United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE
Dodd, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a complaint against
Wexford Medical, Inc., Dr. Jackson, Jane Doe #1, and Jane Doe
#2, because he believes the care he received for his iritis
and ankylosing spondylitis while incarcerated at the
Westville Correctional Facility was inadequate. A filing by
an unrepresented party “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) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must
review the merits of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if
the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
complaint, Dodd reports that he suffers from a rare genetic
autoimmune disorder-ankylosing spondylitis-that makes him
prone to inflammatory diseases affecting his spine, ribs,
hips, and shoulders. ECF 2 at 6. Here, he explains that one
complication of ankylosing spondylitis is iritis, an
inflammation of the eyes, which makes his eyes red and
sensitive to light, and causes blurry vision and headaches.
Id. Dodd states iritis requires immediate medical
attention because it causes retina detachment, which then
requires surgery to reattach the retina. Id. He
states his prison medical record is well documented with the
numerous bouts of iritis he has had since he was incarcerated
in 1997. Id. at 6-7.
August 24, 2018, Dodd asserts he submitted a medical request
because he was experiencing another bout of iritis. ECF 2 at
7. However, the medical request was returned to him a week
later with instructions to submit a second medical request.
Id. Dodd submitted a second medical request but
never heard anything. Id. He finally received
treatment after a correctional officer noticed “how bad
[his eye] looked” and notified the medical staff.
Id. at 8. He was treated by a nurse, who prescribed
antibiotic (Ciprofloxacin) eyedrops, but his condition
worsened because he was prescribed the wrong medication.
Id. Because his iris began to turn white and his
pupil no longer reacted to light, the same correctional
officer contacted the medical staff and Dodd was again seen
by a nurse. Id. at 8-9. After examining Dodd, the
nurse contacted Dr. Jackson but he refused to treat Dodd.
Id. at 9. Dr. Jackson told the nurse to prescribe
artificial tears and that Dodd would need to wait another two
weeks for the eye doctor to return from vacation.
Id. Because he did not receive the necessary
treatment, Dodd asserts his vision has deteriorated and he
now suffers from spots or floaters in his vision.
Dodd asserts he has been dealing with severe pain stemming
from ankylosing spondylitis since he arrived at the Westville
Correctional Facility in August 2017. ECF 2 at 9. He claims
Wexford Medical, Inc. and its staff have made him feel as
though he was overreaching or asking for treatment he did not
need. Id. at 9-10. He explains that Wexford
initially took him off of Naproxen, which controlled his
pain, but later prescribed it again at a much lower dosage
that did not adequately control his pain. Id. at 10.
Dodd asserts that the medical staff does not understand his
rare genetic disorder and has refused to educate themselves
about his painful disease and the medication he needs to
control it. Id. He further claims that Wexford and
its staff falsified medical records to cover up the fact they
have not given him appropriate medical treatment.
Id. Thus, according to Dodd, the defendants have
been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs
stemming from his genetic disorder, which has caused him to
have pain and suffer needlessly.
the Eighth Amendment, inmates are entitled to adequate
medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104
(1976). To establish liability, a prisoner must satisfy both
an objective and subjective component by showing: (1) his
medical need was objectively serious; and (2) the defendant
acted with deliberate indifference to that medical need.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A
medical need is “serious” if it is one that a
physician has diagnosed as mandating treatment, or one that
is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize
the necessity for a doctor's attention. Greeno v.
Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). Deliberate
indifference means that the defendant “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. Farnham, 394 F.3d
469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005).
medical professional to be held liable for deliberate
indifference to an inmate's medical needs, he or she 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). However, “[n]egligence on the part of an
official does not violate the Constitution, and it is not
enough that he or she should have known of a risk. Instead,
deliberate indifference requires evidence that an official
actually knew of a substantial risk of serious harm and
consciously disregarded it nonetheless.” Pierson v.
Hartley, 391 F.3d 898, 902 (7th Cir. 2004) (citations
omitted). It is not enough to show that a defendant merely
failed to act reasonably. Gibbs v. Franklin, 49 F.3d
1206, 1208 (7th Cir. 1995). Even incompetence does not state
a claim of deliberate indifference. Walker v.
Peters, 233 F.3d 494 (7th Cir. 2000).
a delay in providing treatment can constitute deliberate
indifference when it causes unnecessary pain or suffering.
Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 752-53 (7th Cir.
2011); Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 779 (7th
Cir. 2008). Accepting Dodd's allegations as true and
giving him the benefit of the inferences to which he is
entitled, as I must at this stage of the proceedings, he has
alleged facts from which it can be inferred that Dr. Jackson
was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by
refusing to provide him with appropriate care for his iritis
and his pain associated with ankylosing spondylitis.
has also sued Wexford Medical, Inc. He alleges that Wexford,
as the private company that provides medical care to inmates,
encourages its medical staff to delay and deny necessary
medical care. ECF 2 at 5, 7-8. A private company may be held
liable for constitutional violations when it performs a state
function. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988). Dodd
has alleged that, consistent with Wexford's custom or
policy of “continued persistent delay” in
properly diagnosing and providing necessary medical care, he
was denied appropriate care for his iritis and ankylosing
spondylitis. ECF 2 at 5. He explains that Wexford refused to
consider his medical history and took away medications used
to treat his pain. Id. at 13. Because his treatment
was delayed, Dodd states he suffered permanent eye injury and
bouts of debilitating pain. Id. I find that Dodd has
stated a claim against Wexford.
Dodd's complaint includes unnamed defendants-Jane Doe #1
and Jane Doe #2-he claims are responsible for failing to
provide him with appropriate medical care. ECF 2 at 3-4; 8-9.
However, as a practical matter Dodd's case cannot proceed
against unnamed defendants. See Wudtke v. Davel, 128
F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 1997)(“[I]t is pointless to
include lists of anonymous defendants in federal court; this
type of placeholder does not open the door to relation back
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, nor can it otherwise help the
plaintiff.”). Therefore, I cannot permit him to proceed
against either Jane Doe #1 or Jane Doe #2.
final matter, Dodd asserts a breach of contract claim. ECF 2
at 16-17. He alleges Wexford breached its contract with the
Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) because Wexford
failed to properly train its medical staff on how to identify
and respond to medical emergencies. Id. at 16. Dodd
also claims that he is a third-party beneficiary to the
contract because the contract solely benefits him and other
inmates. Id. at 17. Dodd further explains that
Wexford has breached its duty to provide him with adequate
medical care. Id. However, while I have some doubt
about Dodd's ability to demonstrate he is an intended
beneficiary of the contract, I will, at this juncture, permit
the claim to proceed. See Harper v. Corizon Health
Inc., No. 2:17-CV-228-JMS-DLP, 2018 WL 6019595, at *8-9
(S.D. Ind. Nov. 16, 2018) (dismissing a breach of contract
claim against Corizon on summary judgment because the
plaintiff did not demonstrate that he was a third-party
beneficiary of the contract between Corizon and the IDOC).
GRANTS Richard Dodd leave to proceed against Dr. Jackson in
his individual capacity for compensatory and punitive damages
for deliberate indifference to his serious medical need for
treatment for his iritis and his pain associated with
ankylosing spondylitis, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
GRANTS Richard Dodd leave to proceed against Dr. Jackson in
his official capacity to provide adequate medical care for
his iritis and his pain associated with ...