Thompson v. Benson et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 17 Motion for Summary Judgment. See Order for details. Signed by Senior Judge Donald E OBrien on 3/10/14. (djs)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
Plaintiff and Counter
RULING ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION
MARY BENSON, NURSE; JASON
Defendants and Counter
The parties appeared on October 1, 2012, for a telephonic
Attorney Jay Denne appeared on behalf of the Plaintiff, Elwood
appeared on behalf of the Defendants.
After hearing the
consideration and now enters the following.
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Thompson], has been adjudicated a sexually violent predator
and is currently committed to the Civil Commitment Unit for
Sex Offenders (CCUSO), which is part of the Iowa Department of
Mary Benson is a Nurse at the facility, and
Jason Smith is the Director of the facility.
On May 21, 2011, Mr. Thompson filed a Pro Se Complaint
alleging that Ms. Benson and Mr. Smith [hereinafter the
Defendants] violated his rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
On August 5, 2011, this Court granted Mr. Thompson’s motion to
proceed in forma pauperis and a request for appointment of
On September 16, 2011, Mr. Thompson’s appointed
counsel declined to file an amended complaint.
On October 5,
2011, the Defendants filed an Answer as well as a Counter
requesting attorney’s fees.
The Defendants also filed a
partial Motion to Dismiss, arguing that various immunities and
the statute of limitations precluded some of Mr. Thompson’s
claims. On March 5, 2012, the Court entered an order granting
in part and denying in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.
The Court allowed Mr. Thompson’s claim against the Defendants,
in their individual capacity, to proceed.
On July 2, 2012,
the Defendants filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment.
On August 31, 2012, the Plaintiff filed a Resistance to the
Motion for Summary Judgment.
The parties dispute many of the facts at issue.
Court can outline the situation as follows.
civilly committed at CCUSO.
Mr. Thompson is
He has a history of illness,
As a result of the diabetes, he had a
partial amputation of his right foot in 2006.
2008, Mr. Thompson refused to let CCUSO be involved in the
treatment of his diabetes.
Mr. Thompson states that he is
controlling his illness through his diet.
In 2010, Mr. Thompson developed an ulcer or lesion on his
It is clear that Mr. Thompson sought treatment for his
foot ulcer and CCUSO’s medical team did provide some care.
However, Mr. Thompson claims that he was denied medication and
the opportunity to seek specialized treatment outside of
Mr. Thompson clearly contends that the Defendants
ignored his foot condition, allowing it to intensify in
severity until it required surgery. The Defendants argue that
Mr. Thompson was given every opportunity to have his foot
treated, but refused to follow medical advice, including
getting the required laboratory work so he could be evaluated
at an outside medical facility.
In early 2011, the foot aliment cleared; but by April, it
Corrective surgery was conducted on September
30, 2010. The parties further disagree about the cause of the
The Defendants assert that the ulcer was a
result of uncontrolled diabetes.
Mr. Thompson denies this.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate only if the record shows
“there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
R. Civ. P., Rule 56(c).
A fact is material if it is necessary
“to establish the existence of an element essential to [a]
party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of
proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
There is a genuine issue as to a material fact if,
based on the record before the court, a “rational trier of
fact” could find for the non-moving party.
Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
When considering a motion for summary judgment, a “court
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party . . . .”
Hutson v. McDonnell Douglas Corp.,
63 F.3d 771 (8th Cir. 1995).
This requires a court to draw
any reasonable inference from the underlying facts in favor of
the nonmoving party and to refrain from weighing the evidence,
making credibility determinations, or attempting to discern
the truth of any factual issue in a manner which favors the
moving party unless there is no reasonable alternative.
Chillicothe, 512 F.3d 1013, 1018 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing
Thomas v. Corwin, 483 F.3d 516, 526-27 (8th Cir. 2007).
Procedurally, the movant bears the initial burden “of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the record which show a lack of
a genuine issue.” Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th
Cir. 1992) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). Once the movant
has carried his burden, the non-moving party is required “to
go beyond the pleadings” and through “affidavits, or by the
‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file,’ designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.’”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (citing
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).
The Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment makes several
Principally, the Defendants argue that
they provided Mr. Thompson adequate medical care.
that they were not deliberately indifferent to Mr. Thompson’s
regarding the matters at issue in this claim. Defendant Smith
argues that he is not liable because he was not personally
Mr. Thompson’s general allegation is that he was and
continues to be injured by the Defendants’ constitutionally
inadequate medical care.
At the outset, the Court notes that, “[p]ersons who have
been involuntarily committed are entitled to more considerate
treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose
conditions of confinement are designed to punish.” Youngberg,
457 U.S. at 321-22.
There has been some debate regarding the
appropriate standard in this type of case.
In the context of
inmate medical-care claims, Courts have stated that:
against cruel and unusual punishment, which
embodies “broad and idealistic concepts of
dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and
decency,” prohibits punishments which are
incompatible with “the evolving standards
of decency that mark the progress of a
maturing society.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 102 (1976). It thus requires that
the government provide “medical care for
incarceration.” Id. at 103. The Eighth
Amendment safeguards the prisoner against
a lack of medical care that “may result in
pain and suffering which no one suggests
would serve any penological purpose.” Id.
Accordingly, “deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs” of a prisoner
constitutes the unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain forbidden by the
Constitution. Id. at 104.
Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 828 (7th
Cir. 2009) (parallel citations omitted).
indifference standard is used routinely in prisoner cases
related to medical care.
Recently, Courts have applied the deliberate indifference
standard to civilly committed individuals.
v. Goodno, 462 F.3d 876, 889 (8th Cir. 2006) which applied the
raised by a patient involuntarily committed as a sexually
violent predator under the 14th Amendment.
See also Scott v.
Benson, 742 F.3d 335 (8th Cir. 2014), stating, “where a
patient's Fourteenth Amendment claim is for constitutionally
deficient medical care, we apply the deliberate indifference
standard from the Eighth Amendment. Senty-Haugen, 462 F.3d at
Under the deliberate indifference standard, Mr. Thompson
must show the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a
serious illness or injury.
Senty-Haugen, 462 F.3d at 889.
successful deliberate indifference claim is comprised of both
an objective and a subjective element. Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 834 (1994).
First, Mr. Thompson must demonstrate
“sufficiently serious; that is, it must result in the denial
of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.”
Walker v. Benjamin, 293 F.3d 1030, 1037 (7th Cir. 2002).
the medical care context, this objective element is satisfied
when a plaintiff demonstrates that his medical need itself was
Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364,
1369 (7th Cir. 1997).
Second, Mr. Thompson must establish
that the defendants acted with a “‘sufficiently culpable state
of mind’” to support liability under § 1983. Greeno v. Daley,
414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005).
Although negligence or inadvertence will not support a
deliberate indifference claim, a plaintiff need not establish
that prison officials actually intended harm to befall him
from the failure to provide adequate care.
Walker, 293 F.3d
“[I]t is enough to show that the defendants knew of
a substantial risk of harm to [the plaintiff] and disregarded
Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653.
A successful plaintiff
need not show that he was literally ignored in his demands for
medical treatment, and a defendant's showing that a plaintiff
conclusively if the treatment was “blatantly inappropriate.”
Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653–54 (internal citations and quotation
plaintiff] not only from deliberate indifference to his or her
current serious health problems, but also from deliberate
indifference to conditions posing an unreasonable risk of
serious damage to future health.”
469, 479 (7th Cir. 2005).
Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d
“Deliberate indifference must be
measured by the official’s knowledge at the time in question,
not by ‘hindsight’s perfect vision.’”
Schaub v. VonWald, 638
F.3d 905, 915 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Lenz v. Wade, 490 F.3d
991, 993 n.1 (8th Cir. 2007)).
Defendants argue that Mr. Thompson must prove that CCUSO
officials, specifically Ms. Benson and Dr. Smith, knew about
excessive risks to his health but disregarded them, and that
their unconstitutional actions in fact caused his injuries.
