Whiting v. Defendant Healthcare Services Company

  • 10/12/2016
    Client: Defendant Healthcare Services Company
    Outcome: Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment order entered in favor of firm’s client

Synopsis:

Karen Kies DeGrand and Don Brown successfully defended a client on appeal in the Seventh Circuit.

An inmate in an Illinois prison who became ill during his incarceration sued the firm’s client, a company providing healthcare services to inmates, and one of its physicians for alleged violations of the plaintiff’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff claimed that the healthcare company was deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff’s medical needs with respect to ordering diagnostic testing of what at first was thought to be an infection but turned out to be a rare form of cancer. The physician requested approval of a biopsy, which a committee of the company denied in favor of treating the plaintiff’s condition with antibiotics and nonprescription pain relievers.  

Initially, the plaintiff improved under the treatment plan; however, new symptoms then appeared.

The physician resubmitted the biopsy request.  It was approved, and the biopsy was performed within two months of the first biopsy request. The biopsy showed that the plaintiff had a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Plaintiff underwent chemotherapy, after which the disease was in complete remission. The lymphoma returned, and plaintiff was treated with more chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant during the course of his incarceration.

The Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiff provided no evidence of deliberate indifference by the physician. Plaintiff also failed to show that the physician was a final policy maker of the company and thus that a policy, practice or custom of the company caused a constitutional violation.

The court of appeals, accordingly, affirmed the judgment entered for the healthcare services company, as well as for the physician.  

Practice