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Walker v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

August 26, 2019

TIFFANY WALKER, as Independent Administrator, of the Estate of JAVON WALKER, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., a Florida Corporation doing business in the State of Illinois, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause is before the Court on the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (d/e 79) filed by Defendants Lori Baker, Patricia Eddington, and Doris Miller. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 22, 2017, Plaintiff Tiffany Walker, the Independent Administrator of the Estate of Javon Walker, filed a 21-count Complaint at Law (d/e 1). Among the claims asserted in the Complaint at Law are wrongful death claims pursuant to 740 ILCS 180/2 against Defendants Lori Baker, Patricia Eddington, and Doris Miller (formerly Doris Blunt) in their individual capacities (Counts VIII, XIII, and XVIII) and survival actions pursuant to 755 ILCS 5/27-6 against Miller, Eddington, and Baker (hereinafter, Defendants) in their individual capacities (Counts X, XV, and XX).[1]

         On September 21, 2018, Defendants filed their Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's wrongful death claims and survival actions against them. Defendants assert that Counts VIII, X, XIII, XV, XVIII, and XX of Plaintiff's Complaint at Law fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted. Motion (d/e 79), at 1. Defendants contend that the duty they owed to Javon Walker emanated from their employment with the State of Illinois. Id. at 4-5. The result, according to Defendants, is that Plaintiff's wrongful death claims and survival actions against Defendants are actually claims against the State, meaning that sovereign immunity deprives the Court of jurisdiction over the claims. Id. at 5.

         On December 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (d/e 82). Plaintiff asserts that “Defendants' duty is not derived from their employment as a contractor for IDOC but rather [the duty emanates from] their status as medical professionals” and that “when a defendant's duty is derived independently from their employment with the State then the cause of action is not considered one against the State and the defendant cannot claim sovereign immunity.” Memorandum (d/e 82), at 2.

         The following facts come from Plaintiff's Complaint at Law. The Court accepts these facts as true in ruling on the motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (Wexford), is a Florida corporation contracted by the State of Illinois to provide medical care to persons incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). Complaint (d/e 1), ¶ 7. Defendants are nurses licensed and registered in the State of Illinois and employed by Wexford or the State. Id. ¶¶ 8-10.

         On September 23, 2015, Javon Walker (Walker) died, suffering extreme pain and discomfort leading up to his death. Id. ¶¶ 39, 40. Prior to his death, Walker had been diagnosed with peritonitis and had experienced a continuous decrease in blood pressure. Id. ¶¶ 27, 33. At the time of Walker's death, Walker was incarcerated in IDOC at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro, Illinois. Id. ¶ 13. Defendants were Walker's registered nurses, treating him and measuring his blood pressure. Id. ¶¶ 28, 44. However, Defendants failed to screen, diagnose, or treat Walker's sepsis. Id. ¶ 36.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the filing of the complaint and answer. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); Moss v. Martin, 473 F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir. 2007). “A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Adams, 742 F.3d at 727-28.

         A complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Factual allegations are accepted as true at the pleading stage, but allegations in the form of legal conclusions are insufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (internal quotation marks omitted). The court must draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. In re march FIRST Inc., 589 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2009).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Illinois Court of Claims possesses sole jurisdiction over tort claims made against the State. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 885 (7th Cir. 2009). In determining whether or not a claim is made against the State, the issues raised and relief sought must be examined. Currie v. Lao, 592 N.E.2d 977, 980 (Ill. 1992). A claim will be found to be against the State if “a judgment ...


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