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Zaya v. Sood

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

September 6, 2016

JONI ZAYA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
KUL B. SOOD, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued October 26, 2015

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 12-CV-1307 - Jonathan E. Hawley, Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, Bauer and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Sykes, Circuit Judge.

         Joni Zaya broke his wrist while he was an inmate at the Henry Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois. The prison physician, Dr. Kul B. Sood, sent Zaya to an off-site orthopedic surgeon who took x-rays, fitted Zaya with a cast, and sent him back to the prison with instructions that he return in three weeks for a follow-up exam and additional x-rays. Dr. Sood didn't follow those instructions. Instead he waited nearly seven weeks to send Zaya back to the orthopedic surgeon. By that time Zaya's wrist had healed at an improper angle, and two surgeries were required to repair the defect. Zaya then filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that Dr. Sood was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The district court granted Dr. Sood's motion for summary judgment, holding that the doctor's decision to delay Zaya's return to the orthopedic surgeon constituted a mere difference of opinion between two medical professionals. Zaya now appeals.

         It is well established that a difference of opinion between two doctors is insufficient to survive summary judgment on a deliberate-indifference claim. But when a plaintiff provides evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that the defendant doctor disregarded rather than disagreed with the course of treatment recommended by another doctor, summary judgment is unwarranted. Because Zaya has provided such evidence, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         On January 14, 2012, Joni Zaya, an inmate at the Henry Hill Correctional Center, injured his left wrist while playing soccer in the prison yard. He was immediately taken to the health-care unit for x-rays and treatment. Two days later Zaya was examined by Dr. Kul B. Sood, a physician and employee of Wexford Health Services, Inc., the private corporation that contracts with the Illinois Department of Corrections to provide medical services to inmates at Henry Hill. After reading Zaya's x-rays, Dr. Sood diagnosed an undisplaced fracture of the left distal radius-in other words, a broken left wrist. Dr. Sood then arranged for Zaya to be examined by Dr. Kenneth Bussey, an off-site orthopedic surgeon.

         Dr. Bussey examined Zaya on January 17 and confirmed Dr. Sood's diagnosis. He placed Zaya in a cast and sent him back to Henry Hill with instructions that he return for a follow-up exam and additional x-rays in three weeks. In his exam notes, which he forwarded to the prison, Dr. Bussey explained why the timing of the follow-up visit was important:

I will put [Zaya] in a long-arm cast for 6 weeks. I will see him back in 3 weeks and then get a recheck x-ray in the cast to make sure that it is not displaced. If it does, I could still fix it at 3 weeks rather easily. Right now he doesn't need surgical intervention so I will see him back in 3 weeks.

         Dr. Sood acknowledged receipt of Dr. Bussey's notes on January 30.

         Despite Dr. Bussey's instructions, Dr. Sood waited for nearly seven weeks to send Zaya back for the follow-up exam and x-rays. During that time, Dr. Sood prescribed pain medication when Zaya complained of discomfort and at one point modified Zaya's cast by cutting the fiberglass. On March 1 Dr. Sood removed the cast and x-rayed Zaya's wrist. The x-rays revealed that the fracture was healing at an improper angle. At that point Dr. Sood authorized a follow-up appointment with Dr. Bussey, who examined Zaya on March 6 and determined that surgery would be required for the fracture to heal properly. Zaya subsequently underwent two operations: one on March 14 to re-break his wrist and insert a metal plate, and another on August 14 to remove the plate.

         Zaya filed this suit against Dr. Sood under § 1983, claiming that the more-than-three-week delay in sending him back to Dr. Bussey amounted to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Dr. Sood moved for summary judgment, arguing that his decision to wait the extra weeks was an exercise of medical judgment. Dr. Sood further maintained that even if his conduct did rise to the level of deliberate indifference, he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district judge accepted that Zaya's fractured wrist was a serious medical condition. However, he concluded that Zaya had not produced evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Dr. Sood consciously disregarded a known risk by delaying Zaya's return to Dr. Bussey. Accordingly, the judge granted Dr. Sood's motion for summary judgment without reaching the question of qualified immunity. This appeal followed.

         II. Discussion

         We review the court's order granting summary judgment de novo, evaluating the record in the light most favorable to Zaya and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor. Burton v. Downey,805 F.3d 776, 783 (7th Cir. 2015). Summary judgment is warranted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is "genuine" "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, ...


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