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Hemphill v. Obaisi

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

September 12, 2019




         Plaintiff Carl Hemphill filed his second amended complaint [33] asserting claims against Wexford Health Sources, Inc., Ghalia Obaisi, as the Independent Executor of the Estate of Saleh Obaisi, M.D. (deceased), Latonya Williams, P.A., and Ann Davis, M.D., (the “Wexford Defendants”) and against Defendants Michael Lemke, Doretta O'Brien, and Louis Shicker (the “State Defendants”), alleging that they violated his Eighth Amendment rights because they acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by denying or delaying medical treatment while he was incarcerated. Hemphill also alleges that Wexford Health's policies caused his constitutional injury. The Wexford Defendants and the State Defendants have filed parallel motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Wexford Defendants' motion for summary judgment [145] and the State Defendants' motion for summary judgment [151] are both granted.

         Rule 56.1 Statement and Expert Objections

         The Wexford Defendants contend that portions of Hemphill's Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) Response to the Wexford Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement does not comply with Local Rule 56.1(b) because Hemphill did not respond with “specific references” to the record that demonstrate a factual dispute. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). This Court deems admitted those paragraphs that Hemphill does not expressly admit to. Further, Hemphill fails to dispute with citations to relevant and admissible evidence in the record. See Dade v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 128 F.3d 1135, 1139 (7th Cir. 1997) (referring to L.R. 56.1's predecessor rule, the court affirmed the district court's taking as true uncontroverted facts alleged in the movant's statement and supported by references to the record). Thus, the following paragraphs of the Wexford Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement are deemed admitted: 28, 57, 62, 65, and 79.[1]

         The Wexford Defendants also contend that the Court should disqualify Hemphill's medical expert witness Dr. David Hellerstein because he has a conflict of interest. It is within this Court's discretion “to disqualify expert witnesses where or when it is necessary to protect the integrity of the adversary process, and/or to promote public confidence in the legal system.” Rosenthal Collins Grp., LLC v. Trading Techs. Int'l, Inc., No. 05 C 4088, 2008 WL 4542948, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 15, 2008) (Moran, J.). First the court asks “whether the party seeking disqualification acted reasonably in assuming that a confidential relationship existed and, second, whether confidential information was exchanged requiring disqualification of the expert.” Id. If either question is answered in the negative, then disqualification is not merited. Id. Disqualification of expert witnesses is “a drastic measure which courts should hesitate to impose except when absolutely necessary.” Bone Care Int'l, LLC v. Pentech Pharm., Inc., No. 08 C 1083, 2009 WL 249386, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 2, 2009) (Dow, J.). As the party seeking disqualification, the Wexford Defendants, bear the burden of demonstrating a conflict. Id.

         Here, Wexford Health retained Dr. Hellerstein as an expert witness a few years ago in a lawsuit involving a claim made by an Illinois Department of Correction (“IDOC”) inmate through which Dr. Hellerstein was exposed to Wexford Health's confidential information. Hemphill asserts that disqualification would be inappropriate because there is no overlap in the parties, the medical condition, the correctional facility, or the attorneys that represented Wexford Health in either case. The mere fact that Dr. Hellerstein performed work for Wexford Health previously and was exposed to confidential information as a result is not a sufficient basis to warrant disqualification. Such a conflict of interest standard would effectively prohibit experts, such as Dr. Hellerstein, from testifying as an expert in their field of expertise once they have been exposed to confidential information from one client. The Wexford Defendants cite no controlling precedent to support such a standard. Further, the Wexford Defendants have not presented any evidence or argument that there is overlap between the technical subject matter of the litigations. The vast differences between the prior Wexford Health matter for which Dr. Hellerstein testified at trial and this matter indicate that the expert does not have a conflict of interest in the present matter. Thus, the Court denies the Wexford Defendants' request that the Court disqualify Dr. Hellerstein.


