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Barber v. Wexford Health Sources

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 24, 2019




         I. Filing Fee

         The plaintiff's motion for an extension of time, dkt [5], is granted. The plaintiff shall have through March 22, 2019, in which to pay the initial partial filing fee.

         II. Screening Standard

         The plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at New Castle Correctional Facility. Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), 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 Cesal v. Moats, 851 F.3d 714, 720 (7th Cir. 2017). 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. Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation omitted).

         II. The Complaint

         Plaintiff Charles Barber alleges that on December 13, 2017, he reported to sick call at New Castle Correctional Facility. At that time, Mr. Barber was suffering from the effects of an ischemic stroke. Nurse Isaac checked Mr. Barber's vital signs during triage. Nurse Isaac reported to Dr. Ippel that Mr. Barber's blood pressure was extremely high and that he was suffering from an anxiety attack. Dr. Ippel concluded that Mr. Barber was experiencing an atypical headache likely due to diabetes and/or stress. Dr. Ippel instructed Mr. Barber to return to his housing unit. Dr. Ippel's notes do not indicate that he considered whether Mr. Barber had a stroke. The next day, Mr. Barber was seen by Dr. Robertson and immediately sent to a hospital where he was given an EKG and diagnosed with a mild stroke.

         Mr. Barber claims that Nurse Isaac's mistaken assessment caused a misdiagnosis. He states that both defendants' misdiagnosis “amounts to negligence” and as a result he was not properly treated in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. He seeks money damages and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from providing him medical care in the future.

         III. Dismissal of Complaint

         The complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         First, Wexford Health Sources (“Wexford”) is dismissed. Because Wexford acts under color of state law by contracting to perform a government function, i.e., providing medical care to correctional facilities, it is treated as a government entity for purposes of Section 1983 claims. See Jackson v. Illinois Medi-Car, Inc., 300 F.3d 760, 766 fn.6 (7th Cir. 2002); but see Shields v. Illinois Department of Correction, 746 F.3d 782, 790 (7th Cir. 2014) (finding “substantial grounds to question the extension of the Monell holding for municipalities to private corporations”). Therefore, to state a cognizable deliberate indifference claim against Wexford, Mr. Barber must allege that he suffered a constitutional deprivation as the result of an express policy or custom of Wexford. No such allegation is present in the complaint. Accordingly, the claims against Wexford are dismissed.

         In order for Mr. Barber to state a claim under § 1983 for medical mistreatment or the denial of medical care against an individual defendant, he must allege “acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Deliberate indifference exists only when an official “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to an inmate's health; 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) (construing Estelle). Negligence is not sufficient to support a § 1983 claim. See Huber v. Anderson, 909 F.3d 201, 208 (7th Cir. 2018) (deliberate ...

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