Hightower v. Medical Staff/St. Louis Justice Center
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion of defendant Anthony Davis to dismiss [Doc. #42] is denied. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 6/24/2015. (KMS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al.,
No. 4:14-CV-1959 (CEJ)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motion of defendant Anthony Davis to
dismiss the first amended complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff has not
responded and the time for doing so has expired.
Plaintiff David Hightower brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action claiming that he
was denied proper medical care during his incarceration at the St. Louis Justice
In the amended complaint, plaintiff asserts that police officers used
excessive force when arresting him on June 19, 2014, injuring his left shoulder.
When officers transported plaintiff to the Justice Center, an unidentified nurse told
the officers that plaintiff’s left shoulder injury needed to be treated at the hospital
before he could be admitted to the Justice Center.
Instead of taking him to the
hospital, plaintiff alleges that the officers waited for a shift change to have another
nurse, defendant Anthony Davis, admit him.
During plaintiff’s intake screening, plaintiff told Davis both about the injury to
his arm and what the first nurse had said.
Davis told him he would be seen by
medical personnel once he was taken upstairs. However, plaintiff states that he did
not receive effective medical treatment for his arm “for weeks.” During this time,
plaintiff was in continuous pain and could not defend himself against other inmates
due to his arm’s impaired functioning and limited range of motion. He continuously
asked for medical treatment and for information on how to file a complaint. When
he finally received an x-ray, plaintiff states that his left shoulder was fractured in
two places. His injury was treated with a sling and “real painkillers.”
The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
allegations of a complaint are assumed true and construed in favor of the plaintiff,
“even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (citing Swierkiewicz v.
Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1 (2002)); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319,
327 (1989) (“Rule 12(b)(6) does not countenance . . . dismissals
based on a
judge’s disbelief of a complaint’s factual allegations”); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S.
232, 236 (1974) (stating that a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it
appears “that a recovery is very remote and unlikely”). The issue is not whether
the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present
evidence in support of his claim. Id. A viable complaint must include “enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570;
see also id. at 563 (stating the “no set of facts” language in Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), “has earned its retirement.”). “Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555.
When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court generally may not consider
matters outside the pleadings. Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077,
1079 (8th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted).
It may, however, consider matters of
public records, materials that do not contradict the complaint, exhibits attached to
the pleadings, and materials necessarily embraced by the complaint. Mills v. City of
Grand Forks, 614 F.3d 495, 498 (8th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff has attached exhibits to
his complaint, including grievance documents filed with the Division of Corrections
for the City of St. Louis.
These materials are necessarily embraced by the
complaint, and the Court may consider these in ruling on the motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff’s claim in the amended complaint is that Davis was deliberately
indifferent to plaintiff’s serious medical needs.
“It is well established that the
Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment extends to protect
prisoners from deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Gregoire v. Class,
236 F.3d 413, 417 (8th Cir. 2000) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104
A claim of deliberate indifference involves both an objective and
Jackson v. Buckman, 756 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2014).
The objective component requires a plaintiff to demonstrate an objectively serious
“A medical need is objectively serious if it either has been
‘diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment’ or is ‘so obvious that even a
layperson would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor’s attention.’” Scott v.
Benson, 742 F.3d 335, 340 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Coleman v. Rahija, 114 F.3d
778, 784 (8th Cir. 1997)). “The subjective component requires a plaintiff to show
that the defendant actually knew of, but deliberately disregarded, such need.”
McRaven v. Sanders, 577 F.3d 974, 980 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Vaughn v. Gray,
557 F.3d 904, 908 (8th Cir. 2009)). The subjective component requires “a mental
state akin to criminal recklessness.” Vaughn, 557 F.3d at 908 (quoting Gordon v.
Frank, 454 F.3d 858, 862 (8th Cir. 2006)).
