Sercye v. Wexford Health Services et al
SUMMARY JUDGMENT OPINION: The Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment 112 114 are GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part. Defendants' Motions are DENIED as it relates to the claims against Defendants Weatherford and Lercher Hopp, and GRANT ED as to all other claims and Defendants. Clerk is directed to dismiss Defendants Obaisi, Dawson, Roberson and Reynolds with prejudice. A final pretrial conference is scheduled for March 10, 2017 at 10 a.m. A jury trial is scheduled for March 28-30, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at the U.S. Courthouse in Springfield, Illinois. (SEE WRITTEN OPINION) Entered by Judge Sue E. Myerscough on 9/20/2016. (GL, ilcd)
Tuesday, 20 September, 2016 12:13:53 PM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES,
SUMMARY JUDGMENT OPINION
SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, U.S. District Judge:
Plaintiff, presently incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Center,
brought the present lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
deliberate indifference to a serious medical need for events that
allegedly transpired during his incarceration at Logan Correctional
Center. The matter comes before this Court for ruling on the
Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 112, 114).
The motions are granted in part, and denied in part.
Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
Page 1 of 14
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). All facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in
his favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010).
The party moving for summary judgment must show the lack of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). In order to be a “genuine” issue, there must be
more than “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
586 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome
of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry
of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986).
Plaintiff was incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center
(“Logan”) from September 14, 2011, until February 8, 2012.
Defendants were employed at the facility in the following capacities:
Page 2 of 14
Defendant Weatherford was a nurse; Defendant Lercher Hopp was
the Healthcare Unit Administrator.1
Plaintiff was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus type 1 on
December 13, 2011, following an acute diabetic episode. Plaintiff
had not been previously diagnosed with diabetes. According to
Plaintiff, the symptoms he experienced (excessive thirst and
urination, cramps, difficulty walking) began as early as December 1,
During the relevant time period, inmates at Logan could
request medical treatment at any time through the nurse sick call
procedure by filling out a request form. Nurse sick call was held for
each housing unit on one scheduled day per week. At some point
between December 1, 2011 and his eventual diagnosis, Plaintiff was
scheduled for dental sick call, but he did not go.
Inmates could also attempt to get medical treatment by writing
to Defendant Lercher Hopp directly. If, after receiving a letter from
an inmate, Defendant Lercher Hopp believed that the conditions
Plaintiff also named the following defendants: Defendant Obaisi was
Plaintiff’s treating physician; Defendant Dawson was the Warden; Defendants
Reynolds and Roberson were Assistant Wardens. In his Combined Response to
the Defendants’ respective motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff states he
no longer seeks relief against these defendants.
Page 3 of 14
described warranted attention, she could (1) place the inmate on
her call line, which is separate from nurse sick call; or (2) take the
request to the nurse on duty and request that the inmate be
summoned to the healthcare unit for examination. Lercher Hopp
Dep. 48:2-17. Defendant Lercher Hopp testified that requests made
via institutional mail usually arrive the next day. Id. 40:12-41:3.
Plaintiff made at least two requests directly to Defendant Lercher
On December 8, 2011, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant
Lercher Hopp. (Doc. 118-3 at 1). In the letter, Plaintiff stated that
his mouth is constantly dry, that he drank 12 bottles of water
during a 35-minute visit with his wife, that he urinated 20 times in
a two-to-three hour period, and that he feels tired, is constantly
sweating, and has experienced weight loss. Defendant Lercher
Hopp does not remember receiving this letter. Lercher Hopp Dep.
When he received no response to his first letter, Plaintiff wrote
a second letter describing the same symptoms. (Doc. 118-3 at 2).
Defendant Lercher Hopp identified handwritten notations, dated
December 13, 2011, on the letter as her own. Defendant Lercher
Page 4 of 14
Hopp explained that the notations indicate that she would have
given the letter to a nurse and requested that Plaintiff be called over
to the healthcare unit. Lercher Hopp Dep. 51:5-52:24.
At some point before he was diagnosed, Plaintiff encountered
Defendant Weatherford in the healthcare unit for an annual
tuberculosis (“TB”) test. Plaintiff testified that he attempted to
convey the above-described symptoms to Defendant Weatherford
along with a comment that he felt like he was dying. Pl.’s Dep.
62:14-15 (“I said look, Nurse, I’m dying….”). According to Plaintiff,
Defendant Weatherford responded to his request for help by stating,
“I don’t give a fuck, sign up for sick call. I got to have them do this
TB test, get out of my face.” Id. 50:5-6.
Defendant Weatherford testified in her deposition that she
does not remember this encounter. Weatherford Dep. 20:5-14. She
also testified that if she noticed an inmate experiencing problems
during administration of TB tests, she would help them or direct
them to the nurse sick call area located on the other end of the
building. Id. 21:6-10.
