Burgdorf v. McKinney et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment 16 is granted, defendant McKinney shall have summary judgment on plaintiffs complaint, and Burgdorfs complaint is dismissed with prejudice.A separate Judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is entered thissame date. Signed by District Judge Rodney W. Sippel on 10/27/15. (ARL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
EDWARD DALE BURGDORF,
WILLIAM MCKINNEY, et al.,
No. 4: 15 CV 329 RWS
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Burgdorf was a prisoner at Potosi Correctional Center when he allegedly injured
his left wrist while working in the kitchen. He claims that following the incident, he sought
medical care from Defendant Dr. McKinney, who examined Burgdorf’s wrist and determined
that X-rays were unnecessary. Burgdorf claims that X-rays later showed “bone damage” to his
left wrist. In this pro se § 1983 action, Burgdorf alleges that McKinney violated the Eighth
Amendment by refusing to provide him adequate medical care and seeks injunctive relief and
$40 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. McKinney moves for summary
judgment on the ground that Burgdorf’s claim amounts to a mere disagreement with his medical
care which is not actionable under the Eighth Amendment as a matter of law. Burgdorf opposes
summary judgment, and the issues are fully briefed. Because the undisputed facts demonstrate
that McKinney is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the motion for summary judgment will
be granted for the following reasons.
Standards Governing Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Lynn v. Deaconess Medical Center,
160 F.3d 484, 486 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). The party seeking summary
judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis of its motion and
identifying those portions of the affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). When such a motion is made and
supported by the movant, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but must produce
sufficient evidence to support the existence of the essential elements of his case on which he
bears the burden of proof. Id. at 324. In resisting a properly supported motion for summary
judgment, the plaintiff has an affirmative burden to designate specific facts creating a triable
controversy. Crossley v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 355 F.3d 1112, 1113 (8th Cir. 2004).
Undisputed Background Facts
Burgdorf’s undisputed medical records show a medical history of right wrist surgery in
2002, and X-rays revealing mild negative ulnar variance with some early degenerative changes
to the wrist joint in 2008. He has been routinely seen by medical staff and given Ibuprofen for
chronic pain since January 2014.
In June 2014, Burgdorf saw the nursing staff for complaints of pain in his wrists and
renewal of Ibuprofen. Examination revealed good range of motion in both wrists. Burgdorf was
given Ibuprofen for pain and referred to Dr. McKinney for further evaluation. McKinney
examined Burgdorf for wrist pain on July 2, 2014. Burgdorf told McKinney that his left wrist
got caught between a door and a food cart about one month prior. Physical examination revealed
no soft tissue swelling or discoloration of Burgdorf’s wrists, full active range of motion and
normal fine motor control in Burgdorf’s wrists and fingers, normal strength in his wrists and
fingers, and normal hand grip, all of which were consistent with a soft tissue injury. McKinney
assessed Burgdorf’s chronic paresthesia in his right ulnar nerve as stable, and he noted a recent
soft tissue injury to his left wrist. McKinney prescribed Ibuprofen, wrote a lay-in restriction
preventing him from pushing the food cart, and ordered routine lab work and a follow-up
examination six months later.
Burgdorf continued to receive Ibuprofen regularly and was seen again by the nursing
staff on August 25, 2014, at which time he reported that his left wrist was still painful. Despite
Burgdorf’s complaints of pain, the examining nurse observed that Burgdorf was in no acute
distress, could grip with his hands, and displayed a full range of motion in his fingers, hands, and
arms. However, Burgdorf was referred to McKinney for further evaluation. McKinney saw
Burgdorf again on September 5, 2014. At that time, Burgdorf reported pain in his wrists and a
“popping” sensation in his left wrist. McKinney examined Burgdorf but found no changes from
his last visit. McKinney assessed Burgdorf with a suspected strain in his left wrist and chronic
symptoms of ulnar distribution in his right wrist. McKinney prescribed Prednisone for 30 days
to determine whether Burgdorf had any inflammation in his left wrist and Ibuprofen for pain.
