Mitts v. Martin et al
ORDER: The Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants (Doc. 109 ) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Defendants Phil Martin and Stephen Duncan are DISMISSED with prejudice. Mitts shall now proceed on Count Two against Defendants Randall Bay lor, Bradley Rue, Thomas Simmons, and Michael Zwilling. The Court DIRECTS Magistrate Judge Wilkerson to recruit counsel to represent Mitts at trial and to hold a status conference to discuss potential firm trial dates. Signed by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on 9/14/2017. (mlp)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
PHIL MARTIN, STEPHEN DUNCAN,
RANDALL BAYLOR, BRADLEY RUE,
THOMAS SIMMONS, and MICHAEL
Case No. 3:15-CV-811-NJR-DGW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge:
This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants Phil Martin, Stephen Duncan, Thomas Simmons, Bradley Rue, Randall
Baylor, and Michael Zwilling (Doc. 109). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’
Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff Joecephus Mitts, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of
Corrections (“IDOC”), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging his
constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional
Center (“Lawrence”). Mitts asserts he was denied adequate medical treatment for a rare
skin cancer condition, mycosis fungoides, insofar as he was not allowed to see an outside
specialist to monitor and treat his condition. Mitts also asserts he was assaulted by
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correctional officers on May 14, 2014, after a nurse in the healthcare unit made false
allegations of sexual assault against him. Following a screening of Mitts’s original
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and the filing of a First Amended Complaint
with leave of Court, Mitts is proceeding on the following claims:
Count One: Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference
claim against Phil Martin and Stephen Duncan
for failing to provide Plaintiff with regular
consultations with a cancer specialist; and
Count Two: Eighth Amendment excessive force and failure
to intervene claim against Randall Baylor,
Bradley Rue, Thomas Simmons, and Michael
Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on January 3, 2017
(Doc. 109). Because Defendants failed to file the requisite Rule 56 Notice with their
motion, the Court filed the appropriate Notice and extended Mitts’s response deadline
(see Doc. 118). The Court again extended the response deadline on August 1, 2017 to
August 15, 2017 (see Doc. 120). The Court subsequently provided another brief extension
of time, and Mitts timely filed his response on August 22, 2017 (see Doc. 124). 1
Mitts suffers from mycosis fungoides, a rare type of cancer that affects his skin
(Deposition of Joecephus Mitts, Doc. 110-1, p. 13). Mitts was diagnosed with this
condition in 1997 and, after being transferred to Lawrence Correctional Center
1 Mitts’s response focuses, in its entirety, on Defendants’ failure to produce video footage that he contends
would vindicate his position with regard to the alleged assault that occurred on May 14, 2014. The Court
addressed this issue in its June 7, 2017 Order on Mitts’s Motion to Compel. In particular, Defendants
explained that no video was maintained from May 14, 2014, as video is typically only kept for five days
and is then recorded over. There is no indication that Defendants suppressed the evidence or acted in bad
faith or against any record retention policy.
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(“Lawrence”) in July 2013, he received the recommended treatments for his condition,
including ultraviolet therapy (“UVB treatment”) (Id. at 14, 18-19). From July 2013 to May
14, 2014, Mitts received UVB treatments three times per week and was sent for follow-up
appointments with a specialist, Dr. Hurley, every eight weeks (Id. at pp. 18-19).
It is undisputed that Mitts underwent a UVB treatment on May 14, 2014;
however, the parties dispute the events that took place on this date. According to Mitts,
Nurse Brooks monitored his UVB treatment on May 14, 2014, and while he was in the
booth receiving the treatment, the light started to burn his face, neck, and fingers (Id. at
pp. 20-22). Mitts explained at his deposition that Nurse Brooks “lost it” when he
complained of burning, they “had words,” and he cussed at her (Id. at p. 23). Mitts avers
that Nurse Brooks then went to the front desk and “the police” came in to take Mitts to
the bullpen (Id. at p. 25). Mitts was escorted to the hallway and handcuffed by Defendant
Lieutenant Baylor (Id. at p. 29). 2 Defendant Baylor twisted the handcuffs causing Mitts
to feel as if his wrists were breaking (Id.). While Defendant Baylor was holding Mitts’s
handcuffs, Defendants Simmons, Rue, and Zwilling kicked, stomped, and punched
Mitts in the head, back, and groin for a “good five minutes” (Id. at pp. 33-34). At his
deposition, Mitts testified that he suffered from a swollen wrist and a “busted head”
with a “dab of blood” following this incident and, although he asked Defendants for
medical treatment, they denied him care (Id. at p. 38).
