Christmas v. Corizon Health Services et al
ORDER denying 212 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law: Defendants' Oral Motion for Judgment as Matter of Law under Rule 50(a) is denied subject to the motion being renewed under Rule 50(b). Based on the jury's verdict, the Clerk is directed to ENTER FINAL JUDGMENT in favor of Plaintiff Rickey Christmas. Signed by Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle on 4/27/2021. (NPC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
RICKEY LEE CHRISTMAS,
Case No: 8:17-cv-1183-KKM-SPF
LUIS RODRIGUEZ-COLON and
This action came before the Court for a trial by jury from April 20, 2021, to April
22, 2021. The issues have been tried and the jury has rendered its verdict in favor of
Plaintiff Rickey Christmas. At trial, Defendants Luis Rodriguez-Colon and Margie
Gomez moved for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
50(a) following Plaintiff’s announcement that he rested his case. The Court took the
motion under advisement, and now denies the motion.
In their oral motion, Defendants argued that there was no evidence that Dr.
Rodriguez acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s serious medical needs because
Plaintiff received pain medication and did not manifest a substantial risk of harm until
October 2017—when Dr. Rodriguez ordered further treatment. Further, Defendants
argued that there was no evidence to support a finding of supervisory liability against
Margie Gomez because she did not sign off on any treatment of Plaintiff and there was
no causation between her actions and Dr. Rodriguez’s action. Plaintiff contended that
there was ample evidence that Dr. Rodriguez knew of the severe pain that Plaintiff was
experiencing and of the condition of his hernias and colostomy and did nothing for
him other than authorize prescriptions for Tylenol. Plaintiff also submitted that there
was evidence that he was seen by Dr. Gomez, that she refused to treat his pain, that
Dr. Gomez had final responsibility for the policies of the jail healthcare system, and
that Plaintiff was told that their policy was not to treat chronic pain or nonemergency
Viewing the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-movant (Plaintiff here), there was a sufficient evidentiary basis for
a reasonable jury to find for the Plaintiff against Dr. Rodriguez. See Williams v. First
Advantage LNS Screening Sols., Inc., 947 F.3d 735, 744 (11th Cir. 2020). Plaintiff presented
evidence for a jury to find that he had a serious medical need, that Dr. Rodriguez was
deliberately indifferent to that need, and that his indifference caused Plaintiff’s injury.
See Melton v. Abston, 841 F.3d 1207, 1220 (11th Cir. 2016). Specifically, Plaintiff
presented evidence that he complained of severe pain for months due to his previous
gunshot wound and its aftermath (as he testified and as reflected in numerous exhibits
admitted without objection at trial). See Hinson v. Bias, 927 F.3d 1103, 1122 (11th Cir.
2019) (“depending on the circumstances, severe pain that is not promptly or adequately
treated can present a serious medical need”); McElligott v. Foley, 182 F.3d 1248, 1257
(11th Cir. 1999) (“Despite the repeated complaints about the pain he was suffering
from, a jury could find that [defendants] basically did nothing to alleviate that pain,
essentially letting [plaintiff] suffer even as his condition was deteriorating.”); see also
Brock v. Wright, 315 F.3d 158, 163–64 (2d Cir. 2003) (noting that “chronic pain the
magnitude of which probably falls somewhere between ‘annoying’ and ‘extreme’”
precludes summary judgment on issue of risk of serious harm arising from serious
medical need (emphasis removed)). He also presented evidence that he received only
periodic doses of Tylenol as treatment instead of the hernia surgery and colostomy
reversal that he sought. See McElligott, 182 F.3d at 1257 (ruling that providing “tylenol
and pepto-bismol” alone would allow a jury to conclude that such care “was so cursory
as to amount to no care at all”). Plaintiff also presented some evidence from which a
jury could conclude that his condition worsened over time as a result of not being
adequately treated during the relevant time period from late 2016 to late 2017, namely
that his pain increased and that he had worsening symptoms of problems with his hernia
and colostomy. Accordingly, there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find
Dr. Rodriguez liable.
As for Dr. Gomez, there was sufficient evidence presented for a reasonable jury
to find that she was liable in either her individual or supervisory capacity.1 Plaintiff
presented evidence that he told Dr. Gomez of his pain and that some of his medications
were prescribed by Dr. Gomez, and he also submitted an affidavit by Dr. Gomez where
she stated that she would have provided more treatment to Plaintiff if she thought it
was needed. This provided sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that
Dr. Gomez was liable in her individual capacity.
Further, there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find that she either personally
participated in the violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights by Dr. Rodriguez or
implemented an official policy or custom that resulted in deliberate indifference to
Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. 2 See Mathews v. Crosby, 480 F.3d 1265, 1270 (11th Cir.
2007). As recounted above, Plaintiff presented evidence that Dr. Gomez prescribed
medication to Plaintiff and signed off on inadequate treatment for his pain. Further,
Plaintiff presented evidence that Dr. Gomez, as the Medical Director of the Polk
County Jail, was responsible for adopting the official policy at the Polk County Jail that
The agreed-upon jury verdict did not ask the jurors to identify whether they found Dr. Gomez liable
in her individual or supervisory capacity, so a favorable ruling for Dr. Gomez on the Rule 50(a) motion
with regards to one theory of liability would not permit the Court to set aside the jury’s verdict.
At the charge conference, Plaintiff conceded that there was not enough evidence to instruct the jury
as to several alternate theories of supervisory liability: (1) a history of widespread abuse that put Dr.
Gomez on notice of the need to take corrective actions, (2) that Dr. Gomez directed Dr. Rodriguez
to take the action that resulted in a violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, or (3) that Dr. Gomez
knew that Dr. Rodriguez would take actions in violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights and failed
to stop him. As a result, the Court did not instruct the jury as to these three kinds of supervisory
doctors were to treat chronic pain. Plaintiff also testified that there was an unwritten
policy that inmates not receive treatment for chronic pain beyond Tylenol and that
nonemergency surgeries were not authorized due to expense. Plaintiff also presented
evidence that he obtained significant relief after receiving the surgeries he sought but
that Defendants refused to send him to a specialist or provide additional pain
medication, tending to show that the lack of treatment was the cause of his prolonged
pain and, ultimately, quite large hernia. This evidence was sufficient for a jury to
conclude that Dr. Gomez was either responsible for failing to implement a policy of
treating chronic pain or implemented a policy of not treating chronic pain and that these
actions resulted in Plaintiff’s lack of treatment, prolonging his suffering and increasing
his hernia-related issues. Accordingly, there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury
to find Dr. Gomez liable in her supervisory capacity.
Therefore, the following is ORDERED:
(1) Defendants’ Oral Motion for Judgment as Matter of Law (Doc. 212) under
Rule 50(a) is DENIED subject to the motion being renewed under Rule 50(b).
(2) Based on the jury’s verdict, the Clerk is directed to ENTER FINAL
JUDGMENT in favor of Plaintiff Rickey Christmas in the following amounts:
(a) As to the claim against Luis Rodriguez-Colon:
$100,000 in compensatory damages
$300,000 in punitive damages
(b) As to the claim against Margie Gomez:
$50,000 in punitive damages.
(3) The Clerk is further directed to CLOSE the case.
ORDERED in Tampa, Florida, on April 27, 2021.
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