Melton v. Abston et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION, ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS: the Court ADOPTS the magistrate judges report and ACCEPTS her recommendation. It is therefore ORDERED that the plaintiffs claims against Pickens County, the Pickens County Commission, Pic kens County Commissioners, Dr. Nikki Christensen, Nurse Corisa OMary, and the Pickens County Medical Centerare DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The claims against theremaining defendants are referred to the magistrate judge for further proceedings.. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 08/09/2013. (MSN, )
Melton v. Abston et al
2013 Aug-09 PM 04:02
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SHERIFF DAVID ABSTON, et al.,
Case No. 7:11-cv-01115-LSC-MHH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The magistrate judge filed a report on October 22, 2012, recommending that
the Court dismiss plaintiff Walter Melton’s claims against defendants Pickens
County, the Pickens County Commission, Pickens County Commissioners, Dr. Nikki
Christensen, Nurse Corisa O’Mary, and the Pickens County Medical Center without
prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 70). In
addition, the magistrate judge recommended that the Court refer Mr. Melton’s claims
against the remaining defendants to her for further proceedings. Mr. Melton objected
to the Report as it pertains to his claims against Dr. Christensen, Pickens County
Medical Center, Pickens County, the Pickens County Commission, and members of
the Pickens County Commission. (Doc. 71, p. 1). For the reasons stated below, the
Court overrules Mr. Melton’s objections and adopts the Report and Recommendation.
In his objections to the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation, Mr.
Melton asserts additional allegations against Dr. Christensen in support of his
contention that she failed to provide adequate medical care to him. Mr. Melton
submits that when Dr. Christensen examined him on September 10, 2010 to evaluate
his chest pains and shortness of breath, he told her that his arm was broken, and he
needed treatment. (Doc. 71, pp. 2-3). According to Mr. Melton, Dr. Christensen
reviewed a May 7, 2010 x-ray report regarding his arm, and he informed her “that the
orthopaedic doctor had changed his report to help the Jail.” (Doc. 71, p. 3). Mr.
Melton contends that Dr. Christensen “abandoned her examination” of his arm after
a deputy instructed her “not to worry about the arm.” (Doc. 71, p. 3).
These additional factual allegations are not sufficient to show that Dr.
Christensen acted with the requisite “subjective intent to punish.” Taylor v. Adams,
221 F.3d 1254, 1258 (11th Cir. 2000).1 Dr. Christensen saw Mr. Melton only once
In his initial and amended complaints, Mr. Melton asserted his claims for inadequate
medical care as due process claims under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States
in the emergency room for chest pains and shortness of breath. Although Mr. Melton
made Dr. Christensen aware of the injury to his arm, Mr. Melton concedes that Dr.
Christensen’s Emergency Department Report states that Melton was “under
evaluation by an orthopedist.” (Doc. 71, p. 3).2 These allegations do not support a
claim against Dr. Christensen for deliberate indifference to medical needs. To the
extent that Dr. Christensen’s alleged acts or omissions may be characterized as
negligence or malpractice, they cannot form the basis of a constitutional claim under
§1983. Redd, 160 F. App’x at 860. Therefore, the magistrate judge correctly
Constitution. (See Doc. 66, pp. 15-18). Fourteenth Amendment due process claims regarding
medical care typically arise with respect to pretrial detainees; sentenced prisoners ordinarily assert
claims for deliberate indifference to their medical needs under the Eighth Amendment. Because “the
minimum standard allowed by the due process clause [for pretrial detainees] is the same as that
allowed by the Eighth Amendment for convicted persons,” the distinction does not make a difference
in this case. Redd v. Conway, 160 Fed. Appx. 858, 860 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Hamm v. DeKalb
County, 774 F.2d 1567, 1574 (11th Cir.1985)). “Deliberate indifference to an inmate’s serious
medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285,
291, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976). However, ‘[m]edical treatment violates the Eighth Amendment only
when it is ‘so grossly incompetent, inadequate, or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be
intolerable to fundamental fairness.’ Mere incidents of negligence or malpractice do not rise to the
level of constitutional violations.’ Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1505 (11th Cir.1991) (internal
citations omitted). The analysis of a claim of deliberate indifference has two components: (1)
whether evidence of a serious medical need existed; and (2) whether the defendant’s response to that
need constituted deliberate indifference. Adams v. Poag, 61 F.3d 1537, 1543 (11th Cir.1995).” Id.
