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Donelson v. Hardy

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 19, 2019

Charles Donelson, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Darrise Hardy and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., Defendants-Appellees.

          Submitted June 20, 2019

          Opinion Issued July 19, 2019 [*]

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C1249 - Gary Feinerman, Judge.

          Before Kanne, Barrett, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         Charles Donelson sued a nurse and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., for allegedly providing him with constitutionally deficient medical care in prison and retaliating against him for filing other lawsuits. After the district court decided that he obstructed discovery in bad faith, it dismissed his suit as a sanction. The district court responded reasonably to Donelson's insubordination, so we affirm.

         We begin by describing Donelson's case. Donelson, an Illinois inmate, moved to Stateville Northern Reception and Classification Center (an Illinois prison) in 2013. Upon his arrival, Darrise Hardy, a prison nurse, screened him for medical issues. Donelson is asthmatic, and he told Hardy that he needed a new inhaler for his breathing problems. Hardy responded that he could get one from a doctor. Donelson had to wait 16 days to see a doctor, though the defendants say that he could have gone to the commissary at any time for an inhaler. Donelson received an inhaler from a doctor 20 days after arriving at Stateville. Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he now alleges that Hardy and her employer, Wexford, violated the Eighth Amendment (through deliberate indifference to his asthma) and the First Amendment (by delaying his care to retaliate for prior lawsuits).

         During discovery, the court encountered several problems. The first problem involved Donelson's conflict with his lawyer. The court recruited counsel for Donelson, but it later allowed counsel to withdraw after Donelson accused counsel of being "dishonest." The second problem was Donelson's false assertion that Wexford had refused to respond to his document requests. The district court found otherwise:

Based on the Court's review of Wexford's responses and the documents Wexford has produced to Plaintiff, the Court does not credit Plaintiff's allegations concerning the adequacy of Wexford's response to the discovery request upon which Plaintiff focuses in his motion [to compel]. It appears that the documents Plaintiff says he did not receive are attached to his motion to compel and identified in a delivery receipt ... Further, Wexford provided the Court with copies of the documents it produced to Plaintiff, and they are the Wexcare documents Plaintiff specifically requested.

         The third problem was Donelson's obstructive behavior during his deposition. This came to light after the defendants moved for summary judgment. The defendants attached to their motion a transcript of Donelson's deposition, which occurred at Stateville. Upon receiving this, the district court invoked its inherent powers and Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 to order Donelson to explain why his case should not be dismissed as a sanction for his misconduct during his deposition. Here are representative examples.

         • Donelson professed not to understand simple questions, no matter how many times counsel rephrased them, and refused to answer them:

Q: Have you received medical care at any Illinois Department of Corrections prison prior to December 30th, 2013?
A: I don't understand your question.
Q: Do you understand that December 30th, 2013 is a date?
A: Yes, I understand that is the date that this incident ...

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