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Evans v. Santos

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

February 14, 2017




         Timothy Evans, an inmate housed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he has been denied medical attention in retaliation for filing a complaint about his living conditions and because of officials' desire to discriminate against him based on his race.[1] Before the Court are a number of motions filed: (1) a motion for summary judgment by Dr. Juan Santos, Angela Brown, Paul Madubuonwu, Freddie Williams, Ms. Leflore, Norma Evans, and LPN Lamar (“Wexford Defendants”), [2] Doc. #187, who at all relevant times were contract medical providers for Wexford Health Sources;[3] (2) a motion for summary judgment by Nathan Harris, Superintendent Earnest Lee, and Co-4 Carla Lofton (“MDOC Defendants”), Doc. #192; (3) Norma's[4] motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process, Doc. #189; (4) Timothy's motion to join Norma's motion to dismiss, Doc. #213; (5)

         Timothy's motion seeking dismissal of the MDOC Defendants, Doc. #214; (6) Timothy's “Motion to Counter Summary Judgement, ” Doc. #215, which the Court construes as a summary judgment motion; and (7) the Wexford Defendants' motion to reschedule trial, Doc. #251.[5] For the reasons below, the Wexford Defendants' motion for summary judgment and the MDOC Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted; Norma's motion to dismiss, and Timothy's motion to join Norma's motion, will be denied as moot; Timothy's motion to dismiss the MDOC Defendants will be denied as moot; Timothy's motion for summary judgment will be denied; and the Wexford Defendants' motion to reschedule trial will be denied as moot.

         I Background and Procedural History

         Timothy arrived at the Mississippi State Penitentiary as a death row inmate in August 2013. He alleges that a new roof was put on his housing unit in July 2014 and that shortly thereafter, water began seeping into his cell. Timothy, who suffers from a number of chronic medical conditions, including back pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”), Hepatitis C, and psoriasis, claims that all of his medical care was terminated on July 21, 2014, approximately one week after he filed a grievance to prison officials about the water leaks. According to Timothy, he is being denied medical care (such as medication, skin biopsies, and annual Hepatitis C screening) in retaliation for his complaints and because he is a member of the Caucasian race.

         At his Spears[6] hearing, Timothy informed the Court that his primary complaint is that he is routinely denied access to his stomach medication. Specifically, he stated that the defendants routinely deny him Prilosec (Omeprazole), [7] which is necessary to prevent severe vomiting and weight loss. Timothy alleges that he has been informed that the medicine is delayed at times due to a “glitch” in the system but believes this is incorrect, as he has been denied medication for several days in August, October, November, and December of 2014, as well as in April of 2015. He claims that his criminal attorney, Alison Steiner, intervened on his behalf to get the medicine until April 5, 2015, when he was notified that he would no longer receive Prilosec and would receive only Rolaids. Timothy alleges to have made an emergency visit to the hospital on May 17, 2015, however, and received Prilosec again the following day. Between the time he was started on only Rolaids to treat his GERD and his hospitalization in May, he alleges that he was repeatedly denied medical attention.

         At the conclusion of his Spears hearing on September 14, 2015, Timothy stated that he was then currently receiving his medication. He has since claimed, however, that the defendants continue to deny him medical care on the basis of racial animus and retaliatory motives. See, e.g., Doc. # 74; Doc. #104; Doc. #203.

         II 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) (citation omitted).

         “If the moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, that party must support its motion with credible evidence that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial.” McKee v. CBF Corp., 299 F. App'x 426, 428 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 331)). 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, and summary judgment must be denied. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         III Medical Care

         Timothy's constitutional right to medical care was abridged only if officials acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, as deliberate indifference to such 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). Under this standard, a state actor is not liable under § 1983 unless the plaintiff alleges facts which, if true, would 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.

         A plaintiff cannot demonstrate a prison official's violation of the “deliberate indifference” standard by pointing to negligent conduct. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Oliver v. Collins, 914 F.2d 56, 60 (5th Cir. 1990). Even if physicians misdiagnose or mistreat the plaintiff's condition in what amounts to medical malpractice, a prisoner cannot sustain a § 1983 claim without a showing of deliberate indifference. See, e.g., Varnado v. Lynaugh, 920 F.2d 320, 321 (5th Cir. 1991) (medical malpractice alone does not support § 1983 cause of action). Nor is it sufficient for a plaintiff to argue that additional or different medical treatment should have been given, as a plaintiff's disagreement with the course of medical treatment chosen will not support a claim of deliberate indifference. Norton v. Dimazana, 122 F.3d 286, 292 (5th Cir. 2001); Gibbs v.

         Grimmette, 254 F.3d 545, 549 (5th Cir. 2001). Rather, liability under the deliberate indifference standard requires the plaintiff to produce evidence “that prison officials >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.'” Davidson v. Tex. Dept. of Crim. J., 91 F. App'x 963, 965 (5th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted); see Gobert v. Caldwell, 463 F.3d 339, 346 (5th Cir. 2006) (deliberate indifference requires inmate to show prison officials engaged in conduct that “clearly evince[s] a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs”).