Medical staff examined Plaintiff on December 13, 2011, when
he was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus type 1. Plaintiff testified
Page 5 of 14
he received this treatment when he flagged down a correctional
sergeant in his housing unit and explained his symptoms. Pl.’s
Inmates are entitled to adequate medical care under the
Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976).
To prevail, a plaintiff must show that the prison official acted with
deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Id. at 105.
Claims of negligence, medical malpractice, or disagreement with a
prescribed course of treatment are not sufficient. McDonald v.
Hardy, 821 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Pyles v. Fahim, 771
F.3d 403, 408 (7th Cir. 2014), and Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d
675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008)). Rather, liability attaches when “the
official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health
or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the
inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm
exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The parties agree that Plaintiff suffered
from an objectively serious medical need.
Page 6 of 14
As Plaintiff now seeks relief only against Defendant Lercher
Hopp and Defendant Weatherford, the issue before the Court is
whether a triable issue of material fact exists as it relates to the
delay in receiving treatment. Where delay in receiving medical
treatment is at issue, a plaintiff must offer “verifying medical
evidence” that the delay, rather than the underlying condition,
caused some degree of harm. Williams v. Liefer, 491 F.3d 710, 71415 (7th Cir. 2007); Jackson v. Pollion, 733 F.3d 786, 790 (7th Cir.
2013) (“No matter how serious a medical condition is, the sufferer
from it cannot prove tortious misconduct (including misconduct
constituting a constitutional tort) as a result of failure to treat the
condition without providing evidence that the failure caused injury
or a serious risk of injury.”). “That is, a plaintiff must offer medical
evidence that tends to confirm or corroborate a claim that the delay
was detrimental.” Williams, 491 F.3d at 715.
Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot provide such evidence
because Defendant Obaisi testified that the delay Plaintiff
experienced would not have caused any lasting harm. Obaisi Dep.
65:13-66:6. Nevertheless, Defendant Obaisi also testified that
Plaintiff’s symptoms constituted a “Code 3” emergency. Id. 61:6-9.
Page 7 of 14
A Code 3 is the prison’s way of providing immediate medical
treatment in emergencies. Lercher Hopp Dep. 21:18-21; 30:7-21.
In this context, the Court cannot discount Plaintiff’s attestations of
pain that manifested to a point where Plaintiff thought he was
dying. If the delay in treating Plaintiff’s symptoms resulted in
needless suffering, Plaintiff’s subjective complaints of pain, if
believed by the trier of fact, are sufficient to impose constitutional
liability despite the absence of objective indicia of harm. Cooper v.
Casey, 97 F.3d 914, 917 (7th Cir. 1996).
Defendant Weatherford argues that she could not have been
deliberately indifferent because other evidence suggests that
Plaintiff was able to walk, stand, and speak clearly during the time
that she checked his TB results. Even so, she cannot dispute
Plaintiff’s testimony that he told her he was suffering from dry
mouth, excessive thirst and urination, and a feeling that he was
going to die because she does not recall the specific interaction.
The symptoms Plaintiff described, as Defendant Lercher Hopp
testified, would not have been readily observable to a medical
professional fielding these complaints. Lercher Hopp Dep. 44:2345:4 (“I am not going to know that they are urinating and that they
Page 8 of 14
are drinking multiple bottles of water and eating…and that they are
tired. So I am only going to notice what is visible to the human
If, after listening to Plaintiff’s complaints, Defendant
Weatherford responded in the way Plaintiff alleges not because she
felt Plaintiff did not need help, but because she was busy and she
believed her administrative duty assignment took precedence over
an emergency, a reasonable juror could infer deliberate indifference.
See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011) (“A jury can
infer deliberate indifference on the basis of a physician’s treatment
decision when the decision is so far afield of accepted professional
standards as to raise the inference that it was not actually based on
a medical judgment.”).
Moreover, the presence of other prison officials to whom
Plaintiff could have complained, but did not, allows for both an
inference that Plaintiff was not in as much pain as he alleges, or
that Defendant Weatherford was deliberately indifferent, or both. If
help was readily available from other officials, Defendant
Weatherford could have referred Plaintiff to these individuals, but
she did not do so. See Mathison v. Moats, 812 F.3d 594, 598 (7th
Page 9 of 14
Cir. 2016) (deliberate indifference could be inferred from the failure
to call 911 when the prison official believed that the inmate was
having a heart attack).
Defendant Lercher Hopp, on the other hand, did not have any
personal interaction with Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s claims against her are
premised around her response, or lack thereof, to Plaintiff’s written
requests for medical treatment. The Court must conclude at this
stage in the proceedings that Defendant Lercher Hopp received
Plaintiff’s December 8, 2011 letter the day after it was sent.
Defendant Lercher Hopp argues that Plaintiff’s letters are not
sufficient to show that she had personal knowledge of Plaintiff’s
plight. An inmate, however, may establish a basis for personal
liability based upon written correspondence where the
correspondence to a prison administrator provides sufficient
information regarding a constitutional violation. See, e.g., Perez v.
Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768 (7th Cir. 2015). Though arguably no
constitutional violation had yet occurred at the time of Plaintiff’s
first letter, the letter informed Defendant Lercher Hopp of Plaintiff’s
serious medical condition, and the record suggests Plaintiff suffered
Page 10 of 14
for approximately four (4) days thereafter before receiving medical
If, as Plaintiff asserts, Defendants Weatherford and Lercher
Hopp ignored his requests for medical treatment and their refusals
unnecessarily prolonged Plaintiff’s pain, a reasonable juror could
find in Plaintiff’s favor. Therefore, Defendants’ respective motions
for summary judgment as they relate to Defendants Weatherford
and Lercher Hopp are denied.
The Remaining Defendants
In his response to the Defendants’ motions for summary
judgment, Plaintiff stated that he was no longer seeking relief
against Defendants Obaisi, Dawson, Roberson, and Reynolds. (Doc.
117 at 12). Plaintiff does not dispute the asserted facts that
Defendants Dawson, Roberson, and Reynolds did not have personal
involvement in Plaintiff’s medical care, and, instead, relied upon the
decisions of Logan’s medical staff.
Furthermore, no reasonable inference exists that Defendant
Obaisi was aware of Plaintiff’s medical condition prior to the
examination on December 13, 2011 where Defendant Obaisi
Page 11 of 14
diagnosed Plaintiff with diabetes mellitus type 1 and ordered
appropriate medical treatment.
Therefore, the Defendants’ motions for summary judgment as
they relate to Defendants’ Obaisi, Dawson, Roberson, and Reynolds
Defendants Weatherford and Lercher Hopp assert the defense
of qualified immunity. “[G]overnment officials performing
discretionary functions are immune from suit if their conduct could
reasonably have been thought consistent with the rights they are
alleged to have violated.” Borello v. Allison, 446 F.3d 742, 746 (7th
Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). To determine if qualified immunity
applies, the court conducts a two-prong analysis: (1) whether “the
disputed conduct, as alleged, violates a constitutional right;” and,
(2) “whether that right was ‘clearly established’ at the time of the
alleged conduct.” Id. (citing Wernsing v. Thompson, 423 F.3d 732,
742 (7th Cir. 2005)). Disputed facts are viewed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Id.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s
access to medical treatment was delayed after medical staff at
Page 12 of 14
Logan learned about his serious medical condition. At the time of
these alleged events, a prisoner’s right to adequate medical
treatment had been clearly established, as had the prison official’s
duty to provide such treatment. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 104-05 (1976). Therefore, the Court finds that the Defendants
are not entitled to qualified immunity.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:
1) The Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
 are GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.
Defendants’ Motions are DENIED as it relates to the
claims against Defendants Weatherford and Lercher
Hopp, and GRANTED as to all other claims and
Defendants. Clerk is directed to dismiss Defendants
Obaisi, Dawson, Roberson and Reynolds with prejudice.
2) A final pretrial conference is scheduled for
March 10, 2017 at 10 a.m.
. The Plaintiff shall
appear by video conference and the attorney(s) shall
appear in person before the court sitting in Springfield,
Illinois. The clerk is to issue a writ for the Plaintiff’s
participation in the video conference.
3) The Court will send out proposed jury instructions and
intends to ask the standard voir dire questions
published on the Court’s website
(ilcd.uscourts.gov/local rules and orders/orders and
rules by Judge/Judge Myerscough/General Voir Dire
Procedure). By February 24, 2017 , the parties shall
file: 1) an agreed proposed pretrial order; 2) alternate or
additional jury instructions (no duplicates); 3) motions
in limine; and, (4) additional voir dire questions (not
duplicative of the Court’s). All proposed instructions
Page 13 of 14
shall be clearly marked, identifying the party, the
number, and whether the instruction is additional or
alternate (i.e., Pl.'s 1, additional; Pl.'s 2, alternate to
4) The Plaintiff and Defendants shall appear in person at
trial. Inmates incarcerated within the Illinois
Department of Corrections (IDOC) who are not parties to
this case shall appear by video conference and IDOC
employees who are not parties may also appear by video
conference at trial. Other nonparty witnesses may
appear by video at the court’s discretion. Therefore,
the proposed pretrial order must include: (1) the name,
inmate number and place of incarceration for each
inmate to be called as a witness; (2) the name and place
of employment for each IDOC employee to be called as a
witness; and, (3) the names and addresses of any
witnesses who are not residents or employees for whom
a party seeks a trial subpoena. The party seeking the
subpoena must provide the necessary witness and
mileage fees pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
5) A jury trial is scheduled for March 28-30, 2017
9:00 a.m. at the U.S. Courthouse in Springfield, Illinois.
No writs to issue at this time.
6) Clerk is directed to correct the docket to reflect
Defendant Lisa Lercher’s full name as “Lisa Lercher
September 20, 2016.
FOR THE COURT:
s/Sue E. Myerscough
SUE E. MYERSCOUGH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Page 14 of 14
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?