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Chandler v. Wexford Health

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

September 28, 2018




         Before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Doc. #45.

         I Procedural History and Relevant Background

         On or about August 11, 2015, Joey Montrell Chandler filed a complaint in this Court against Wexford Health; the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”); MDOC officials Marshall Fisher, Christopher Epps, and Jerry Williams; and physicians Juan Santos, Paul Madubuonwu, John Hochburg, Lorenzo Cabe, “Dr. Lehman, ” “Dr. Brown, ” and Gloria Perry. Doc. #1 at 1-2, 5-6. At the time he filed his complaint, Chandler was incarcerated at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi. Id. at 1.

         In his complaint, Chandler alleged the defendants denied him adequate care for several medical conditions, including back pain, foot pain, and a bacterial infection allegedly causing diarrhea and “fecal leakage.” Id. at 3-4, 14-16. On or about March 9, 2016, Chandler filed a motion to amend seeking to add Centurion of Mississippi as a defendant. Doc. #9. The motion to amend was granted on April 13, 2016. Doc. #11.

         A Spears[1] hearing was held on April 14, 2016. Doc. #12. On July 20, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge David A. Sanders issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that Chandler's “claims regarding denial of adequate medical treatment should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In addition, [Chandler's] claim of retaliation against Emmitt Sparkman should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.”[2] Doc. #16 at 10.

         Chandler acknowledged receipt of the Report and Recommendation on July 26, 2016. Doc. #18. On or about July 27, 2016, Chandler filed an untitled document addressed to Judge Sanders stating:

On July 21, 2016 at about 9:00 am Supt. Earnest Lee allow Lt Nathan Harris to take my walking cane for no reason on penal logical interest. This action was ill will because of my ongoing litigation. Attach is a copy of ARP in which I will give MDOC 14 days to return my medical prescribed can used during SI Joint flares. If MDOC fails to comply I will file motion in the court immediately because other inmates are having to help around.

Doc. #17 at 1.[3]

         On or about October 8, 2016, Chandler filed a document titled, “Plaintiff's Supplemental Objections.” Doc. #19. On or about February 2, 2017, Chandler filed a “Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint Objection.” Doc. #20. Lastly, on or about March 1, 2017, Chandler filed a “2nd Objection Amendment under Rule 15(a), ” which in part is a motion to amend. Doc. #21.

         On July 11, 2017, this Court rejected the Report and Recommendation as moot, granted Chandler's motion to amend, and directed him to file “a single amended complaint with the amendments allowed by this order.” Doc. #22 at 4. On or about August 4, 2017, Chandler filed an amended complaint stating that he “would request the court to add Defendants: Superintendant Earnest Lee at Parchman State Prison and Medical Director Hendrik Kuiper and to maintain all initial defendants.” Doc. #24 at 1. On February 15, 2018, Judge Sanders granted Chandler's motion to amend but noted that “[a]s the amended complaint neither names any other defendants nor describes any other claims, the plaintiff must intend for his ‘amended complaint' to be a supplement to his original complaint.” Doc. #26 at 1. On March 7, 2018, Judge Sanders ordered that process issue for Wexford Health, Santos, Madubuonwu, Perry, Brown, Cabe, Hochburg, Lehman, and Kuiper.[4] Doc. #30.

         In his amended complaint, Chandler claims that the defendants failed to provide him with adequate medical care for (1) sacroiliac (“SI”) joint dysfunction, which causes pain in his lower back, leg, and foot; (2) bone spurs and plantar fasciitis;[5] (3) a recurring infection of his tonsil; (4) costochondritis, [6] which causes pain in his chest and shoulder; and (5) shoulder pain (which medical providers suspect is related to costochondritis). Doc. #24 at 4. Chandler also claims that the defendants failed to respond to his letters and grievances regarding his conditions and ignored medical orders. Id. at 18-19. Further, Chandler alleges that Lee improperly searched his belongings and forced him and other unwell inmates to carry a heavy load of around seventy-five pounds, despite medical orders that Chandler not lift more than ten pounds, id. at 14-15; and that medical personnel laughed at his condition and suggested that they “cut his head off to relieve him of pain and litigation, ” id. at 20-21.

