Darnell v. Stanford et al
ORDER granting 62 Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants Barry Stanford, Sara Rickit, and Richard T. Jones are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by District Judge Sharion Aycock on 1/11/17. (cr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
JERRY LEE DARNELL
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 1:15CV131-SA-RP
BARRY STANFORD, ET AL.
ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Jerry Lee Darnell, a Mississippi inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that he was denied medical care by Detention Supervisor
Barry Stanford, Nurse Sara Rickit1, and Jail Administrator Richard T. Jones (“Defendants”)
while housed at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center. Defendants have moved for
summary judgment, and Darnell has responded. Having reviewed the submissions and
arguments of the parties, as well as the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendants’ motion
should be granted.
Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is proper only when the pleadings and evidence, viewed in a light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, illustrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) &(c); Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is deemed “material” if “its resolution in favor of
one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law.” Sossamon v. Lone Star
State of Tex., 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). Once the motion is properly
Nurse Rickit’s actual name is “Sarah Rickert.” See, e.g., Doc. #62-1. The Court retains
the spelling of Ms. Rickert’s name as used by Darnell, however, to avoid confusion in the record.
supported with competent evidence, the nonmovant must show that summary judgment is
inappropriate. Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998); see
also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmovant cannot rely upon “conclusory allegations,
speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions” to satisfy his burden, but rather, must set forth
specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue as to every essential element of his claim.
Ramsey v. Henderson, 286 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted); Morris, 144 F.3d at
380. If the “evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party,” then there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no proof is presented, however, the Court does not assume that the
nonmovant “could or would prove the necessary facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069,
1075 (5th Cir. 1994).
Jerry Darnell had a right-eye corneal transplant at the Cincinnati Eye Institute on October
3, 2014, prior to his incarceration in this case. See Doc. #69 at 2-4; Doc. #67-6 at 82; see also
Doc. #19 at 1:55-2:22. Darnell claims that he was scheduled to have stitches removed from his
eye on February 3, 2015. By that time, however, he had been arrested and was in the custody of
the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center (“Lowndes County”). He claims that a nurse at
Lowndes County, Nurse Rickit, refused to allow him to see a physician to have the sutures
removed. See id. at 7. Darnell filed a grievance about the alleged denial of medical care to
Detention Supervisor Barry Stanford, who responded in writing that medical providers had
advised him that the stitches had been in Darnell’s eye too long to be removed safely. Id.
Darnell claims that he had to have two subsequent surgeries on his right eye because his
stitches were not removed on schedule. He alleges that the first, on May 4, 2015, was a stent that
blinded him in his right eye, and the other was a surgery on June 11, 2015, to repair his retina.
Darnell maintains that he might have retained eyesight in his right eye if he had been provided
the necessary medical attention in a timely manner.
Deliberate indifference to an inmate’s serious medical needs violates the Eighth
Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
103-04 (1978). The test for establishing deliberate indifference is “one of subjective recklessness
as used in the criminal law.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 839 (1994). In order to state a
claim under § 1983 for deliberate indifference to an inmate’s medical condition, the inmate must
demonstrate that the prison official (1) knew that the inmate faced a substantial risk of serious
harm; and (2) disregarded that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it. Farmer,
511 U.S. at 847.
The constitutional standard of “deliberate indifference” is a demanding one, and
negligent conduct by a prison official does not give rise to a constitutional violation. Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Oliver v. Collins, 914 F.2d 56, 60 (5th Cir. 1990). Rather,
liability under the deliberate indifference standard requires the plaintiff to produce evidence Athat
prison officials >refused to treat him, ignored his complaints, intentionally treated him incorrectly,
or engaged in any other similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any
serious medical needs.=@ Davidson v. Tex. Dept. of Crim. J., 91 F. App=x 963, 965 (5th Cir.
2004) (citation omitted); see also Gobert v. Caldwell, 463 F.3d 339, 346 (5th Cir. 2006) (holding
deliberate indifference requires inmate to show prison officials engaged in conduct that “clearly
evince[s] a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs.”
