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Norwood v. Dart

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

November 5, 2019




         Plaintiff Randy Norwood filed his Fourth Amended Complaint asserting claims against defendants Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, Cook County, Illinois, Sgt. Thomas Conley, Dr. Davis, Dr. Terrence Baker, Mireya Guerrero, Kim Anderson, Susan Shebel, and Torrence Gresham-Trotter, alleging that they were deliberately indifference to his medical condition in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss [98]. For the following reasons, the Court grants defendants' motion in part and denies it in part.


         Randy Norwood is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections and was housed at the Cook County Jail at all relevant times in this case. In April 2016, Norwood began suffering from swelling and extreme pain in his right groin area, so on April 14 Norwood submitted a request for medical attention. Kim Anderson, a registered nurse, evaluated Norwood on May 29, 2016, where Norwood told her that his symptoms included swelling and extreme pain in his right side groin area, painful urination, painful defecation, limping, and a knot in his groin area. Anderson informed Norwood that he did not have a hernia and prescribed him 200 mg Advil. Norwood submitted another request for medical treatment that same day, which was denied by Sgt. Thomas Conley. Norwood continued to submit medical requests, and Anderson recommended that he be given special underwear to hold ice packs, which Norwood never received. Anderson continued to treat Norwood with Advil and placed Norwood on bed rest, despite the “swelling and deformity” in Norwood's groin area that had grown to the size of a tennis ball. Norwood continued to receive pain medication, and on July 18, 2016, Torrence Gresham-Trotter, also a registered nurse, informed Norwood that a doctor would see him.

         Two days later, on July 20, 2016, Dr. Davis diagnosed Norwood with two hernias and determined that Norwood did not need surgery. Norwood requested additional treatment methods, which Dr. Davis denied. Norwood filed a grievance shortly after, which Susan Shebel, another registered nurse, denied because Norwood had recently seen a doctor related to the hernia issue. Norwood filed another grievance on September 6, 2016; Shebel responded to Norwood, advising him to continue submitting medical forms. Dr. Terrence Baker and Physician's Assistant Mireya Guerrero examined Norwood on September 13 and prescribed pain medication. Norwood continued to file grievances and appeal their denial. Guerrero again saw Norwood on November 8, 2016, where Guerrero again prescribed Norwood pain medication and denied surgery.

         Norwood filed another grievance in November 2016, which Shebel denied on December 20 because Norwood was scheduled to see a doctor in January 2017. Dr. Baker and Guerrero saw Norwood on January 10, 2017, again denying his request for surgery. Dr. Davis, Guerrero, and Anderson continued to see Norwood on multiple occasions between January 10 and June 18, 2017. On May 11, Anderson treated Norwood and denied his request to see his medical file. Norwood filed a grievance on June 16 requesting an outside appointment regarding his hernia, which was denied; Norwood appealed, which was also denied. Norwood informed Dr. Davis on July 18 that he was having difficulty urinating and continued to have extreme pain due to the hernia. Norwood further alleges that he gained forty pounds over the course of 18 months as a result of the hernias and that he had difficulty with tasks associated with daily living, including walking, bathing, and using the facilities. Norwood ultimately received surgery for his two hernias in June 2018.

         Legal Standard

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and views them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lavalais v. Vill. of Melrose Park, 734 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2013). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain allegations that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 632 (internal quotations omitted). The plaintiff does not need to plead particularized facts, but the allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action and allegations that are merely legal conclusions are not sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).


         To sufficiently allege a claim for deliberate indifference, Norwood must allege that he had an objectively serious medical need and that the defendants were aware of and refused to take reasonable steps to address it. Dobbey v. Mitchell-Lawshea, 806 F.3d 938, 940 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 101, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)). As to medical professionals, deliberate indifference only occurs when a physician's treatment decision is such a departure from accepted professional standards as to raise the inference that it was not actually based on a medical judgment. Norfleet v. Webster, 439 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2006). When determining whether deliberate indifference can be inferred from a physician's treatment decision, courts focus on what the physician knew at the time of treatment. Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 680 (7th Cir. 2008). Nonmedical personnel, on the other hand, are generally entitled to rely on the judgment of treating health professionals, Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435, 440 (7th Cir. 2010), and generally will not be found to be deliberately indifferent unless they have reason to believe that the medical personnel are mistreating or not treating a prisoner. Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 527 (7th Cir. 2008).

         As to whether Norwood's hernia pain constitutes an objectively serious medical need, the factual allegations support the claim that he had a serious medical condition that required medical treatment. The Seventh Circuit has recognized hernias as objectively serious medical conditions for the purposes of deliberate indifference claims. See Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1010 (7th Cir. 2006). Therefore, the Court focuses on whether Norwood sufficiently alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent.

         Defendant Conley

         Defendants assert that because Norwood's allegations against Conley are limited to processing grievances, he should be dismissed. The Seventh Circuit has recognized that “the law encourages non-medical … and administrative personnel at jails and prisons to defer to the professional medical judgments of the physicians and nurses treating the prisoners in their care without fear of liability for doing so.” Berry, 604 F.3d at 440 (collecting cases). To allege medical indifference, a plaintiff must contend that he gave the defendant sufficient notice of an excessive risk to the plaintiff's health or safety. Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 755 (7th Cir. 2011). At that point, an official's “refusal or declination to exercise the authority of his or her office may reflect deliberate disregard.” Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 993 (7th Cir. 1996).

         Norwood alleges that Conley denied a medical request that Norwood filed in May 2016. When Conley received the request, Norwood had already been seen and treated by a medical professional for the underlying issue the same day he filed the request. As a sergeant employed by Cook County Jail, Conley was permitted to rely on the expertise of the medical professionals who were treating Norwood. Arnett, 658 F.3d at 755. Norwood does not sufficiently allege that he gave ...

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