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Jewell v. Wexford of Indiana, LLC

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

September 30, 2019

WEXFORD OF INDIANA, LLC, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Christopher Jewell, an inmate currently incarcerated at Pendleton Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”), brought this action against medical providers and other employees at Pendleton, including Dr. Paul Talbot and his employer, Wexford of Indiana, LLC (“Wexford). Mr. Jewell alleges that the Medical Defendants have and continue to provide deficient medical treatment for his severe acid reflux diseases, commonly referred to GERD and Barrett’s esophagus.

         Presently before the Court is Mr. Jewell’s motion for a preliminary injunction. He asks the Court to order the Medical Defendants to place him on a no-citrus diet and be prescribed necessary medications. The Medical Defendants responded to Mr. Jewell’s motion, but failed to submit any evidence supporting their factual assertions. The State Defendants failed to respond. This leaves the substantial evidence submitted by Mr. Jewell unopposed. This unopposed evidence shows that Mr. Jewell is entitled to a preliminary injunction.


         Legal Standard

         “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). “To obtain a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff must establish that it has some likelihood of success on the merits; that it has no adequate remedy at law; that without relief it will suffer irreparable harm.” GEFT Outdoors, LLC v. City of Westfield, 922 F.3d 357, 364 (7th Cir. 2019) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see Winter, 555 U.S. at 20. “If the plaintiff fails to meet any of these threshold requirements, the court must deny the injunction.” GEFT Outdoors, 922 F.3d at 364 (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         If the plaintiff passes the threshold requirements, “the court must weigh the harm that the plaintiff will suffer absent an injunction against the harm to the defendant from an injunction, and consider whether an injunction is in the public interest.” Planned Parenthood of Ind. & Ky., Inc. v. Comm’r of Ind. State Dep’t of Health, 896 F.3d 809, 816 (7th Cir. 2018). The Seventh Circuit “‘employs a sliding scale approach’ for this balancing: if a plaintiff is more likely to win, the balance of harms can weigh less heavily in its favor, but the less likely a plaintiff is to win the more that balance would need to weigh in its favor.” GEFT Outdoors, 922 F.3d at 364 (quoting Planned Parenthood, 896 F.3d at 816).



         A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         The Court begins with whether Mr. Jewell has a likelihood of success on the merits of his Eighth Amendment medical claim. Mr. Jewell was and remains a convicted prisoner, thus his treatment and the conditions of his confinement are evaluated under standards established by the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993) (“[T]he treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment.”). Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment, prison officials have a duty to provide humane conditions of confinement, meaning they must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates and ensure that they receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

         “To determine if the Eighth Amendment has been violated in the prison medical context, [the Court] perform[s] a two-step analysis, first examining whether a plaintiff suffered from an objectively serious medical condition, and then determining whether the individual defendant was deliberately indifferent to that condition.” Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2016) (en banc). To show deliberate indifference, “a plaintiff does not need to show that the official intended harm or believed that harm would occur, ” but “showing mere negligence is not enough.” Id. at 728. Instead, a plaintiff must “provide evidence that an official actually knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of harm.” Id.

         The parties do not dispute that Mr. Jewell has been diagnosed with GERD and Barrett’s esophagus and that these are objectively serious medical conditions. To treat these conditions, Mr. Jewell presents evidence that he has been placed on a no-citrus diet and prescribed various medications, including Zantac and Prilosec. See, e.g., dkt. 31-1 at 3; dkt. 49-2. Nevertheless, evidence shows that there have been several gaps in receiving his medications and that he has been removed from the no-citrus diet without explanation. See dkt. 31-1 at 2; dkt. 49 at 6-9. Mr. Jewell attests that with an order from Dr. Talbot, he would receive a no-citrus diet from the prison food provider. Notably, the no-citrus diet information sheet states that one of its purposes is for individuals with GERD. Dkt. 49-3 at 2.

         Because the Medical Defendants have failed to present any evidence, Mr. Jewell’s evidence is accepted as true.[1] The Seventh Circuit has held that the denial of Zantac for GERD- and even the failure to administer Zantac at the appropriate time in relation to meals-could allow a reasonable jury to infer deliberate indifference. See Rowe v. Gibson, 798 F.3d 622, 626-28 (7th Cir. 2015). Moreover, a reasonable jury could, and likely would, infer that unexplained gaps in providing medication and unexplained removal from a non-citrus diet-especially when the diet is specifically designed for individuals with ...

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