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Robinson v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

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

December 30, 2019

ERIC L. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Eric L. Robinson (“Mr. Robinson”) filed a civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Wexford Health Services, Inc. (“Wexford”) and the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”), alleging deliberate indifference to medial needs. On February 21, 2018, the district court granted Mr. Robinson's motion to voluntarily dismiss IDOC, leaving only Wexford as a defendant. (Dkt. 96). Before the Court is Wexford's motion for summary judgement. For the reasons set forth below, Wexford's Motion for Summary Judgment [116] is granted.

         I. Background

         On December 10, 2015, Mr. Robinson, a diabetic, arrived at Stateville Northern Reception and Classification Center (“Stateville NRC”) after being transferred from Peoria County Jail (“Peoria”). (Dkt. 122, ¶4). While at Peoria, Mr. Robinson had a history of refusing insulin from medical staff. (Id. ¶¶35-45). The Peoria medical staff summarized this information in a transfer form and provided it to the Stateville NRC medical staff. (Id. ¶46).

         Upon arrival to Stateville NRC, Mr. Robinson received an examination from Wexford employee Diane Schwarz, a physician's assistant. (Dkt. 122, ¶49). Wexford provides medical services to IDOC prisons pursuant to its contract with the State of Illinois. (Id. ¶5). Although Mr. Robinson took insulin and Metformin, another diabetes medication, at Peoria, PA Schwarz reduced his Metformin prescription by half and did not give him insulin. (Id. ¶¶53-54). PA Schwarz's reasons for changing Mr. Robinson's prescription-and the validity of those reasons-are disputed by the parties.

         On January 1, 2016, Mr. Robinson entered Stateville NRC's infirmary and Dr. Roz, a Wexford employee, prescribed various insulins and procedures to monitor Mr. Robinson's diabetes. (Dkt. 128, ¶39). Mr. Robinson claims, and Wexford disputes, that he submitted “at least 10 sick calls to IDOC correctional officers” and “at least 6 sick calls to Wexford employees” in the 21 days leading up to his infirmary visit. (Id. ¶¶8-10). The parties dispute the procedure for handling these sick call requests and whether they were received. Mr. Robinson further claims-and Wexford disputes-that he experienced increasingly worsening symptoms prior to his infirmary visit including swelling of the extremities, blurred vision, dizziness, pain in his hands and feet, intermittent seizures, loss of consciousness, loss of bladder control and temporary blindness. (Id. ¶¶36, 37). Mr. Robinson claims that he experienced some immediate relief after receiving insulin on January 1, 2016 but continued to suffer severe pain in his hands and feet. (Id.). Mr. Robinson alleges that Wexford, through its de facto policies and practices, caused him to suffer and showed deliberate indifference to his medical needs. (Dkt. 77, ¶¶79-86).

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         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 Chicago, 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). “As the ‘put up or shut up' moment in a lawsuit, summary judgment requires a non-moving party to respond to the moving party's properly-supported motion by identifying specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial.” Grant v. Trustees of Indiana Univ., 870 F.3d 562, 568 (7thCir. 2017) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         III. Discussion

         Mr. Robinson's § 1983 claim against Wexford, a private corporation that provides medical services for Stateville, must be evaluated under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Monell claims apply equally to municipalities and to “§ 1983 claims brought against private companies [such as Wexford] that act under color of state law.” Whiting, 839 F.3d at 664 (citing Shields v. Ill. Dep't of Corr., 746 F.3d 782).

         Liability under Monell may be established in three ways: “(1) an express policy that causes a constitutional deprivation when enforced; (2) a widespread practice that is so permanent and well-settled that it constitutes a custom or practice; or (3) an allegation that the constitutional injury was caused by a person with final policymaking authority.” Spiegel v. McClintic, 916 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 140 S.Ct. 51 (2019) (quoting Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. Cty. of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 515 (7th Cir. 2007)). To prevail under Monell, Mr. Robinson must provide evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to conclude that “his injury was caused by a Wexford policy, custom, or practice of deliberate indifference to medical needs, or a series of bad acts that together raise the inference of such a policy.” Shields, 746 F.3d at 796; Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The policy, custom or practice “must be the direct cause or moving force behind the constitutional violation.” Woodward v. Correctional Medical Services of Illinois, Inc., 368 F.3d 917, 927 (7th Circ. 2004).

         Mr. Robinson fails to provide competent evidence of an unconstitutional policy or widespread practice sufficient to survive summary judgment. Mr. Robinson does not claim that Wexford has an explicit unconstitutional policy; rather, a “de facto policy to withhold medication and to not perform medical[ly] prescribed medical treatment as a cost cutting and efficiency measure.” (Dkt. 77, ¶79). A de facto policy claim falls under the “widespread practice” theory of liability. See e.g. LaPorta v. City of Chicago, 277 F.Supp.3d 969, 981 (N.D. Ill. 2017) (noting that one theory of liability under Monell is “a widespread common practice that by virtue of its ubiquity constitutes a de facto custom or usage with the force of law”). To establish a “widespread practice, ” Plaintiff must offer “evidence that there is a true municipal policy at issue, not a random event.” Calhoun v. Ramsey, 408 F.3d 375, 380 (7th Cir. 2005); Daniel v. Cook Cty., 833 F.3d 728, 734 (7th Cir. 2016) (“a mere isolated event” is insufficient to prove widespread practice). The Seventh Circuit has noted that “the gravamen” of a Monell claim “is not individual misconduct” on the part of certain employees, “but a widespread practice that permeates a critical mass of an institutional body.” Rossi v. City of Chicago, 790 F.3d 729, 737 (7th Cir. 2015) (emphasis in original). When relying on indirect proof to show widespread practice, as Mr. Robinson does here, a “plaintiff must introduce evidence demonstrating that the unlawful practice was so pervasive that acquiescence on the part of policymakers was apparent and amounted to a policy decision.” Dixon v. City. of Cook, 819 F.3d 343, 348 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal quotations omitted).

         The only evidence Mr. Robinson provides of a widespread practice is: (1) his own testimony that he made 16 sick call requests, at least 6 delivered directly to Wexford employees, over a 21 day period prior to his infirmary visit that went unanswered; (2) Dr. Fisher's testimony that the average vial of insulin costs about $78.00 while a dose of Metformin costs “pennies”; and (3) testimony by Dr. Fisher admitting that Wexford was concerned about the sick call process, yet Wexford “chose to adhere to its client's wishes, and do nothing.” (Dkt. 123 at 10-12; Dkt. 128, ¶¶ 3, 9-10, 12, 27). This evidence, taken in the light most ...

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