Lee v. Wexford Health Source, Inc. et al
OPINION AND ORDER re 88 FINAL Judgment. Signed by Michael P. Mills on 1/15/14. (cr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
DENNIS O’NEAL LEE (#101953),
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 4:12cv114-MPM-DAS
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging that Defendant, Timothy Morris, was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s serious
medical condition. Specifically, he alleges that Defendant, as Warden of the Mississippi State
Penitentiary, refused to allow Plaintiff to wear a medically prescribed head covering, and that
Plaintiff suffered serious sunburns to his scalp as a result. Defendant has moved for summary
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, and Plaintiff has responded. Having
reviewed the submissions and arguments of the parties, as well as the applicable law, the Court
finds that Defendant’s motion should be granted, for the reasons that follow.
Plaintiff is an inmate in the Mississippi Department of Corrections and is currently
housed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution. He filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the following defendants: Wexford Health Source, Inc.; Christopher Epps; E.L.
Sparkman; Billy Smith; Earnest Lee; Vicky Knowels; Timothy Morris; Gloria Perry; Norma
Evans; Dr. Lorenzo Cabe; Dr. Dennis Gregory; Dr. Kim; Dr. Juan Santos; Robert Tucker; John
Doe; and James Doe. He alleged that some defendants failed to ensure that the proper sanitary
regulations were followed when the State gave haircuts to prisoners, which resulted in him
contracting a scalp infection that the other defendants failed to properly treat.
Plaintiff clarified his allegations at a Spears1 hearing held on January 24, 2013. After the
hearing, the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s claim that the defendants acted with deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs by failing to adequately treat his scalp infection, and it
dismissed his claim relating to the defendants’ alleged failure to follow State sanitary
regulations.2 The Court retained Plaintiff’s claim alleging that Timothy Morris, hereinafter
“Defendant”, acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s serious medical needs by
confiscating Plaintiff’s head scarf. This is the sole remaining claim before the Court.
Plaintiff alleges that he received a scalp infection sometime after his arrest in 2009 as the
result of unsanitary prison barbering practices and began receiving treatment for his scalp
condition at the Carroll Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility (“CMCRCF”) in March
2010. Plaintiff maintains that when treatment there proved to be largely unsuccessful, he was
transported to the Mississippi State Penitentiary (“MSP”) for more intense treatment and for the
possibility of an outside referral. Plaintiff contends that he was transported between CMCRCF
and MSP for treatment several times between November 2010 and August 2012.
One of Plaintiff’s prescribed treatments was a therapeutic coal tar extract shampoo, which
makes him more susceptible to sunlight. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Okunoren at CMCRCF, gave
Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985).
For a more complete discussion of Plaintiff’s dismissed claims, see docket entries no.
11, no. 27, and no. 86.
him a medical profile3 that allowed him to wear a head scarf to prevent his head from being
sunburned, as well as to prevent the spread of his contagious infection.4
Plaintiff contends that he was given medical scarf profiles in November 9, 2010 and June
9, 2011. Plaintiff maintains that he was transferred to MSP in September 2011, and that he gave
his profile papers to a lieutenant at that time. He alleges that the medical profile was never
returned to him, and that he was transported back to CMCRCF in September 2011. He maintains
that he was transported to MSP again in February 2012, and that, while he did not have the
profile in his possession, he encountered no problems wearing his black medical scarf once
prison officials saw the condition of his head.
Plaintiff alleges that on July 31, 2012, however, a lieutenant ordered Plaintiff to remove
his head scarf and took him to Defendant, who had recently become a warden at MSP. Plaintiff
contends that Defendant refused to allow Plaintiff to wear the head scarf and informed his
officers to write Plaintiff a Rule Violation Report (“RVR”) if they saw Plaintiff with anything on
his head. Plaintiff alleges that he wrote Defendant and explained the necessity of the head scarf,
but that Defendant failed to respond. As a result, Plaintiff maintains, he received several RVRs
for wearing a head covering. He contends that when he finally decided not to wear the head
covering for fear of getting more RVRs, he received sunburn. Specifically, Plaintiff maintains
that he received excessive sun exposure during trips to the dining hall, where inmates are forced
Neither Plaintiff nor Defendant explain or define “profile.” The Court presumes it is
akin to a medical permission slip.
