Taylor v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

Decision Date06 March 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 16-cv-3464
PartiesJOHN E. TAYLOR, JR., Plaintiff, v. WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Judge John Robert Blakey


Plaintiff John Taylor, an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center (SCC), sued Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc.—the company contracted to provide medical care to Illinois inmates—several Wexford physicians and executives, and several SCC correctional officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by demonstrating deliberate indifference to his hernia, growths in his right arm, and his chronic pain.

Several Defendants moved to dismiss: Dr. Saleh Obaisi1 and Wexford, [69]; Dr. Michael Warso, [72]; and Dr. Arthur Funk, [85]. Defendants Tarry Williams and Randy Pfister (the SCC Defendants) moved for judgment on the pleadings. [77]. Defendants Darius Holmes, Elaine Gedman, and Diana Malloy (the Executive Defendants) moved for summary judgment, [90], shortly after Plaintiff moved for an entry of default against them, [87]. This Court addresses each category of motion inturn. For the reasons explained below, this Court denies Obaisi and Wexford's motion to dismiss, grants Warso's motion to dismiss, denies Funk's motion to dismiss, denies the SCC Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, denies the Executive Defendants' motion for summary judgment, and denies as moot Plaintiff's motion for entry of default.

I. Motions to Dismiss

Obaisi, Wexford, Warso, and Funk all moved to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [69, 72, 85].

A. Legal Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must provide a "short and plain statement of the claim" showing that the pleader merits relief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), so the defendant has "fair notice" of the claim "and the grounds upon which it rests," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint must also contain "sufficient factual matter" to state a facially plausible claim to relief—one that "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). This plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility" that a defendant acted unlawfully. Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013). Thus, "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action" and mere conclusory statements "do not suffice." Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Vill. ofLemont, 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008).

In evaluating a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), this Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. This Court does not, however, accept a complaint's legal conclusions as true. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Rule 12(b)(6) limits this Court to considering the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, documents central to the complaint (to which the complaint refers), and information properly subject to judicial notice. Williamson, 714 F.3d at 436.

B. The Complaint's Allegations

Plaintiff has been in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) since 2007. [32] ¶ 35. IDOC contracts with Wexford for medical services at its facilities. Id. ¶ 36. The contract obligates Wexford to, among other things, ensure a "timely and efficient response to all inmates' health needs." Id. ¶ 40. At all relevant times, Obaisi worked for Wexford and served as SCC's medical director, while Funk worked for Wexford and supervised medical care in a region that included SCC. Id. ¶¶ 12, 15. Warso "worked with Wexford to treat inmate patients" at various times. Id. ¶ 33.

1. Plaintiff's Hernia

In April 2014, Warso performed "major reconstructive surgery" on Plaintiff to remove a large mass from Plaintiff's stomach. Id. ¶ 42. During a follow-up appointment about a month later, Plaintiff asked Warso about swelling he experienced in his groin and abdomen; Warso told Plaintiff that the swelling wasnormal post-surgery. Id. ¶ 43. Throughout the rest of 2014, however, Plaintiff experienced "increasing pain" in his abdomen, and he complained to various Defendants about the pain, including Obaisi, Funk, and Williams (SCC's then-warden). Id. ¶¶ 12, 15, 23, 44-45.

After "months of complaints," Plaintiff saw Warso again in November 2014. Id. ¶ 46. Warso diagnosed Plaintiff with a ventral hernia that developed from his surgery; Warso "requested that Plaintiff be seen by a colorectal surgeon." Id. ¶ 47. Plaintiff saw a colorectal surgeon in February 2015, who then referred Plaintiff to a general surgeon for hernia repair. Id. ¶ 48. In July 2015, Plaintiff saw a general surgeon who told Plaintiff that his "large" hernia needed surgical repair. Id. ¶ 49. Despite the general surgeon's recommendation and Plaintiff's severe pain, Obaisi—SCC's medical director—did not order any treatment or surgery. Id. ¶ 50. When Plaintiff saw Obaisi for another ailment, Obaisi "merely glanced at Plaintiff's hernia" and told him that the hernia "did not need any additional attention." Id. ¶ 51. Plaintiff alleges that Obaisi and Funk denied him the hernia repair surgery because of Wexford's policy and custom of turning "a blind eye" to inmates' medical needs and delaying or denying necessary treatment. Id. ¶¶ 53, 55.

