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Celestine v. West

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

June 5, 2014

BRANDON CELESTINE #140417, Plaintiff,
v.
MIKE WEST, ET AL., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL T. PARKER, Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [25] filed by Defendant Mike West and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [25] should be granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On April 17, 2012, Plaintiff Brandon Celestine, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed his Complaint [1] pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Through his Complaint, and as clarified during his Spears [1] hearing, Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendants Dr. Mike West and Wexford Health Services, as Dr. West's employer, for providing him inadequate medical treatment. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants broke his tooth and the broken piece is still in his mouth, causing pain. Plaintiff also alleges he was not allowed an outside consultation. The allegations in Plaintiff Complaint occurred while he was a post-conviction inmate at South Mississippi Correctional Institution ("SMCI"). Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at SMCI.

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. On February 6, 2014, Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment [25].

STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This Court may grant summary judgment only if, viewing the facts in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Defendants demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Woods v. Smith, 60 F.3d 1161, 1164 (5th Cir. 1995). If the Defendants fail to discharge the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue concerning any material fact, summary judgment must be denied. John v. Louisiana, 757 F.2d 698, 708 (5th Cir. 1985). The existence of an issue of material fact is a question of law that this court must decide, and in making that decision, it must "draw inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and take care that no party will be improperly deprived of a trial of disputed factual issues." Id at 712.

There, however, must be adequate proof in the record showing a real controversy regarding material facts. "Conclusory allegations, "[2] unsubstantiated assertions, [3] or the presence of a "scintilla of evidence, "[4] is not enough to create a real controversy regarding material facts. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). In the absence of proof, the Court does not "assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (emphasis omitted).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff's claims are before the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 "neither provides a general remedy for the alleged torts of state officials nor opens the federal courthouse doors to relieve the complaints of all who suffer injury at the hands of the state or its officers." White v. Thomas, 660 F.2d 680, 683 (5th Cir. 1981). Rather, "[i]t affords a remedy only to those who suffer, as a result of state action, deprivation of right, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States." Id. (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Accordingly, Plaintiff must demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact as to the following two elements: (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law.

Regarding the state-actor element, Defendants include a dentist who provides dental care to inmates at SMCI (Dr. West), and his employer Wexford Health Sources. The Supreme Court has explicitly held that Section 1983 liability applies to doctors who are not formally employed by a state, but who instead provide medical care to prisoners as government contractors. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49-57 (1988); Bishop v. Karney, 408 Fed.App'x. 846, 848 (5th Cir. 2011). In other words, the state-action requirement of Section 1983 may be satisfied when private doctors serve inmate populations.

Turning to the element of a constitutional deprivation, it is well-settled that Section 1983 does not "create supervisory or respondeat superior liability." Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 742 & n.6 (5th Cir. 2002) (emphasis in original); see also Thompkins v. Belt, 828 F.2d 298, 304 (5th Cir. 1987) ("Under § 1983, supervisory officials cannot be held liable for the actions of subordinates under any theory of vicarious liability.") (citations omitted). "To state a cause of action under § 1983, the plaintiff must allege facts reflecting the defendants' participation in the alleged wrong, specifying the personal involvement of each defendant." Jolly v. Klein, 923 F.Supp. 931, 943 (S.D. Tex. 1996) (citing Murphy v. Kellar, 950 F.2d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 1992)). Thus, supervisory prison officials may be held liable for a Section 1983 violation only if they either were personally involved in the constitutional deprivation or if there is a "sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation." Thompkins, 828 F.2d at 304; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) ("Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.").

Moreover, "[f]or purposes of liability, a suit against a public official in his official capacity is in effect a suit against the local government entity he represents." Mairena v. Foti, 816 F.2d 1061, 1064 (5th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted). The Supreme Court has held that in order for a local governmental entity to have liability under Section 1983, a plaintiff must prove that a policy, custom, or practice of that local government entity was ...


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