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Corleyy v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 24, 2019

KEON CORLEY, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Keon Corley alleges that, after he broke his finger while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center in March 2015, Defendants Wexford Health Sources Inc., John Trost, Fe Fuentes, and Stephen Ritz were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants (Doc. 92). For the reasons explained below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants’ motion.

         Factual Background

         Three claims from Corley’s Complaint, as identified in the Court’s threshold order (Doc. 7), remain pending:

Count 5: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical need claim against Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. for maintaining a policy that led to inadequate medical care, delayed medical care, improperly trained medical staff, lack of follow up care, and refusal of pain medication, with the objective of saving money;
Count 10: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant John Trost and Defendant Fe Fuentes, both doctors, for denying pain medication stronger than Motrin to treat Corley’s injured hand; and
Count 12: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Stephen Ritz, a doctor, for failing to allow adequate access to physical therapy via a cuff pass and for denying ongoing care recommended by an external provider.

         Many of the facts underlying Corley’s claims in this action are undisputed by the parties.

         Corley has been an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections since 2005. At all times relevant to this action, he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center. Defendant Fe Fuentes worked as a physician at Menard Correctional Center from June 2008 through July 2015; she was an employee of Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. Defendant John Trost was a physician employed by Wexford and worked as the Medical Director at Menard from November 2013 through March 2017. Defendant Stephen Ritz, a doctor, has been employed by Wexford as the Corporate Utilization Management Medical Director since September 2014.

         On March 2, 2015, Corley visited the healthcare unit at Menard on a nurse sick call and was evaluated by Martha Oakley, a licensed practical nurse (“LPN”). He complained about right finger pain. On Corley’s medical records, Oakley circled “MD referral.” Defendants interpret this referral as one to a nurse practitioner or a medical doctor, but Corley maintains that he should have been referred to a medical doctor for evaluation. (Doc. 93, p. 3 at ¶ 6; Doc. 98, p. 2 at ¶ 6).

         Corley was evaluated by a nurse practitioner on March 3, 2015, and he continued to complain of pain in his right ring finger. The nurse practitioner noted that Corley was alert and oriented, that he did not display apparent distress, and that he had swelling and limited range of motion to the third, fourth, and fifth digits of his right hand. The nurse practitioner ordered an x-ray of Corley’s right hand to rule out a fracture. The x-ray revealed a displaced fracture of the fourth proximal phalanx with associated soft tissue swelling.

         Following the x-ray, the nurse practitioner admitted Corley to the healthcare unit, prescribed Motrin for his pain, and submitted an urgent request for collegial review, seeking to refer Corley for an orthopedic evaluation. The parties disagree as to the purpose of collegial review. Defendants describe it as a conference between physicians to evaluate treatment and recommendations, but Corley cites to Defendant Ritz’s deposition to support his position that it is an opportunity to discuss cases with clinical staff at the facilities and to look at the medical necessity and general management of care that may have to be provided off-site. (Doc. 93, p. 4 at ¶ 9; Doc. 98., p. 2 at ¶ 9; Doc. 98-2). Dr. Ritz approved the nurse practitioner’s request, and Corley was scheduled for an orthopedic evaluation on March 4, 2015.

         Due to weather, Corley’s evaluation was rescheduled to March 6, 2015, at the request of the orthopedic specialist, but he was seen by Defendant Fuentes that day before the appointment was canceled. She noted that his splint was intact and that he had good circulation to this injured finger. She examined him again on March 5, and Corley reported ongoing pain. Fuentes recommended that he continue his current plan of care. At 8:30 a.m. that day, Corley saw a nurse and told her that his hand hurt but that the Motrin helped. At 3:05 a.m. on March 6, 2015, Corley reported that he was in pain to a nurse and asked specifically for Motrin, stating, “I would like some Motrin please.” (Doc. 93-1, p. 12).

         Dr. Bret Miller at the Orthopaedic Institute of Southern Illinois evaluated Corley’s injury on March 6, 2015. He determined that Corley had a right ring finger proximal phalanx fracture. Dr. Miller recommended a closed reduction and percutaneous pinning of Corley’s ring finger.

         Corley returned to Menard after the appointment and was evaluated by a nurse. The nurse spoke with Defendant Trost about Dr. Miller’s report. As the report did not contain any pain medication recommendations, Dr. Trost ordered that Corley continue with Motrin for pain, as previously prescribed. Dr. Ritz approved the surgery recommended by Dr. Miller on March 6, 2015. Corley was scheduled for surgery on March 9, 2015. In accordance with Dr. Miller’s pre-surgical instructions, Dr. Trost ordered that Corley’s Motrin be held for 72 hours prior to surgery.

         Dr. Miller performed the surgery on Corley’s finger on March 9, 2015. Corley returned to Menard after surgery and was evaluated by a nurse. The nurse reported on Corley’s condition to Dr. Trost, who put in a telephone order for a Motrin prescription with instructions to schedule Corley for an evaluation with a doctor the following morning. Dr. Trost testified at this deposition that, in cases like Corley’s, he would start out prescribing a non-narcotic pain medication, like Motrin, and see how a patient does. If the non-narcotic didn’t work, then he would prescribe a stronger pain medication, like a narcotic, to attempt to control pain.

         At her deposition Dr. Fuentes testified that she would have prescribed Tramadol instead of Motrin had she seen Corley when he returned from his surgery because of the amount of pain caused by the surgery. (Doc. 98-5, p. 12). Dr. Fuentes evaluated Corley on the morning of March 10, 2015, and he complained of continued right-hand pain. She examined his hand and prescribed Tramadol, an opiate, for two days. Dr. Fuentes chose to limit the prescription to 48 hours because the pain and swelling lessens after the first postoperative day. When the healthcare unit sees an inmate daily after surgery, the prescription can be extended, if needed, she explained. (Doc. 98-5, p. 12).

         Dr. Fuentes saw Corley again on March 11, 2015, and recommended that he continue with the current course of treatment. Dr. Trost also submitted a request for collegial review that day, and Corley was approved for a post-operative follow-up with Dr. Miller, which was scheduled for March 19, 2015. Dr. Fuentes examined Corley again on March 12, 2015. She ordered that his status be changed to “chronic” so that he would not be charged further for pain medication. She renewed Corley’s Motrin prescription on March 13, 2015, and evaluated him again on March 18, 2015. Corley reported no complaints during that visit, and Dr. Fuentes recommended that ...

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