Rutledge v. State of Alabama et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION ADOPTING and ACCEPTING the Magistrate Judge's 51 Report and Recommendation. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 8/30/2016. (JLC)
2016 Aug-30 AM 11:07
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROY MURPHY RUTLEDGE,
STATE OF ALABAMA, et al.,
Case No.: 2:15-CV-0803-VEH-HGD
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on June 28, 2016,
recommending that both of the defendants’ motions for summary judgment be granted
and that this action be dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. 51). The plaintiff filed
objections to the report and recommendation on July 22, 2016.1 (Doc. 52).
The plaintiff’s objections focus on his claims for deliberate indifference to
medical needs under the Eighth Amendment.2 He asserts that both his claim for
deliberate indifference against defendant Nurse Wood and official-capacity claim
Although the plaintiff’s objections were received outside the 14-day time frame for filing
objections, the same are dated July 14, 2016, and thus the court considers the objections timely
The plaintiff concedes his request for injunctive relief was properly dismissed. (Doc. 52 at
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against defendant Warden Thomas for interfering with his medical care should
As to Nurse Wood, the plaintiff states that “clearly a serious medical need was
diagnosed or was so obvious that even a lay person would recognize the necessity for
a doctor’s attention . . . .” (Doc. 52 at 2). He claims that Nurse Wood’s “response” to
his injuries showed a complete disregard to a serious medical need and that his hand,
arm, and back injuries went untreated.3 (Id., at 2-3). However, the evidence
demonstrates that the plaintiff’s back, arm, and knee injuries were documented in the
plaintiff’s medical records and treated. (See e.g., doc. 17-7). Later x-rays of the
plaintiff’s arm found no fracture, dislocation, or swelling. (Doc. 35-1 at 5, 23). The
stab wound to the plaintiff’s back was documented, treated, checked daily, and later
noted to be healed. (Doc. 17-7; doc. 35-1 at 3, 4, 10 and 12).
The plaintiff asserts he should have been hospitalized immediately for “critical
medical care” to his “back, head and arm.” (Doc. 52 at 4). To the extent the plaintiff
is arguing that because he was not hospitalized any care he did receive was
necessarily insufficient, such an argument fails. The plaintiff’s mere belief that he
No mention of a hand injury from this incident appears in any of the medical records or in
any of the plaintiff’s prior pleadings. Rather, he claimed he suffered from right eye complications,
had surgery on his right knee, and still has a severed muscle in his right arm as a result of the attack.
(Doc. 1 at 6; doc. 26 at 5-6).
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required additional or different treatment is insufficient to establish a constitutional
violation. Hamm v. DeKalb Co., 774 F.2d 1567, 1575 (11th Cir. 1985). The plaintiff’s
allegations fall far short of demonstrating any defendant had a subjective knowledge
of a risk of serious harm and disregarded that risk by conduct that was more than
mere negligence. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 737 (11th Cir. 2010). While
the plaintiff’s allegations may suggest negligence or even medical malpractice,
“[a]ccidents, mistakes, negligence, and medical malpractice are not ‘constitutional
violation[s] merely because the victim is a prisoner.’” Harris v. Coweta County, 21
F.3d 388, 393 (11th Cir. 1994) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).
Without showing that Nurse Woods disregarded a risk of which she was aware, the
plaintiff has shown no more than negligence or carelessness. Evans v. St. Lucie
County Jail, 448 F. App’x 971, 976 (11th Cir. 2011) (stating that even medical care
which “leave[s] much to be desired . . . is not enough . . . to support a claim of
The plaintiff has failed to produce any evidence which lends credence to his
claims. Rather, he bases his objection solely on his argument that “the care provided
by establishment of the medical record shows the lack of medical care [so] that a
reasonable jury could find  a violation of the Eighth Amendment.” (Doc. 52 at 5).
Such an argument is no more than a conclusory allegation, devoid of specific facts.
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Nothing in the evidence demonstrates “medical care [that] is ‘so grossly incompetent,
inadequate, or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to
fundamental fairness.’” Adams v. Poag, 61 F.3d 1537, 1544 (11th Cir. 1995) (quoting
Rogers v. Evans, 792 F.2d 1052, 1058 (11th Cir. 1986)). The plaintiff’s mere
allegation that he should have been hospitalized is “‘a classic example of a matter for
medical judgment’ and therefore not an appropriate basis for grounding liability
under the Eighth Amendment.” Adams, 61 F.3d at 1545 (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at
The plaintiff also argues that the lack of treatment for specific injuries at Bibb
Correctional Center is established by the MRI conducted after his transfer to Fountain
Correctional Center. (Doc. 52 at 3-4). The MRI found a fracture in the plaintiff’s
knee. (Doc. 35-1 at 5, 32). It had no bearing on whether the plaintiff received
treatment for hand, arm, and back injuries, as he now asserts. To the extent the
plaintiff is claiming that a more immediate MRI could have found the internal
damage to his knee sooner, the plaintiff has provided no evidence that the delay in
receiving an MRI had any detrimental effect on his treatment. Easley v. Dep’t of
Corr., 590 F. App’x 860, 869 (11th Cir. 2014) (“an inmate who complains that delay
in medical treatment rose to a constitutional violation must place verifying medical
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evidence in the record to establish the detrimental effect of delay in medical treatment
Finally, the plaintiff objects to the finding that sovereign immunity prevents the
plaintiff’s claims against defendant Thomas in his official capacity from proceeding.
Specifically, he argues that “defendants waived the protected immunity when they
knowingly acted in response to Mr. Rutledge[’s] injuries contrary to the Magistrate
contentions on page #11, last paragraph.” (Doc. 52 at 6). The plaintiff offers no
support for his contention that sovereign immunity is waivable through a state
official’s individual actions. Although the plaintiff cites Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194
(2001) in support of his argument, that case concerned qualified immunity, not
sovereign immunity. Moreover, the plaintiff’s complaint asserted claims against
defendant Thomas for the failure to protect him from Mexican gang members and for
policies which contributed to the prison being overcrowded and understaffed. As
noted by the magistrate judge in the report and recommendation, the plaintiff did not
allege Warden Thomas personally participated in any unconstitutional conduct and
no causal connection between any policy of Thomas’s and violation of the plaintiff’s
rights existed. (Doc. 51 at 19-22). The magistrate judge further considered whether
the plaintiff could be stating a claim against Warden Thomas for deliberate
indifference to medical needs and found any such claim failed. (Id., at 29).
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Having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the court
file, including the report and recommendation and plaintiff’s objections thereto, the
magistrate judge’s report is ADOPTED and the recommendation is ACCEPTED.
The court EXPRESSLY FINDS that there are no genuine issues of material fact and
that the defendants are entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law.
Accordingly, the court ORDERS that both of the defendants’ motions for summary
judgment (docs. 20 and 38) are due to be GRANTED and this action DISMISSED
A final judgment will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED this 30th day of August, 2016.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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