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Illinois Court Allows Medical Indifference Case to Proceed to Trial, Denies Summary Judgment to Prison Officials for Prisoner's Tooth Pain

by Lonnie Burton

In a Memorandum and Order dated November 7, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, granted in part and denied in part summary judgment to a prison medical provider for alleged medical indifference for failing to treat a prisoner's tooth pain.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff Aaron Marshall sued Kenneth Brooks, who works as a health care provider at the Stateville prison where Marshall was incarcerated, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., the company contracted by the Illinois DOC to provide health care to prisoners. Marshall claimed that Brooks and Wexford committed medical malpractice and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs when he was "rushed through" the medical intake screening process at Stateville, and for failing to have ready access to his past medical records. As a result, Marshall claimed that he was denied needed dental treatment and suffered months of excruciating pain because of it.

Defendants moved for summary judgment, which Marshall obviously opposed. The court granted summary judgment to Wexford as to Marshall's claims regarding lack of proper training and access to medical records. The court said it found no evidence of deliberate indifference in the way Wexford handles medical records or trains its staff.

But the court found there was ample evidence that Wexford personnel rush prisoners through the medical screening process, fail to ask them pertinent questions, and that as a result they knew or should have known that key medical information would be missed. The court ruled that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether Brooks did a proper intake on Marshall, and that if Brooks had taken the time to ask the right questions he would have learned of Marshall's past tooth issues, and that his molar required immediate treatment.

Because there was a open question on whether Brooks provided adequate treatment at intake, Marshall's medical malpractice and deliberate indifference claims should proceed to trial, the court ruled. In addition, as the court found that "Plaintiff's malpractice claim against Brooks survives summary judgment, then Plaintiff's respondent superior malpractice claim against Wexford must also survive to trial."

Magistrate Williams, who made the final ruling with the permission of the parties, scheduled a hearing three days later to choose a trial date. See: Marshall v. Wexford Health Sources, Case No. 14-cv-722-SCW (U.S.D.C. S.D. Ill.).

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Related legal case

Marshall v. Wexford Health Sources