In his deposition, Mitts refers to Randall Baylor as “Bailey;” however, this discrepancy appears due to an
inadvertent error. Mitts identified Defendant Baylor as “Bayor” in his First Amended Complaint, and
there is no indication Defendant Baylor is incorrectly named as a defendant in this action.
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Defendants assert Mitts sexually assaulted Nurse Brooks during his treatment on
May 14, 2014 (Affidavit of John Coe, M.D., Doc. 110-2, ¶ 22). Mitts was issued a
disciplinary ticket for sexual misconduct and insolence and was ultimately found guilty
of the charges (Doc. 110-1, p. 26).
After the incident on May 14, 2014, Mitts refused to go to the healthcare unit for
his UVB treatments until he was ultimately transferred to Centralia Correctional Center
(“Centralia”) in July 2016 (Doc. 110-1, pp. 7, 43, 58). Due to his refusal to undergo his
UVB treatments, Mitts’s referrals to the outside specialist, Dr. Hurley, also ceased (See id.
at p. 56). Mitts asserts Defendant Martin was responsible for this circumstance, as he was
the healthcare administrator and approved all outside appointments (Id. at p. 44).
According to Mitts, Dr. John Coe told him he was not scheduled for his follow-up
appointments with the specialist because of Martin and was informed that if he
continued to refuse his UVB treatments he would not be sent out to the specialist (Id. at
p. 51). Defendant Martin also advised Mitts on one occasion that he would not be sent
out so long as Mitts refused on-site treatment (Id. at p. 76). Mitts also spoke with
Defendant Duncan, the Warden at Lawrence during the relevant time period, about
whether he would be sent to an outside specialist, but Defendant Duncan failed to
approve any referrals despite indicating he would look into the situation (Id.).
Dr. John Coe attests Mitts was not approved for follow-up appointments with Dr.
Hurley because of his non-compliance with her treatment plan (Doc. 110-2, ¶¶ 30, 40). In
particular, Dr. Coe asserts he consulted with Dr. Hurley and understood that if Mitts
continued to refuse UVB therapy, there was no reason for him to come to her office (Id. at
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¶ 31). Following his transfer to Centralia in July 2016, Mitts resumed his UVB treatments
and was also sent out for appointments with Dr. Hurley (Doc. 110-1, p. 58).
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See also
Ruffin Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005);
Black Agents & Brokers Agency, Inc. v. Near North Ins. Brokerage, Inc., 409 F.3d 833, 836 (7th
Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in
genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved
against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970). See also
Lawrence v. Kenosha County, 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004).
A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving
party “has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with
respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “[A] complete
failure of proof concerning an essential element of a nonmoving party's case necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated that summary
judgment is “the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what
evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events.”
Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese
Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (other citations omitted).
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Count One: Deliberate Indifference
The Supreme Court has recognized that “deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs of prisoners” may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the
Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). In order to prevail on such
a claim, Mitts must show first that his condition was “objectively, sufficiently serious”
and second, that the “prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.”
Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 652-53 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations and quotation marks
With regard to the first showing, the following circumstances could constitute a
serious medical need: “[t]he existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient
would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical
condition that significantly affects an individual’s daily activities; or the existence of
chronic and substantial pain.” Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 522-23 (7th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997)); see also Foelker v.
Outagamie Cnty., 394 F.3d 510, 512-13 (7th Cir. 2005) (“A serious medical need is one that
has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that
even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor’s attention.”).
A prisoner must also show that prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable
state of mind, namely, deliberate indifference. “Deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs of prisoners constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain’.”
