Womble v. Forniss et al
OPINION AND ORDER as follows: (1) The 19 Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Wombles claim that Defendant Forniss acted negligently and with deliberate indifference to his health by failing to supervise or train medical staff be GRANTED in favor of Defendant Forniss as further set out in the opinion and order. (2) The 19 Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to the remaining claims be DENIED at this time as further set out in the opinion and order. Signed by Honorable Judge Terry F. Moorer on 8/25/2014. (dmn, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JOHNSON DUSTIN WOMBLE,
LEON FORNISS, et al.,
CASE NO. 2:13cv607-TFM
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Justin Dustin Womble (“Womble”), filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on
August 12, 2013, in the Circuit Court of Elmore County, Alabama, challenging the adequacy
of medical treatment provided to him for chronic hematuria during his incarceration at Staton
Correctional Facility (“Staton”).
Womble names Warden Leon Forniss (“Defendant
Forniss”) and Corizon, Inc., formerly doing business as Correctional Medical Services
(“Corizon”), as defendants. Womble seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
The defendants timely removed the action to this court on the basis of federal question
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The court has jurisdiction of this case on that
basis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) and M.D. Ala. LR 73.1, the parties have consented
to a United States Magistrate Judge conducting all proceedings in this case and ordering the
entry of final judgment.
Now pending before the court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendant Forniss. (Doc. No. 19). Upon consideration of the Motion, the Response, and the
evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, the court concludes that the Motion for
Summary Judgment is due to be granted in part and denied in part.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
“Summary judgment is appropriate ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no
genuine [dispute]1 as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.’” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th
Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citation omitted); FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c) (Summary judgment “should
be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits
show that there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.”). The party moving for summary judgment “always bears
the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and
affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by
presenting evidence which would be admissible at trial indicating there is no dispute of
Effective December 1, 2010, the language of Rule 56(a) was amended. The word
“dispute” replaced the word “issue” to “better reflect the focus of a summary-judgment
determination.” FED.R.CIV.P. 56(a), Advisory Committee Notes, 2010 Amendments.
material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in
support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at
Once the defendant meets his evidentiary burden and demonstrates the absence of a
genuine dispute of material fact, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, with
appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to her case exists.
Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324;
FED.R.CIV.P. 56(e)(2) (“When a motion for summary judgment is properly made and
supported, an opposing party may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own
pleading; rather, its response must . . . set out specific facts showing a genuine [dispute] for
trial.”). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces
evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor.
Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263.
For summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant.
United States v. One Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363
F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). What is material is determined by the substantive law
applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Lofton v. Sec’y of Dep’t of Children &
Family Servs., 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Only factual disputes that are material
under the substantive law governing the case will preclude entry of summary judgment.”).
“The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that
factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case.” McCormick v. City
of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). To demonstrate
a genuine dispute of material fact, the party opposing summary judgment “must do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party,
there is no ‘genuine [dispute] for trial.’” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co, Ltd., v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In cases where the evidence before the court which is
admissible on its face or which can be reduced to admissible form indicates that there is no
genuine dispute of material fact and that the party moving for summary judgment is entitled
to it as a matter of law, summary judgment is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-324
(summary judgment appropriate where pleadings, evidentiary materials and affidavits before
the court show there is no genuine dispute as to a requisite material fact).
A. The Failure to Train and Supervise Medical Personnel
Womble asserts Defendant Forniss negligently, intentionally, and/or deliberately
failed to train and supervise “those responsible for providing Womble with necessary
medical treatment” at Staton. (Pl’s Comp., pp. 5, 8). To the extent Womble asserts
Defendant Forniss failed to train or supervise medical personnel, the assertions against the
Warden entitle Womble to no relief.
The law does not impose upon correctional officials a duty to
directly supervise health care personnel, to set treatment policy
for the medical staff or to intervene in treatment decisions where
they have no actual knowledge that intervention is necessary to
prevent a constitutional wrong. See Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550
F.2d 926 (4th Cir. 1977) (a medical treatment claim cannot be
brought against managing officers of a prison absent allegations
that they were personally connected with the alleged denial of
treatment). Moreover, “supervisory [correctional] officials are
entitled to rely on medical judgments made by medical
professionals responsible for prisoner care. See, e.g., Durmer v.
O’Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 69 (3rd Cir. 1993); White v. Farrier,
849 F.2d 322, 327 (8th Cir. 1988).” Williams v. Limestone
County, Ala., 198 Fed.Appx. 893, 897 (11th Cir. 2006).