Plaintiff maintains that he was diagnosed with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
aureus (“MRSA”). The diagnoses in his medical records include Tinea Capitis with kerion
formation and dissecting cellulitis of the scalp. (See R. to Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A).
to stand outside for up to thirty minutes at times. One of these sunburns was so severe, he
argues, that he was rendered unconscious and had to be transported to the hospital by ambulance.
Plaintiff contends that not only was he forced to suffer needlessly as a result of the
confiscation of his head scarf, but that Defendant also subjected other inmates to an unnecessary
risk of contracting his infection. He contends that Defendant finally dismissed Plaintiff’s RVRs
and allowed him to resume wearing a head covering after Plaintiff lost consciousness on August
28, 2012, which Plaintiff maintains is evidence of Defendant’s awareness of his wrongdoing.
Plaintiff asserts that he is entitled to an award of damages and an order compelling Defendant to
properly treat his scalp condition.
Defendant alleges that he is entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the
United States Constitution for the claim against him in his official capacity. He also argues that,
as he did not violate any of Plaintiff’s clearly established federal rights, he is entitled to qualified
immunity as to the claim against him in his individual capacity. Defendant admits that he
refused to allow Plaintiff to wear a head scarf. He contends, however, that he was not
deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical needs and argues that he never saw a prescription
allowing Plaintiff to wear a “homemade scarf.” (See Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B). Defendant alleges
that Plaintiff received treatment for his medical condition, and that his medical records do not
contain a profile allowing Plaintiff to wear a scarf on his head. (See id., Ex. A). He notes that he
could not have allowed Plaintiff to wear a homemade scarf without a prescription from medical
professionals, as doing so would allow Plaintiff to violate prison rules. (See id., Ex. B). He
maintains, therefore, that his actions were objectively reasonable.
Defendant also argues that Plaintiff is not allowed to recover damages for any mental or
emotional injury, as he cannot demonstrate that he suffered any physical injury as a result of
Defendant’s actions. He maintains that any injury suffered by Plaintiff is de minimis, which is
insufficient to sustain his claim.
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 Texas, 560 F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). Once the motion is
properly 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).
Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his pleadings are construed liberally. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
A. Claim against Defendant in his official capacity
Defendant claims that he is entitled to the grant of summary judgment, as he is immune
from suit under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Eleventh
Amendment bars suits in federal court by a citizen against his own state or against a state agency.
Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). A suit against a state
employee in his official capacity is a suit against the office and, as such, is the same as suit
against the state itself. Will v. Michigan, Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (citations
omitted). The Mississippi Department of Corrections is an arm of the State of Mississippi and
enjoys the same immunity. Hines v. Mississippi Dept. of Corrections, 239 F.3d 366, 2000 WL
1741624 at *4 (5th Cir. 2000). The Supreme Court has held that “[t]here can be no doubt. . . that
suit against [a] State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless
[the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit,” Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782
(1978), or unless Congress has explicitly revoked immunity. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 (1984).
Section 1983 does not abrogate the Eleventh Amendment. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S.
332, 341 (1979); Sessions v. Rusk State Hospital, 648 F.2d 1066, 1069 (5th Cir. 1981).
Mississippi has not consented to the filing of § 1983 suits against it in federal court. See, e.g.,
McGarry v. Univ. of Mississippi Med. Ctr., 355 F. App’x 853, 856 (5th Cir. 2009) (noting that
Mississippi “expressly preserved sovereign immunity to suit in federal court when it enacted the
Mississippi Tort Claims Act”). Accordingly, Defendant is entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity for the claim against him in his official capacity.