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104 (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). “The infliction
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of suffering on prisoners can be found to violate the Eighth Amendment only if that
infliction is either deliberate, or reckless in the criminal law sense.” Duckworth v. Franzen,
780 F.2d 645, 652-53 (7th Cir. 1985). Negligence, gross negligence, or even recklessness as
that term is used in tort cases, is not enough. Id. at 653; Shockley v. Jones, 823, F.2d 1068,
1072 (7th Cir. 1987). Put another way, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the officials
were “aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists” and that the officials actually drew that inference. Greeno, 414 F.3d
at 653. A plaintiff does not have to prove that his complaints were “literally ignored,”
but only that “the defendants’ responses were so plainly inappropriate as to permit the
inference that the defendants intentionally or recklessly disregarded his needs.” Hayes,
546 F.3d at 524 (quoting Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 611 (7th Cir. 2000)).
Defendants Martin and Duncan contend that, although Mitts suffers from a
serious medical condition, they were not deliberately indifferent to Mitts’s medical
needs because they were not directly involved in treating his medical condition, and
they had no role in scheduling outside appointments. Defendants also argue they were
not deliberately indifferent to Mitts’s medical condition because they neither delayed
nor cancelled appointments with his outside specialist.
The Court quickly rejects Defendants’ argument that they are not liable because
they had no personal involvement in Mitts’s medical care. When viewed in Mitts’s favor,
the evidence demonstrates these Defendants had some involvement in the scheduling or
approval process for outside appointments. Although these Defendants may not have
been directly involved in providing medical care, the claim against them is related to
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scheduling and transfers for outside appointments, not the provision of medical
treatment. Nevertheless, Mitts’s claim of deliberate indifference against Defendants
Martin and Duncan fails to survive summary judgment for the reasons set forth below.
A. Defendant Phil Martin
The only evidence as to Defendant Martin’s purported failure to provide Mitts
with regular consultations with an outside specialist is Mitts’s deposition testimony.
Mitts testified that Dr. Coe told him he was not scheduled for his specialist follow-up
appointments because of Defendant Martin. Mitts also testified that Defendant Martin
was generally in charge of approving all outside appointments. There is no evidence,
appointments. While Defendant Martin states he is familiar with Mitts and his request to
be referred to Dr. Hurley, it was his understanding that medical professionals conducted
a collegial review and determined to stop Mitts’s referrals to Dr. Hurley because Mitts
was no longer undergoing UVB therapy (Affidavit of Phil Martin, Doc. 110-3, ¶ 5).
Non-medical defendants, like Martin, can rely on the medical judgment of
medical personnel. Greeno, 414 F.3d at 655-56 (quoting with approval Spruill v. Gillis, 372
F.3d 218, 236 (3rd Cir. 2004)). They cannot, however, “simply ignore an inmate’s plight.”
Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 755 (7th Cir. 2011); see also Berry v. Peterman, 604 F.3d 435,
440 (7th Cir. 2010); Figgs v. Dawson, 829 F.3d 895, 903 (7th Cir. 2016). If Mitts’s
communication to Martin “in its content and manner of transmission, gave the prison
official sufficient notice to alert him or her to ‘an excessive risk to inmate health or
safety,’” he can be found deliberately indifferent to Mitts’s serious needs. Vance v. Peters,
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97 F.3d 987, 993 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)).
Here, there is no evidence Mitts provided Defendant Martin with sufficient notice
to alert him that he was not being referred to a specialist and that such circumstance
amounted to an excessive risk to his health. Thus, Defendant Martin did not ignore
Mitts’s plight and was entitled to rely on the judgment of medical personnel and their
decision to halt Mitts’s referrals to Dr. Hurley. For this reason, the Court finds Defendant
Martin was not deliberately indifferent to Mitts’s medical needs and is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law as to Count One.
B. Defendant Stephen Duncan
Mitts’s evidence as to Defendant Duncan is similarly scant. Mitts testified that
Defendant Duncan is a party to this action because he has to sign off on inmate
movements, such as transfers to an outside specialist. Mitts further testified that he
spoke with Defendant Duncan a few times about whether or not he would see an outside
specialist, but he gave no details as to what he specifically relayed about his medical
condition and treatment during these conversations. Simply put, the record is bereft of
any evidence that Defendant Duncan was aware of Mitts’s medical condition or that he
understood the role an outside specialist had on his treatment. Even when viewed in
Mitts’s favor, the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that Mitts’s communications
with Defendant Duncan were sufficient to notify this Defendant of an excessive risk to
Mitts’s health. See Vance, 97 F.3d at 993. Thus, the Court cannot say that Defendant
Duncan was deliberately indifferent in deferring to medical personnel in making
decisions regarding Mitts’s treatment. Defendant Duncan is entitled to judgment as a
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matter of law as to Count One.
