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Thomas v. Reddix

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

October 22, 2014

TIMMY THOMAS, Plaintiff,


DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This ยง 1983 action is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation [40] of Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball. After holding an omnibus hearing on March 25, 2014, and considering the parties' briefing on the pending motion for summary judgment, Judge Ball recommended granting the motion for summary judgment [34] filed by Defendants Michael Reddix, Carl Reddix, Maurice McShan, Health Assurance LLC, Ollie Little, Kristen Ashmore, and Patricia Parrott.

Plaintiff Timmy Thomas has filed his Objection [41] to the Report and Recommendation. The Court, having considered the Report and Recommendation, the Objection, and the pertinent authorities, finds that the Report and Recommendation [40] should be adopted as the opinion of this Court and Defendants' motion for summary judgment [34] should be granted.

I. Report and Recommendation

Thomas is incarcerated at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). He suffers from degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, lumbar radiculopathy, and facet syndrome of the lumbar spine. Previously, Thomas was treated with Ultram (tramadol) and ibuprofen. But he claims that since Health Assurance took over healthcare at EMCF, he is no longer receiving adequate treatment for pain.

As explained by Judge Ball, prisoners are entitled to receive adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment. Rogers v. Boatright, 709 F.3d 403, 409-10 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing Easter v. Powell, 467 F.3d 459, 463 (5th Cir. 2006)). "A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when his conduct demonstrates deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs, constituting an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" Id. at 409 (quoting Easter, 467 F.3d at 463) (other quotation omitted). "A prison inmate can demonstrate an Eighth Amendment violation by showing that a prison official refused to treat him, ignored his complaints, intentionally treated him incorrectly, or engaged in any similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs.'" Id. at 409-10 (quoting Easter, 467 F.3d at 464).

Judge Ball found, and the undersigned agrees, that Thomas failed to meet this standard. Thomas's medical records from 2012 and 2013 demonstrate that prison officials consistently prescribed Thomas different medications to control his pain-including ibuprofen, Ultram, Tegretol, Naproxen, Flexeril, and Baclofen-while attempting to balance concerns of opiate dependency, depression, side effects, and interactions with Thomas's antipsychotic drug. See R&R at 1-2.

II. Objection

In his Objection, Thomas focuses on Defendants' alleged delay of medical care. Specifically, Thomas complains of three-month delays in treatment between May and August, 2012 and again between August and November, 2012. Objection at 3, 6. But the medical records attached to his Objection (as well as Defendants' motion) paint a different picture-a picture that is consistent with Judge Ball's assessment.[1]

A. May through August

Backing up a bit, earlier medical records show that on February 7, 2012, Dr. Faulks examined Thomas and talked about his prior use of Ultram. Records [34-1] at 3. Specifically, they discussed that Ultram is associated with seratonin syndrome and decided to discontinue Ultram and use Ibuprofen to treat the pain. Id. Dr. Faulks examined Thomas again on February 13, 2012, in response to complaints of pain and added back a prescription for Ultram, in addition to his existing prescriptions for Ibuprofen and Flexeril. Id. at 7. Thomas next visited Dr. Faulks on May 7, at which time Dr. Faulks noted that Thomas would continue with his medication. Id. at 11.

Plaintiff is correct-there is then a gap of several months before Thomas is seen by Dr. Faulks again. But the only medical services request in evidence from this time period is for dental care on June 24, 2012. Id. at 77. In response, Thomas was seen on June 7 and July 12 by the dentist, who listed his medications, including Ultram and Ibuprofen. Id. at 12-15. Likewise, Thomas's medication records reflect continuing use of Ultram and Ibuprofen during this time period. Id. at 107, 108.

Chronologically, Thomas lodged his next medical request on August 14, 2012, complaining of difficulty urinating (not back pain). Id. at 78. Dr. Faulks saw Thomas that same day. Id. at 16, 78. During that visit, Dr. Faulks noted that he had ordered Ultram on only one occasion, but the nursing staff had renewed the prescription. Id. He opined that Thomas "[does] not need Ultram for this condition because it is not effective after a short period of time, " and the notes reflect that Thomas "agrees to have Ultram stopped but will need to be tappered [sic] off." Id. Approximately two weeks later, on August 27, Dr. Faulks examined Thomas again and addressed the Ultram use. Id. at 17. Dr. Faulks prescribed a decreasing dose of Ultram, noting Thomas "will have many complaints regarding his Ultram in the near future and probably for the next 6 months. The Ultram is not helping the pain level but probably treating his opiate dependency. Will only need NSAID for the actual pain." Id. at 17.

In sum, the medical records reflect that while Thomas was not seen by Dr. Faulks from May 7 to August 14, Thomas continued to receive pain medication, including Ultram and Ibuprofen. Moreover, there is no evidence that Thomas requested medical care in relation to back pain during this time period. And when he did request medical attention on August 14, ...

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