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Eastman v. Larson

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 16, 2019




         Pending before the Court is the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Plaintiff Jeffrey Eastman (Doc. 68). On January 30, 2019, the Court granted the Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies filed by Defendant Dr. Dennis Larson (Doc. 65). Eastman now asks the Court to reconsider that decision. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.


         Eastman is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections who filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to redress alleged violations of his constitutional rights (Doc. 1). Eastman claimed Defendant Dr. Larson violated his Eighth Amendment rights by showing deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs involving a deformity and arthritis in his feet and his associated pain (Id.). Eastman also filed a medical negligence claim against Dr. Larson, but that claim was later dismissed without prejudice because Eastman failed to provide an affidavit and written report by a healthcare professional indicating the claim was reasonable and meritorious, as required by Illinois law (Id.; Doc. 11).

         On October 9, 2018, Dr. Larson filed a motion for summary judgment arguing Eastman failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit when Eastman did not file a grievance in the proper timeframe under the Illinois Administrative Code (Doc. 53). See 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.810(a). Dr. Larson asserted that Eastman's complaint and grievance records indicate he did not file a grievance while incarcerated at Big Muddy and under the treatment of Dr. Larson. Furthermore, he argued, it is undisputed that Eastman did not file any grievance pertaining to the conditions of his feet and ankles until at least June 2016-well after he was transferred to Centralia Correctional Center and more than 60 days after treatment by Dr. Larson had ceased.

         In response, Eastman filed an affidavit explaining that from 2011 to 2014, he requested treatment in writing 14 times but was ignored (Doc. 56). On August 1, 2014, Dr. Larson finally saw Eastman for his disorder and prescribed arch support insoles (Id.). By October 2014, however, Eastman complained to the Healthcare Unit that the insoles did not work (Id.). Eastman sent additional complaints to the Healthcare Unit in February and April 2015 (Id.). Eastman was transferred to Centralia in November 2015. He twisted his ankle while wearing the insoles prescribed by Dr. Larson, but claimed he did not realize there was a correlation between his injury and the insoles (Id.). In April 2016, the Centralia Medical Director told Eastman that the foam insoles were adequate, which Eastman claimed was a lie (Id.). Eastman further asserted that he did not realize he had a medical problem caused, in part, by Dr. Larson's ineffective treatment and reckless disregard for his condition, until September 21, 2016. Thus, he argued, he had 60 days after the discovery of the issue to file a grievance against Dr. Larson.

         The Court held a hearing pursuant to Pavey v. Conley, 544 F.3d 739, 742 (7th Cir. 2008), on January 29, 2019. In its subsequent Order granting summary judgment to Dr. Larson, the Court found that Eastman failed to demonstrate good cause for filing his grievance outside of the 60-day window imposed by the Illinois Administrative Code. The Court found that Eastman should have realized the grounds for filing a grievance when he continued to request additional medical care and to see an orthopedic specialist after Dr. Larson prescribed the foam insoles.

         The Court further rejected Eastman's argument that the Administrative Review Board did not deny his grievance as untimely. The Court noted that the ARB said it could not assess whether the August 2016 grievance was timely filed because Eastman failed to include the specific dates he received medical care. The ARB also rejected Eastman's June 2016 grievance on procedural grounds, noting that Eastman should have provided the requisite institutional responses. The Court noted that the ARB may have been mistaken in that conclusion as it pertained to his complaints about Dr. Larson at Big Muddy, as the grievance form instructed Eastman to file complaints regarding another facility directly with the ARB. Nevertheless, that did not excuse the fact that his grievance about Dr. Larson was untimely. Furthermore, because the ARB never reached the merits of Eastman's claim, the prison never had notice of the problem and an opportunity to correct it. Accordingly, the Court found that Eastman failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and dismissed his case without prejudice. Judgment was entered on January 30, 2019 (Doc. 67). Eastman now asks the Court to reconsider its Order and Judgment.

         Legal Standard

         Although Eastman does not invoke any rule that offers such relief, Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the Court to alter or amend a judgment where the movant clearly establishes: “(1) that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence precluded entry of judgment.” Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 954 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Blue v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 698 F.3d 587, 598 (7th Cir. 2012)). A manifest error “is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. It is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Relief under this rule is an extraordinary remedy “reserved for the exceptional case.” Foster v. DeLuca, 545 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2008). “The decision whether to grant or deny a Rule 59(e) motion is entrusted to the sound judgment of the district court.” Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996).


         A. Discovery of Arthritis Diagnosis

         Eastman primarily argues that he filed a grievance within 60 days of discovering he had arthritis and that it could have been caused by the inserts Dr. Larson prescribed; thus, Defendant's motion should have been denied with regard to his complaints of arthritis. Eastman distinguishes his case from the one cited by the Court, Macon v. Mahone, 590 Fed.Appx. 609, 612 (7th Cir. 2014). In Macon, the Seventh Circuit found that the plaintiff's decision to wait for lab reports to confirm his health concerns was not good cause for filing his grievance late when two nurses had made statements that should have put the plaintiff on notice of the grounds of his grievance. Here, Eastman argues, he had no medical opinion that suggested he had arthritis or that Dr. Larson was responsible for causing it. Because he was not diagnosed with mild osteoarthritis until April 16, 2016, he could not have grieved Dr. Larson's involvement in causing his arthritis until after that date. And he did just that, he asserts, when he filed his June 2, 2016 grievance.

         While it is true no medical professional told Eastman he may have arthritis prior to at least April 19, 2016 (see Doc. 1 at p. 73), the record indicates he suspected he had arthritis as early as February 27, 2015. On that date, he requested a visit to the Healthcare Unit, stating, in part: “I think I might be getting arthritis from not having ...

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