ABNER v. EVERSON et al
Entry Granting Defendant Wheeler and Murphy's Motion for Summary Judgment and Directing Further Proceedings - 27 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. This Entry does not resolve all claims against all parties. No partial final judgment sh all issue at this time as to the claims resolved in this Entry. The plaintiff shall have through June 29, 2017, in which to notify the clerk in writing of his current address. The plaintiff's failure to comply with this Entry may result in the dismissal of this action for failure to prosecute without further notice to the plaintiff. See Entry for details. Signed by Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 6/5/2017 (copy mailed to plaintiff). (LBT)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
NEW ALBANY DIVISION
LAWRENCE ABNER, JR.,
RONALD EVERSON Medical Doctor,
LEANN WHEELER Medical Nurse,
CHARLES MURPHY Jail Commander,
Case No. 4:16-cv-00136-SEB-DML
Entry Granting Defendant Wheeler and Murphy’s Motion for Summary Judgment
and Directing Further Proceedings
Plaintiff Lawrence Abner, Jr., is a former inmate of the Jackson County Jail. He alleges
that defendants Dr. Ronald Everson, Nurse Leann Wheeler and Jail Commander Charles Murphy
are liable to him for violating his constitutional rights and state tort law. Specifically, Mr. Abner
alleges that the defendants denied him medication prescribed by Dr. Cook while incarcerated at
the Jackson County Jail. Defendants Nurse Wheeler and Jail Commander Murphy (hereinafter
“defendants”) seek resolution of the remaining claims through summary judgment. 1 For the
reasons explained below, the motion for summary judgment, dkt. , is granted.
I. Standard of Review
Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson v. Liberty
Dr. Ronald Everson has not yet appeared in this action.
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant’s favor. Ault v.
Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011). “The applicable substantive law will dictate which
facts are material.” National Soffit & Escutcheons, Inc., v. Superior Systems, Inc., 98 F.3d 262,
265 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,’
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by
‘showing’—that is, pointing out to the district court—that there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party’s case.” Id. at 325.
In this case, the defendants have met that burden through their unopposed motion for
summary judgment. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[F]ailure to respond by
the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”). By not responding to the
motion for summary judgment, Mr. Abner has conceded to the defendants’ version of the facts.
Brasic v. Heinemann=s Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 286 (7th Cir. 1997). This is the result of Local Rule 561, of which Mr. Abner was notified. See dkt. 29. This does not alter the standard for assessing a
Rule 56 motion, but does “reduc[e] the pool” from which the facts and inferences relative to such
a motion may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997).
II. Undisputed Facts
Mr. Abner was booked into the Jackson County Jail on April 2, 2016 on several counts of
theft and possession of a syringe. While at the Jail, Mr. Abner was treated by Dr. Ronald Everson,
who is employed by Advanced Correctional Health, with which the Jackson County Jail contracts
to provide medical services to the inmates. Mr. Abner also occasionally sees a medical doctor in
Austin, Indiana. He was transferred to and from his appointments by employees of the Jackson
County Jail. In his complaint, Mr. Abner states that he was prescribed medication “by Dr. Cook[e]
from Austin, Indiana,” which was then denied by employees of the Jail. Pursuant to Dr. Everson’s
orders, Defendants Murphy and Wheeler withheld this medication from Mr. Abner because it was
a narcotic, which are generally not given to inmates.
Charles Murphy, as the jail commander, is not qualified to make medical decisions and
must follow the orders of the treating physician.
Nurse Wheeler is not qualified to prescribe medication. Consistent with the division of
labor inside the Jackson County Jail, Nurse Wheeler must follow the orders of Dr. Everson
Mr. Abner contends that Jackson County Jail employees’ refusal to distribute certain
medication is “deliberate indifference” and accuses them of “medical neglect.” The defendants
argue that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because they acted appropriately by
following the orders of Dr. Everson in regards to what medication Mr. Abner should receive.
The constitution imposes a duty on prison officials to provide medical care to inmates. See
Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1230 (1997). Because
Mr. Abner was a pretrial detainee, it is the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather
than the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment which is the
source of this right. Estate of Miller, ex rel. Bertram v. Tobiasz, 680 F.3d 984, 989 (7th Cir. 2012)
(citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535–37 (1979)). However, courts still look to Eighth
Amendment case law in addressing the claims of pretrial detainees, given that the protections of
the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause are at least as broad as those that the Eighth
Amendment affords to convicted prisoners. Rice ex rel. Rice v. Correctional Medical Services,
675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012)(citing cases).
A claim based on deficient medical care must demonstrate two requirements: 1) an
objectively serious medical condition, and 2) an official’s deliberate indifference to that condition.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 1976 (1994). The second requirement is a
a prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment for
denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the official
knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the
official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be
drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw
Farmer, 114 S.Ct. at 1979.
The record reflects that the defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Mr. Abner’s
need for prescription medications. To the contrary, these defendants did not have any authority to
prescribe medications to inmates and they reasonably relied on Dr. Everson’s expertise. The
Seventh Circuit has noted, “The policy supporting the presumption that non-medical officials are
entitled to defer to the professional judgment of the facility’s medical officials on questions of
prisoners’ medical care is a sound one.” Hayes v. Snyder, 546 F.3d 516, 527 (7th Cir. 2008). This
policy is equally applicable to a nurse relying on the treating physician’s orders regarding what
prescription medications are appropriate when the nurse is not qualified to prescribe medications.
Under these circumstances, the defendants did not participate in any wrongdoing and they
are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on both the state law negligence claim and constitutional
claim. Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment, dkt. , is granted.
This Entry does not resolve all claims against all parties. No partial final judgment shall
issue at this time as to the claims resolved in this Entry.
IV. Further Proceedings
Mr. Abner was previously instructed to provide the Court with his current mailing address
following his release from incarceration in March 2017. Dkt. 21. He has failed to do so. A court’s
ability to contact a litigant or the litigant’s representative through the use of a reliable address is
imperative to the court’s ability to transmit its rulings and manage its docket properly, and is
equally important to the litigants. Therefore, the plaintiff shall have through June 29, 2017, in
which to notify the clerk in writing of his current address. The plaintiff’s failure to comply with
this Entry may result in the dismissal of this action for failure to prosecute without further notice
to the plaintiff.
If the plaintiff submits his current address, additional steps shall be undertaken to locate
and serve Dr. Everson. See dkt. 26 (Return of United States Marshal Service).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
All Electronically Registered Counsel
LAWRENCE ABNER, JR.
JACKSON COUNTY JAIL
150 East State Road 250
Brownstown, IN 47220
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