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Johnson v. Obaisi

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

September 30, 2019

GHALIAH OBAISI, as Independent Executor of the Estate of DR. SALEH OBAISI, et al., Defendants.


          Andrea R. Wood United States District Judge

         In September 2012, Plaintiff James Johnson injured his ankle while playing basketball at Stateville Correctional Center (“Stateville”). The injury caused Johnson to experience severe pain in his ankle. Yet, according to Johnson, Dr. Saleh Obaisi, Dr. Arthur Funk, and Nicolette Duffield (collectively, “Defendants”) failed to provide him with appropriate medical care. And so Johnson has filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical condition. Ghaliah Obaisi, in her role as the independent executor of Dr. Obaisi’s estate, and Dr. Funk have moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Johnson’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations. (Dkt. No. 33.) Duffield has also filed her own separate Rule 12(b)(6) motion, claiming that the FAC fails to allege sufficiently that she was personally involved in Johnson’s deficient care. (Dkt. No. 49.) For the reasons explained below, both motions are denied.


         For purposes of the motions to dismiss, the Court accepts the well-pleaded facts in the FAC as true and views those facts in the light most favorable to Johnson. See, e.g., Anicich v. Home Depot USA, Inc., 852 F.3d 643, 648 (7th Cir. 2017). The FAC alleges as follows.

         In early September 2012, while incarcerated at Stateville, Johnson suffered a painful injury to his ankle playing basketball. (FAC ¶¶ 14–15, Dkt. No. 21.) Stateville medical staff provided Johnson with a crutch and ibuprofen, but he was not treated by a doctor at that time. (Id. ¶ 17.) Four days later, medical staff x-rayed Johnson’s ankle. (Id. ¶ 19.) Eventually, after he filed a grievance requesting medical attention, Johnson was seen by Dr. Obaisi in October 2012. (Id. ¶¶ 20–21.) Dr. Obaisi told Johnson that he had a sprained ankle and provided him with a brace and meloxicam. (Id. ¶¶ 21–22.)

         Johnson continued to file grievances, complaints, and sick-call requests seeking medical attention for his ankle injury. (Id. ¶ 23.) As a result, he was seen again by Dr. Obaisi in November or December 2012. (Id.) During that visit, Dr. Obaisi took away Johnson’s crutch and, despite Johnson’s complaint that the pain was “too much to walk on, ” advised him to “walk on it and it would get better.” (Id.) Johnson also told Dr. Obaisi that he was experiencing hip pain from using the crutch, to which Dr. Obaisi responded that the pain “would go away soon.” (Id. ¶ 24.) When Johnson informed Dr. Obaisi that he was uncomfortable walking without his crutch while in so much pain, Dr. Obaisi replied, “Trust me, I’m a doctor.” (Id. ¶ 25.)

         Shortly thereafter, Johnson fell getting out of his top bunk and injured himself further. (Id. ¶ 26.) He filed several grievances related to the fall and was summoned to Dr. Obaisi’s office in January 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 26–27.) But instead of treating Johnson, Dr. Obaisi accused him of “f**king lying” about the fall from his bunk, told him “there is nothing wrong with your ankle mother f**ker, ” and demanded he leave the office. (Id. ¶ 27.)

         In August 2014, Johnson again filed a grievance about pain in his ankle, back, and neck, and requested x-rays. (Id. ¶ 28.) Later that month, Dr. Obaisi overheard another doctor attending to Johnson and interjected that Johnson could walk and did not need crutches. (Id. ¶ 29.) The other doctor then refused to provide Johnson with crutches. (Id.) Two years later, in August 2016, Johnson was seen by a third doctor, Dr. Aguinaldo, [1] for pain in his shoulder and wrist. (Id. ¶ 30.) When Johnson also complained about pain in his ankle, Dr. Aguinaldo instructed Johnson to file a separate sick-call slip for that injury. (Id.) Johnson then filed several emergency grievances for pain in his ankle, all of which were denied. (Id. ¶ 31.)

         Johnson subsequently filed the present lawsuit in June 2017, claiming that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical condition in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to treat his ankle injury adequately.


         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” and allege facts that “allow[] 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). In considering a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts all of the plaintiff’s factual allegations as true and “draw[s] all permissible inferences” in the plaintiff’s favor. Bible v. United Student Aid Funds Inc., 799 F.3d 633, 639 (7th Cir. 2015).

         I. Dr. Obaisi and Dr. Funk

         The statute of limitations provides an affirmative defense to constitutional tort claims. E.g., United States v. Northern Trust Co., 372 F.3d 886, 888 (7th Cir. 2004). Generally, a complaint need not state all facts necessary to overcome an affirmative defense, which is why it is “irregular to dismiss a claim as untimely under Rule 12(b)(6).” Hollander v. Brown, 457 F.3d 688, 691 n.1 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted). Dismissal on statute of limitations grounds at the pleading stage may be warranted, however, when a plaintiff pleads facts that effectively establish the defense. Id.

         The statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim is “governed by the personal injury laws of the state” in which the injury occurred. Hileman v. Maze, 367 F.3d 694, 696 (7th Cir. 2004). In the present case, Johnson’s injury occurred in Illinois, so the statute of limitations is two years. See 735 ILCS 5/13-202. While the length of the limitations period is determined by state law, the rules governing accrual are determined by federal law. Hileman, 367 F.3d at 696. Although the statute of limitations begins to run the day an injury accrues, the continuing-violation doctrine allows “a plaintiff to reach back to [the beginning of a violation] even if that beginning lies outside the statutory limitations period, when it would be unreasonable to require or even permit him to sue separately over every incident of the defendant’s unlawful conduct.” Heard v. Sheahan, 253 F.3d 316, 319–20 (7th Cir. 2001). For Eighth Amendment claims, any time a defendant has the power to treat a prisoner but does not, he creates “a fresh infliction of punishment that ...

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