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Seventh Circuit: Jail Officials Entitled to Summary Judgment in Prisoner's Medical Deliberate Indifference Suit

Derek J. Burton filed a federal civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alle6inL officials, including medical personnel, at the Jerome Combs Detention Center, an Illinois jail, were deliberate indifferent to his serious medical needs. Prior to his arrest, Dr. Zumwalt, Burton's primary care physician intermittently prescribed him Norco, an opioid pain medication similar to Vicodin, for chronic back pain and other ailments. These ailments included avascular necrosis - loss of blood circulation that causes bone death.

A week before his incarceration, Dr. Verghese performed a core decompression surgery on Burton to treat his avascular necrosis and prescribed him Ultram, a synthetic opiate also called Tramadol. Dr. Verghese was unaware that Burton was already receiving Nocro which he did not like to prescribe due to its higher addictive potential. Dr. Zumwalt did not know about the Ultram and did not intend for Burton to be Norcon for long.

After he was incarcerated, jail medical personnel Lave Burton all of the medication he was receiving prior to his arrest, including Ultram, except Norco. Although Burton's complaint stated there was a nine-day delay in his receiving the medication, his testimony and that of jail medical personnel contradicted that and showed the delay was about two days. Burton also complained about being told to perform physical therapy in his cell.

Defendants moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity which the district court denied. They then filed an interlocutory appeal.

In an opinion handed down on October 6, 2015, the Seventh Circuit held that the two-day delay in receiving medications did not show deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. The difference in the medication prescribed were "mere differences of opinion among medical personnel re6ardin6 a patient's appropriate treatment and did not give rise to deliberate indifference." Likewise, Burton's complaints about not being provided a physical therapist, a second mattress or the treatment he wanted for a rash and rectal bleeding; did not show deliberate indifference. Therefore, the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the motion for summary judgment and remanded the case to that court for entry of judgment for the defendants. See: Burton v. Michael Downey, 7th Cir., No. 14-359J.

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Related legal case

Burton v. Michael Downey