Johnson v. St Clair Correctional Facility
MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Chief Judge Karon O Bowdre on 9/16/15. (SAC )
2015 Sep-16 PM 03:53
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
AARON LAMONT JOHNSON,
) Case No. 4:12-cv-01899-KOB-JEO
SAINT CLAIR CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY, et al.,
This pro se prisoner case filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 comes before the
court on motions for summary judgment filed by defendants Corizon Health, Inc.,
Warden Carter Davenport and Prisoner Commissioner Thomas as to the plaintiff’s
claims of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs; specifically, his skin
disorders. (Docs. 45-46). The plaintiff filed a response to the motions, and included
within the response request for additional discovery. (Doc. 51).
I. Pertinent Procedural History
The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on July 13, 2015,
recommending that the plaintiff’s motion for leave to conduct additional discovery
be denied, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment be granted, and this case
be dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. 52). The plaintiff filed objections to factual and
legal recommendations in the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation on July
30, 2015. (Doc. 55).
The plaintiff’s objections to the magistrate judge’s factual findings and
denial of the motion for leave to conduct additional discovery
The plaintiff complains his skin disorder began prior to late 2010, and argues
the magistrate judge failed to order the defendants to produce records that would
corroborate his position. (Id. at 2). This objection is without merit because the
magistrate judge accepted as true those factual allegations offered by the plaintiff to
support his assertion that his skin difficulties began prior to late 2010. (Doc. 52 at
The plaintiff also contends the magistrate judge made false factual findings
regarding the ongoing nature of his skin condition. (Doc. 55 at 2). This objection
lacks merit because the plaintiff did not dispute the content or validity of the medical
records examined by the magistrate judge in this portion of his report and
recommendation. (Doc. 52 at 7-8) (citing Docs. 46-6 at 68-70 and 46-7 at 1-19).
Moreover, the magistrate judge expressly found that the plaintiff’s skin condition was
ongoing and continuous while he was an inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility
from 2006 until his transfer to W.E. Donaldson Correctional (WEDCF) Facility on
September 26, 2012. (Id. at 7, 16).
Next, the plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge’s report that he refused to be
seen in chronic care four times in 2011 and three times in 2012; refused physical
examination once in 2011 and twice in 2012; refused labs for an annual physical in
2011; and refused recommended lab work in 2012. (Doc. 55 at 2-3). The plaintiff
asserts these fact findings are contradicted by “page 5” of his affidavit, where he
attested that DOC officers refused to allow him to attend some of his appointments,
and that Corizon employees have a practice of failing to properly record the refusals.
(Id. at 3). However, the court records show no such affidavit. The plaintiff submitted
an affidavit in opposition to the summary judgment (doc. 51 at 6-10), but that
affidavit does not include any information about the DOC officers’ alleged refusal to
allow him to attend some appointments and did not refute the validity of the medical
records showing the non-compliance at issue.
The plaintiff also objects to the report on the grounds that he submitted an
affidavit testifying “he was still experiencing pain due to his skin disorder not being
cured after all on site treatment failed over at least a nine (9) year period.” (Doc. 55
at 2). To the extent this assertion includes any time period before July 2014, the
magistrate judge assumed discomfort from the disorder in his report (doc. 52 at 113
12) based on the medical records, and for the period thereafter, the plaintiff made no
such declaration in any affidavit submitted to the court.
The plaintiff further contends he filed an affidavit stating that he signed up for
sick call and filed a grievance in April 2015, asking to be reexamined by Dr.
Donahue, the outside dermatologist, but “[d]efendant [Corizen] Hugh Hood
personally denied and refuse[d] to have Plaintiff treated by Dr. Donahue as [Dr.
Donahue] ordered Plaintiff returned to him if the treatment prescribed failed.” (Doc.
55 at 4). Again, and contrary to his objections, the plaintiff did not make the above
attestation in any affidavit filed with the court.
Moreover, in July 2014, when Dr. Donahue examined the plaintiff and ordered
that he be treated with Triamcinolone ointment for 30 days, his instructions were for
the plaintiff to return if he did not improve within six weeks. (Doc. 46-4 at 55). The
medical records generated at WEDCF between July 2014 and March 23, 2015 (the
most recent date produced by the defendant), the content validity of which the
plaintiff does not dispute, show that the plaintiff requested no medical attention for
his skin disorders nor was any afforded to him during that time period, with perhaps
the exception of a 30 day period in January 2015. (See Doc. 46-3 at 39 (plaintiff was
prescribed Clindamycin soon after his release from the hospital for renal failure, but
no notations as to why the medication was prescribed at that time)).
Finally, the plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge’s report regarding the fact
that he disputes Dr. Hood’s assertion that he was hospitalized for drug addiction.
(Doc. 55 at 4). Although the plaintiff now takes issue with Dr. Hood’s “flat out lie,”
he did not do so prior to the entry of the report and recommendation. (Id.) In any
event, the medical records do not support Dr. Hood’s statement, and the issue is
immaterial and irrelevant to the plaintiff’s claims.