Count Two: Excessive Force and Failure to Protect
“The Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause prohibits the
‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain’ on prisoners.” Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d
833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992)). “In cases
involving the claimed use of excessive force, ‘the core judicial inquiry’ is ‘whether force
was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and
sadistically to cause harm.’” Outlaw, 259 F.3d at 837 (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7). “In
conducting this inquiry, a court must examine a variety of factors, including ‘the need
for an application of force, the relationship between that need and the force applied, the
threat reasonably perceived by the responsible officers, the efforts made to temper the
severity of the force employed, and the extent of the injury suffered by the prisoner.’” Id.
With regard to the last factor, the Seventh Circuit recognizes that a plaintiff need not
demonstrate a significant injury to state a claim for excessive force; however, “a claim
ordinarily cannot be predicated on a de minimis use of physical force.” DeWalt v. Carter,
224 F.3d 607, 620 (7th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added) (citing Hudson, 503 U.S. at 5). Indeed,
the use of de minimis force is necessarily precluded from the Eighth Amendment’s
prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, provided that such force is not
“repugnant to the conscience of mankind.” Outlaw, 259 F.3d at 838 (quoting Hudson, 503
U.S. at 9-10).
Mitts’s excessive force and failure to protect claim against Defendants Baylor,
Rue, Simmons, and Zwilling relates to the events that allegedly occurred on May 14,
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2014, wherein Mitts testified he was assaulted and beaten by Rue, Simmons, and
Zwilling for five minutes while Baylor twisted his handcuffs and held him down.
Defendants argue they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because there is no
evidence Mitts suffered any actual harm or needed medical treatment and the use of
such minor force (if actually used), was intended to restore discipline and escort Mitts to
another area following complaints of a sexual assault.
If Mitts’s testimony is credited, as it must be here, Defendants’ arguments
necessarily fail. As mentioned above, the central inquiry in claims of excessive force is
whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically to cause harm. See Outlaw, 259 F.3d at 837. Although Mitts
admits he was having words with Nurse Brooks and cussed her out prior to the alleged
assault, a five-minute beating does not appear to be an appropriate response or one
tailored to restoring discipline. Moreover, the Court disagrees with Defendants’
characterization that the force applied was minor. In support of their argument,
Defendants cite to Mitts’s injuries and assert there was no need for medical treatment. In
making such an argument, Defendants mischaracterize Mitts’s deposition testimony.
Specifically, Mitts asserted he requested medical treatment for his injuries, but his
request was denied. Mitts also indicated he was kicked in the face, head, back, and groin.
Regardless of the injuries suffered, Mitts’s testimony establishes more than a de minimis
use of force. Defendants Baylor, Rue, Simmons and Zwilling are not entitled to judgment
on Count Two.
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Insofar as Defendants Baylor, Rue, Simmons, and Zwilling included a general,
“catch-all” argument concerning qualified immunity in their motion for summary
judgment, the Court finds this argument unavailing as it is clearly established law that a
prison official cannot apply force maliciously and sadistically to cause harm, as is the
allegation for which there is some evidentiary support.
For the reasons set forth above, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants Phil Martin, Stephen Duncan, Thomas Simmons, Bradley Rue, Randall
Baylor, and Michael Zwilling (Doc. 109) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
Defendants Phil Martin and Stephen Duncan are DISMISSED with prejudice.
Mitts is now proceeding only on Count Two, an Eighth Amendment excessive
force and failure to intervene claim against Defendants Randall Baylor, Bradley Rue,
Thomas Simmons, and Michael Zwilling. The Court DIRECTS Magistrate Judge
Wilkerson to recruit counsel to represent Mitts at trial and to hold a status conference to
discuss potential firm trial dates.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: September 14, 2017
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL
United States District Judge
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