2. Growths on Plaintiff's Right Arm

In April 2013, Plaintiff told Obaisi about two growths on his right arm between his shoulder and elbow. Id. ¶ 68. Obaisi told Plaintiff to tell an oncologist about the growths during his next scheduled appointment. Id. Around two months later, Plaintiff told Warso and another doctor about the growths and the resultingpain, but "nothing was done about these masses." Id. ¶ 69. Plaintiff filed grievances about the growths in July, September, and November of that year before finally seeing Warso again in November for an examination. Id. ¶ 70. Plaintiff says that "MRIs were recommended"—presumably by Warso—"to evaluate these masses." Id.

Despite Warso's recommendation, Plaintiff never had any MRIs for the growths. Id. ¶ 83. In February 2015, Plaintiff filed multiple grievances about the lack of MRIs before he got to see Obaisi, who examined the growths and referred Plaintiff back to Warso. Id. ¶ 72. But Plaintiff still did not receive an MRI and did not get to see Warso. Id. As he did in 2014, Plaintiff filed grievances over the next several months, asking to have the growths evaluated and his pain treated. Id. But Obaisi "took no corrective action" to address Plaintiff's pain or evaluate the growths. Id. ¶ 73. Plaintiff also wrote letters to the Executive Defendants informing them of the growths and his medical needs. Id. ¶ 74. Again, Plaintiff alleges that Wexford's physician employees followed Wexford's policies of ignoring inmates' pain and "delaying medical treatment involving pain." Id. ¶ 75.

3. Chronic Neck and Back Pain

Plaintiff has suffered decades of chronic neck and back pain stemming from a car accident in the 1980s. Id. ¶ 85. In 2010, Plaintiff saw a pain specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Pain Clinic, who treated Plaintiff with epidural injections in his neck and back. Id. ¶ 87. Plaintiff received twice-yearly injections and oral pain medication until 2012. Id. But since 2012, Plaintiff has notreceived the injections or pain medication, despite experiencing intense pain. Id.

Beginning in April 2013 and continuing through at least February 2015, Plaintiff complained to Obaisi about his pain. Id. ¶ 86. Obaisi responded: "I am more concerned about the mass you have . . . I understand you have chronic neck and back pain, but once we deal with what might be cancer, I will send you to the pain clinic." Id. From September 2014 through October 2015, Plaintiff filed five grievances about the denial of medical treatment for his pain. Id. ¶ 88. During the period when Plaintiff did not receive epidural injections, he "suffered significant pain." Id. ¶ 92. Once again, Plaintiff alleges that Wexford and its physicians turned a blind eye to his pain because of their practice of cutting costs by limiting the number of inmates who could receive treatment at the UIC Pain Clinic. Id. ¶ 93

At some point, Obaisi referred Plaintiff back to the UIC Pain Clinic. Id. ¶ 89. Plaintiff met with a specialist there in February 20162 and received an epidural injection in his neck. Id. ¶ 90. Prior to receiving that injection, Plaintiff could not hold his head up without experiencing pain and had been confined to a wheelchair. Id. ¶ 91. The specialist recommended a follow-up visit in two months and suggested that Plaintiff could receive another injection then. Id. ¶ 90. The second amended complaint does not specify whether Plaintiff had a follow-up visit.

C. Analysis

To state a claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must show that someone acting under the color of state law deprived him of a constitutional right. Rodriguez v. PlymouthAmbulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 822 (7th Cir. 2009). To state a claim of deliberate indifference to a medical condition, Plaintiff must allege: (1) an objectively serious medical condition; and (2) an official's subjectively deliberate indifference to that condition. Gonzales v. Feinerman, 663 F.3d 311, 313 (7th Cir. 2011). Finally, Plaintiff must show that each defendant "personally participated in or caused the unconstitutional actions." Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 776 (7th Cir. 2008).

1. Wexford and Obaisi

Wexford and Obaisi first argue that Plaintiff released his claims in this case through a settlement agreement that resolved two earlier cases between the parties. [69] at 3. Alternatively, they argue that Plaintiff fails to show...

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