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Hernandez v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 12, 2019

JOSE HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ANNE ELIZABETH TREDWAY, JOHN COE, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., LORIE CUNNINGHAM, DEE DEE BROOKHEART, [1] and NURSE ALLENDER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Reona J. Daly (17-cv-1335, Doc. 70), which recommends granting the motion to dismiss filed by Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”) (18-cv-1442, Doc. 16). These two cases were consolidated on March 14, 2019, because there is significant overlap between the defendants and the harm alleged in both cases, although the conduct underlying the claims is different (see 18-cv-1442, Doc. 28).

         Factual and Procedural Background [2]

         Plaintiff Jose Hernandez served two years' incarceration at Lawrence Correctional Center (“Lawrence”) for a motor vehicle accident that resulted in the death of his passenger and paralyzed him from the chest down (17-cv-1335, Doc. 1). Hernandez has limited control over his arms, but he is confined to gross motor movements and cannot grasp with his hands (Id.). Consequentially, Hernandez relied on medical staff at Lawrence to turn him from one side to the other throughout the night, to avoid developing pain and pressure sores (Id.). Throughout his incarceration, he was housed in Lawrence's infirmary, and his bed was equipped with a call button (Id.). Hernandez alleges the staff at Lawrence frequently ignored his calls or turned the call button off altogether, even after he lodged several complaints with the facility (Id.). The prison doctor also denied Hernandez's request for a trapeze device that would have permitted him to safely shift around in bed (Id.). Hernandez eventually broke his arm while attempting to turn himself over in bed, after staff ignored requests for assistance from him and his cellmate (Id.). He alleges he received inadequate treatment for his arm following the injury (Id.).

         On December 12, 2017, Hernandez, who is represented by counsel, filed a complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) (17-cv-1335, Doc. 1). His amended complaint alleges the following counts:

Count 1: Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., against the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) for denying Hernandez reasonable accommodations and discriminating against him because of his status as a partial quadriplegic;
Count 2: Violation of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., against IDOC for denying Hernandez reasonable accommodations and discriminating against him because of his status as a partial quadriplegic;
Count 3: Violation of the Eighth Amendment against Elizabeth Tredway and John Coe for being deliberately indifferent to Hernandez's serious medical needs by denying him a trapeze device and ignoring his calls for assistance;
Count 4: Violation of the Eighth Amendment against John Coe for being deliberately indifferent to Hernandez's serious medical needs by providing inadequate treatment for his broken arm;
Count 5: Violation of the Eighth Amendment against Wexford under respondeat superior for its staff being deliberately indifferent to Hernandez's serious medical needs; and
Count 6: Violation of the Eighth Amendment against Wexford for deliberate indifference to Hernandez's serious medical needs based on a policy or custom.

(17-cv-1335, Doc. 49).

         On May 7, 2018, Wexford filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, in part, that Count 5 should be dismissed because Hernandez cannot state a respondeat superior claim against a private corporation under Section 1983 (17-cv-1335, Doc. 52). Hernandez opposed the motion, relying on dicta from the Seventh Circuit's decision in Shields v. Ill. Dep't of Corr., 746 F.3d 782 (7th Cir. 2014) (17-cv-1335, Doc. 55). In Shields, the Seventh Circuit discussed the possibility of extending vicarious liability to private corporations in Section 1983 cases, but ultimately ruled otherwise. Shields, 746 F.3d at 790-91.

         Judge Daly issued a Report and Recommendation, which recommended dismissing Count 5 (17-cv-1335, Doc. 56). Judge Daly declined to ignore Seventh Circuit precedent that refuses to extend vicarious liability to private corporations under Section 1983 (Id. citing Iskander v. Vill. of Forest Park, 690 F.2d 126, 131 (7th Cir. 1983)). District Judge David R. Herndon adopted the Report and ...


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