Jerry Lee Darnell has been housed at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center
(“Lowndes County”) on several occasions since July 2008. See, e.g., Doc. #67-2 at 3-5. The
information he provided for the “Booking Medical Sheet” during each stay at the facility
demonstrates that he experienced problems with his right eye years before his corneal transplant
in October of 2014. For instance, during a June 22, 2009, booking, he reported that he had
undergone surgery on his right eye the previous Monday and stated that he had a corneal
transplant in his right eye. Doc. #67-3 at 57-58. During an August 4, 2010, booking, Darnell
reported that he was blind in his right eye. Id. at 55-56. On May 9, 2011, Darnell reported that
his right eye had been hurting. Id. at 51-52. On November 16, 11, Darnell reported to a
Lowndes County booking official that he was blind in his right eye. Id. at 47-48. During a
booking on May 15, 2012, Darnell reported “issues” with his right eye, noting that he had been
medically treated approximately a month prior for his eye condition and had been prescribed eye
drops. Id. at 43-44. On March 22, 2014, Darnell reported that he was blind in his right eye and
stated that he had undergone brain surgery in 1998. Id. at 41-42. On April 1, 2014, he reported a
prior transplant in his right eye and stated that he had a “plate” in his right eye. Id. at 39-40. The
fact of Darnell’s prior transplant is confirmed in his Mississippi Department of Corrections
(“MDOC”) medical history, which notes that his October 2014 procedure was a second corneal
transplant. See Doc. #67-6 at 115; see also, e.g., id. at 8, 28, 35, 48, 63, and 82.
Darnell was housed at Lowndes County for the first time following his 2014 corneal
transplant from November 19, 2014, until December 2, 2014. See Doc. #67-2 at 5. As part of
the “Booking Medical Sheet” that was created on November 19, 2014, Darnell reported that he
had seen a physician the prior week for a surgery follow-up, noting that his “[r]ight eye is
damaged” and that he uses eye drops for his eye condition. See Doc. #67-3 at 38. Darnell was
later transferred to an MDOC facility where on December 21, 2014, his eye medications were
updated and a specialty consult to follow-up on Darnell’s corneal transplant was ordered. See
Doc. #67-6 at 107. A specialty optometry consult occurred on December 30, 2014, and the
physician ordered that Darnell receive pred forte2 drops to his right eye and provided Darnell
with a bottle of the medication. See Doc. #67-6 at 114-15; 118. Darnell remained in an MDOC
facility until his transport to Lowndes County on January 29, 2015. See Doc. #67-6 at 129-30;
see also Doc. #67-3 at 3.
Darnell was again housed in Lowndes County for a temporary forty-one day return for
court beginning January 29, 2015. See Doc. #62-1; Doc. #67-3 at 5. Immediately prior to his
transfer to Lowndes County, Darnell’s medications were refilled and he reported no new medical
problems or injuries. Doc. #67-6 at 128-130. Darnell’s MDOC records contain no order for
suture removal upon his transfer. See id. at 129-132.
During his January 2015 booking at Lowndes County, Darnell reported that he had
previously had a corneal transplant that gave him “issues at times” and for which he took
“multiple unknown meds.” Doc. #67-4 at 35-36. Darnell arrived with his medicated eye drops,
which were given to him to keep in his cell. Doc. #62-1; see also Doc. #67-1 at 6 and Doc. #673 at 4.
In early and mid-February, 2015, Darnell requested earplugs, sleep medication, ibuprofen,
and medication for his skin. Doc. #62-1. He was provided with antifungal cream, earplugs,
triple antibiotic ointment, and ibuprofen. Doc. #62-1. On February 16, 2015, Darnell
Pred forte is a corticosteriod that treats eye conditions due to inflammation or injury.
See http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-8564/pred-forte-ophthalmic/details (last visited
January 10, 2017).
complained that his right eye was infected, maintaining that he had stitches in his right eye. Doc.
#67-1 at 4. According to Nurse Rickit, Darnell informed a member of the nursing staff that his
follow-up eye appointment was in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was told, in accordance with standard
procedure, that he would have to wait until his return to prison for follow-up care. Doc. #62-1.
Nurse Rickit noted that the prison did not send any orders for stitches removal, which Lowndes
County would have been unable to perform. Id. However, per physician’s orders, Darnell was
given ibuprofen 600 mg, twice per day, following his medical care request. Doc. #67-1 at 4;
On March 12, 2015, Darnell completed an inmate request form that was directed to
Defendant Lt. Barry Stanford. Doc. #67-3 at 1. The request states: “I have wrote several
medical request forms asking to see an eye doctor concerning my right eye. I have stitched in my
eye that were suppose to be removed last month (2-3-2015). I asked Sara [Rickit] about going to
the Doctor, she refused me medical attention.” Id. Stanford investigated the request and replied
on March 13, 2015 that he had spoken with medical staff, stating: Darnell’s “stitches . . . ha[ve]
been in a year or longer. [Medical professionals] are unable to remove such safely after all that
time.” Doc. #62-2; see also Doc. #67-3 at 1.