Cameron v. Allen, et al., 525 F.Supp.2d 1302, 1307 (M.D. Ala. 2007). The court therefore
concludes that Womble has failed to present a genuine dispute of material fact with respect
to his claim that Defendant negligently, intentionally, and/or deliberately failed to train or
supervise medical personnel. The Motion for Summary Judgment on this claim is due to be
granted in favor of Defendant Forniss.
The Failure to Intervene or Grant a Transfer Request
Womble contends that Defendant Forniss acted negligently and with deliberate
indifference to his health when he failed to intervene regarding the medical treatment
provided by Corizon medical personnel for his chronic hematuria. Specifically, he asserts
that Defendant Forniss should have ensured that he receive additional medical treatment,
such as a cystoscopy, and that his failure to transfer him to a medical specialist outside Staton
Correctional Facility delayed his diagnosis of Grade II papillary transitional cell carcinoma.
“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to ... § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead
that each Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has
violated the Constitution.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1948
(2009); Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir. 2003) (“[S]upervisory officials are
not liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the basis of
respondeat superior or vicarious liability.”); Marsh v. Butler County, 268 F.3d 1014, 1035
(11th Cir. 2001) (supervisory official “can have no respondeat superior liability for a section
1983 claim.”); Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228, 1234 (11th Cir.2003) (concluding
supervisory officials are not liable on the basis of respondeat superior or vicarious liability);
Hartley v. Parnell, 193 F.3d 1263, 1269 (11th Cir. 1999), citing Belcher v. City of Foley, 30
F.3d 1390, 1396 (11th Cir. 1994) (42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not allow a plaintiff to hold
supervisory officials liable for the actions of their subordinates under either a theory of
respondeat superior or vicarious liability). “Absent vicarious liability, each Government
official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 677, 129 S.Ct. 1949. Thus, liability for medical treatment provided to Womble
could attach to Defendant Forniss only if he “personally participate[d] in the alleged
unconstitutional conduct or [if] there is a causal connection between [his] actions ... and the
alleged constitutional deprivation.” Cottone, 326 F.3d at 1360.
Womble asserts that Defendant Forniss was personally aware of his medical problem
and that his medical requests and grievances were ignored by both medical and prison
officials and that the warden refused to grant a transfer to an outside specialists despite the
medical staff’s recommendation.
At this juncture, the court is unable to make a
determination whether Defendant Forniss acted with deliberate indifference to Womble’s
health by failing to intervene and/or by refusing to transfer him to a medical specialist outside
the prison because the record is insufficiently developed. As support for his Motion for
Summary Judgment, Defendant Forniss provides nothing more than his own affidavit and
select parts of his and Womble’s deposition transcript. During the plaintiff’s deposition,
Womble stated that, in addition to filing grievances and sick call slips, he approached
Defendant Forniss in the prison yard on at least two occasions and “expressed that . . . I had
been experiencing pain, blood in the urine, I had been through all of the proper procedures
of sick calls, grievances, I had spoke with various people, I wasn’t getting any results [and]
could he help in the matter.” (Pl’s Affid., p. 100). Defendant Forniss testified that the
Warden is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate protocol is in place in order for
inmates to request medical treatment. Specifically, Defendant Forniss stated that his
responsibility “to ensure that [prisoners] get medical treatment is to ensure that they follow
proper protocol to get medical treatment. We make sure it’s available for them.” (Def’s
Dep., p. 8). He explained that the proper protocol is for an inmate to complete a sick call
request slip and, “[i]f they felt that didn’t get [the appropriate protocol], then they have other
protocols they can follow as well,” such as the grievance procedure. (Id., pp. 10-11). In
addition, he acknowledged that a prison medical provider notifies the Warden before sending
a prisoner “somewhere else.” (Id., p. 26). Despite testimony indicating it is the Warden’s
responsibility to ensure that a certain protocol is in place, Defendant Warden provided no
evidentiary materials, such as the plaintiff’s medical request slips, grievances, or other
documentation traditionally provided in cases where claims of deliberate indifference are
asserted against prison officials, as support for his position that the appropriate procedures
were implemented by prison staff, were available to Womble, and were or were not
The evidentiary materials are simply too deficient for the court to make an
educated decision at this time. This court therefore concludes that Defendant Forniss has
failed to demonstrate that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and the Motion for
Summary Judgment with respect to Womble’s claims that Defendant Forniss acted with
deliberate indifference to his health by failing to intervene and/or grant a transfer to a medical
specialist outside the facility is due to be denied at this time.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED as follows:
The Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Womble’s claim that
Defendant Forniss acted negligently and with deliberate indifference to his
health by failing to supervise or train medical staff be GRANTED in favor of
The Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to the remaining claims be
DENIED at this time.
Done this 25th day of August, 2014.
/s/Terry F. Moorer
TERRY F. MOORER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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