United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
G. Reinhard, Judge.
motion for summary judgment  is granted. Judgment is
entered in favor of defendants Kenneth Blickenstaff, in his
capacity as personal representative of the Estate of Antreas
Mesrobian, M.D., deceased, Arthur Funk, M.D., Wexford Health
Sources, Inc. and against plaintiff.
LaVertis Stewart, brings this action against defendants,
Kenneth Blickenstaff, in his capacity as personal
representative of the Estate of Antreas Mesrobian, M.D.,
deceased, Arthur Funk, M.D., Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
(“Wexford”), and Wayne Steele, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 claiming defendants violated his
constitutional right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual
punishment. Plaintiff contends defendants were deliberately
indifferent to his serious medical needs when they refused to
grant him exemptions from wearing the “black box”
restraint device on numerous occasions when he was taken
outside the institution on medical or court writs.
Blickenstaff, Dr. Funk, and Wexford jointly move for summary
judgment . Steele separately moves for summary judgment
is an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”) and has been incarcerated at
IDOC's Dixon Correctional Center (“Dixon”)
since 2003. Wexford is contracted by IDOC to provide medical
treatment to inmates at Dixon. Pursuant to IDOC policy, black
box restraints are used on all inmates who leave Dixon unless
an inmate has a medical exemption. A black box restraint is a
set of normal handcuffs with a black box over the link
between the cuffs. Prisoners normally wear the black box with
one palm facing up and the other palm facing down - the
“twisted wrist position”. The decision to give a
black box exemption is a clinical decision made by a medical
provider at the prison based on the individual patient, the
patient's circumstances, and medical necessity. However,
the warden and security staff can override a medical
provider's decision to give a black box exemption to an
has several medical conditions that require ongoing care,
including hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, carpal tunnel,
lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), arthritis, shoulder
bursitis, shoulder impingement, shoulder
capsulitis/arthritis, arthritis bone spurs, and tendinitis.
He receives treatment for these conditions in the medical
unit at Dixon and has received treatment from outside
specialists as well. According to plaintiff, wearing the
black box in the twisted wrist position causes pain in his
shoulders and wrists both while wearing the black box and in
the days after. According to the deposition testimony of Dr.
Funk, a claim by an inmate that wearing the black box
restraint worsened the inmate's shoulder pain would be a
reason for a medical evaluation of the inmate to determine
whether a black box exemption was warranted for that
to his death in January 2010, Dr. Mesrobian served as the
medical director at Dixon from December 2008 to October 2009.
Plaintiff recalled asking Dr. Mesrobian at various times to
take him off the black box because of the pain in his wrists
and shoulder. Plaintiff wore the black box on April 22, 2009
while out on a medical writ. On April 24, 2009, Dr. Mesrobian
saw plaintiff and wrote in the medical records that plaintiff
“does not want to use black box. Claims aggravates
shoulder. There is no medical reason for no black box.”
5, 2009, plaintiff wore the black box while out on a medical
writ. On May 8, 2009, plaintiff saw Dr. Mesrobian for a
medical writ follow-up. Dr. Mesrobian prescribed him Motrin
(400mg three times daily) at that time to treat the pain in
his wrists and shoulders, including swelling. Plaintiff recalls
discussing the black box restraints with Dr. Mesrobian on
several other unspecified occasions. Every time he saw Dr.
Mesrobian he asked for a black box exemption due to his
shoulder and wrist issues. Dr. Mesrobian told him he did not
think plaintiff's injuries or condition warranted an
exemption. During Dr. Mesrobian's tenure as Dixon's
medical director he denied all of plaintiff's requests
for a black box exemption. On June 4, 2009, plaintiff filed a
grievance seeking a black box exemption.
Funk is employed by Wexford and, since 2005, has been its
regional medical director for the region that includes Dixon.
As regional medical director he is responsible for
supervising the medical director at Dixon and, at times, he
has provided physician services to inmates there. Dr. Funk
saw plaintiff at Dixon several times between September 22,
2011 and August 6, 2012.[5" name="FN5"
id="FN5">5]Dr. Funk has no recollection of
discussing the black box restraints with plaintiff on these
occasions or at any other time. Plaintiff says in his
supplemental statement of facts that he discussed the black
box with Dr. Funk at these visits. Plaintiff cites to his
deposition testimony to support this statement. In the cited
portion, plaintiff testified in his deposition as follows
concerning his conversations about the black box with Dr.
Q. Do you recall any visits with Dr. Funk where you discussed
the Black Box?
Q. And do you remember when that conversation occurred?
A. No, I don't remember the dates.
Q. Okay. Was it before or after the May 29th, 2012
issue or incident?
A. I can't really say. I don't know.
Q. What do you remember about your conversation with Dr. Funk
as it pertains to the Black Box restraints?
A. I wanted to see an orthopedic and him telling me that he
was wanting me to go back to therapy and see how it works.
And that he would make a determination after therapy.
Q. Make a determination whether -
A. Whether to send me to an ortho.
Q. Do you remember asking him for a Black Box exemption at
that time or any time?
A. It's possible if I didn't have a Black Box permit
at the time.
Q. Okay, but you can't recall any specific time that you
said, ‘Dr. Funk, I want my Black Box exemption renewed
or entered,' or anything to that effect?
A. No. It could have been any one of those days.
Dkt # 407-1, p. 29, Dep. pp. 115-16.
also asserts Dr. Funk was aware of plaintiff's pain and
repeated requests for a black box exemption because Dr. Funk
reviewed grievances at Dixon in 2017 when Dixon had a
significant backlog of grievances and, therefore, in his
review would have seen plaintiff's grievances that
explained his need for a black box exemption. However, the
portions of the record cited by plaintiff to support this
assertion (Dkt # 407, Ex. J at 65:23-66:7 & Dkt # 407,
Ex. A at 115:4-6, 115:13-19) do not support it. The cited
portions of the record contain nothing concerning Dr.
Funk's review of grievances at Dixon.
also asserts in his supplemental statement of facts that
“[t]here is evidence that Funk directed medical staff
to only provide black box exemptions for inmates with broken
wrists.” However, his citation to the record (his
deposition Dkt # 407, Ex. A. at 133:13-33) does not contain
any reference to broken wrists. Page 134 of plaintiff's
deposition does show him testifying concerning a conversation
with Dr. Chamberlain:
Q. But he said he didn't give you the exemption until
March 2017 why?
A. Because of his orders from Warden Steel, Dr. Funk and