         On June 6, 2018, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. #45. On or about June 20, 2018, Chandler responded in opposition, Doc. #52; and eight days later, the defendants replied, Doc. #55.

         II Standard of Review

          “Summary judgment is proper only when the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Luv N' Care, Ltd. v. Groupo Rimar, 844 F.3d 442, 447 (5th Cir. 2016). “A factual issue is genuine if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party and material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Burton v. Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., 798 F.3d 222, 226 (5th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a court must “consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Edwards v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 841 F.3d 360, 363 (5th Cir. 2016).

         In seeking summary judgment, “[t]he moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Nola Spice Designs, L.L.C. v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks and alterations omitted). If the moving party satisfies this burden, “the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). “Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party satisfies this initial burden by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celtic Marine Corp. v. James C. Justice Cos., Inc., 760 F.3d 477, 481 (5th Cir. 2014).

         III Analysis

         Essentially, Chandler claims that the defendants provided him with inadequate medical treatment for several of his ailments which evinced deliberate indifference and that several of his grievances complaining of his improper treatment were rejected. See Doc. #24 at 4, 8, 18-19.Specifically, Chandler claims he endured an unsuccessful tonsillectomy, id. at 6; a delayed referral to specialists and prison medical staff's refusal to follow specialists' treatment plans, id. at 7-10, 13; generalized delays in providing medical treatment, id. at 11-12; carrying seventy-five pounds of weight after prison security demanded he pack and move his property despite medical professionals' order that he not lift more than ten pounds, id. at 14-17; improper handcuffing and confiscation of his walking cane, id. at 17; doctors' joking that they should “cut his head off, ” id. at 21; and the failure to prescribe him the proper medication, id. at 23.

         A. No Constitutional Right to Prison Administrative Grievance Procedure

         Chandler brings this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action against every person who, under color of state authority, causes the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws ….” To begin, there is no constitutional entitlement to the existence-or adequacy-of prison grievance procedures. See, e.g., Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430-31 (7th Cir. 1996) (any right to inmate grievance procedure is procedural rather than substantive right and thus state's inmate grievance procedures do not give rise to liberty interest protected by due process clause); Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994) (no constitutional right to participate in grievance procedures); Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728, 729 (8th Cir. 1991) (same). The Fifth Circuit has held that “a prisoner has a liberty interest only in freedoms from restraint imposing atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Geiger v. Jowers, 404 F.3d 371, 374 (5th Cir. 2005) (alterations and quotation marks omitted). A prisoner “does not have a federally protected liberty interest in having these grievances resolved to his satisfaction.” Id.

         To the extent Chandler challenges the adequacy of the prison grievance process, including the thoroughness of the investigation of his grievances or the lack of official response to them, those allegations will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

         B. Statute of Limitations

         “Because no specified federal statute of limitations exists for § 1983 suits, federal courts borrow the forum state's general or residual personal-injury limitations period, … which in Mississippi is three years.” Edmonds v. Oktibbeha Cty., 675 F.3d 911, 916 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49). However, “[f]ederal law governs when a cause of action under § 1983 accrues.” Redburn v. City of Victoria, 898 F.3d 486, 496 (5th Cir. 2018). Under federal law, “[t]he limitations period begins to run when the plaintiff becomes aware that he has suffered an injury or has sufficient information to know that he has been injured.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). In this case, Chandler became aware of the level of his medical care at the time he received it or should have received it.

         The Clerk of the Court docketed Chandler's original complaint on August 13, 2015; he signed it on August 11, 2015. Doc. #1 at 6. Under the prison mailbox rule, a prisoner's federal complaint is deemed filed when he delivers the petition to prison officials for mailing to the district court. Spotville v. Cain, 149 F.3d 374, 376-78 (5th Cir. 1998) (relying on Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988), and its progeny). The Court presumes Chandler delivered his complaint to prison officials on the date he signed it-August 11, 2015.[7] Thus, any claims arising before August 11, 2012-three years before Chandler signed his complaint-would fall outside the statute of limitations for a case filed under § 1983.[8] For this reason, Chandler's claims ...

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