Darnell was transferred from Lowndes County to the Central Mississippi Correctional
Facility, an MDOC facility, later in March of 2015 and lodged a sick-call request to be “seen for
stitches” in his right eye. Doc. #67-6 at 136. Darnell’s eyes were examined, and it was noted
that the right eye contained “noticable color change with small fragments around Iris. . . no
redness or drainage noted at this time, [Darnell] denies any visual changes.” Id. at 138. The
disposition was “routine.” Id. at 138. Darnell was thereafter transferred to the South Mississippi
Correctional Institution, another MDOC facility, at the end of March 2015, where he complained
on April 10, 2015, of right eye pain. Doc. #67-7 at 3. In response to his complaints, a plan was
generated to administer ibuprofen and make a routine referral, which was accomplished on April
21, 2015, when Darnell was transported to the Southern Eye Center, prescribed sunglasses, and
scheduled for a follow-up procedure in May. Doc. #67-7 at 6-15.
Darnell received treatment from the Southern Eye Center, a private facility in
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in May 2015. See, e.g., Doc. #67-8. According to the diagnosis from
that facility, Darnell has uncontrolled glaucoma in his right eye and had a procedure to attempt to
improve his condition on May 4, 2015. See Doc. #67-8 at 78. Approximately one month after
the procedure, Darnell reported that he could not see color in his right eye, and that his vision had
worsened since the procedure. Id. at 63. In June of 2015, he had surgery to repair his right
retina, and a third corneal transplant was performed on his right eye in October of 2015. See id.
at 23 and 55.
It is clear from the evidence presented to the Court that Darnell’s problems with vision in
his right eye began long before he was housed at Lowndes County in January of 2015. He
complained of blindness in his right eye at that facility as early as 2010. Additionally, contrary to
his statements to the Court that Defendants’ lack of medical treatment caused him to be blind in
his right eye, he indicated to medical providers at the Southern Eye Center in June of 2015 that
he could not see “color” and that his vision had worsened in his right eye since the 2015
glaucoma surgery. Therefore, Darnell’s claim that Defendants caused his eye injuries is not
supported by the record.
The Court considers, however, Darnell’s claim that Defendants (in)actions made his
medical condition worse by refusing to provide him with suture removal. The Court finds that
there is no evidence in the record, aside from Darnell’s unsubstantiated assertions, that he was
scheduled to have a follow-up eye appointment in February 2015 to have stitches removed from
his right eye. Moreover, prior to his arrival at Lowndes County at the end of January 2015,
Darnell was prescribed medications and given an optometry exam. His medications were
transported with him to Lowndes County, and he was allowed to keep the medications on his
person. Therefore, the evidence supports a determination that Darnell received treatment at
Lowndes County that was consistent with the treatment plan generated for his chronic medical
condition prior to his arrival at the facility. His disagreement with the medical staff’s decision to
comply with the earlier treatment plan, even if that treatment was negligent, does not support an
Eighth Amendment claim. See, e.g., Norton v. Dimazana, 122 F.3d 286, 292 (5th Cir. 2001)
(holding disagreement with course of medical treatment will not support a claim of deliberate
indifference); Varnado v. Lynaugh, 920 F.2d 320, 321 (5th Cir. 1991) (finding medical
malpractice alone does not support §1983 cause of action).
Additionally, the medical staff at Lowndes County considered his request for stitch
removal and investigated his complaints. Accordingly, even if the Court found that Darnell had
stated the violation of a constitutional right, Defendants sought professional judgment in
response to Darnell’s grievance concerning the stitch removal, and they acted in an objectively
reasonable manner in denying his request based on the judgment of medical professionals. See,
e.g., Lee v. Young, 533 F.3d 505, 511 (7th Cir.2008) (“[I]n determining the best way to handle
an inmate's medical needs, prison officials who are not medical professionals are entitled to rely
on the opinions of medical professionals.”); Crumbley v. Dawson, No. 9:09CV14, 2011 WL
917412, at *7 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 17, 2011) (finding that although plaintiff said he was “disabled”
and would not perform work, “prison officials had no obligation to believe his account of his
medical condition over that of the medical professionals”). Therefore, Defendants are oentitled
to qualified immunity.3 See Ramirez v. Knoulton, 542 F.3d 124, 128 (5th Cir. 2008) (noting
evaluation of qualified immunity requires court to determine (1) whether a clearly established
constitutional right would have been violated on the facts alleged, and (2) “whether the
defendant’s actions were objectively unreasonable in light of the clearly established law at the
time of the conduct in question”).
For the reasons set forth above, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment  is
GRANTED, and Defendants Barry Stanford, Sara Rickit, and Richard T. Jones are
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE from this action. A separate final judgment will enter today.
SO ORDERED this the 11th day of January, 2017.
/s/ Sharion Aycock
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
The Court finds that Captain Richard Jones is additionally entitled to dismissal because
he lacked any personal involvement in the medical care decisions at issue in this case. See, e.g.,
Thompson v. Steele, 709 F.2d 381, 382 (5th Cir. 1983) (finding “[p]ersonal involvement is an
essential element” of a § 1983 action) (citation omitted); see also Doc. #62-2.
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