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Flippins v. Kink

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 30, 2019

MARTELL FLIPPINS, Plaintiff,
v.
K. KINK, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, V. SHAH, F. AHMED, DR. RITZ, S. STOVER, L. CUNNINGHAM, J. BALDWIN, and S. BENTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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

         On May 16, 2019, in addition to his Complaint (Doc. 1), Plaintiff Martell Flippins, an inmate of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 2). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, an Order was entered on May 17, 2019, setting forth the following claims: that Defendants have exhibited deliberate indifference to a serious medical need regarding the treatment of Flippins's inguinal hernia and associated symptoms in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Count 1); that Wexford and employees have denied him medication and falsified medical records (Count 2); and that he has been discriminated against in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (Count 3). (Doc. 8, p. 3). The Court dismissed without prejudice Counts 2 and 3, denied Flippins's request for a temporary restraining order, and directed Defendants to respond to his request for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 8, p. 7; Doc. 16). Defendants Wexford, Baldwin, Cunningham, Kink, and Benton filed responses on June 10, 2019 (Doc. 34) and June 14, 2019 (Doc. 39).

         The Court began a hearing on the motion on June 17, 2019, but had to end the hearing because Dr. Shah did not have the medical records available to consult, and because the video-conference system malfunctioned. After numerous attempts at rescheduling, the Court continued the hearing on July 26, 2019.[1]

         Background

         The Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction allege that Flippins was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia in his groin area in early 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 8). In June 2017, Dr. Ahmed recommended that Flippins be referred for surgery, but that recommendation was subsequently denied by both Dr. Ahmed himself and Dr. Ritz. (Doc. 1, p. 26; Doc. 2, p. 3). Despite filing multiple grievances and writing letters requesting surgery, Flippins continues to be treated only by medication, which he claims is ineffective and has caused additional health problems. (Doc. 2, p. 3; Doc. 1, pp. 9, 14). Flippins alleges that Dr. Ritz, Dr. Ahmed, Dr. Shah, and Nurse Practitioner Stover have exhibited deliberate indifference to his worsening hernia and associated symptoms by denying treatment for non-medical reasons, delaying treatment, and persisting in a course of treatment known to be ineffective. (Doc. 2, p. 3).

         Flippins alleges that because of the numerous grievances, letters, and complaints, IDOC Director Baldwin (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9; Doc. 2, p. 4), Warden Kink (Doc. 1, pp. 16, 18; Doc. 2, p. 4), Administrative Review Board Member Benton (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9; Doc. 2, p. 4), and Health Care Unit Administrator Lorie Cunningham (Doc. 1, pp. 16, 18; Doc. 2, p. 3), know that Flippins is receiving constitutionally inadequate medical care, but have failed to intervene on his behalf. (Doc. 1, p. 8). This unconstitutional medical care results from a policy, custom, or widespread practice adopted by Wexford. (Doc. 1, p. 8, 16-19; Doc. 2, p. 3). Specifically, Wexford has implemented a cost-cutting policy and/or practice of denying all requests for surgical repair of hernias despite medical need and will not pay for surgery until the hernia gets to the “worst stage.” (Doc. 2, p. 3).

         Since receiving the diagnosis, Flippins claims that the hernia has grown in size, and the symptoms have worsened, making it difficult for him to sleep, eat, stand, and do normal daily activities. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9, Doc. 2, p. 4).

         In their responses, (Docs. 34 and 39), Defendants argue that the medical records[2]show that Flippins is receiving appropriate and regular treatment by medical staff at Lawrence and therefore he has not demonstrated that Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition. (Doc. 34, p. 3; Doc. 39, p. 2). Neither has Flippins established that he will suffer irreparable harm without surgery. Again, according to the medical records, his inguinal hernia has been successfully managed for over two years. (Doc. 34., p. 4; Doc. 39, p. 5).

         Wexford also argues that Flippins has not offered any evidence to show that Defendants have undertaken a course of treatment that is a significant departure from accepted professional standards or practices. (Doc. 34, p. 3). He only claims that Defendants have not allowed him to undergo surgery to fix the hernia, which is not evidence of deliberate indifference. Allowing Flippins to decide his own medical treatment, an unnecessary and elective surgery, and overruling the judgment of medical professionals would create a precedent that Defendants' medical judgment cannot be relied on when treating inmates. Id. at p. 5. Ordering surgery, which is intrusive by nature, would have an adverse impact on the operation of the criminal justice system.

         Analysis

         A preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” for which there must be a “clear showing” that a plaintiff is entitled to relief. Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (quoting 11A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R Miller, & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure §2948 (5th ed. 1995)). The purpose of such an injunction is “to minimize the hardship to the parties pending the ultimate resolution of the lawsuit.” Faheem-El v. Klincar, 841 F.2d 712, 717 (7th Cir. 1988). A plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating:

• a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits;
• no adequate remedy at law; and
• irreparable harm absent the ...

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