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Crawford v. Obaisi

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

December 20, 2019




         Plaintiff DeAndre Crawford brings this civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendant, Ghaliah Obaisi, as Independent Executor of the Estate of Saleh Obaisi, M.D., Deceased (“Dr. Obaisi”), for violating his Eighth Amendment rights. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of Defendant and against Crawford. (Dkt. 192).


         On May 14, 2014, Crawford suffered a seizure and fell from his top bunk at Stateville Correctional Center. (Dkt. 199 at 1) During his seizure, “Crawford lost consciousness and fell to the floor of his cell, landing with sufficient force on his head that he snapped his front tooth in half.” (Id.) Unable to stand, Crawford was taken to the health care unit in a wheelchair where he was examined by Dr. Obaisi. (Dkt. 200 ¶¶ 46, 49, 62) Dr. Obaisi asked Crawford several questions, looked in his eyes, and referred him to the dental department on an urgent basis. (Id. at ¶¶ 46, 49) Dr. Obaisi testified that he performed a neurological examination on Crawford, which included determining whether Crawford was alert and oriented, and observing Crawford's eyes and cranial nerves to make sure there was no brain bleeding. (Dkt. 194 ¶ 46). Crawford contests whether Dr. Obaisi conducted a neurological exam, claiming instead that Dr. Obaisi merely asked him two questions and looked in his eyes before shuffling him off to the next medical provider. (Dkt. 200 ¶ 46) Dr. Obaisi additionally prescribed Crawford with an anti-seizure medication. (Dkt. 194 ¶ 46) Crawford was then taken to the dental department to address his broken tooth. (Dkt. 200 ¶ 39) After his appointment with the dental department, Crawford was taken back to the healthcare unit, but was not seen by Dr. Obaisi again. (Dkt. 199 at 4)

         Crawford does not recall his conversation with Dr. Obaisi during his May 14, 2014 examination. (Dkt. 200 ¶ 43) He does admit, however, that he did not complain about any other part of his body, including his neck, shoulders, hip or lower back at that appointment. (Id. at ¶ 45) Over the next three months, Crawford had several appointments with medical personnel for various ailments.[1] (Id. at ¶¶ 50-53) None of the appointment notes contain complaints of pain in Crawford's neck, shoulders, back, or hip. (Id.) Yet Crawford maintains that he reported pain in these areas at each appointment. (Id. at ¶ 73) On August 19, 2014, Crawford requested an appointment with Dr. Obaisi to address pain in his left shoulder and neck. (Id. at ¶ 54) That appointment is the first official record of pain in Crawford's neck and shoulders. At that appointment, Dr. Obaisi examined Crawford, diagnosed Crawford with a neck and shoulder sprain, and prescribed Naprosyn, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. (Id.)

         Crawford filed suit against Dr. Obaisi, claiming that Dr. Obaisi was deliberately indifferent to Crawford's serious medical need following his fall. His claim focuses on the examination immediately after the seizure and fall on May 14, 2014. Crawford argues that Dr. Obaisi's failure to physically examine him after his fall on May 14, 2014, and the resultant failure to diagnose the neck and shoulder sprain, forced Crawford to endure unnecessary pain for three months. Dr. Obaisi now moves for summary judgment.


         Summary judgment is proper 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine factual dispute exists when there is enough evidence that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Whiting v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 839 F.3d 658, 661 (7th Cir. 2016); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In construing the evidence and facts supported by the record in favor of the non-moving party, the Court gives the non-moving party “the benefit of reasonable inferences from the evidence, but not speculative inferences in [its] favor.” White v. City of Chi., 829 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted).

         Summary judgment is proper against “a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see also White, 829 F.3d at 841 (summary judgment warranted where a reasonable juror could not find in favor of the non-moving party “on the evidence submitted in support of and opposition to the motion for summary judgment”) (internal citation omitted).


         Dr. Obaisi moves for summary judgment, arguing that Crawford failed to establish that Dr. Obaisi was deliberately indifferent, that Dr. Obaisi is entitled to qualified immunity, and that Crawford's claim for punitive damages fails.

         “It is well-established that prison officials and medical staff violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment when they act with deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs.” Rasho v. Elyea, 856 F.3d 469, 475 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)). “To determine if the Eighth Amendment has been violated in the prison medical context, we perform a two-step analysis, first examining whether a plaintiff suffered from an objectively serious medical condition, and then determining whether the individual was deliberately indifferent to that condition.” Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 727 (7th Cir. 2016). The parties' briefing focuses on the second element.[2]

         Deliberate indifference requires that a defendant actually know about yet disregard a substantial risk of harm to an inmate's health or safety. Petties, 836 F.3d at 728. “The standard is a subjective one: the defendant must know facts from which he could infer that a substantial risk of serious harm exists and he must actually draw that inference.” Zaya v. Sood, 836 F.3d 800, 804 (7th Cir. 2016); see also Petties, 836 F.3d at 728 (“[T]he Supreme Court has instructed us that a plaintiff must provide evidence that an official actually knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of harm.”) (emphasis in original).

         “When a prison medical professional is accused of providing inadequate treatment (in contrast to no treatment), evaluating the subjective state-of-mind element can be difficult.” Whiting v. Wexford Health Services, Inc., 839 F.3d 658, 663 (7th Cir. 2016) (emphasis in original). The Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit have been clear that evidence of medical negligence is not enough to prove deliberate indifference. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106 (“Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner”); Petties, 836 F.3d at 728 (“[P]laintiffs must show more than mere evidence of malpractice to prove deliberate indifference”); see also Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008) (“Deliberate indifference is not medical malpractice; the Eighth Amendment does not codify common law torts”); Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645. 653 (7th Cir. 2005) (“[N]either medical malpractice nor a mere disagreement with a doctor's medical judgment amounts to deliberate indifference.”). Without more, an exercise of professional judgment cannot be deliberate indifference. “By definition a treatment decision that's based on professional judgment cannot evince ...

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