B. Claim against Defendant in his individual capacity
Defendant claims that he is entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified
immunity. Qualified immunity protects governmental employees from individual, civil liability
as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established constitutional rights of which a
“reasonable person would have known.” Wernecke v. Garcia, 591 F.3d 386, 392 (5th Cir. 2009)
(citation omitted). It is a defense that protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who
knowingly violate the law.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986).
A two-step analysis is applied to resolve claims of qualified immunity. Ramirez v.
Knoulton, 542 F.3d 124, 128 (5th Cir. 2008). In one step, the court views the evidence in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff and determines whether evidence exists that the individual
defendant(s) violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Id. A court must also “consider
whether the defendant’s actions were objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law
at the time of the conduct in question.” Id. (citation omitted). A defendant’s actions are deemed
“objectively reasonable unless all reasonable officials in the defendant’s circumstances would
have then known that the conduct at issue violated” clearly established law. Thompson v. Upshur
County Texas, 245 F.3d 447, 457 (5th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original). The
sequence of the two-prong inquiry is not mandatory; a court may rely upon either prong of the
defense in its analysis. See, e.g., Manis v. Lawson, 585 F.3d 839, 843 (5th Cir. 2009) (citation
Once qualified immunity has been pleaded by a defendant, the plaintiff bears the burden
of rebutting the defense “by establishing that the official’s allegedly wrongful conduct violated
clearly established law.” Estate of Davis v. City of N. Richland Hills, 406 F.3d 375, 380 (5th Cir.
2003). This burden does not allow him to “rest on conclusory allegations and assertions,” but
rather, requires him to “demonstrate genuine issues of material fact regarding the reasonableness
of the officer’s conduct.” Michalik v. Hermann, 422 F.3d 252, 262 (5th Cir. 2005).
Plaintiff argues that Defendant knew of Plaintiff’s sensitivity to sunlight but nonetheless
confiscated his medically prescribed scarf, which resulted in Plaintiff receiving a severe sunburn
that required hospitalization. Plaintiff’s medical records, which are attached as an exhibit to
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, demonstrate that Plaintiff received medical attention
relating to his scalp condition more than forty-five times between November 2010 and December
2012. (See Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A). He was prescribed various medications throughout that time
period. At least as early as November 2010, Plaintiff was prescribed a therapeutic tar gel
shampoo that cautions against exposing treated skin to sunlight, as the medication increases the
tendency to sunburn for up to twenty-four hours after application. (See id., doc. no. 63-3, p. 2;
see also R. to Mot. Summ. J., doc. no. 80, p. 28).
Particularly relevant to Plaintiff’s claim are his medical records from July and August
2012. Prior to the alleged unconstitutional action by Defendant, Plaintiff was seen at CMCRCF
on July 5, 2012, by Dr. Lorenzo Cabe, who changed Plaintiff’s medications and ordered him to
engage in no outdoor activities for fifteen days. (Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A, doc. no. 64-1, p. 34).
On July 18, 2012, Dr. Cabe again saw Plaintiff and ordered him a “lay-in” without a food tray for
one week. (Id., p. 64).5 On July 23, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a medical services request form
A “lay-in” is presumably a prescription exempting an inmate from work.
stating that it was too hot for him outside, and that his shampoo cautioned against excessive sun
exposure. (Id., doc. no. 64-3, p. 53). On July 24, 2012, in response to the services request,
Plaintiff was treated by Nurse Practitioner, Larry Tucker. (Id., doc. no. 64-1, p. 17). NP Tucker
noted that Plaintiff did not “want to go to field” due to scalp exposure, but he recorded that
Plaintiff was wearing a hat at that time that protected Plaintiff’s scalp from sunlight. (Id.).
