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Woodley v. Baldwin

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

November 14, 2019

Stephon Woodley, Plaintiff,
John Baldwin, et al., Defendants.


          Philip G. Reinhard Judge

         Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc.'s motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint [33] is denied as to plaintiff's claim pursuant to Monell (Count Three). IDOC defendants' partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint [38] is denied as to plaintiff's claims pursuant to the ADA (Count One) and the Eighth Amendment (Count Three).



         Plaintiff Stephon Woodley, previously incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Center (“Dixon”), brings this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming Dixon's warden, the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), IDOC's director, IDOC's Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) coordinator, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by failing to provide him with specific visual aids. Plaintiff further alleges IDOC refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to his disability in violation of the ADA. Plaintiff's complaint also claims Wexford, the medical service provider at Dixon, maintained a custom, policy, or practice that resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff's constitutional rights.[1]

         On April 5, 2018, defendant Wexford filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint arguing plaintiff has failed to state a claim under theories of Monell, and that the applicable two-year statute of limitations bars plaintiff's claims [34].[2] On April 12, 2018, IDOC defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint arguing plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies to adequately bring a claim under the ADA, and defendants were not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs [38].[3] Both motions have been fully briefed and are now before the court.


         According to the relevant portions of plaintiff's complaint, plaintiff suffers from Stargardt's disease, a genetic condition that has left him legally blind. During his stay at Dixon (dating back to 2010), plaintiff was seen by an optometrist who conducted an examination and diagnosed him with macular dystrophy. Plaintiff was given a glass magnifier. Two years later, plaintiff was seen again by the optometrist who concluded that plaintiff's condition had worsened and could no longer be accommodated by a glass magnifier, so the doctor recommended plaintiff be allowed to use a portable digital magnifier. Dixon's ADA coordinator agreed and allowed plaintiff to purchase and use the device. In 2014, the device was replaced by IDOC. Also in 2014, plaintiff was seen at an off-site low vision clinic which confirmed he suffered from macular dystrophy and also diagnosed him with Stargardt's disease. In March 2015, plaintiff visited the clinic again where it was recommended plaintiff receive a light in his cell to aid reading, a small optical monocular scope to help him see in the distance, and a folding cane to assist him in moving around the prison. At a follow-up appointment at Dixon, medical professionals concurred with the clinic's recommendations that he be provided all these visual aids. However, defendants failed or refused to provide plaintiff with the visual aids which were recommended.

         In the spring of 2015, plaintiff filed a grievance asking that the prison provide him with the recommended visual aids. After this grievance was denied, plaintiff filed another grievance in December 2015. In March 2016, Dixon officials agreed that the visual aids could be acquired for a security inspection. Despite this, plaintiff did not receive the aids. In July 2016, during a shake-down of plaintiff's cell, the IDOC tactical team broke plaintiff's portable digital magnifier. Plaintiff filed a request for a new magnifier, as well as a grievance and several follow-up petitions over the next month. Defendant Keane (IDOC's ADA coordinator) decided plaintiff's magnifier would not be replaced and provided him with a plastic “sheet” magnifier instead in October 2016. In January 2017, Dixon's new medical director noted that plaintiff's magnifying sheet was, in fact, inadequate to address plaintiff's visual impairment, and recommended to defendant Keane that plaintiff be provided the recommended aids. In February 2017, an ophthalmologist at Dixon concurred that plaintiff needed the visual aids. In March 2017, having still not received the aids, plaintiff filed multiple grievances. Despite the grievances, plaintiff did not receive the aids. Based on this, plaintiff alleges in his complaint that Wexford has a policy and practice of not procuring medical devices for inmates without knowing in advance that they will be approved by prison security, even when the devices have been prescribed by a doctor to address a serious medical need.

         Defendants' failure to provide plaintiff with visual aids to address his condition has impaired his ability to perform the basic activities of everyday living. Due to defendants' refusal to assist him, plaintiff has been unable to participate in Dixon's educational programs. Also, because he cannot read, he has been unable to read his own healthcare records. Defendants' failure to provide plaintiff with the visual aids has caused plaintiff physical injury and has hampered his basic everyday living tasks like personal hygiene, sleeping, and maneuvering around his cell uninjured. The lack of a folding cane and monocular scope for distance vision limits plaintiff's ability to safely navigate around the prison and to take advantage of programs and services like religious services, therapeutic services, and recreation. Defendants' failure to provide visual aids to plaintiff has also compounded plaintiff's visual loss by causing strain and additional damage to his retinas.

         Moreover, according to plaintiff's complaint, IDOC has discriminated against plaintiff by passing him over for a position with Dixon Correctional Industries (“DCI”), a vocational program within the prison that provides employment. Inmates who work for DCI are able to earn a wage, develop skills, and qualify for a reduction in their incarceration time. Plaintiff was on the waitlist for a job through DCI for years, while non-disabled inmates who were on the list after him were given positions with DCI. After five years on the waitlist, plaintiff filed a grievance, which was denied. Defendants' claim that no positions were available for plaintiff to fill was untrue.

         In his complaint, plaintiff claims defendants' actions and inactions amount to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the individual defendants, including Wexford. Plaintiff further alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitations Act against defendant Baldwin and IDOC. Plaintiff's complaint seeks equitable relief and money damages.[4]

         Standard of review

         When evaluating a Rule 12 (b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must “accept[] all well-pleaded facts as true and draw[] all reasonable inferences in favor of the . . . non-moving parties.” Bonnstetter v. City of Chicago, 811 F.3d 969, 973 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted). “A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint itself.” Id. “To state a claim, a complaint must first provide ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “The statement of the claim must sufficiently give ‘fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests' to the defendants.” Id. (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To state a claim for relief, a complaint must provide more than “abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Instead, a plausible claim must include “‘factual content' ...

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