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Hubbard v. Denmark

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

August 12, 2014

ROBERT ANTHONY HUBBARD, #109084, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNNIE DENMARK, ET AL., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MICHAEL T. PARKER, Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [36] filed by Nurse Jennifer Williams and the Motion for Summary Judgment [42] filed by Warden Johnnie Denmark, Lieutenant Rita Bonner, Sergeant Debbie Cooley, Sergeant Obadiah Polk, and Warden Hubert Davis (collectively the "Defendants"). Having considered the submissions of the parties, along with the documents made a part of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [36] [42] be granted.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On October 11, 2012, the Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a Complaint [1] pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against employees of the South Mississippi Correctional Institution ("SMCI"), in which the Plaintiff asserted allegations of failure to provide adequate medical treatment and appropriate living conditions. The Plaintiff clarified his claims at an Omnibus hearing held September 24, 2013. [36-2]. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was bitten by a spider on June 4, 2012, and Lieutenant Bonner and Sergeants Cooley and Polk kept him from seeing the medical staff for three days. [36-2, pp. 14, 17, 19]. Plaintiff alleges that upon visiting the medical staff he was misdiagnosed with a staph infection.[1] [36-2, p. 21]. Nurse Williams allegedly failed to properly follow the nurse practitioner's directions for treatment and to schedule an appointment with a doctor at Plaintiff's request. [36-2, pp. 26-28]. Plaintiff claims he was correctly re-diagnosed with a spider bite ten days later. [36-2, p. 23]. Plaintiff also alleges that Wardens Denmark and Davis and Lieutenant Bonner knew the building in which Plaintiff was housed was infested with spiders but did nothing to remedy the problem. [36-2, pp. 29-31].

On December 4, 2013, Nurse Williams filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [36] asserting that no genuine issue of material fact existed and that she had "not been deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of the plaintiff." The remaining defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [42] on January 15, 2014, on the grounds of sovereign and qualified immunity. In response to an Order [45] directing Plaintiff to address the Motions, the Plaintiff asserted that all defendants had shown deliberate indifference. [46].

STANDARD

A motion for summary judgement will be granted only when "the record indicates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). The court must view "the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id. However, the nonmoving party "cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence.'" Turner v. Baylor Richardson Medical Center, 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).

ANALYSIS

A suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "basically seeks to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights' and to provide related relief." Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399, 403 (1997) (quoting Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992)). To prevail on a claim under Section 1983, Plaintiff must show that Defendants acted under color of state law and deprived him "of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution."

Delay and Denial of Medical Treatment

Under the Eighth Amendment, lack of proper medical care in a prison is only actionable if the prison officials were deliberately indifferent to the prisoner's "serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). Deliberate indifference can be "manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed." Id. at 104-05 (citations omitted). The deliberate indifference must result in "substantial harm." Mendoza v. Lynaugh, 989 F.2d 191, 195 (5th Cir. 1993).

However, "[d]eliberate indifference is an extremely high standard to meet." Domino v. Tex. Dep't Of Criminal Justice, 239 F.3d 752, 756 (5th Cir. 2001). Mere "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Likewise, "[m]edical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Id.

In order to prove deliberate indifference, an inmate must show that the prison "official was subjectively aware of the risk." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). The prisoner must prove that "the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837.

Plaintiff alleges that Nurse Williams failed to treat his wound twice in a 10-day period. Plaintiff admits, however, that he "[doesn't] know why she chose not to call [him] up on those days." [36-2, p. 27]. Missing the occasional treatment does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference. See, e.g., Mayweather v. Foti, 958 F.2d 91 (5th Cir. 1992) (holding that "deficiencies" in treatment, including times when the occasional "dose of medication may have been forgotten, " do not constitute deliberate indifference). Even if Nurse Williams were negligent in her treatment of Plaintiff's wound, such does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Furthermore, ...


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