Plaintiff alleges that the hat mentioned by NP Tucker was Plaintiff’s medically prescribed
head scarf, which was confiscated by Defendant on July 31, 2012. Plaintiff maintains that on
that date, Lieutenant Willis ordered him to remove the scarf and took him to Defendant, who
confiscated the scarf and ordered his staff to write Plaintiff an RVR if Plaintiff was caught
wearing a head covering. On July 31, 2012, Plaintiff completed an “Offender Request Form”
complaining about the confiscation of his head scarf and informing Defendant that Defendant
was exposing other inmates to contagion by refusing to allow Plaintiff to cover his head. (See R.
to Mot. Summ. J., doc. no. 80, p. 23). The record demonstrates that similar requests were made
by Plaintiff to Defendant on August 16, August 19, and August 21, 2012, where Plaintiff
informed Defendant of his sun sensitivity and requested that his scarf be returned. (Id. at pp. 2426).
The first allegation Plaintiff made of a sunburn after the confiscation of his head scarf
occurred on August 6, 2012. On August 6, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a medical services request
form stating that he had been sunburned on the top of his head. (Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A, doc. no.
64-3, p. 58). He submitted a second request on August 9, 2012, noting that he had been
sunburned and needed to see the doctor. (Id. at p. 59). On August 10, Plaintiff was seen by
Nurse Ford and complained that his head hurt, that he was sunburned, that his scalp was leaking
blood and puss, and that his hair was falling out. (Id., doc. no. 64-1, pp. 5-7). Nurse Ford noted
lesions to Plaintiff’s scalp and “pea sized amounts of blood” inside of his cap, but she did not
find any evidence of active bleeding or burns to the scalp. (Id. at pp. 5-6).
On August 20, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a medical services request stating, among other
things, that he had been sunburned. (Id., doc. no. 64-3, p. 97). The following day, Plaintiff was
treated by Nurse Ford, who noted that Plaintiff had swollen areas of his scalp, and that some
areas had signs and symptoms of “possible sunburn.” (Id., doc. no. 64, p. 121). Nurse Ford also
noted that Plaintiff complained of hair loss and swollen lymph nodes, and he requested that he be
provided a medical scarf. (Id.). Plaintiff was prescribed one tube of Silvadene cream and
directed to “apply to burn.” (Id. at p. 119).
On August 28, 2012, Plaintiff arrived at the MSP hospital by ambulance around 11:00
a.m. (Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A., doc. no. 64, p. 116). He stated to Nurse Tucker that he “got too
hot and passed out.” (Id.). Nurse Tucker recorded that Plaintiff refused to answer questions, and
she noted the presence of a small amount of bloody drainage on the stretcher paper from
Plaintiff’s scalp. (Id.). Dr. Santos also evaluated Plaintiff, recording that Plaintiff complained of
dizziness but refused to answer questions. (Id. at p. 114). Plaintiff was ordered to be released
back to his unit after Dr. Santos evaluated him. (Id. at 116). In a medical services request form
Plaintiff submitted on August 28, 2012, he claims that he had been taken to the hospital earlier in
the day “for an anxiety attack.” (Id., doc. no. 64-3, p. 99).
On August 30, 2012, Nurse Practitioner Tucker attempted to assess Plaintiff regarding his
complaints of a sunburn. (Id., doc. no. 64, p. 108). NP Tucker noted that Plaintiff was not seen
due to behavioral problems, as he “refused to complete vital signs and was verbally abusive.”
(Id.). NP Tucker assessed that Plaintiff was malingering. (Id.).
Plaintiff’s claim implicates the Eighth Amendment, under which prison officials have a
duty to “provide humane conditions of confinement.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832
(1994) (internal quotation omitted). This duty requires prison officials to ensure that inmates
receive, among other things, adequate shelter and medical care, and it requires officials to “take
reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.” Id. (citations omitted). Deliberate
indifference on the part of prison officials as to these needs constitutes a violation of the Eighth
Amendment. Id. at 834.
In order to state a claim under § 1983 of 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 837 (quotations omitted). Negligence will not support
the finding of a constitutional violation. Oliver v. Collins, 914 F.2d 56, 60 (5th Cir. 1990).
Rather, deliberate indifference requires the inmate to show that prison officials engaged in
conduct that “clearly evince[s] a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs.” Gobert v.