         Medical Treatment

         Hemphill is an inmate incarcerated with IDOC, who previously was housed at Stateville Correctional Center. Wexford Health, a private corporation contracted by IDOC, provided medical services to Stateville inmates during the time periods relevant to this dispute. Dr. Obaisi, who was employed by Wexford Health, served as the Medical Director for Stateville from 2012 until his death in 2017. Williams has been employed as the physician's assistant at Stateville since 2002. Dr. Davis worked as a staff physician at Stateville from April 2013 to April 2014. Lemke, a non-medical professional, served as the Warden of Stateville from December 2012 to December 2013. Lemke relied on medical providers to determine medical treatment plans. O'Brien is a former Assistant Warden of Programs at Stateville, who retired in December 2013. Dr. Shicker was the Medical Director for IDOC from November 2009 to June 2016.

         Hemphill began to experience right shoulder pain on January 1, 2013, and eventually was diagnosed with shoulder impingement and arthritis. In February 2013, Hemphill was given a prescription for Tylenol and was scheduled to see a clinician. A few weeks later, Hemphill saw Williams, a physician's assistant. Hemphill reported that he was still experiencing pain, so Williams increased his prescription. Dr. Davis treated Hemphill in clinic in April 2013 for a hand injury; Hemphill made no mention of shoulder pain during that visit. Dr. Davis saw Hemphill again a few weeks later. During that visit, Hemphill complained of having ongoing shoulder pain for the two months, so Dr. Davis switched Hemphill's his medication to Naproxen.

         In June 2013, Hemphill received an X-ray, which revealed no abnormalities. Hemphill saw Dr. Obaisi in clinic later the same month and told Dr. Obaisi that his medication was not helping. Dr. Obaisi switched his medication from Naproxen to Mobic. In July 2013, Hemphill saw a nurse, whom he told his medications still were not helping. The nurse performed an examination on Hemphill and found that he had no signs or symptoms consistent with distress. The same day, Dr. Obaisi provided Hemphill with a medical permit for a bottom bunk in the cell house and requested that IDOC cuff Hemphill at the waist rather than behind his back. Both of these actions intended to provide relief for Hemphill's pain.

         Hemphill was scheduled for a steroid injection in September 2013, which was rescheduled due to a lockdown and administered in October 2013. In February 2014, Hemphill told the nurse that his steroid injections helped for about 60 days and that his Naproxen prescription helped him a little. During an appointment in May 2014, Hemphill told Dr. Obaisi that the pain had come back in the last few weeks. Hemphill further testified in his deposition that the injection had not helped much, but the pain medication had been providing some relief for his shoulder pain. Dr. Obaisi provided Hemphill with another injection, which relieved Hemphill's pain for around 40 days. In November 2014, Dr. Obaisi treated Hemphill in clinic again; during that appointment, Dr. Obaisi diagnosed Hemphill with chronic tendonitis, ordered an X-ray, and issued a prescription for Naproxen. The X-ray results were negative.

         Williams diagnosed Hemphill with chronic pain in his right shoulder in February 2015. Dr. Obaisi evaluated Hemphill again in March 2015, and Hemphill told Dr. Obaisi that his pain was “on and off.” Dr. Obaisi renewed the Naproxen prescription for ninety days. Hemphill saw Dr. Obaisi again in June 2015 and told Dr. Obaisi that his pain continued. Dr. Obaisi made a referral for an offsite consultation with UIC's orthopedic service, which Wexford Health approved. In the interim, Williams evaluated Hemphill and ordered another X-ray in January 2016, which again returned negative findings.

         Hemphill was transferred from Stateville to another correctional center in March 2016, which caused Hemphill to miss his referral for the UIC consultation. In April 2016, Hemphill saw a local orthopedic surgeon near his new correctional center, who scheduled an MRI that revealed a partial tear of Hemphill's rotator cuff. Wexford Health approved the orthopedic surgeon's recommendation for surgery, which Hemphill ...

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