Senty-Haugen, 462 F.3d at 890.
their argument is correct.
For the purposes of trial,
However, presently before the
Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment.
As noted above, at
this stage of the case, the claim must be allowed to proceed
if Mr. Thompson has alleged facts from which a jury could find
in his favor.
Accordingly, the Court must consider if there
are facts in dispute.
If there is a genuine issue of material
fact, summary judgment is inappropriate.
At its heart, this claim is very simple.
alleges he has a serious medical issue related to an ulcer on
his foot which ultimately required surgery to correct.
Thompson goes on to argue that his foot problem was a result
of the Defendants’ deliberate failure to treat his condition.
The Defendants do not deny that Mr. Thompson had an ulcer
on his foot, that it ultimately required corrective surgery,
or that Mr. Thompson has a complicated medical situation as a
result of his diabetes.
However, the Defendants respond by
saying that Mr. Thompson refused treatment for his diabetes,
that Mr. Thompson could have accessed medical care during
weekly clinics or could have scheduled appointments as needed,
and that CCUSO ultimately got Mr. Thompson the medical care he
The Defendants argue that given those facts, there
is no deliberate indifference.
Rather, the Defendants argue
that the facts show that Mr. Thompson got attentive medical
care despite his repeated refusals to follow the doctor’s
Mr. Thompson responds to the Defendants by saying that he
has a hearing problem and did not know when the nurse was
available, that he was told he must wait to see the nurse, and
that his refusal to take diabetes medicine is a result of the
Defendants’ ineptitude in dispensing the correct pills.
further argues that his refusal to take diabetes medicine is
unrelated to the medical issue described in his Complaint.
Other factual disputes involve whether Mr. Thompson followed
the proper diet, wore his prescribed orthopedic shoes and
bought too much peanut butter and sugar at the commissary.
It is clear to the Court that there is a genuine issue of
material fact in this case.
Mr. Thompson has alleged facts
deliberate indifference. The Defendants have alleged contrary
Determining which facts to believe is the job of the
fact finder, not the judge sitting on a Motion for Summary
determine, as a matter of law, whether Mr. Thompson bought too
much peanut butter or whether the Defendants allowed him to
see the nurse when he requested to. Accordingly, that portion
of the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied.
Defendants argue that:
CCUSO Defendants are entitled to qualified
Davis v. Hall,
375 F.3d 703, 711 (8th Cir. 2004).
Qualified immunity exists “to protect
public officials from the ‘broad-ranging
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 646
(1987) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457
U.S. 800, 817 (1982)).
To defeat this
qualified immunity, Plaintiff must show how
violated a “clearly established statutory
reasonable person would have known.” Id.
To make this showing, Plaintiff must: (1)
considering the facts in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiff demonstrate that
each Defendant violated a constitutional
right; and if that criterion is satisfied,
(2) show the constitutional right was
clearly established. Ware v. Morrison, 276
F.3d 385, 387 (8th Cir. 2002).
Docket No. 17-2, p. 10 of 14.
Accordingly, the Defendants are not entitled to qualified
immunity if Mr. Thompson has alleged facts that could show the
Defendants violated a constitutional right and if the right
was clearly established.
As discussed in Section (A), p. 6-
12, Mr. Thompson has alleged facts that could demonstrate the
Defendants violated his constitutional right to medical care.
And the Defendants admit in their own brief, “that treating
[a] patient’s medical needs with deliberate indifference is
prohibited by the Constitution.”
Accordingly, Mr. Thompson
has made the appropriate showing to defeat the Defendants’
claim for qualified immunity. That portion of the Defendants’
Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied.
Dr. Smith’s Individual Claim
Defendant Smith argues that he should be dismissed from
this claim because Mr. Thompson fails to allege any claim
specifically against Dr. Smith.
Dr. Smith correctly states
A Plaintiff may bring a section 1983 claim
only against those individuals actually
deprivation. Doyle v. Camelot Care Centers
[Inc.], 305 F.3d 605, 614-615 (7th Cir.