When they filed their Special Report, defendants Sheriff David Abston, Chief Deputy Greg
Carr, and Nurse Tanya Ray placed Dr. Christensen’s records from Mr. Melton’s September 10, 2010
emergency room visit in the record. Those records reveal that Dr. Christensen evaluated Mr. Melton
because he complained of chest pain and shortness of breath. (Doc. 22-4). Dr. Christensen’s
Emergency Department Report states, “[Mr. Melton] has pain to the left humeral area with some
abnormality noted, but of note he was seen here in May for the same thing and that is currently under
evaluation by an orthopedist.” (Doc. 22-4, pp. 15-16).
determined that the complaint fails to present facts which allow Mr. Melton to
proceed with a claim for deliberate indifference against Dr. Christensen.3
Pickens County and Pickens County Commission
Mr. Melton also provides additional information in his objections with respect
to the notice that the Pickens County Commission purportedly received regarding his
alleged mistreatment. He contends that in February 2011, Greta Mason notified
commissioners of his plight and that the Commission’s insurance carrier eventually
contacted him to inquire about his claims. (Doc. 71, pp. 3-4). Mr. Melton repeats his
conclusory allegation that the Commission failed to adequately fund the jail, and he
asserts that the commissioners had a duty under state law to investigate his
allegations. (Id. at 5).
Although Alabama counties are charged with certain duties regarding the
building and funding of county jails, “none of these duties relates to the daily
operation of the jails or to the supervision of inmates.” Turquitt v. Jefferson County,
Mr. Melton’s claim against the Pickens County Medical Center fares no better. As noted
in the Report and Recommendation, Mr. Melton may pursue a § 1983 claim against the Medical
Center only if he can prove that the corporation, which provided medical services to prisoners on a
contractual basis, had a policy or custom that contributed to the alleged constitutional violation in
this action. (Doc. 70, p. 11). In his objections, Mr. Melton asserts that the fact that he was “allowed
to leave” the Medical Center “on two separate occasions with a serious medical need . . . can be
construed as a policy/custom” of the Medical Center. (Doc. 71, p. 4). Mr. Melton offers no
authority to support his unpersuasive contention.
Ala., 137 F.3d 1285, 1289-90 (11th Cir. 1998). In Turquitt, the Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals recognized that the Alabama statutes that allow counties to remain
informed of the conditions within their jails—including § 11-14-22 which Mr. Melton
cites—“are entirely consistent with the counties’ limited role in building and funding
the jails and do not imply or impart any control over the jails’s operation.” Id. at
1290 (emphasis added). The magistrate judge therefore properly concluded that
neither Pickens County nor the Pickens County Commission (nor the members of the
Commission) may be held liable for the alleged improper operation of the Pickens
Accordingly, having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the
materials in the court file, including the report and recommendation and the
objections thereto, the Court ADOPTS the magistrate judge’s report and ACCEPTS
her recommendation. It is therefore ORDERED that the plaintiff’s claims against
Pickens County, the Pickens County Commission, Pickens County Commissioners,
Dr. Nikki Christensen, Nurse Corisa O’Mary, and the Pickens County Medical Center
are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for failing to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The claims against the
remaining defendants are referred to the magistrate judge for further proceedings.
The Clerk is DIRECTED to serve a copy of this order upon the plaintiff and
upon counsel of record.
Done this 9th day of August 2013.
L. Scott Coogler
United States District Judge
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