Davis argues that the deliberate indifference claim should be dismissed
because (1) plaintiff has not factually pled he had serious medical needs; (2)
plaintiff has not factually pled that Davis actually knew of, but deliberately
disregarded, such needs; (3) plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the alleged
delay in treatment amounted to deliberate indifference since he has not pled an
objective amount of time for the delay; and (4) the factual allegations suggest that
plaintiff received medical attention prior to undergoing x-rays of his shoulder.
Reading the factual allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to
plaintiff, the Court disagrees with Davis’s contentions. With respect to the objective
component of deliberate indifference, a shoulder fractured in two places suffices to
constitute an objectively serious medical need.
See Bryan v. Endell, 141 F.3d
1290, 1291 (8th Cir. 1998) (“There is no doubt that the plaintiff had a serious
medical need. His hand had been broken.”); Robinson v. Moreland, 655 F.2d 887,
890 (8th Cir. 1981) (“A broken hand can be considered by the jury to be a serious
With respect the subjective component, plaintiff has asserted factual
allegations to support his claim that Davis actually knew of plaintiff’s injured arm,
but deliberately disregarded his serious medical need. Plaintiff alleges that the first
nurse who saw him at the Justice Center recognized that plaintiff could barely move
his left arm and refused to admit him until he received medical care at a hospital.
Plaintiff also alleges that he informed Davis of the injury to his arm and the first
Plaintiff further alleges that Davis ignored his request for
immediate medical attention and instead sent him upstairs where he was not seen
by medical staff.
As such, the allegations in the complaint support plaintiff’s
deliberate indifference claim against Davis.
Davis further argues that plaintiff’s allegation that he did not receive medical
treatment “for weeks” does not establish an objective length of time to support his
claim of deliberate indifference for the alleged delay in treatment.
inmate alleges that a delay in medical treatment rises to the level of an Eighth
Amendment violation, ‘the objective seriousness of the deprivation should also be
measured by reference to the effect of delay in treatment.’”
Laughlin v. Schriro,
430 F.3d 927, 929 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Beyerbach v. Sears, 49 F.3d 1324,
1326 (8th Cir. 1995)).
An inmate’s suit in such a case must fail if he does not
present any “verifying medical evidence . . . that defendants ignored an acute or
escalating situation or that delays adversely affected his prognosis.”
Groose, 60 F.3d 487, 491 (8th Cir. 1995) (quoting Beyerbach, 49 F.3d at 1326).
In contrast to Davis’s contentions, however, in an exhibit to his amended
complaint, plaintiff specifically stated that he “walked around for two weeks with no
Attach. 1 [Doc. #1-1] (included with plaintiff’s informal
resolution request form); see also Pl.’s Note to Clerk [Doc. #9-1] (requesting the
clerk to include Attachments 1-3 from his original filings with his amended
Plaintiff alleges that objective medical evidence, specifically x-rays,
demonstrated that his shoulder was fractured in two places. He further claims his
injury included “open cuts and bruises that could have gotten infected,” he was in
pain prior to receiving medical treatment, and he was harassed and assaulted by
other inmates who recognized that plaintiff could not defend himself. At this stage
in the proceedings, these allegations are sufficient to support plaintiff’s claim that
the delay in medical treatment caused by Davis amounted to
indifference. See Langford v. Norris, 614 F.3d 445, 460 (8th Cir. 2010) (“Prisoners
may prove deliberate indifference by showing that the total deprivation of medical
care resulted in ‘pain and suffering’ or ‘a lingering death.’”) (quoting Estelle, 429
U.S. at 103).
Finally, Davis asks the Court to reach inferences in his favor and against
plaintiff by finding that plaintiff “implicitly” admitted he received medical attention
between the time of his admission to the Justice Center and the date he underwent
However, courts are required to “construe the complaint liberally in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff,” Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806
(8th Cir. 2008), “even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Accepting the factual allegations in
amended complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, plaintiff did not receive medical attention for his shoulder until weeks after
his arrival at the Justice Center at which time he had an x-ray examination.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion of defendant Anthony Davis to
dismiss [Doc. #42] is denied.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 24th day of June, 2015.
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