United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. MILLER, JR. JUDGE.
Armstead, a prisoner representing himself, filed a complaint
alleging he was denied medical treatment for his hand in
violation of the Eighth Amendment. The court must review the
complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. A complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter to “state a claim that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility
when the pleaded factual content 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) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556). “A document filed pro se is to be
liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers . . ..”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
“In order to state a claim under [42 U.S.C.] §
1983 a plaintiff must allege: (1) that defendants deprived
him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that the
defendants acted under color of state law.” Savory
v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
Armstead arrived at the Miami Correctional Facility in March
2017. During intake, Mr. Armstead explained that he was a
diabetic who was suffering from neuropathy. He was assigned a
top bunk. In April, Mr. Armstead fell while climbing the
ladder to his top bunk and hurt his back, head, leg, shoulder
and right hand. The next day, Dr. Marandet told Mr. Armstead
that he would order x-rays of his hand, but Dr. Marandet
didn't order them. This caused Mr. Armstead to submit
numerous health care request forms asking for x-rays to be
taken. Dr. Marandet ignored his requests.
June, Mr. Armstead met with Nurse Kim Myers, who ordered
x-rays on his hand. The x-rays revealed Mr. Armstead's
hand was broken in two places. Nurse Myers gave Mr. Armstead
a metal brace to wear on his hand for the next ten weeks. Mr.
Armstead asked to be sent to a hand specialist, but his
requests went ignored and he wasn't referred to a
specialist. Mr. Armstead claims that this resulted in pain
and suffering from his hand not properly healing.
Cortiney told Mr. Armstead in December that his hand was
abnormal with swelling and that he needed to see Nurse Myers
immediately. Weeks passed without Nurse Myers seeing him.
March 2018, Mr. Armstead began physical therapy for his hand.
At the end of May 2018, Mr. Armstead spoke with Sharon Hawk
about being sent to a hand specialist. She said that decision
was to be made by medical personnel, not her. Mr. Armstead
sues the Superintendent of Miami, Kathy Griffin, Assistant
Superintendent Sharon Hawk, Wexford Health Care, Corizon
Healthcare, Dr. Marandet, the physical therapist at Miami,
Nurse Kim Myers, Nurse Dawson, and Nurse Gwillin for money
damages for ignoring his requests and denying medical care
for his hand.
medical cases, the Eighth Amendment is violated only when a
defendant was deliberately indifferent to an inmate's
serious medical needs. Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d
1364, 1369 (7th Cir. 1997). Prisoners are “not entitled
to demand specific care. [They are] not entitled to the best
care possible.” Forbes v. Edgar, 112 F.3d 262,
267 (7th Cir.1997).
For a medical professional to be liable for deliberate
indifference to an inmate's medical needs, he must make a
decision that represents such a substantial departure from
accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards, as to
demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base
the decision on such a judgment.
Jackson v. Kotter, 541 F.3d 688, 697 (7th Cir. 2008)
(quotation marks and citations omitted). Medical malpractice
and incompetence aren't deliberate indifference.
Walker v. Peters, 233 F.3d 494 (7th Cir. 2000). A
claim isn't made out by “disagreement with medical
professionals . . . state a cognizable Eighth Amendment Claim
under the deliberate indifference standard of Estelle v.
Gamble [429 U.S. 97 (1976)].” Ciarpaglini v.
Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 331 (7th Cir. 2003).
Armstead alleges that Dr. Marandet and Nurse Myers knew that
his hand injury required immediate medical attention, but
nevertheless delayed and denied him getting treatment.
Because the complaint alleges that these two medical
providers knew that he needed medical attention, but
unnecessarily delayed and denied it, the complaint states a
claim on which relief can be granted. See Gutierrez v.
Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1369 (7th Cir. 1997); Arnett
v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 752-753 (7th Cir. 2011);
Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 779 (7th Cir.
2008). The rest of Mr. Armstead's claims don't fare
Armstead complains that he was assigned to a top bunk though
medical personnel knew that he was a diabetic who had
neuropathy. “Conditions of confinement must be severe
to support an Eighth Amendment claim; the prison
officials' act or omission must result in the denial of
the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.” Morissette v. Peters, 45 F.3d
1119, 1123 (7th Cir. 1995) (quotation marks and citation
omitted). “An objectively sufficiently serious risk, is
one that society considers so grave that to expose any
unwilling individual to it would offend contemporary
standards of decency.” Christopher v. Buss,
384 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir. 2004) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). There is no indication that any of the
defendants were involved with, or deliberately indifferent
in, assigning Mr. Armstead to a top bunk. Indeed, there is no
allegation that Mr. Armstead even asked for a bottom bunk.
With what we know now, it might have been better if he had
not been assigned to the upper bunk, based on the facts
alleged, it can't be reasonably inferred that the
assignment of a top bunk constituted a denial of the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities or that assigning
him a top bunk was a risk so grave that it was unconscionable
to have exposed him to it.
not clear why Mr. Armstead names Miami Superintendent and
Kathy Griffin as defendants; they aren't even mentioned
in the body of the complaint. Section 1983 “liability
depends on each defendant's knowledge and actions, not on
the knowledge or actions of persons they supervise.”
Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 594 (7th Cir.
2009). “[P]ublic employees are responsible for their
own misdeeds but not for anyone else's.”
Id. at 596. The doctrine of respondeat
superior, which allows an employer to be held liable for
subordinates' actions in some types of cases, has no
application to § 1983 actions. Moore v. State of
Indiana, 999 F.2d 1125, 1129 (7th Cir. 1993). Thus, the
complaint doesn't state a claim on which relief can be
granted against either the Superintendent or Ms. Griffin.
Armstead names Assistant Superintendent Sharon Hawk because
she relied on the medical staff to determine whether Mr.
Armstead should be sent to a hand specialist. Ms. Hawk
can't be held liable for deferring to the judgment of the
medical professionals who were tasked to care for Mr.
Armstead. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th
Cir. 2009) (“[A] layperson's failure to tell the
medical staff how to do its job cannot be called deliberate
indifference . . . .”); Greeno v. Daley, 414
F.3d 645, 656 (7th Cir. 2005) (“If a prisoner is under
the care of medical experts a non-medical prison official
will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is
in capable hands.”). “Bureaucracies divide tasks;
no prisoner is entitled to insist that one employee do
another's job. The division of labor is important not
only to bureaucratic organization but also to efficient
performance of tasks; people who stay within their roles can
get more work done, more effectively, and cannot be hit with
damages under §1983 . . ..” Burks v.
Raemisch, 555 F.3d at 595. Mr. Armstead hasn't
plausibly stated a claim on which relief can be granted
against Assistant Superintendent Sharon Hawk.
Armstead sues Wexford Health Care and Corizon Health Care,
two private companies that provided medical care at the
prison. It appears he is trying to hold the companies liable
because they employed the medical providers that denied him
treatment. However, there is no general respondeat
superior liability under Section 1983. Chavez v.
Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001);
see also Johnson v. Dossey, 515 F.3d 778, 782 (7th
Cir. 2008) (“[A] private corporation is not vicariously
liable under § 1983 for its employees' deprivations
of others' civil rights.”). While a private company
performing a state function can be held liable to the same
extent as a state actor under Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978),
Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 675 (7th
Cir. 2012), Mr. Armstead doesn't allege anything from
which it can be plausibly inferred that either Corizon Health
Care or Wexford Health Care had an unconstitutional practice