         IV Wexford Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Timothy alleges that he began experiencing the denial of medication and medical services in July 2014. The Wexford Defendants, all of whom were employed by Wexford Health Sources and provided medical care to inmates in MDOC custody at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, [8] have moved for summary judgment arguing, among other things, that Timothy “has regularly been treated, and has been given all other necessary medical services.”[9] Doc. #188 at 8.

         In support of their motion, the Wexford Defendants submitted the sworn affidavits of Dr. Santos and Angela Brown, which attest that Timothy's numerous health problems have been appropriately treated with a variety of medications and by a number of medical providers. See Doc. #187-1; Doc. #187-2. In particular, Dr. Santos maintains that Timothy's conditions are regularly monitored in the various chronic care clinics and that Timothy receives various medications, including Prilosec for his stomach complaints, Zocor for elevated lipid levels, Methotrexate for arthritic conditions, Keflex for psoriasis, antacids, Ibuprofen, and Tylenol. Doc. #187-1 at ¶ 4. Dr. Santos also attests that Timothy's “lab tests and liver function tests do not indicate the need for additional treatment for hepatitis C.” Id. at ¶ 5.

         Also as an exhibit to their motion, the Wexford Defendants filed, under seal, Timothy's medical records through August 27, 2015. Doc. #202. These records, which include the treatment and/or medication updates Timothy received after the alleged denial of medical care began on July 21, 2014, show that from July 19, 2014, through April 13, 2015, Timothy submitted at least fifteen “sick call” requests for medical treatment, the majority of which were requests for medication. Id. at 38-55. According to his medical records, Timothy received the following treatment, as summarized, after July 21, 2014:

July 22, 2014: Psychiatric visit. Id. at 155-56.
July 23, 2014: Psychiatric medications updated. Id. at 156.
July 24, 2014: Dental follow-up to complete dentures. Id. at 157-58.
July 24, 2014: Medical visit for psoriasis and eczema; Methotrexate started and psoriasis medication refilled. Id. at 159-60.
Aug. 1, 2014: TED hose (for varicose veins) ordered by Nurse Brown and approved by Dr. Madubuonwu. Id. at 164, 166.
Aug. 1, 2014: Placed on suicide precaution at Unit 42 hospital following emergency psychiatric visit by Leflore. Id. at 164-65.
Aug. 1, 2014: Enrolled in psoriasis chronic care clinic. Id. at 167.
Aug. 2, 2014: Pharmacy faxed pantoprazole sodium[10] refill. Id. at 176.
Aug. 5, 2014: Psychiatric medicine changed. Id. at 189.
Aug. 7, 2014: Treated for sick-call request previous day; Dr. Santos ordered Prilosec; 60-day prescription faxed to pharmacy. Id. at 201, 204.
Aug. 13, 2014: Medication orders refilled by Dr. Madubuonwu, including a 60-day supply of Prilosec. Id. at 202-03.
Aug. 14, 2014: Treated following August 11th sick call request for back pain medication refills. Dr. Santos refaxed medications, as medications were initially sent to wrong pharmacy. X-rays for back and spine ordered. Id. at 205-06.
Aug. 20, 2014: Mental health office visit with Leflore. Timothy reported he is currently receiving all medications. Id. at 209.
Aug. 21, 2014: Follow-up for eczema/psoriasis with Dr. Santos; new x-ray ordered. Id. at 210-11.
Sept. 2, 2014: Seen by medical after complaint lodged that Timothy's stomach medicine runs out on
Sept. 13, 2014; nurse noted computer showed his medication was ordered. Id. at 215.
Sept. 4, 2014: Received dentures. Id. at 216-17.
Sept. 4, 2014: Treated at Hepatitis chronic care clinic; labs reviewed; pantoprazole sodium prescription discontinued and Prilosec prescription added. Id. at 219-23.
Sept. 11, 2014: Attended chronic care clinics, including Hepatitis. Id. at 227-31.
Oct. 8, 2014: Mental health treatment plan formulated by Leflore. Id. at
Oct. 8, 2014: Sick call visit; medications received; referred to doctor. Id. at 236.
Oct. 9, 2014: Seen by physician for complaint about spine; doctor ordered copy of Timothy's latest TSPINE x-ray. Id. at 238.
Oct. 10, 2014: Mental health office visit. Id. at 240.
Oct. 14, 2014: 90-day psychiatric visit. Id. at 242.
Oct. 14, 2014: Psychiatric medication update. Id. at 243.
Oct. 16, 2014: Blood pressure check; flu vaccine administered. Id. at 244-45
Oct. 16, 2014: Sick call visit regarding spine issues/psoriasis; Dr. Santos updated Timothy's medications to add Naproxen and to refill cream. Id. at 245-46.
Oct. 23, 2014: Sick call visit for back pain; Dr. Santos ordered Naproxen. Id. at 248.
Oct. 30, 2014: Blood pressure check follow-up; Dr. Madubuonwu ordered Timothy be brought in for walking stick and evaluation of back pain. Id. at 249.
Oct. 31, 2014: Dr. Santos evaluated Timothy's pack pain; removed Naproxen prescription and added Excedrin to medications; ordered Timothy be relocated ...

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