United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
EARL L. RUSSELLBURG, Plaintiff,
RICHARD BROWN, TERESA LITTLEJOHN, RICH LARSEN, CORIZON HEALTH INC., WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., Defendants.
ENTRY SCREENING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING SERVICE OF
William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court
plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Wabash
Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”).
Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined
by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court has an obligation
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen his complaint
before service on the defendants. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it
is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief,
or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states
a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when
addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463
F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,
[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content 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). Pro se
complaints such as that filed by the plaintiff are construed
liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch,
517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).
complaint names the following defendants: 1) Richard Brown,
2) Teresa Littlejohn, 3) Rich Larson, 4) Corizon Health, Inc.
(“Corizon”), and 5) Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
(“Wexford”). The plaintiff alleges that the
defendants were deliberately indifferent to his loss of
vision in one eye, delaying treatment which resulted in
permanent vision loss. The loss of vision interferes with his
ability to read, work, and avoid potential altercations with
other inmates. He alleges that Corizon and Wexford have a
policy, enforced by Richard Brown, of delaying treatment for
inmates outside the age range of 19-62 years because
treatment costs for those inmates are not offset by the HIP
2.0 Medicaid expansion program.
further alleges that Teresa Littlejohn violated Indiana
Department of Correction (“IDOC”) policy by
requiring inmates to request grievance forms from their
caseworkers and by failing to investigate grievances.
Finally, he alleges that Rich Larson, Wabash Valley's
Public Information Officer, responded to a grievance the
plaintiff had filed complaining about how Teresa Littlejohn
handled his medical grievances. In that response, Mr. Larson
summarized the status of the plaintiff's vision problems.
The plaintiff alleges that release of his medical records to
Mr. Larson violated Wexford and Corizon policy, HIPAA laws,
and his right to privacy. He seeks declaratory and injunctive
relief, and compensatory and punitive damages.
Claims Which Are Dismissed
the screening standard to the factual allegations in the
complaint certain claims are dismissed while other claims
shall proceed as submitted.
the claims against Teresa Littlejohn are
dismissed. The Seventh Circuit has
“specifically denounc[ed] a Fourteenth Amendment
substantive due process right to an inmate grievance
procedure.” Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d
763, 772 (7th Cir. 2008). As explained in Antonelli v.
Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430-31 (7th Cir. 1996),
“any right to a grievance procedure is a procedural
right, not a substantive one. Accordingly, a state's
inmate grievance procedures do not give rise to a liberty
interest protected by the Due Process Clause.”
Id. at 1430-31(internal citations omitted). Because
Mr. Russelburg had no expectation of a particular outcome of
his grievances or complaints there is no viable claim which
can be vindicated through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Juriss
v. McGowan, 957 F.2d 345, 349 n.1 (7th Cir. 1992)
(without a predicate constitutional violation one cannot make
out a prima facie case under § 1983).
the factual allegations do not support a deliberate
indifference claim against Ms. Littlejohn. To prevail on an
Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference medical claim, a
plaintiff must demonstrate two elements: (1) he suffered from
an objectively serious medical condition; and (2) the
defendant knew about the plaintiff's condition and the
substantial risk of harm it posed, but disregarded that risk.
Id. at 837; Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. County
of Madison, Ill., 746 F.3d 766, 775 (7th Cir. 2014).
“[C]onduct is ‘deliberately indifferent' when
the official has acted in an intentional or criminally
reckless manner, i.e., “the defendant must
have known that the plaintiff ‘was at serious risk of
being harmed [and] decided not to do anything to prevent that
harm from occurring even though he could have easily done
so.'” Board v. Freeman, 394 F.3d 469, 478
(7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Armstrong v. Squadrito, 152
F.3d 564, 577 (7th Cir. 1998)). The complaint alleges that
Ms. Littlejohn is a grievance specialist and there is no
indication that she has any legal training or was otherwise
responsible for making medical decisions regarding Mr.
Russelberg's treatment. There are no allegations that Ms.
Littlejohn was made personally aware of Mr. Russellburg's
vision issue before he saw an outside specialist, so she
could not have been deliberately indifferent to his medical
the claims against Richard Brown are
dismissed for the same reasons the claims
against Ms. Littlejohn are dismissed. In addition, his
alleged enforcement of Corizon and Wexford policy is
insufficient to raise a deliberate indifference claim against
Mr. Brown. “Individual liability under §
1983… requires personal involvement in the alleged
constitutional deprivation.” Colbert v. City of
Chicago, 851 F.3d 649, 657 (7th Cir. 2017) (internal
quotation omitted) (citing Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist,
699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983) (“Section 1983
creates a cause of action based on personal liability and
predicated upon fault. An individual cannot be held liable in
a § 1983 action unless he caused or participated in an
alleged constitutional deprivation.... A causal connection,
or an affirmative link, between the misconduct complained of
and the official sued is necessary.”)). Whether
supervisory personnel at a prison are sufficiently involved
in an alleged constitutional violation such that they may be
liable for damages often depends on that person's
knowledge of, and responsibilities regarding, the alleged
harm. The complaint contains no allegations that Mr. Brown
was aware of Corizon or Wexford's alleged policy of
delaying treatment for particular inmate, nor that he was
aware of Mr. Russelburg's vision issue.
the claims against Rich Larsen are
dismissed. According to the complaint, Mr.
Larsen responded to one of Mr. Russelburg's grievances
after he had been seen by an outside specialist. Mr.
Russelburg complains that Mr. Larsen's response contained
information from Mr. Russelburg's medical records. He
argues that Mr. Larsen, as the facility's public
information officer, had no right to access Mr.
Russelburg's medical records and that such access
violated Corizon and Wexford policy and HIPAA. Allegations
that a defendant's actions violated an internal policy of
the Indiana Department of Correction or its contractors are
not alone sufficient to state a constitutional claim. To the
extent that Mr. Russelburg asserts a claim under HIPAA, such