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Johnson v. Parker

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 15, 2019

NURSE PARKER et al., Defendants.



         Terry Johnson brings this claim against Nurse Eboni Parker, Nurse Wade, Nurse Beecher, Correctional Officer Maurice Gee, Tarry Williams, and Nurse Amy Rue alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Nurse Parker's [147] and Nurse Rue's [150] motions for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants the motions of both nurses.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Terry Johnson is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections and was housed at Stateville Correctional Center from May 2014 until March 2015. Nurse Parker and Nurse Rue (“defendants”) worked as nurses at Stateville and were responsible for administering medication to inmates in their cells. During his initial intake evaluation, Johnson informed Nurse Athena Smith that he had asthma. Generally, unless there was a medical emergency, an inmate must complete an “Offender Request Slip” in order to see a physician. A correctional officer would pick up the Offender Request Slips weekly when they retrieved the inmates' mail.

         Johnson alleges to have suffered five asthma attacks from May 2014 through December 2014. During times when Nurse Parker or Nurse Rue would administer medication to Johnson's cellmate, Johnson informed the defendants that he was having asthma attacks and needed an inhaler. Without an inhaler, Johnson would raise his hands above his head to help with the asthma attacks. Johnson alleges that when he informed the defendants of his medical need, they told him to fill out an Offender Request Slip, but also wrote Johnson's name down and told him they would put his information on a list to see a physician. Johnson alleges that he completed 12 separate Offender Request Slips. Johnson was transferred to another facility in March 2015 where he was given an inhaler. On January 5, 2015, Johnson filed a complaint alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs alleging that the defendants denied him an inhaler.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and if done, judgment as a matter of law should be granted in its favor. Vision Church v. Vill. of Long Grove, 468 F.3d 975, 988 (7th Cir. 2006). All evidence and inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).


         The “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” as proscribed by the Eighth Amendment protects prisoners against the deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs. Zaya v. Sood, 836 F.3d 800, 804 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)). To establish a section 1983 claim for deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) an objectively serious medical condition and (2) that an official was deliberately, subjectively, indifferent to that condition. Id. (citing Duckworth v Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008)). Negligence or even gross negligence on the part of an official does not constitute deliberate indifference. See Borello v. Allison, 446 F.3d 742, 749 (7th Cir. 2006). Rather, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant acted with intent equivalent to criminal recklessness. Id. at 747.

         A deliberate indifference claim can be supported by a delay in medical care for a serious medical condition. See Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 779 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted). However, to survive summary judgment, the plaintiff must put forth “verifying medical evidence” that shows the delay in medical care had a detrimental effect. Id. (internal citation omitted).

         Deliberate Indifference

         The Court notes, and the parties do not dispute, that asthma can constitute an objectively serious medical condition “depending on the severity of the attacks.” See Daniels v. Harper, 640 Fed.Appx. 519, 521 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted). What defendants argue, however, is that Johnson fails to put forth evidence that either Nurse Parker or Nurse Rue “actually knew” that Johnson needed medical treatment for a serious medical need and deliberately withheld it.

         The evidence of deliberate indifference Johnson posits essentially comes in three forms. First, Johnson points to his testimony stating that he told all the nurses that would administer medicine to his cellmate, including Nurse Parker and Nurse Rue, that he suffered from asthma attacks and needed an inhaler. Second, Johnson argues that he completed 12 Offender Request Slips between May 2014 and August 2015 about his need for an inhaler. Third, Johnson points to Officer Maurice Gee, who testified that Johnson informed him that he had asthma and needed an inhaler, thus making medical needs generally known. Dkt. 151-13 at 31-32.

         Even after construing the evidence in a light most favorable to Johnson, the Court finds that there are no material facts at issue as to whether Nurse Rue or Nurse Parker showed deliberate indifference to Johnson's serious medical need. Johnson does not allege that Nurse Parker nor Nurse Rue ever treated or examined him. Further, it is undisputed that neither Nurse Parker nor Nurse Rue ever witnessed Johnson having an asthma attack. Johnson is correct in arguing that each state actor must reasonably respond to his medical complaint. However, neither Nurse Rue nor Nurse Parker ever examined Johnson. Without examining Johnson or ever witnessing him have an asthma attack, there is simply no evidentiary support that Nurse Rue or Nurse Parker knew that Johnson had a serious medical condition that needed immediate attention and deliberately ...

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