Caldwell, 463 F.3d 339, 346 (5th Cir. 2006) (quotations omitted).
As an initial matter, the Court considers Defendant’s claim that he is entitled to qualified
immunity under the doctrine of respondeat superior because he was not personally involved in
any alleged constitutional deprivation. A supervisory official is not liable under § 1983 unless he
is either personally involved in the constitutional violation, or unless there exists “a sufficient
causal connection between the supervisor’s wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation.”
Thompkins v. Belt, 828 F.2d 298, 304 (5th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff has alleged and Defendant has
conceded a personal involvement in the confiscation of Plaintiff’s head scarf. Accordingly, the
Court finds the doctrine of respondeat superior inapplicable in this case.
The Court also determines that Plaintiff was prescribed a shampoo that heightened his
sensitivity to sunlight, but it also finds that there is no medical restriction in his records
prohibiting him from being exposed to sunlight during the period of time he complains of in this
suit.6 By Plaintiff’s admission, he was exposed to sunlight after the confiscation of his head scarf
upon entering and exiting the dining hall. This exposure was not a prolonged, severe exposure to
sunlight that posed a substantial risk of serious harm. See, e.g., Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730,
738 (2002) (inmate’s Eighth Amendment rights were violated where he was handcuffed for
seven hours to a hitching post with his shirt off in the sun while guards denied him adequate
water and taunted him). Rather, it was a limited exposure necessary only for purposes of
transferring Plaintiff from one area of the prison to another. Moreover, the RVRs submitted by
Plaintiff demonstrate that he received RVRs in August 2012 for refusing to remove his head
covering upon entering or while inside the dining hall. (See, e.g., R. to Mot. Summ. J., doc. no.
80, pp. 75-79). The RVRs submitted by Plaintiff suggest that Plaintiff was not forced to be
exposed to sunlight, but rather, was issued a rule violation for failing to comply with orders once
inside of the dining hall. Accordingly, the Court finds that the competent summary judgment
evidence does not support a determination that Defendant exposed Plaintiff to a substantial risk
of serious harm and then responded with deliberate indifference to that risk. Gobert, 463 F.3d at
The only medical record prohibiting Plaintiff’s exposure to sunlight was Dr. Cabe’s
fifteen-day order issued on July 5, 2012, which is outside of the time frame Plaintiff alleges
Defendant took wrongful action against him. (See Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A, doc. no. 64-1, p. 34).
The Court directed MDOC to obtain any written profile contained in Plaintiff’s medical
records and to obtain a statement from Nurse Henson and Dr. Okunoren stating whether Plaintiff
was issued a written profile for a head covering. (See doc. entry no. 85). In response, counsel for
Defendant filed a notice stating that Dr. Okunoren and Nurse Henson were not employees of
MDOC and could not be located in order to obtain a statement. (See doc. entry no. 87). The
parties contest whether Plaintiff was issued a medical profile that allowed him to wear a head
covering. There is, however, no medical profile for a head covering contained in Plaintiff’s
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant became Warden of Plaintiff’s unit in July 2012, which is
the same month Plaintiff complains that his head scarf was confiscated. (See, e.g., R. to Mot.
Summ. J., doc. no. 80, p. 13). Defendant states that he was not aware of any medical profile that
would allow Plaintiff to wear the head covering, and he alleges that Plaintiff’s “homemade scarf”
was against prison regulations. (See Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B, Aff. Of Timothy Morris). Absent
medical authorization in the records, it is reasonable that a prison warden would refuse to allow
an inmate to wear a head covering that is against prison regulations.7 Accordingly, even if the
Court were to assume that Defendant’s actions violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, Plaintiff
has failed to carry his burden of demonstrating that “all reasonable officials similarly situated
would have then known that the alleged acts of the [D]efendant violated the United States
Plaintiff points to two specific medical records that he maintains supports his claim that
he had an order allowing him to wear a medical head scarf. The first is a medical record dated
November 9, 2010, the word “Profile” is written beside the notation that Plaintiff has been
prescribed a therapeutic shampoo. (See Mot. Summ. J., doc. 64-3, p. 2). The word “Profile” is
also written on a June 9, 2011, note beside the medication “Diphenydramine.” (Id., doc. no. 642,
p. 121). There is not, however, an order, prescription, or note contained in Plaintiff’s medical
records prescribing the use of a medical head scarf.
