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Corbin v. State

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

April 23, 2018

DAVID CORBIN, Plaintiff,



         David Corbin, a prisoner of the State of Indiana, suffers from mental disabilities, including depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and severe anxiety. While incarcerated at the Westville Correctional Facility, Corbin attempted suicide. He claims that the defendants knew of the seriousness of his mental condition and failed to provide basic psychological care and services, resulting in his suicide attempt. He brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and federal disabilities laws. The defendants Corizon Health, Inc. and the State of Indiana have moved for judgment on the pleadings. The parties have since stipulated to the dismissal of some claims against Corizon. However, the State of Indiana's motion seeking judgment on the pleadings for Corbin's claims based on federal disabilities laws remains ripe. For the reasons that follow, the State's motion will be denied.


         I take these facts, which I accept as true, from Corbin's complaint, though as it will become clear, the facts are not so fulsome. In 2004, Corbin was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. [DE 3 at 3 ¶6.] I don't know for how long or for what. Corbin was transferred to the Westville Correctional Facility in January 2012. [Id. at 3 ¶7.] Westville is a prison operated by the defendant State of Indiana. [Id. at 2 ¶3.] The State has contracted with Corizon Health, Inc. to provide mental health services to prisoners like Corbin while housed at Westville. [Id. at 2 ¶4.] Corbin was housed in solitary confinement for more than two years while at Westville. [Id. at 3 ¶8.] There is no information in the complaint as to why Corbin was placed in solitary confinement.

         Corbin alleges that, while housed in solitary confinement, he did not receive basic psychological care and services. The State also refused to transfer him to a non-segregated housing unit. According to Corbin, the State knew of his mental disabilities, which include serious depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and severe anxiety, and also knew that if Corbin was segregated and denied mental health services, his condition would further deteriorate. [Id. at 3 ¶¶9-11.]

         In 2014, Corbin made repeated requests to Dr. Cara Misetic, who appears to be a doctor with Corizon (though there is little information about her in Corbin's complaint) to be transferred to a prison unit where he could receive services for his mental disabilities. In late August or early September 2014, Corbin was placed on suicide watch for several days. It is not clear from the complaint what prompted this. Even during the suicide watch period, Corbin received “no or few mental health services.” [Id. at 4 ¶¶12-13.]

         On or about September 15, 2014, Corbin attempted suicide by cutting his wrists and hanging himself. The complaint doesn't say this, but it appears that he survived this attempt, since he is bringing this action. At the time of his attempted suicide, a request to transfer Corbin to a different prison unit where he could receive mental health services was pending before Corizon and Dr. Misetic. [Id. at ¶¶14-15.]


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), “[a]fter the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A suit is properly dismissed on a Rule 12(c) motion when a plaintiff's allegations “show that there is an airtight defense” for which he “has pleaded himself out of court.” Richard v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637-38 (7th Cir. 2012). “A court will grant a Rule 12(c) motion only when it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts to support a claim for relief and the moving party demonstrates that there are no material issues of fact to be resolved.” Brunt v. Serv. Emp. Int'l Union, 284 F.3d 715, 718-19 (7th Cir. 2002).

         A Rule 12(c) motion is governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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). Although I draw all reasonable inferences and facts in favor of the nonmovant, I need not accept as true any legal assertions. Vesely v. Armslist LLC, 762 F.3d 661, 664-65 (7th Cir.2014).

         The State of Indiana has moved for judgment on the pleadings on the basis that Corbin has failed to identify any service, activity, or program to which he was excluded, and he has not sufficiently alleged a causal connection between the discrimination and his attempted suicide. “In order to make out a prima facie case of discrimination under both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, a plaintiff must show: (1) that he suffers from a disability as defined in the statutes, (2) that he is qualified to participate in the program in question, and (3) that he was either excluded from participating in or denied the benefit of that program based on his disability.” Novak v. Bd. of Trustees of S. Ill. Univ., 777 F.3d 966, 974 (7th Cir. 2015). The Rehabilitation Act also requires that the program received federal financial assistance. Id.

         The State argues that Corbin failed to sufficiently allege that Corbin was excluded from some service, activity, or program “based on his disability.” According to the State, denying a prisoner medical treatment does not suffice for purposes of the federal disabilities acts because it is not a “service, program, or activity” within the meaning of the ADA or Rehabilitation Act. The State also challenges causation on two grounds, arguing that it makes no sense to say that Corbin was denied mental health services because he was mentally ill, and that even if it did, Corbin's assertion that he was denied services “because of his disability” is simply a legal conclusion that I'm not required to accept as true. In addition, the State claims that Corbin must prove intentional discrimination in order to receive compensatory damages, which he has not done here.

         The first question I must answer is whether medical treatment is a “service, program, or activity” within the meaning of the ADA or Rehabilitation Act. “[A] prison official does not violate the ADA when failing ‘to attend to the medical needs of ... disabled prisoners.” Resel v. Fox, 26 Fed.Appx. 572, 577 (7th Cir. Dec. 20, 2001) (quoting Bryant v. Madigan, 84 F.3d 246, 249 (7th Cir. 1996)). A claim for inadequate medical treatment is improper under the ADA. Id. Rather, the proper avenue for seeking relief for inadequate medical treatment is through an Eighth Amendment claim. Perrey v. Donahue, 2007 WL 4277621, at *4 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 3, 2007). Likewise, the Rehabilitation Act “was not intended to require prison officials to provide medical treatment to prisoners with serious medical needs, ” but rather to increase employment of the handicapped. Id.

         On the other hand, medical services are among those “services, programs, or activities” that are covered by the ADA. See United States v. Georgia, 546 U.S. 151, 157 (2006). Some courts have allowed plaintiffs to proceed on an ADA claim when they were deprived of access to medical services that were available to other inmates. See Estate of Crandall v. Godinez, 2015 WL 1539017, at *6 (C.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2015) (citing Kiman v. New Hampshire Dep't of Corr., 451 F.3d 274, 286087 (1st Cir. ...

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