United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
Stewart, II, a prisoner without a lawyer confined at the
Tippecanoe County Jail, filed a Complaint because he believes
he has received constitutionally inadequate medical care for
his hernia. Stewart has sued the Tippecanoe County
Sheriff's Department Jail Division, Sheriff Bob
Goldsmith, Quality Correctional Care, and Dr. Michael
Persons. 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, the court 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.
August of 2018, Stewart arrived at the Tippecanoe County
Jail, and medical staff diagnosed him with a double hernia.
He was provided with a bottom bunk restriction and ibuprofen
for a week. Stewart returned to the jail on January 24, 2019,
but he was not provided with a bottom bunk pass. His hernia
worsened and was causing him considerably more pain than it
did in August of 2018. He requested medical care, and he was
seen by Dr. Persons in March of 2019. Dr. Persons provided
Stewart with a hernia belt and seven days of ibuprofen to
relieve pain. The next month, there was a shakedown, and
during that shakedown, the hernia belt was confiscated as
contraband because there were no notes authorizing Stewart to
of 2019, Stewart submitted several medical requests due to
continual pain in his abdomen. He was seen by nursing staff
on multiple occasions, but he was simply told to purchase
aspirin or ibuprofen from the commissary.
July, Stewart saw Dr. Persons again. Dr. Persons asked
Stewart about the hernia belt, and Stewart explained that
jail staff removed it during a shakedown. Dr. Persons
responded by stating, “since they won't allow [a]
hernia belt we will get them to fix your hernia. I am
recommending a surgical consult.” ECF No. 1 at 4.
August, the pain continued to worsen. At the end of August,
he had an appointment with a surgeon at Unity Health Care,
and he was told that the surgery would be scheduled with the
jail staff. In September and October, Stewart continued to
fill out requests for medical care indicating that he was in
severe pain. As of the time he filed his Complaint, the
surgery had not yet been performed.
initial matter, Stewart sued Quality Correctional Care, a
private company that provides medical care at the jail.
“Private corporations acting under color of state law
may, like municipalities, be held liable for injuries
resulting from their policies and practices.” Hahn
v. Walsh, 762 F.3d 617, 640 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corr. Med. Servs., 675 F.3d
650, 675 (7th Cir. 2012)). However, “[a] municipality
may not be held liable under § 1983 based on a theory of
respondeat superior or vicarious liability.”
Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482, 492 (7th Cir.
2007). Because Stewart's Complaint only describes the
actions-or inaction-of the medical staff in connection with
his own treatment, he may not proceed against Quality
also sued Dr. Persons for providing constitutionally
inadequate medical treatment. The Eighth Amendment applies to
convicted persons, while the Fourteenth Amendment applies to
pretrial detainees. See Miranda v. Cty. of Lake, 900
F.3d 335, 352 (7th Cir. 2018). Stewart, however, does not
indicate whether he is a pre-trial detainee or whether he was
serving a sentence following a conviction. A search of the
Tippecanoe County Jail's inmate list, however, suggests
that his charges remain pending.
(last viewed November 19, 2019). Accordingly, for purposes of
this screening order, the Court will analyze Stewart's
claims pursuant to the less onerous Fourteenth Amendment
standard. See Mulvania v. Sheriff of Rock Island
Cty., 850 F.3d 849, 856 (7th Cir. 2017).
Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause prohibits
holding pretrial detainees in conditions that ‘amount
to punishment.'” Id. (quoting Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979)). “A pretrial
condition can amount to punishment in two ways: first, if it
is ‘imposed for the purpose of punishment,' or
second, if the condition ‘is not reasonably related to
a legitimate goal-if it is arbitrary or purposeless-a court
permissibly may infer that the purpose of the government
action is punishment.'” Id. (quoting
Bell, 441 U.S. at 538-39). “[I]n the absence
of an expressed intent to punish, a pretrial detainee can
nevertheless prevail by showing that the actions are not
‘rationally related to a legitimate nonpunitive
governmental purpose' or that the actions ‘appear
excessive in relation to that purpose.'”
Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 576 U.S.-, -, 135 S.Ct.
2466, 2473 (2015) (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 561).
The Seventh Circuit has held that “medical-care claims
brought by pretrial detainees under the Fourteenth Amendment
are subject only to the objective unreasonableness inquiry
identified in Kingsley.” Miranda, 900
F.3d at 352.
when Dr. Persons initially saw Stewart, he prescribed a
hernia belt and ibuprofen. When Dr. Persons learned that the
jail staff had confiscated the hernia belt, he recommended
that Stewart consult with a surgeon-a recommendation that was
carried out the next month. The surgeon recommended that
Stewart undergo a surgery, although that surgery has not yet
taken place. While Stewart remains in pain and submitted
numerous additional healthcare requests, it is unclear
whether Dr. Persons is aware of those requests. In short,
Stewart has not alleged facts that, taken as true, suggest
that Dr. Persons was objectively unreasonable in his
treatment of Stewart. Accordingly, Stewart cannot proceed
against Dr. Persons.
Stewart sued Sheriff Goldsmith, but Stewart has not alleged
facts suggesting that Sheriff Goldsmith was personally
involved in decisions regarding Stewart's medical care.
There is no general respondeat superior liability
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “Only persons who cause or
participate in the violations are responsible.”
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007).
“[P]ublic employees are responsible for their own
misdeeds but not for anyone else's.” Burks v.
Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009).
Furthermore, non-medical staff rely on medical experts and
are “entitled to relegate to the prison's medical
staff the provision of good medical care.” Id.
at 595. Sheriff Goldsmith was entitled to rely on the
judgment of the medical staff at the prison to decide what
specific treatment was appropriate for Stewart. Thus, Stewart
has not stated a claim against Sheriff Goldsmith in his
individual capacity for monetary damages.
however, the Sheriff of Tippecanoe County who has both the
authority and the responsibility of ensuring that Stewart
receives adequate medical treatment while he is an inmate at
the Tippecanoe County Jail. See e.g., Gonzalez
v. Feinerman, 663 F.3d 311, 315 (7th Cir. 2011). Stewart
may proceed against Sheriff Goldsmith in his official
capacity to the extent he seeks injunctive relief. That said,
the specific injunctive relief Stewart requests-namely, to
have the recommended surgery performed-may not be ordered
even if it is ultimately determined that his current
treatment is inadequate. While it is true that Stewart must
be provided with constitutionally adequate medical care,
there may be several ways of doing so that do not involve
surgery. Simply put, Stewart cannot dictate how such medical
care is provided. See Westefer v. Neal, 682 F.3d
679, 683 (7th Cir. 2012) (noting that the Prison Litigation
Reform Act mandates that “remedial injunctive relief
must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to
correct the violation of the Federal right, and use the least
intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the
Federal right” (internal quotation marks, brackets, and
citations omitted))); see also Forbes v. Edgar, 112
F.3d 262, 267 (7th Cir. 1997) (explaining that inmates are
neither “entitled to demand specific care [nor]
entitled to the best care possible”). Therefore,
injunctive relief-if granted-would be limited to requiring
that Sheriff Goldsmith ensure Stewart receives medical
treatment for his hernia to the extent required by the
final matter, Stewart sued the Tippecanoe County
Sheriff's Department Jail Division. However, he has
already been granted leave to proceed against Sheriff
Goldsmith in his official capacity for injunctive relief, and
“§ 1983 suits against sheriffs in their official
capacities are in reality suits against the county
sheriff's department.” Franklin v. Zaruba,
150 F.3d 682, 686 (7th Cir. 1998). Allowing Stewart to
proceed against the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's