United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Yandle United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation
("Report") of United States Magistrate Judge Mark
Beatty (Doc. 219), recommending that the Motion for Summary
Judgment filed by Defendants Bharat Shah, Loretta Wilford,
and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (Doc. 132) be granted in
part and denied in part. Defendant Wilford filed a timely
objection (Doc. 220). For the following reasons, Judge
Beatty's Report and Recommendation is
Gerry Armbruster, a former inmate of the Illinois Department
of Corrections, suffered a spinal cord compression while he
was incarcerated at Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center
("SWICC"). In May 2014, Plaintiff began suffering
from symptoms related to spinal cord compression, including
numbness, loss of sensation in both hands, poor grip
strength, tingling, and pain. From May 2014 until his release
from SWICC in September 2014, Plaintiff frequently complained
about his symptoms to medical personnel. Plaintiff alleges
that his symptoms and underlying condition were not properly
diagnosed or treated despite his frequent and consistent
was released from SWICC on September 15, 2014. Eleven days
following his release, Plaintiff went to the emergency
department at Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite
City, Illinois to seek treatment for his ongoing neurological
symptoms. An MRI showed very significant spinal cord
compression and significant signal change in his cervical
spine. Plaintiff was referred to a neurosurgeon and
transported to St. Mary's Hospital in St. Louis,
Missouri, where he underwent emergency spinal decompression
surgery. Plaintiff still suffers from persistent spinal cord
damage which may or may not improve.
Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts an Eighth
Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to a serious
medical need against the defendants; an Eighth Amendment
claim for failure to intervene against the defendants; state
law medical negligence claims against Wexford and Dr. Shah;
and a claim based on respondeat superior against Wexford
(Doc. 123). Defendants moved for summary judgment (Doc. 132).
Report, Judge Beatty recommended that Defendants' Motion
be granted as to Wexford on Plaintiffs deliberate
indifference claim and granted per Plaintiffs concession with
respect to Defendants Wexford and Dr. Shah as to Plaintiffs
failure to intervene claim. Judge Beatty found the evidence
sufficient to support Plaintiffs remaining claims.
a timely objection was filed, the undersigned must undertake
a de novo review of the Report. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B), (C); FED. R. Civ. P. 72(b); SDIL-LR 73.1(b);
see also Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th
Cir. 1992). De novo review requires the Court to
"give fresh consideration to those issues to which
specific objections have been made" and to make a
decision "based on an independent review of the evidence
and arguments without giving any presumptive weight to the
magistrate judge's conclusion." Mendez v.
Republic Bank, 725 F.3d 651, 661 (7th Cir. 2013). The
Court "may accept, reject or modify the magistrate
judge's recommended decision." Id.
are entitled to adequate medical care under the Eighth
Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105
(1976). To survive a motion for summary judgment on an Eighth
Amendment claim for denial of appropriate medical care,
Plaintiff must demonstrate that he suffers from an
objectively serious medical condition and that a prison
official was deliberately indifferent to that condition.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994);
Sherrodv. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 610 (7th Cir. 2000).
Deliberate indifference is a subjective standard and requires
a finding that the defendant acted with a "sufficiently
capable state of mind." Sherrod, 223 F.3d at
610. Specifically, a plaintiff must set forth evidence to
establish that the defendant knew of a serious risk to the
prisoner's health and consciously disregarded that risk.
Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1010 (7th Cir.
2006). Medical professionals may also exhibit deliberate
indifference by delaying necessary treatment and thus
aggravating the injury or needlessly prolonging an
inmate's pain. Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859,
865 (7th Cir. 2012).
to intervene can also be a basis for a constitutional
violation under the Eighth Amendment. Harper v.
Albert, 400 F.3d 1052, 1064 (7th Cir. 2005). Although
medical providers that are subordinate to physicians, such as
nurses, "may generally defer to instructions given by
physicians, they have an independent duty to ensure that
inmates receive constitutionally adequate care."
Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 779 (7th Cir. 2015)
(citing Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 443 (7th
Cir. 2010)). When confronted with a questionable practice or
clearly inappropriate treatment, a nurse or other lower level
medical provider has a professional obligation to "take
appropriate action" by discussing his or her concerns
with the treating physician or contacting a supervisor.
Wilford makes several objections to the Report: (1) there is
no evidence to support Judge Beatty's finding that she
was aware that Plaintiffs condition was serious; (2) it
should not be assumed that Wilford was aware that Plaintiff
had a serious medical need solely because he complained of
tingling and numbness; and (3) there is no evidence to
support Plaintiffs failure to intervene claim against
Wilford. But these objections are belied by the evidence.
admitted that Plaintiff consistently complained about his
symptoms until he was released from SWICC. Specifically, she
testified during her deposition that Plaintiff came to sick
call at least once a week and would "wear the hell out
of you" with complaints about his symptoms. She also
testified that a person with spinal cord compression would
exhibit pain, numbness and impaired movement; the same
symptoms Plaintiff frequently complained about from May 2014
until September 2014. She admitted that the risk of harm to a
person experiencing persistent numbness and tingling is
obvious. Plaintiffs reported symptoms were also documented in
his charts and raised during sick calls and informally.
the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, a
reasonable jury could conclude that Wilford was deliberately
indifferent to Plaintiffs serious medical condition and could
also find that she knew Plaintiffs constitutional rights were
being violated but did nothing about it when she repeatedly
encountered Plaintiff in pain and complaining about his
symptoms and that ...