Wilson v. Darnold et al
ORDER GRANTING 33 Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant Darnold and the claims brought against her, Counts III and IV, are DISMISSED with prejudice. The Clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment accordingly at the conclusion of the entire action. Signed by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on 9/15/2017. (jkb2)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
DANA DARNOLD, RYAN R.
ERICKSON, OFFICER HARGETT, and
Case No. 3:15-CV-1035-NJR-DGW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge:
A Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Dana Darnold is pending
before the Court. (Doc. 33). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.
Plaintiff Charles Wilson, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of
Corrections, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging his constitutional
rights were violated during the time he was incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional
Center. Specifically, Wilson’s complaint alleges he was assaulted by three correctional
officers on October 7, 2013, and that Nurse Dana Darnold subsequently refused to
provide medical treatment for the head injury he sustained in the attack. Wilson’s
complaint was screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A, and he was allowed to proceed
on the following claims (Doc. 8, p. 4):
Page 1 of 10
Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against
Defendant Correctional Officers Erickson, Hargett,
and Oswalt for using excessive force against Wilson
after the magazine incident on or about October 7,
Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical
needs claim against Defendants Erickson, Hargett,
and Oswalt for refusing Wilson’s request for
treatment of his injuries arising from the beating
reference in Count One;
First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant
Darnold for refusing to examine or treat Wilson’s
injuries after he threatened to report her to her
Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical
needs claim against Defendant Darnold for failing to
examine or treat Wilson after he reported his
symptoms and requested medical assistance.
Darnold filed a motion for summary judgment on February 21, 2017 (Doc. 33),
and Wilson filed a timely response on April 21, 2017 (Doc. 45).
Wilson asserts Defendant Correctional Officers Erickson, Hargett, and Oswalt
assaulted him on October 7, 2013. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). During the assault, these individuals
allegedly slammed Wilson’s head into the floor and later into the shower cabinet in the
segregation unit. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 13; Doc. 45, p. 17, ¶ 4). Wilson requested medical
attention, indicating he had a headache and was feeling light-headed and dizzy.
(Doc. 45, p. 17, ¶ 5). Eventually Darnold, a registered nurse at Lawrence Correctional
Facility, arrived in the segregation unit. (Doc. 34-6, ¶¶ 4, 7, 11-13; Doc. 45, p. 17, ¶ 6).
Page 2 of 10
The parties dispute the actions Darnold took after arriving in the segregation unit.
Wilson attests that after arriving, Darnold began flirting with officers until he told her to
“do the job that she came over for” and threatened to report her to her supervisor.
(Doc. 45, pp. 17-18, ¶ 6). Darnold then “came close to the segregation holding cell” and
Wilson told her he was feeling light-headed, dizzy, had a headache, and that a bump
was growing on his forehead. (Doc. 45, pp. 17-18, ¶ 6). Wilson asserts that Darnold told
him in a “sarcastic and laughing tone” he had to wait twenty-four hours before she
would provide any treatment. (Doc. 45, pp. 17-18, ¶ 6). Wilson further alleges that
Darnold made this statement “without any test nor [sic] close physical examination.”
(Doc. 45, pp. 17-18, ¶ 6).
Conversely, Darnold states when she saw Wilson on October 7, 2013, he had no
symptoms consistent with a concussion or other neurologic injury and no physical signs
of injury. (Doc. 34-6, ¶ 13). As a registered nurse Darnold is qualified to look for signs of
concussion or neurologic injury including monitoring the patient’s speech and gait,
determining whether the patient is alert and oriented, and checking the patient’s pupils
and grip strength. (Doc. 34-6, ¶ 12). Wilson’s medical record dated October 7, 2013,
prepared by Darnold, notes that Wilson was “alert orient x 3,” “speech clear,” gait
steady,” “pupils equal and reactive to light,” and “bilateral grasp equal and steady.”
(Doc. 34-1, p. 1). Darnold also noted there was no redness or swelling that indicated an
area of contusion (Doc. 34-1, p. 1) and that she advised Wilson to return to nurse sick call
the next day or sooner if any problems arose (Doc. 34-1, p. 2; Doc. 34-6, ¶ 13). Wilson
Page 3 of 10
asserts the medical records created on this date and signed by Darnold are inaccurate
(Doc. 45, p. 18, ¶ 7), but does not specify how.