Constitution.” Thompson v. Upshur County, 245 F.3d 447, 460 (5th Cir. 2001).
Finally, the Court notes that Plaintiff also argues that Defendant’s confiscation of his
head scarf and refusal to allow Plaintiff to wear a head covering violates the constitutional rights
of other inmates to be free from the risk of communicable disease. Plaintiff cannot assert the
constitutional rights of other inmates, see, e.g., Coon v. Ledbetter, 780 F.2d 1158, 1159 (5th Cir.
1986), and he cannot support his claim with this argument.
Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity.
C. Absence of injury
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, mental and emotional damages are not allowed
unless the prisoner suffered a physical injury. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) (“No Federal civil action
may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison or other correctional facility, for mental or
emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.”). The
injury must be more than de minimis to be compensable. Alexander v. Tippah County,
Mississippi, 351 F.3d 626, 631 (5th Cir. 2003).
Plaintiff claims he was severely sunburned on August 3, 15, and 28, 2012. (R. to Mot.
Summ. J. p. 14). However, Plaintiff’s medical records created on and around those dates do not
support a conclusion that Plaintiff received a substantial injury due to the confiscation of his head
scarf. Plaintiff obviously had some sort of head covering as of August 10, 2012, as Nurse Ford
recorded that there were drops of blood inside of Plaintiff’s cap. (Mot. Summ. J., Ex. A., doc.
no. 64-1, pp. 5-6). That same recorded medical note also indicates that no burns were noted to
Plaintiff’s scalp. (Id. at p. 6).
Plaintiff claims that he suffered severe sunburn on August 28, 2012 that required
hospitalization. His medical records, however, indicate that he was transported to the prison
hospital via ambulance and reported that he “got too hot and passed out.” (Id., doc. no. 64, p.
116). None of the medical professionals who evaluated Plaintiff on August 28, 2012, — the
responding EMT, Nurse Tucker, or Dr. Santos — assessed that Plaintiff had been sunburned.
(See id., pp. 114-16). To the contrary, in a medical services request form Plaintiff submitted on
August 28, 2012, he claims that the reason for his hospital visit was “for an anxiety attack.” (Id.,
doc. no. 64-3, p. 99). The records also indicate that Plaintiff was not hospitalized, but rather, was
released back to his unit the same day. (See id.). The record evidence also states that two days
later, Plaintiff was combative with medical staff and assessed to be malingering his complaint
that the sun was burning his head. (See id., doc. no. 64, p. 108).
In fact, the only treatment indicated in Plaintiff’s medical records for sunburn occurred on
August 21, 2012, when Nurse Ford noted that Plaintiff’s scalp showed signs of “possible
sunburn.” (See id., doc. no. 64, p. 121). On that occasion, Plaintiff was given medical salve and
released back to his unit. (Id.).
A finding that Plaintiff was treated for a “possible sunburn” is not an injury of such a
magnitude as to satisfy the requirement that Plaintiff’s medical need be sufficiently serious; it is a
de minimis injury. See, e.g., Alexander v. Tippah County, Miss., 351 F.3d 626, 631 (5th Cir.
2003) (finding complaints of sleep deprivation, headaches, and weight loss amount to de minimis
physical injuries); Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997) (finding inmate’s sore,
bruised ear, lasting for three days was a de minimis injury). The injury alleged by Plaintiff is not
For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment (doc. entry
no. 60) is GRANTED, and the instant action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. A separate
judgment in accordance with this Order will enter today.
SO ORDERED this the 15th day of January, 2014.
/s/ Michael P. Mills
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
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