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McCray v. Mississippi Department of Corrections

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

May 17, 2018




         Plaintiff Otis Oliver McCray, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) and Dr. Paxton Paige[1] (“MDOC Defendants”), and against contract medical providers Dr. Woods and H.S.A. H. Williamson (“Centurion Defendants”), alleging that they have denied him appropriate medical care. Defendant MDOC has moved to dismiss this action based on immunity, and the remaining Defendants have moved for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. McCray has filed a response in opposition to the motions for summary judgment. Having reviewed the submissions and arguments of the parties, as well as the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendants' motions should be granted.

         I Plaintiff's Allegations & Background Facts

         McCray, an inmate housed at the Marshall County Correctional Facility (“MCCF”), alleges that he suffers with a prolapsed rectum that MDOC refuses to treat with surgery. He also complains that he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in early 2017, and that following his diagnosis, MCCF employees Dr. Woods, Dr. Paxton Paige, and H.S.A. H. Williamson denied him Hepatitis C treatment. He asks the Court to award him monetary damages and order Defendants to provide him with the necessary medical treatment.

         On December 5, 2017, MDOC moved to dismiss this action, alleging that it was immune from suit pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment. See Doc. #26. A motion for summary judgment was subsequently filed by Dr. Paxton Paige, identified by Defendants as “Paxton Paige, ” asserting the defenses of sovereign and qualified immunity. See Doc. #57. On April 16, 2018, Dr. Woods and H.S.A. H. Williamson each filed separate motions for summary judgment. Doc. #60 & Doc. #63. McCray filed his response in opposition to the motions for summary judgment on April 30, 2018. Doc. #70. The Centurion Defendants filed their reply to McCray's response on May 7, 2018. Doc. #73.

         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 Texas, 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (citation and internal quotation mark omitted). “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)).

         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. That is, the non-movant must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Beck, 204 F.3d at 633. 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 (1986), “conclusory allegations, ” Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 871-73 (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 (1990). Therefore, in considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must determine whether the non-moving party's allegations are plausible. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. (emphasis added).

         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]. . . a pure question of law.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381 n.8 (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.

         III Sovereign Immunity

         The MDOC Defendants have asserted the defense of sovereign immunity as to the claims against them in their official capacities.[2] The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution bars suits by private citizens against states in federal courts unless the particular state has waived its immunity or Congress has abrogated the state's sovereign immunity. U.S. Const. Amend XI; Perez v. Region 20 Educ. Service Center, 307 F.3d 318, 326 (5th Cir. 2002). Mississippi has not waived its sovereign immunity. See Miss. Code Ann. §11-46-5(4) (“Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to waive the immunity of the state from suit in federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”). “MDOC is considered an arm of the State of Mississippi” and is immune from suit. Williams v. Miss. Dep't of Corrections, No. 3:12cv259-CWR-FKB, 2012 WL 205210, 1 at *1 (S. D. Miss. June 6, 2012); see also Miss. Code Ann. § 47-5-1, et seq. Accordingly, the MDOC Defendants are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity.[3]

         IV Individual Capacity Claim Against Paxton Paige

         McCray has alleged that Defendants, including Paxton Paige, have denied him necessary medical treatment. However, the competent summary judgment evidence demonstrates that Paige is not a medical doctor and has never had any involvement in McCray's medical treatment. Doc. #57-1. Rather, Paige is the MDOC Health Services Administrator stationed at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (“CMCF”) in Pearl, Mississippi, and has never been stationed at MCCF, where the events giving rise to this lawsuit allegedly occurred. Id. Accordingly, Paige's absence of involvement in any of McCray's medical treatment decisions entitle him to be dismissed from this lawsuit. See, e.g. Thompson v. Steele, 709 F.2d 381, 382 (5th Cir. 1983) (“Personal involvement is an essential element of a civil rights cause of action.”).

         V Denial ...

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