It is undisputed that Darnold did not see Wilson for complaints of a head injury
or concussion after October 7, 2013. It is also undisputed that Wilson was evaluated by
other medical providers on October 17, 2013, and October 22, 2013, for complaints of a
headache related to the October 7 incident.1 (Doc. 34-7, p. 1; Doc. 34-8, p.1).
In April 2014, Wilson fell backward while climbing to the top bunk in his cell.
(Doc. 45, p. 18, ¶ 11; Doc. 45, p. 26). Wilson contends that he sustained a concussion from
the October 7, 2013 assault that caused this subsequent fall. (Doc. 45, p. 18, ¶ 11). As a
result of the fall, Wilson was taken to the hospital and then regularly examined for
complaints of headache (Doc. 45, pp. 25-44), but he only saw Darnold once during this
period (July 24, 2014). (Doc. 34-6, ¶ 17). On that occasion, he complained of head pain
and requested a change in his headache medication. (Doc. 34-6, ¶ 17). Darnold referred
Wilson to the doctor for the next available date, July 28, 2014. (Doc. 34-6, ¶ 17; Doc. 45,
Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate there are
no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Ruffin
Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005). The
Wilson was prescribed pain relievers and, at his evaluation on October 22, 2013, the physician advised
Wilson to follow-up in about three weeks. (Doc. 34-8, p. 2). Wilson’s medical records indicate various visits
to the healthcare unit regarding complaints of headaches in November 2013; however, he was not seen by
Darnold during these examinations. (Doc. 45, pp. 23-25).
Page 4 of 10
moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in genuine
dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the
moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970); Lawrence v. Kenosha
Cnty., 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004).
A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving
party “has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with
respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “[A] complete
failure of proof concerning an essential element of a nonmoving party’s case necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated that summary
judgment is “the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what
evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events.”
Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese
Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (other citations omitted).
Deliberate Indifference (Count IV)
The Supreme Court has recognized that deliberate indifference to the serious
medical needs of prisoners may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the
Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). In order to prevail on a
claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, there are “two high hurdles,
which every inmate-plaintiff must clear.” Dunigan ex rel. Nyman v. Winnebago Cnty., 165
F.3d 587, 590 (7th Cir. 1999). First, the plaintiff must demonstrate he suffered from an
objectively serious medical condition. Id. at 591-92. Second, the plaintiff must establish
Page 5 of 10
that the individual prison officials were deliberately indifferent to that condition. Id.
With respect to the first requirement, minor aches and pain do not constitute a
serious medical need, but “[t]he existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient
would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical
condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of
chronic and substantial pain” constitute a serious medical need. Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d
516, 522-23 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997)).
Here, Darnold does not contest that Wilson’s medical condition meets the
requirement of a “serious medical need” as defined above. Because there is no argument
made regarding this requirement, the Court finds the point conceded and that Wilson’s
complaint of a head injury qualifies as a serious medical condition.
As for the second requirement, in order to show that prison officials acted with
deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must provide evidence that an official actually knew of
and disregarded a substantial risk of harm.” Proving deliberate indifference is difficult,
however, because prison medical professionals are entitled to deference unless no
minimally competent professional would have responded similarly under those
circumstances. Pyles v. Fahim, 771 F.3d 403, 409 (7th Cir. 2014). Accordingly, a plaintiff
must show more than simple medical malpractice. Whiting v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.,
839 F.3d 658, 662 (7th Cir. 2016).
Disagreement between a prisoner and his doctor, or even between two medical
professionals, about the proper course of treatment generally is insufficient, by itself, to
establish deliberate indifference. Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). In
Page 6 of 10
other words, federal courts will not interfere with a doctor’s decision to pursue a
particular course of treatment unless that decision represents so significant a departure
from accepted professional standards or practices that it calls into question whether the
doctor actually was exercising his professional judgment. Pyles, 771 F.3d at 409.
Further, courts have held that a prisoner’s medical testimony cannot create a
genuine issue of material fact to defeat summary judgment when that testimony is
controverted by clear medical evidence. Stewart v. RCA Corp., 790 F.2d 624, 628 (7th Cir.
1986) (“A court might be able to find a witness incredible as a matter of law … [if his]
story was irrefutably contradicted by documentary evidence.”); Cesal v. Molina, No.:
12-1524-SLD, 2015 WL 13357438, *6 (C.D. Ill. March 24, 2015) (citing Booher ex rel. T.W. v.
