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Barkes v. Meeks

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

October 8, 2019

EDWARD J. BARKES, JR. Plaintiff,
STEVEN MEEKS, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, files an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs at the Pontiac Correctional Center (“Pontiac”). The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649-51 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Alexander v. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). While the pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” it requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Wilson v. Ryker, 451 Fed.Appx. 588, 589 (7th Cir. 2011) quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


         On December 22, 2018, prior to the events at issue, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”). On January 15, 2009, Dr. Munos, presumably a physician at Menard, prescribed him a nine-week regimen of Klonopin .5 mg daily for treatment of anxiety. Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to Pontiac and, on March 17, 2009, Defendant Dr. Matthews prescribed him Klonopin 1 mg daily for six months. Plaintiff alleges that, for the next 10 years, he was maintained on Klonopin despite the risk of serious side effects, including addiction, dementia, brain damage, nervous system damage, seizures and severe tremors and shaking. Plaintiff alleges that after nine years on the drug, he developed all of these symptoms as well as a life-altering social anxiety.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant psychiatrists and psychologists Matthews, Dempsey, McCormick, Sangster, Puga and Basu knew that the use of Klonopin for more than a six-month period would result in addiction, dependence and debilitating side effects. He claims that despite this knowledge, Defendants wrongfully maintained him on long-term treatment, failed to adequately monitor the side effects, failed to create a long-term treatment plan to treat the anxiety, and failed to create a treatment plan to address Plaintiff's addiction to Klonopin.

         In Count II, Plaintiff asserts a claim against Steven Meeks, the Medical Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), and those individuals who preceded him in office. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Meeks and the prior IDOC Medical Directors acted in concert with Wexford Health Sources, Inc., to maintain a formulary of pharmaceuticals to be prescribed to prisoners. Plaintiff asserts that the medical staff was limited to prescribing formulary medications, leading to the over-prescription of Klonopin. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Meeks and Wexford, collectively, failed to hire enough staff so that Plaintiff's mental health and neurological status could have been adequately monitored.

         In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that Wexford Health Sources, Inc., wrongfully denied him referral to a neurologist. Plaintiff pleads that on October 30, 2018, Nurse Practitioner Sarah Mara, not a party, examined Plaintiff for complaints of dementia, seizures, uncontrollable shaking, and possible brain damage. When Ms. Mara recommended referring Plaintiff to a neurologist, Wexford denied the request. Plaintiff asserts that this denial was in furtherance of Wexford's widespread practice of denying referrals to outside providers in an effort to save money.

         Plaintiff names two Doe Defendants in the caption but directs no allegations against them. Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief, that he be referred to a neurologist and that he be provided the treatment recommended by the neurologist.


         Defendants violate the Eighth Amendment where they are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs. Snipes v DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 1996), citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 104, 97 S.Ct. 285 (1976). A claim does not rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation, however, unless the punishment is “deliberate or otherwise reckless in the criminal law sense, which means that the defendant must have committed an act so dangerous that his knowledge of the risk can be inferred or that the defendant actually knew of an impending harm easily preventable.” Antonella v. Sheehan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1427 (7th Cir. 1996). Mere negligence or even gross negligence does not constitute deliberate indifference. Snipes, 95 F.3d at 590 (citations omitted). Furthermore, a prisoner's dissatisfaction with a doctor's prescribed course of treatment does not give rise to a constitutional claim unless the medical treatment is “so blatantly inappropriate as to evidence intentional mistreatment likely to seriously aggravate the prisoner's condition.” Id. at 591, citing Thomas v. Pate, 493 F.2d 151, 158 (7th Cir. 1974).

         Plaintiff states a colorable claim that Defendants Matthews, Dempsey, McCormick, Sangster, Puga and Basu maintained him on a decade-long course of Klonopin while allegedly knowing that continual use for more than six months would result in addiction and serious side effects. The case will go forward on this, and the claim that Defendants failed to adequately monitor Plaintiff and create a treatment plan.

         Plaintiff fails, however, to plead a claim against Defendants Meeks and Wexford for the alleged over-prescription of Klonopin. Plaintiff does not claim that Klonopin was the only anti-anxiety medication in the formulary and, therefore, the only medication that could have been given. The mere fact that the medication was on the formulary does not make Defendants Meeks or Wexford liable for the physicians and psychologists allegedly over-prescribing it. Section 1983 limits liability to public employees “for their own misdeeds, and not for anyone else's.” Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595-96 (7th Cir.2009). To be liable, a defendant must be “personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir.2001) (quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir.2001)). “A defendant will be deemed to have sufficient personal responsibility if he directed the conduct causing the constitutional violation, or if it occurred with his knowledge or consent.” Ames v. Randle, 933 F.Supp.2d 1028, 1037-38 (N.D.Ill.2013) (quoting Sanville, 266 F.3d at 740). These claims are DISMISSED though Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to amend in the event that he is able to state a claim.

         Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants Meeks and Wexford are liable for not hiring enough staff to adequately monitor him and formulate treatment plans. Here, however, Plaintiff reveals that he was treated by six different mental health providers. He offers nothing to support that, had more providers been available, he would have received better or different treatment. This claim is also DISMISSED though Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to replead it.

         Plaintiff also asserts a claim against Wexford under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs. Of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Monell provides that a private corporation acting under color of law may be liable for a constitutional injury caused by its policies, practices or customs. Here, Plaintiff asserts that a medical professional recommended that he be evaluated by a specialist for alarming neurological symptoms he was experiencing. As Plaintiff ...

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