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Darnell v. Stanford

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

January 11, 2017




         Jerry Lee Darnell, a Mississippi inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that he was denied medical care by Detention Supervisor Barry Stanford, Nurse Sara Rickit[1], and Jail Administrator Richard T. Jones (“Defendants”) while housed at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, and Darnell has responded. Having reviewed the submissions and arguments of the parties, as well as the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendants' motion should be granted.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper only when the pleadings and evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, illustrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) &(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is deemed “material” if “its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law.” Sossamon v. Lone Star State of Tex., 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). Once the motion is properly supported with competent evidence, the nonmovant must show that summary judgment is inappropriate. Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmovant cannot rely upon “conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions” to satisfy his burden, but rather, must set forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue as to every essential element of his claim. Ramsey v. Henderson, 286 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted); Morris, 144 F.3d at 380. If the “evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ” then there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no proof is presented, however, the Court does not assume that the nonmovant “could or would prove the necessary facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Jerry Darnell had a right-eye corneal transplant at the Cincinnati Eye Institute on October 3, 2014, prior to his incarceration in this case. See Doc. #69 at 2-4; Doc. #67-6 at 82; see also Doc. #19 at 1:55-2:22. Darnell claims that he was scheduled to have stitches removed from his eye on February 3, 2015. By that time, however, he had been arrested and was in the custody of the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center (“Lowndes County”). He claims that a nurse at Lowndes County, Nurse Rickit, refused to allow him to see a physician to have the sutures removed. See Id. at 7. Darnell filed a grievance about the alleged denial of medical care to Detention Supervisor Barry Stanford, who responded in writing that medical providers had advised him that the stitches had been in Darnell's eye too long to be removed safely. Id.

         Darnell claims that he had to have two subsequent surgeries on his right eye because his stitches were not removed on schedule. He alleges that the first, on May 4, 2015, was a stent that blinded him in his right eye, and the other was a surgery on June 11, 2015, to repair his retina. Darnell maintains that he might have retained eyesight in his right eye if he had been provided the necessary medical attention in a timely manner.

         Applicable Law

         Deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1978). The test for establishing deliberate indifference is “one of subjective recklessness as used in the criminal law.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 839 (1994). In order to state a claim under § 1983 for deliberate indifference to an inmate's medical condition, the inmate must demonstrate that the prison official (1) knew that the inmate faced a substantial risk of serious harm; and (2) disregarded that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847.

         The constitutional standard of “deliberate indifference” is a demanding one, and negligent conduct by a prison official does not give rise to a constitutional violation. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Oliver v. Collins, 914 F.2d 56, 60 (5th Cir. 1990). Rather, liability under the deliberate indifference standard requires the plaintiff to produce evidence Athat prison officials 'refused to treat him, ignored his complaints, intentionally treated him incorrectly, or engaged in any other similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs.'" Davidson v. Tex. Dept. of Crim. J., 91 F.App'x 963, 965 (5th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted); see also Gobert v. Caldwell, 463 F.3d 339, 346 (5th Cir. 2006) (holding deliberate indifference requires inmate to show prison officials engaged in conduct that “clearly evince[s] a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs.”

         Relevant Evidence

         Jerry Lee Darnell has been housed at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center (“Lowndes County”) on several occasions since July 2008. See, e.g., Doc. #67-2 at 3-5. The information he provided for the “Booking Medical Sheet” during each stay at the facility demonstrates that he experienced problems with his right eye years before his corneal transplant in October of 2014. For instance, during a June 22, 2009, booking, he reported that he had undergone surgery on his right eye the previous Monday and stated that he had a corneal transplant in his right eye. Doc. #67-3 at 57-58. During an August 4, 2010, booking, Darnell reported that he was blind in his right eye. Id. at 55-56. On May 9, 2011, Darnell reported that his right eye had been hurting. Id. at 51-52. On November 16, 11, Darnell reported to a Lowndes County booking official that he was blind in his right eye. Id. at 47-48. During a booking on May 15, 2012, Darnell reported “issues” with his right eye, noting that he had been medically treated approximately a month prior for his eye condition and had been prescribed eye drops. Id. at 43-44. On March 22, 2014, Darnell reported that he was blind in his right eye and stated that he had undergone brain surgery in 1998. Id. at 41-42. On April 1, 2014, he reported a prior transplant in his right eye and stated that he had a “plate” in his right eye. Id. at 39-40. The fact of Darnell's prior transplant is confirmed in his Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) medical history, which notes that his October 2014 procedure was a second corneal transplant. See Doc. #67-6 at 115; see also, e.g., Id. at 8, 28, 35, 48, 63, and 82.

         Darnell was housed at Lowndes County for the first time following his 2014 corneal transplant from November 19, 2014, until December 2, 2014. See Doc. #67-2 at 5. As part of the “Booking Medical Sheet” that was created on November 19, 2014, Darnell reported that he had seen a physician the prior week for a surgery follow-up, noting that his “[r]ight eye is damaged” and that he uses eye drops for his eye condition. See Doc. #67-3 at 38. Darnell was later transferred to an MDOC facility where on December 21, 2014, his eye medications were updated and a specialty consult to follow-up on Darnell's corneal transplant was ordered. See Doc. #67-6 at 107. A specialty optometry consult occurred on December 30, 2014, and the physician ordered that Darnell receive pred forte[2] drops to his right eye and provided Darnell with a bottle of the medication. See Doc. #67-6 at 114-15; 118. Darnell remained in an MDOC facility until his transport to Lowndes County on January 29, 2015. See Doc. #67-6 at 129-30; see also Doc. #67-3 at 3.

         Darnell was again housed in Lowndes County for a temporary forty-one day return for court beginning January 29, 2015. See Doc. #62-1; Doc. #67-3 at 5. Immediately prior to his transfer to Lowndes County, Darnell's medications were refilled and he reported no new medical problems or injuries. Doc. #67-6 at 128-130. ...

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