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Wood v. Desoto County Sheriff's Department

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

May 24, 2017

DANIEL WOOD PLAINTIFF
v.
DESOTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This m atter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner complaint of Daniel Wood, who challenges the conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court notes that the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this suit. The plaintiff has brought the instant case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action against “[e]very person” who under color of state authority causes the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants have filed three motions [77], [121], [140] for summary judgment, each of which has been fully briefed. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the motions by the defendants for summary judgment will be granted, and judgment will be entered for the defendants in all respects.

         The Plaintiff's Remaining Claims

         Mr. Wood's allegations occurred during the time he spent at the DeSoto County Jail awaiting prosecution on criminal charges beginning July 2, 2014. One claim remaining in this case is that defendants Chad Wicker, April Box, and Dr. Kenneth Thompson failed to provide the plaintiff with adequate medical care on four occasions. First, Wood alleges that defendants Dr. Thompson and “Head Nurse” April Box “refused to give antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications” during the first month of his stay at the DeSoto County Jail. Doc. 22, Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. Second, Wood claims that “during the 29-day placement on suicide watch (from September to October 2014)” he was provided no medical treatment. Id. Wood's third claim of denial of medical treatment is that “the tower officer would not open his door to receive his medications from the on-duty nurse (from July to August 2015).” Id. According to Wood, “during med pass, the tower officer would open the cells of every inmate on the medication list except him.” Id. Wood's fourth claim regarding medical treatment is that defendant Chad Wicker improperly removed him from suicide watch. Docs. 52, 54.

         Wood also alleges that during the “29-day placement on suicide watch (from September to October 2014), ” there was water in his cell from a leaky toilet and that he suffered periods of extended cold. Doc. 22. He alleges that defendant Chad Wicker should have noted the conditions and had them corrected.

         Wood finally alleges that Chad Wicker “allow[ed] [Wood's] legal and religious mail but not any personal mail from family or friends.” Doc. 60.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) and (c)(1). “The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the nonmoving party to carry its burden.” Beck v. Texas State Bd. of Dental Examiners, 204 F.3d 629, 633 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1066 (1988)).

         After a proper motion for summary judgment is made, the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Beck, 204 F.3d at 633; Allen v. Rapides Parish School Bd., 204 F.3d 619, 621 (5th Cir. 2000); Ragas v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir. 1998). Substantive law determines what is material. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id., at 248. If the non-movant sets forth specific facts in support of allegations essential to his claim, a genuine issue is presented. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 327. “Where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Federal Savings and Loan, Inc. v. Krajl, 968 F.2d 500, 503 (5thCir. 1992).

         The facts are reviewed drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Allen, 204 F.3d at 621; PYCA Industries, Inc. v. Harrison County Waste Water Management Dist., 177 F.3d 351, 161 (5th Cir. 1999); Banc One Capital Partners Corp. v. Kneipper, 67 F.3d 1187, 1198 (5th Cir. 1995). However, this is so only when there is “an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994); see Edwards v. Your Credit, Inc., 148 F.3d 427, 432 (5th Cir. 1998). In the absence of proof, the court does not “assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (emphasis omitted).

         The very purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings and assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Advisory Committee Note to the 1963 Amendments to Rule 56. Indeed, “[t]he amendment is not intended to derogate from the solemnity of the pleadings[;] [r]ather, it recognizes that despite the best efforts of counsel to make his pleadings accurate, they may be overwhelmingly contradicted by the proof available to his adversary.” Id. The non-moving party (the plaintiff in this case), must come forward with proof to support each element of his claim. The plaintiff cannot meet this burden with “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986), “conclusory allegations, ” Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 871-73, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3180 (1990), “unsubstantiated assertions, ” Hopper v. Frank, 16 F.3d 92 (5th Cir. 1994), or by a mere “scintilla” of evidence, Davis v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 14 F.3d 1082 (5th Cir. 1994). It would undermine the purposes of summary judgment if a party could defeat such a motion simply by “replac[ing] conclusory allegations of the complaint or answer with conclusory allegations of an affidavit.” Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3188 (1990). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must determine whether the non-moving party's allegations are plausible. Matsushita, supra. (emphasis added). “[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim is context-specific, requiring the reviewing court to draw on its experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (discussing plausibility of claim as a requirement to survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, once the court “has determined the relevant set of facts and drawn all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party to the extent supportable by the record, [the ultimate decision becomes] purely a question of law.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381 (2007) (emphasis in original). “When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on the motion for summary judgment.” Id. at 380.

         Undisputed Material Facts

         The facts set forth below are not in dispute, as they are supported by overwhelming documentary evidence in the record. The plaintiff relies almost exclusively on statements in his motions and pleadings, while the defendants have provided authenticated documentary evidence, often from multiple sources. For the purposes of the instant motions for summary judgment, the court will construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (the plaintiff in this case).

         Facts Regarding Denial of Medical Treatment

         Wood first alleges that the defendants failed to treat him “for the first month of his incarceration at the DeSoto County Jail.” Report and Recommendation, Doc. 22 at 5. Mr. Wood alleged that he “received no medication for anxiety and depression for a month.” Id. at 1. Wood mistakenly states that defendant April Box was the “Head Nurse” and that she refused to give antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.” Id. at 2. Wood entered the DeSoto County Adult Detention Facility on July 2, 2014. April Box is not a nurse, but a secretary. She states:

I work at the DeSoto County, Mississippi Adult Detention Center . . . . My job title is Medical Administrator. I prepare paperwork, do filing, order supplies, set up appointments, process grievances, and perform general secretarial work. I worked at this job in 2014 and 2015 when inmate Daniel Nathan Wood, also called Daniel Wood, was held at the Detention Center. I prepared a summary of medical treatment provided to Wood attached as pages 34-35.
I am not now and I have never been a nurse. I perform secretarial and clerical support functions for health care services or providers in the Detention Center.

Doc. 77, Exh. 1, pages 34-35. Ms. Box also states “I am not now and I have never been a nurse. I perform secretarial and clerical support functions for health care services or providers in the Detention Center.” In addition, she states that from

July through August 2014 inmate Daniel Wood received health care services at the Detention Center. This covers the first month of his incarceration at the Detention Center. Wood arrived at the Detention Center on July 2, 2014. He was provided treatment on July 2, 2014 by being placed on suicide protocol. See page 1. Wood was again placed in suicide protocol for proper treatment on July 8, 2014. See page 2. Region 4 was contacted and a hold placed on Wood. Region 4 refers to a regional health care facility. Region 4 was again contacted for Wood on July 23, 2014. See page 3.

Doc. 77-1 at 1. Further:

[i]n July through August 2014 inmate Daniel Wood received health care. See pages 8-11 for multiple entries of health care doctors visit history. See pages 14-27 for the medication dispensed to Wood history and specifically pages 14-17 for July through August 2014. The medication detail record pages 28-29 reflect the prescriptions obtained for Wood and dispensed. For July through August 2014 see entries on page 28 from July 9, 2014 through August 15, 2014.

Id. at 2.

         Though the defendants requested Wood's medical records from Parkwood, they did not receive those records:

Wood claimed he had been treated at health care facility Parkwood before incarceration at the Detention Center. He was provided a consent form and signed same so the Detention Center could get a list of current medications. This was sent to Parkwood on or about July 2, 2014. See page 16. Parkwood was contacted but had not sent health care records to the Detention Center on Wood by July 9, 2014. On this date Wood began a prescription for Risperdal ordered by Dr. Thompson. See my entry at p. 30 first paragraph. See p. 36 for July 9, 2014 prescription medicine from Funderburk's Pharmacy ...

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