb told Kimmel he had osteoarthritis in his lower back and he believed the Tylenol was causing his stomach pain. He requested a referral to a doctor so he could get a different medication. Because Gabb's reason for seeking treatment was abdominal pain, the only medication Kimmel could have administered pursuant to protocol was an antacid. Kimmel did not refer Gabb to a doctor or give him an antacid, but instead told him "to (1) lower his dose of Tylenol; (2) drink plenty of fluids and eat properly; (3) plan on attending his follow-up appointment with the physician's assistant in June; and (4) come back to the infirmary if his symptoms worsened."

         In early April 2015, Gabb reported to the infirmary again complaining of abdominal pain he believed was caused by the Tylenol. Gabb testified in his deposition that as he came to the room, Kimmel "immediately notified [him] that she was not going to refer [him] to any physician because [he] was not in pain." Gabb says he tried to tell Kimmel about his back pain, but "she verbally abused" and swore at him. She did not refer Gabb to a physician or consult with one concerning an appropriate course of treatment.

         At the end of April, Gabb reported to the infirmary for abdominal pain a third time. On this occasion, because he had reported more than twice with the same complaint, he received a referral to Dr. Coe. When he saw Coe a week later, Coe re-prescribed Naproxen, prescribed Vitamin D (which Coe believed could help with muscle spasms and tightness), and tightened Gabb's back support. Coe told Gabb better treatment was available, but Wexford would not pay for it.

         Coe saw Gabb again in the summer of 2015. Gabb complained the Naproxen was not working. Coe tightened Gabb's back brace, demonstrated therapy exercises that could reduce the pain, and suggested Gabb exercise.

         In August 2015, a physician's assistant saw Gabb. The physician's assistant reported Gabb's pain was increasing and he suffered from a decreased range of motion. Gabb also had a slower gait and reported tingling in his toes. ...

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