Montavon, 555 F.App’x 479, 484 (6th Cir. January 24, 2014)).
Here, Wilson’s complaint that a proper evaluation was not completed by Darnold
is refuted by the medical record and thus insufficient to preclude summary judgment.
The record before the Court establishes Darnold evaluated Wilson on October 7, 2013, in
response to his complaints of head trauma following an assault. (Doc. 34-1, pp. 1-2).
According to Wilson’s medical records, Darnold determined Wilson was alert and
oriented with clear speech, a steady gait, equal and reactive pupils, and had no redness
or swelling at the area of the possible contusion. (Doc. 34-1, p. 1). Based on her
assessment, Darnold determined Wilson had no symptoms consistent with a concussion
or other neurologic injury. (Doc. 34-1, pp. 1-2). Although Wilson claims the medical
record is “not accurate of the discussion or event that occurred,” he fails to identify what
part of the medical record is inaccurate or explain in what way it was inaccurate. Thus,
Page 7 of 10
Wilson’s declaration that Darnold “without any test nor [sic] close physical examination”
told him to wait twenty-four hours before she would provide treatment is contradicted
by the medical records and insufficient to preclude summary judgment.
Further, Wilson’s complaint that Darnold instructed him to follow-up in
twenty-four hours (Doc. 34-1, pp. 1-2), is not dispositive of any issue. Rather, this
complaint appears to be dissatisfaction with a course of treatment, which the Seventh
Circuit has held does not establish a claim of deliberate indifference. Greeno v. Daley, 414
F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). That Wilson later complained of headaches and dizziness,
which he now attributes to the October 7, 2013 incident, does not establish that
Darnold’s original evaluation or treatment regimen was a significant departure from
accepted medical standards of care. Thus, Darnold is entitlted to summary judgment on
Count IV (deliberate indifference).
Retaliation (Count III)
It is well settled that a prison official who takes action in retaliation for a
prisoner’s exercise of a constitutional right violates the Constitution. DeWalt v. Carter,
224 F.3d 607, 618 (7th Cir. 2000); Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S.
274, 283–84, (1977). For a plaintiff to prevail on a First Amendment retaliation claim, the
Seventh Circuit requires a showing: (1) he engaged in activity protected by the First
Amendment; (2) he suffered a deprivation that would likely deter First Amendment
activity in the future; and (3) the First Amendment activity was at least a motivating
factor in the defendant’s decision to take the retaliatory action. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d
541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Woodruff v. Mason, 542 F.3d 545, 551 (7th Cir. 2008)).
Page 8 of 10
At the summary judgment stage, the Seventh Circuit has held the burden of
proving causation is split between the parties. Kidwell v. Eisenhauer, 679 F.3d 957, 965 (7th
Cir. 2012). Initially, in order to establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must produce
evidence that his speech was at least a motivating factor in the defendant’s decision to
take retaliatory action. Id. Then, the burden shifts to the defendant to rebut the causal
inference raised by the Wilson’s evidence. Id. If the defendant fails to counter the
plaintiff’s evidence, the defendant’s retaliatory actions are considered a “necessary
condition” of the plaintiff’s harm, and the plaintiff has established the “but-for”
causation needed to succeed on his claim. Id.
Wilson’s retaliation claim against Darnold is premised on her purported refusal
to examine or treat Wilson’s injuries after he threatened to report her to her supervisor.
Even Wilson’s memorandum of law, however, admits that Darnold approached his cell
after he threatened to report her and listened to his complaints. (Doc. 45, pp. 17-18, ¶ 6).
As discussed above, the medical records contradict Wilson’s claim that Darnold did not
evaluate him. As Wilson has not presented any evidence of a retaliatory action, let alone
that that his speech was a motivating factor for any retaliation, Wilson cannot establish a
prima facie case. Thus, Darnold is also entitled to summary judgment on Count III
For the reasons set forth above, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendant Dana Darnold (Doc. 33) is GRANTED. Defendant Darnold and the claims
Page 9 of 10
brought against her, Counts III and IV, are DISMISSED with prejudice. The Clerk is
DIRECTED to enter judgment accordingly at the conclusion of the entire action.
Wilson is now proceeding in this action on Counts I and II against Defendants
Erickson, Hargett, and Oswalt.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: September 14, 2017
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL
United States District Judge
Page 10 of 10
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?