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Saterfield v. Baldwin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 4, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (Doc. 124) of Magistrate Judge Gilbert C. Sison. After holding a hearing on January 25, 2019, Magistrate Judge Sison recommended that the Court grant the motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Dr. Stephen Ritz (Doc. 50) and deny the summary judgment motion filed by defendant Dr. Mohammed Siddiqui (Doc. 96). Both motions are based on the assertion that plaintiff Lloyd Saterfield failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Dr. Siddiqui has objected to the Report to the extent it concerns him (Doc. 131), and Saterfield has responded to that objection (Doc. 135). Saterfield has also objected to the Report to the extent it concerns Dr. Ritz (Doc. 136), and Dr. Ritz has responded to that objection (Doc. 137).

         This case arose because Saterfield suffers from ongoing back problems, and he is not happy with the medical treatment provided by Dr. Siddiqui, Dr. Ritz, and others.

         I. Report Review Standard

         The Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge in a report and recommendation. Fed. R. Civ. P.

         72(b)(3). The Court must review de novo the portions of the report to which objections are made. Id. “If no objection or only partial objection is made, the district court judge reviews those unobjected portions for clear error.” Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).

         II. Dr. Ritz's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 50)

         Magistrate Judge Sison found in the Report that Saterfield filed a grievance on November 27, 2017, complaining about Dr. Ritz's September 7, 2017, request for collegial review, Wexford Health Sources Inc.'s (“Wexford”) process to approve or deny a medical service requested by a prison doctor. The grievance officer denied the grievance as late because it was filed more than 60 days after September 7, 2017. Saterfield went through all the grievance steps thereafter, and the Administrative Review Board made the final denial of his grievance on January 19, 2018. Magistrate Judge Sison found that the continuing violation doctrine does not help Saterfield because that doctrine only excuses exhaustion for later events of a continuing violation as long as a timely grievance was filed after the beginning of the violation.

         Saterfield objects to the Court's interpretation of the continuing violation doctrine. He argues that the doctrine allows reaching back to events before the filing of the grievance. He notes that his grievance makes clear that Dr. Ritz was one of his medical providers and that he continued to suffer from his medical problems, which is sufficient to exhaust as to Dr. Ritz.

         As a preliminary matter, Magistrate Judge Sison misidentifies Dr. Ritz as a prison doctor who would have had appointments to examine, diagnose, and/or treat Saterfield. From the allegations in the grievance and complaint, however, it is clear that Dr. Ritz is not a prison doctor but a doctor working for Wexford Health Sources, Inc. as part of the collegial review process. Grievance 2 (Doc. 97-2 at 18); Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23 & 28. Thus, Dr. Ritz's involvement was not as a treating physician but as a reviewing physician making discrete decisions on medical service requests from treating physicians. That distinction sheds a different light on the exhaustion question.

         Saterfield's argument ignores the plain text of the administrative rule on grievances, which states, “A grievance must be filed with the counselor or Grievance Officer in accordance with the procedures in this Subpart, within 60 days after the discovery of the incident, occurrence or problem that gives rise to the grievance.” 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 504.810 (emphasis added). Thus, by the very terms of the administrative rule, in order to exhaust, Saterfield must have grieved Dr. Ritz's conduct within 60 days of when he discovered his health problem and Dr. Ritz's participation in it. This point in time is clear where Saterfield complains of a specific discrete instance by Dr. Ritz-the decision to deny a “medical special service” of an MRI. Grievance 2 (Doc. 97-2 at 18); Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23 & 28; see Ramirez v. Young, 906 F.3d 530, 539 (7th Cir. 2018) (noting that “many people assert that problems are ongoing, when the issue really stems from a discrete act that starts the clock running”). Saterfield did not file his grievance within 60 days of Dr. Ritz's discrete decision to deny a specifically requested diagnostic test, so the grievance was not timely.

         The continuing violation doctrine does not save Saterfield's claim. The doctrine means that after Saterfield files a timely grievance about Dr. Ritz, he does not have to keep filing them for ongoing problems with Dr. Ritz, that is, ongoing deliberate indifference by Dr. Ritz to Saterfield's medical needs. See Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 650 (7th Cir. 2013) (“[O]nce a prison has received notice of, and an opportunity to correct, a problem, the prisoner has satisfied the purpose of the exhaustion requirement.”). But it does not excuse Saterfield from filing a timely grievance to begin with, which he failed to do in this case concerning Dr. Ritz.

         For this reason, after a de novo review, the Court will adopt the Report to the extent it recommends granting Dr. Ritz's motion for summary judgment on exhaustion grounds.

         III. Dr. Siddiqui's Motion for Summary ...

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