United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. Bucklo United States District Judge
Thomas, previously incarcerated at Stateville Correctional
Center, has sued Dr. Alma Martija and Dr. Saleh Obaisi,
doctors who treated him at Stateville, their employer,
Wexford Health Sources, Inc., and Randy Pfister, the warden
of Stateville. Thomas alleges that Dr. Martija and Dr. Obaisi
provided constitutionally inadequate medical care and that
they did so pursuant to Wexford's unconstitutional policy
or practice. He also alleges that Pfister was deliberately
indifferent to his serious medical needs.
seek summary judgment. They argue that plaintiff is not
entitled to a trial because the undisputed evidence does not
establish that any individual defendants were deliberately
indifferent to Thomas's serious medical needs or that
Wexford had an unconstitutional policy or practice that
caused Thomas harm. These motions are granted in part and
denied in part.
facts are set forth as favorably to Thomas, the non-moving
party, as permitted by the record. See Hanners v.
Trent, 674 F.3d 683, 691 (7th Cir. 2012).
Thomas's Medical History
October 2014, Thomas complained to Dr. Martija about nasal
issues, she diagnosed him with sinusitis, and she prescribed
antibiotics. In a December 2014 appointment, Dr. Martija
noted that Thomas' sinusitis had been resolved. In
February 2015, Dr. Obaisi saw Thomas regarding his renewed
complaints about his nose. Dr. Obaisi noted that Thomas had
severe nasal septum deviation, sinusitis, and bronchitis. He
prescribed medication. On June 30, 2015, Dr. Obaisi
recommended that Thomas see a specialist at the University of
Illinois at Chicago (“UIC”) about these
conditions. In October 2015, Thomas was taken to UIC to see
Dr. Stephanie Joe, an otolaryngologist, who noted Thomas was
experiencing “[s]ome facial pressure and pain under
eyes” and diagnosed Thomas with a deviated septum and
hypertrophic nasal turbinates. Dkt. No. 107-1 at 15-16. Dr.
Joe recommended elective nasal surgery to address this
condition, which Thomas agreed to. Dr. Obaisi prepared the
surgery clearance forms. Thomas returned to UIC on November
30, 2015 and underwent nasal surgery from Dr. Joe. He left
surgery with a splint and sutures in his nose. Dr. Joe's
written surgical discharge instructions were that Thomas
return for a follow-up in three weeks. The next day, Dr.
Obaisi signed Dr. Joe's consultation form from the
surgery, which noted Thomas's splints, but did not
mention a follow-up visit as part of her recommendations and
January 12, 2016, Thomas spoke with a physician's
assistant at Stateville about returning to UIC for his
follow-up appointment. The physician's assistant told
Thomas that she would speak with Dr. Obaisi. Thomas sent
Stateville medical staff multiple request slips seeking an
appointment but these requests “went unanswered.”
Dkt. No. 107-4, Thomas Dep. at 32:14-33:7.
saw Dr. Obaisi on March 5, 2016 and spoke to him about
returning to UIC. Thomas testified that Dr. Obaisi refused
and stated, “he was the medical doctor and he would
send [the plaintiff] out whenever he got ready.” Dkt.
No. 107-4, Thomas Dep. at 16:15-17:4. Thomas also testified
that Dr. Obaisi and Dr. Martija told him that Wexford was on
a budget and they were trying to save Wexford money.
March 29, 2016, Dr. Obaisi made a referral for Thomas to see
Dr. Joe. However, in a collegial review by Wexford, the
decision was made to evaluate Thomas at Stateville and then
discuss again whether a follow-up at UIC was medically
necessary. On either April 1st or April 7th, Dr. Obaisi
attempted to remove a suture remaining from Thomas's
surgery, which, Thomas contends, caused a splint to break and
created a perforation in his nose. Wexford approved Thomas
for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Joe on April 13, 2016.
Thomas saw Dr. Joe the next day. She found that Thomas had a
pinhole sized perforation in his nose, which was one of the
potential risks of the surgery. Dr. Joe made no determination
as to whether that perforation was caused by Dr. Obaisi's
attempt to remove the suture. But she did testify that it
would “potentially” be painful for Thomas if the
splints were left in for more than three weeks. Dkt. No.
107-1, Dr. Joe Dep. at 19:13-18.
Thomas's Complaints and Grievances
January 18, 2015 Thomas filed a grievance in which he
complained that Wexford, Dr. Obaisi, and Dr. Martija had
unnecessarily delayed his treatment, causing his condition to
worsen. On January 26th, Thomas spoke with Pfister in the
Stateville commissary and explained that he was having
trouble breathing and was supposed to be sent back to UIC for
a follow-up appointment. Pfister responded “[m]an it
looks like you're standing here fine breathing to me.
File an emergency grievance.” Pfister had a practice of
taking notes from conversations with inmates and generally
followed up on these notes by meeting with department
supervisors. Thomas understood emergency grievances are sent
“straight to the warden.” Dkt. No. 99-3, Thomas
Dep. at 43:2-7. He submitted an emergency grievance on
January 28th, in which he stated that he had nose surgery in
November 2015, and he was supposed to have the splints
removed a few weeks later. He complained the splints and
stitches were causing difficulty breathing, swelling, and
shooting pains and requested to return to UIC for an
appointment to have the splints removed. Pfister's
designee determined it was not an emergency and checked the
box that the grievance be submitted through regular channels.
grievance officer's recommendations in response to
Thomas's grievances include “[n]o action as
grievant appears to be receiving appropriate medical care at
this time” and “[a]fter reviewing offender's
medical record, the offender has been seen several
times.” Dkt. No. 123, Resp. to Plaintiff's LR56.1
Statement of Additional Facts at ¶ 26. These
recommendations were signed by a designee of Pfister in his
name. Id.; Dkt. No. 99-4, Pfister Dep. at
March 23, 2016 Thomas submitted an emergency grievance in
which he again complained that he was supposed to return to
UIC a few weeks after his November 2015 surgery, but was
still waiting, in pain, to have his splints removed.
Pfister's designee determined it was not an emergency and
checked the box that the grievance be submitted through
regular channels. On April 7, 2016 Thomas submitted another
emergency grievance stating that he was supposed to be sent
to UIC but Dr. Obaisi instead attempted to remove his
stitches, causing unnecessary pain. Thomas then filed this
lawsuit in May 2016.
judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion . . . .” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To avoid summary
judgment, the non-moving party must then “present
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial; inferences that rely upon ...