United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
EMMANUEL A. WINTERS, Plaintiff,
J. OVERHOLSER et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
R. LEICHTY JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Emmanuel A. Winters, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a
complaint against Wexford Health Sources, Inc. and two of its
employees alleging he was denied proper mental health
treatment and medication while incarcerated at the Miami
Correctional Facility. “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) (quotation marks and citations omitted). Nevertheless,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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.
Winters alleges that he suffers from mental health issues
that were exacerbated by segregated housing for three months
and a lack of medication. On February 22, 2019, Mr. Winters
was assigned to a Restrictive Status Housing Unit (RHU) at
the Miami Correctional Facility for 120 days. ECF 1-1 at 11.
On March 25, 2019, Mr. Winters informed J. Overholser, a
Wexford mental health psychologist, that he needed medication
and therapy because he was feeling mentally unstable from his
placement in RHU. He pointed out that his mental health code
was a “C, ” which made isolation problematic and
worsening depression likely. Mr. Winters says he explained to
the psychologist that he had stopped taking his prescribed
Zoloft; and, though he had requested a change of medication
from the mental health department because he
“didn't like the side effects, ” he had not
received a response. ECF 1 at 3. He asked Ms. Overholser if
she would “please put in a referral to get me released
from segregation early since they are unable to provide me
with my medication to handle me being in my cell 23 hours a
day.” Id. Ms. Overholser reportedly denied
that request and did not provide Mr. Winters with therapy or
assist him with receiving medication, so Mr. Winters filed a
grievance. An appeal of that grievance was denied on May 16,
You saw a psychiatric prescriber on 4/10/2019 and were
advised that the reason the medication was discontinued was
because you were not taking it. The prescriber agreed to
allow you to try taking Celexa 20 mg and you have been
transferred from RHU to a mental health unit so the relief
you were seeking has already been provided.
ECF 1-1 at 1.
Winters admits that he has been transferred to and currently
resides within the mental health unit at the New Castle
Correctional Facility. ECF 1 at 4. It is unclear when Mr.
Winters began taking the new prescribed medication, but he
refers to the lack of medication in the past tense,
suggesting that this issue has been addressed. Id.
event, Mr. Winters alleges that Ms. Overholser's failure
to provide him with proper medical treatment while at the
Miami Correctional Facility caused him to suffer
unnecessarily from his depression. Namely, he alleges that he
attempted to commit suicide and did not eat for a week
because he “wasn't getting my medication.”
Id. Currently-due mainly to his placement in
segregation at the New Castle Correctional Facility-he
alleges that he continues to suffer from emotional distress,
anxiety, a lack of sleep, self-criticism, and a general
feeling of malaise. Id. He does not, however,
provide details about his current medical care or providers.
Mr. Winters seeks only monetary damages against Wexford, Ms.
Overholser, and Director of Nursing L. Ivers (also employed
the Eighth Amendment, inmates are entitled to
constitutionally 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) (internal quotation marks, brackets, and citations
Winters has stated a claim against Ms. Overholser under the
Eighth Amendment. He alleges that she knew of his worsening
depression as early as March 25, 2019, but failed to provide
him with adequate mental health therapy or assist him with
receiving psychotropic medication while he was in
segregation, thereby causing him to attempt suicide and
refuse to eat for a period of time. Although the details in
his compliant are sparse, particularly on timing, liberally
construed the complaint plausibly suggests that she was
deliberately indifferent to serious medical needs.
Winters has also sued Wexford. A private company performing a
state function can be held liable to the same extent as a
municipal entity under Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. of
City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). See Rice v.
Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d 650, 675 (7th Cir. 2012)
(Monell framework applies to private company
providing medical care at correctional facility). A
corporation “cannot be held liable under § 1983 on
a respondeat superior theory, ” however.
Calhoun v. Ramsey, 408 F.3d 375, 379 (7th Cir.
2005). Corporate liability exists only “when execution
of a [corporation's] policy or custom . . . inflicts the
injury.” Id. Mr. Winters does not identify any
policy or practice maintained by Wexford that resulted in his
injuries, so he has not stated a claim against Wexford.
Winters names Director Ivers as a defendant in the caption,
but he does not mention her in the body of his complaint.
There is no general respondeat superior liability
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Burks v. Raemisch, 555
F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009). “[P]ublic employees are
responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone
else's.” Id. “Only persons who cause
or participate in the violations are responsible.”
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007).
Because Mr. Winters has not articulated a basis for suing
Director Ivers, he has not stated a claim against her.
these reasons, the court:
(1) GRANTS Emmanuel A. Winters leave to proceed on his Eighth
Amendment claim of deliberate indifference for money damages
against J. Overholser in her individual capacity for
allegedly failing to provide him with mental health therapy
or assist him with receiving psychotropic medication from