2002); De[L][a][F]ont v. Beckelman, 264 F.
Supp. [2d] 650, 656, (N.D. Ill 2003).
Defendants are only liable for actions for
Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208
(8th Cir. 1990). A general responsibility
for supervising operations is insufficient
to establish the personal involvement
necessary to support liability. Keeper v.
King, 130 F.3d 1309, 1314 (8th Cir. 1997).
Docket No. 17-2, p. 11 of 14.
Dr. Smith goes onto argue that Mr. Thompson’s Complaint is
devoid of specific allegations against him.
However, a cursory review of Mr. Thompson’s Complaint
Specifically, on page 2 of his Complaint, Mr. Thompson states
Defendant Benson to Dr. Smith.
He goes onto say that Dr.
Smith did not follow through on a promise to send Mr. Thompson
to Iowa City for evaluation.
Finally, Mr. Thompson alleges
that Dr. Smith failed to respond to requests to talk to Mr.
Thompson about his medical issue.
It is clear to the Court
that Mr. Thompson has made specific allegations against Dr.
Determining which facts to believe is the job of the
fact finder, not the judge ruling on a Motion for Summary
Judgment. It would be inappropriate to dismiss Dr. Smith from
Accordingly, that portion of the Defendants’
Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.
Thompson’s foot related medical issue has been resolved.
Thompson does not dispute that his foot has healed, but argues
This fact ignores the past history of not
providing Thompson with care in a timely
fashion, which has caused damage to
Thompson. He was not taken to Iowa City
until after he signed this lawsuit.
Therefore, there is a record of real threat
of a future violation of the law, and when
that is the case, injunctive relief is
Docket No. 23-2, p. 8 of 9.
Mr. Thompson goes on to state that an injunction is proper if
“the record shows ‘a real threat of [a] future violation [of
the law] or a contemporary violation of a nature likely to
continue or recur.’”
Webb v. Missouri Pac. R.R., 98 F.3d
1067, 1068 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting United States v. Oregon
State Med. Soc'y, 343 U.S. 326, 333 (1952) (internal quotation
alterations in Webb)).
The Defendants do not dispute that standard is correct,
but argue that, “[i]n general, a pending claim for injunctive
relief becomes moot when the challenged conduct ceases and
there is no reasonable expectation that the wrong will be
Mo. Pro. And Advocacy Servs., Inc. v. Carnahan,
499 F.3d 803, 811 (8th Cir. 2007).
The Defendants argue that
because Mr. Thompson has received competent care that has
resolved his medical issue, his claim for injunctive relief
has been rendered moot.
The Court agrees with the Defendants.
Mr. Thompson, by
his own admission, has now received competent medical care.
Mr. Thompson’s complaint fails to allege any facts that
demonstrate a future risk.
Mr. Thompson has failed to prove
he has a reasonable expectation that this wrong will be
He may never suffer an issue with his foot again,
and Mr. Thompson himself wants CCUSO to abstain from the
treatment of his diabetes.
Accordingly, injunctive relief in
this matter would be highly speculative, and that would be
Accordingly, this portion of the Defendants’
Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
The Defendants have also filed a counterclaim requesting
an award of attorney’s fees.
Because the Court is denying in
part and granting in part Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment, ruling on their counterclaim which alleges that the
Plaintiff’s Complaint is frivolous, would be inappropriate at
For the reasons set out above, Defendant’s Motion For
Summary Judgment (Docket No. 17) is granted in part/denied in
part as follows:
The Court DENIES the Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment regarding the merits of Mr. Thompson’s case, the
Court DENIES the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment requesting Dr. Smith
be dismissed from the case, the Court DENIES the Defendants’
Motion for Summary Judgment on their Counterclaim, and the
Court GRANTS the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
regarding Mr. Thompson’s claim for injunctive relief.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 10th day of March, 2014.
Donald E. O’Brien, Senior Judge
United States District Court
Northern District of Iowa
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