As for the plaintiff’s objections to the magistrate judge’s recommendation that
his request for additional discovery be denied (doc. 55 at 10-12), the court
OVERRULES those objections. The court acknowledges that the plaintiff alleged
and the magistrate judge noted some missing records, but also acknowledges that the
magistrate judge accepted as true the plaintiff’s version of the facts supporting his
claims against the defendants.
B. Legal Objections
The plaintiff argues the magistrate judge did not “apply the correct standard of
law to the facts and the evidence.” (Id. at 5). He cites City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik,
485 U.S. 112 (1988), in which the Supreme Court acknowledged it had “long
recognized that a plaintiff may be able to prove the existence of a widespread practice
that, although not authorized by written law or express municipal policy, is ‘so
permanent and well settled as to constitute a “custom or usage” with the force of
law.’” 485 U.S. at 187 (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167–168
Prior to the current objections, the plaintiff declared Corizon Health, Inc.,
medical personnel informed him that he would not be referred to an outside health
care provider because the Alabama Department of Corrections and Corizon had an
agreement to deny such treatment absent a life threatening condition. (Doc. 51 at 89). As pointed out by the magistrate judge,
[i]n the operative amended complaints, the plaintiff alleged the
defendants “failed to have him examined and treated by an outside
specialist for his serious medical condition of painful, itchy rashes and
boils” when “onsite treatment failed.” (Docs 17 at 4; 34 at 2). He “sent
numerous grievances and sick-call slips to the three defendants[,]” but
they “refused outside examination, diagnosis and efficacious treatment
they could not provide.” (Doc. 34 at 2).
After the defendants filed their special reports, the plaintiff claims
“the defendants refused to allow outside examination, diagnosis and
efficacious treatment they could not provide” for his skin condition (id.)
as a matter of “custom[, which is] the direct cause of his injury.” (Doc.
51 at 2). He asserts that he “has alleged and established defendants
Thomas and Davenport by agreement with defendant Corizon from 2010
until September 26, 2012, [had a] persistent and wide-spread practice
[of] denying [him] off site exam[ination] and treatment for a curable
skin condition,” which caused him [“]unnecessary and wanton infliction
of pain” in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at 3).
(Doc. 52 at 13-14) (footnotes omitted).
The plaintiff failed to provide any affidavits from the individuals who allegedly
informed him about the policy. In his objections, the plaintiff argues the magistrate
judge should have found the existence of a genuine material dispute regarding the
unconstitutional custom described above – by finding that all three defendants had
an additional, secondary custom or policy of not recording their responses to his
requests for outside treatment in writing. (Doc. 55 at 7-10). This objection is without
merit as the plaintiff has not previously alleged such a secondary custom existed, and
one cannot be inferred from the alleged absence of recorded responses or lack of
responses in the medical record. Moreover, the plaintiff has never provided any
evidence from other inmates to establish either the existence of the custom(s) he
alleges – primary or secondary – and that the custom(s) were widespread.
Even if the court were to assume a custom of not referring inmates to outsider
health care providers unless a life threatening condition existed, the plaintiff has not
produced genuine disputed material facts to establish that the policy is
unconstitutional per se or as applied to his circumstances. The plaintiff admits that
he has skin disorders, and does not dispute that those disorders are atopic dermatitis
and lichen simplex chronicus. Although he asserts they are “curable,” he has
provided no evidence in support of this contention, and therefore has not refuted Dr.
Hood’s testimony that symptoms of the skin disorders wax and wane, and that when
active, they are treated accordingly. (Doc. 46-1 and 2-8).
The plaintiff has never denied he has been repeatedly treated for his skin
disorders, and a review of his medical records bears this out. Even now, the plaintiff
admits Dr. Hood is prescribing him “Triamcinolone Acetonide ointment USP, 0.1%,”
the same medication prescribed by Dr. Donahue. (Doc. 55 at 4; Doc. 46-6 at 55, 58).
That the plaintiff suffers from such painful skin disorders is unfortunate, but the
medical records and the plaintiff’s allegations clearly establish that he is timely
treated for those disorders and other medical difficulties. No evidence shows the
defendants refused, as a matter of custom or for monetary reasons, to allow the
plaintiff to be examined and treated by an outside health care provider, and opted to
provide less efficacious treatment for his skin disorders. Finally, no evidence
suggests that such a custom caused or worsened the plaintiff’s chronic skin disorders.
Ultimately, the plaintiff’s allegations boil down to a difference of opinion between
himself and medical professionals as to who should evaluate and provide his
treatment which, in this case, does not rise to an Eighth Amendment cause of action
against the defendants. See Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1501 (11th Cir. 1991).
Having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the court
file, including the report and recommendation and the objections filed by the plaintiff,
the court finds that the magistrate judge’s report is due to be and is hereby
ADOPTED and his recommendation is ACCEPTED.
The court EXPRESSLY FINDS that the plaintiff’s motion for leave to conduct
additional discovery is due to be DENIED (doc. 51) and his objections
OVERRULED. The court further EXPRESSLY FINDS that no genuine issues of
material fact exist and that the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Accordingly, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment is due to be GRANTED.
(Docs. 45, 46, & 48).
The court will enter a Final Judgment.
DONE and ORDERED this the 16th day of September, 2015.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?