by Keith Sanders
On February 2, 2023, the federal court for the Central District of Illinois denied a motion to overturn a $400,000 jury verdict for a state prisoner, who suffered serious complications arising from untreated diabetic ulcers. Before month’s end, the Court augmented that with nearly $250,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
The jury award was made on December 3, 2021, to Anthony Rodesky, a prisoner held by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) since his 2005 transfer from a New Jersey prison to Tamms Correctional Center (CC). There he was diagnosed with diabetes and began insulin injections, managing to ambulate in a pair of gym shoes. But he lost those in a shakedown—guards said they found a paper clip in one shoe—leaving him barefoot or in shoes with thin canvas soles. Rodesky’s feet developed ulcerous sores. By November 2011, he was confined to the prison infirmary. There he remained until undergoing emergency surgery to cut out the infected areas of his foot in February 2012.
When Tamms CC closed in December 2012, the prisoner was transferred to Pontiac CC. Drs. Marvin Powers and Andrew Tilden, who worked for DOC’s privately contracted medical provider, Wexford Health Sources, Inc., allegedly denied him medical shoes for diabetics. That left Rodesky to navigate three flights of stairs in overly large slip-on shoes for his twice-daily insulin shots. As a result, the ulcers reopened, not only causing him intense pain for almost three years but ultimately leading to invasive surgeries in 2014 that cost him most of his left heel.
Aided by attorneys Alan Mills, Nicole Schult and Bridget Geraghty of the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago, Rodesky filed suit in the Court in January 2015. Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. §1983, he accused DOC and Wexford officials of violating his civil rights, as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ch.126 §12101 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Meanwhile, Rodesky’s worst fears came true: Infection set into the bones of his right foot, and he suffered a below-the-knee amputation of his leg in July 2015.
Just over five years later, on August 19, 2020, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley ruled on Defendants’ motions for summary judgment. Wexford claimed that it could not be held liable for Plaintiff’s injuries because, as a private corporation, it had no municipal policy or practice from which they could arise, pursuant to Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Plaintiff countered that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had left the door open to a private corporation’s liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior with its ruling in Shields v. Ill. Dep’t of Corr., 746 F.3d 782 (7th Cir. 2014).
Judge Hawley sided with Wexford and dismissed the healthcare provider from the suit. But the Court denied summary judgment on Rodesky’s ADA claims against DOC officials, including then-Director Rob Jeffreys, Medical Director Steven Meeks and prison warden Randy Pfister. It did, however, grant Jeffreys and Meeks summary judgment on Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment civil rights claims. The Court also found there existed material issues of fact for a jury to decide whether Dr. Tilden was deliberately indifferent to Rodesky’s requests for medical attention. See: Rodesky v. Wexford Health Source, Inc., 582 F. Supp. 3d 594 (C.D. Ill. 2020).
After the first day of trial in December 2021, Tilden, Powers and their employer, Wexford, settled with Rodesky in a confidential agreement. When trial on the remaining claims ended on December 3, 2021, the jury found in favor of Warden Pfister on the Eighth Amendment counts but sided with Rodesky on his ADA claims against Jeffreys. The prisoner was awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages.
On February 21, 2023, after denying Jeffreys’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial, the Court awarded Rodesky another $246,511.24 in attorneys’ fees and $3,035.34 in costs. See: Rodesky v. Wexford Health Source, Inc., USDC (C.D. Ill.), Case No. 1:15-cv-01002.
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