McKinney also ordered an X-ray of Burgdorf’s left wrist, which was performed on September
10, 2014. The X-ray showed only degenerative changes in Burgdorf’s left wrist and revealed no
evidence of fracture or dislocation.
Burgdorf continued to receive Ibuprofen from the nursing staff for pain. He next saw
McKinney on November 19, 2014.
Burgdorf reported no improvement on Prednisone or
changes in his left wrist. Burgdorf stated he had no problems with the use of his left hand or the
strength of his wrist or any other motor symptoms.
McKinney’s physical examination of
Burgdorf revealed no soft tissue swelling or discoloration of his wrists. Burgdorf had a full
range of motion in both wrists, normal grip strength in his left hand, and he moved both hands
and arms without pain or limitation. McKinney’s examination further revealed that Burgdorf’s
left ulnar nerve pain only occurred in certain positions and was immediately alleviated by a
change of position. After reviewing the X-ray and his findings with Burgdorf, McKinney
advised Burgdorf that additional radiological evaluations and/or medications beyond Ibuprofen
were unlikely to provide any relief for his condition. McKinney based this assessment on his
physical examinations of Burgdorf (which revealed a lack of motor and neurological symptoms,
as well as a lack of palpation defects), Burgdorf’s confirmed non-inflammatory condition
(demonstrated by the lack of improvement while on Prednisone), the fact that Burgdorf’s pain
was positional and immediately relieved by a change in position, the absence of any fracture,
dislocation, strain, or sprain of the left wrist, and the lack of any verifiable symptoms apart from
Burgdorf’s reported positional pain.
McKinney directed Burgdorf to follow up if needed.
Burgdorf continued to receive Ibuprofen as needed for pain. McKinney determined that no other
pain medication was medically indicated based on Burgdorf’s subjective complaints and
objective presentation. McKinney also believed that a wrist brace for Burgdorf’s left wrist was
not medically indicated and would have caused him to lose muscle and functioning in his wrist.
McKinney also believed that no referral to an outside specialist was medically indicated.
Burgdorf saw the nursing staff on December 17, 2014 and asked to see a doctor to renew
his lay-in restriction. McKinney saw Burgdorf again on December 29, 2014. Burgdorf reported
that he was still experiencing pain in both wrists and stated that he believed his symptoms were
aggravated by his new job as a dorm worker. He also reported increased stress. McKinney
examined Burgdorf and found no changes from his last examination. Burgdorf’s left hand grip
was still normal, and he displayed normal motor control. McKinney assessed wrist pain and
ulnar nerve distribution, possibly related to repetitive use, and he believed that Burgdorf’s
increased sense of pain may have been causing stress. McKinney suggested that Burgdorf take
Nortriptyline, an antidepressant, which would help with chronic pain, sleep, and stress. Burgdorf
declined, so McKinney told him to return as needed.
McKinney assessed that Ibuprofen
remained sufficient to treat the level of pain reported by, and observed in, Burgdorf, so no
additional pain medications were prescribed. Burgdorf continued to receive Ibuprofen for pain
and reported good pain relief from its usage to the nursing staff in March 2015.
The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners
from deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Luckert v. Dodge County, 684 F.3d 808,
817 (8th Cir. 2012). To prove his deliberate indifference claim, Burgdorf must present evidence
that McKinney committed “acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate
indifference to [his] serious medical needs.” Nelson v. Shuffman, 603 F.3d 439, 448 (8th Cir.
2010) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).
Burgdorf must demonstrate he
suffered from an objectively serious medical need and that McKinney knew of, but deliberately
disregarded, the need. Meuir v. Green County Hail Emps., 487 F.3d 1115, 1118 (8th Cir. 2007).
“Whether a prison’s medical staff deliberately disregarded the needs of an inmate is a factintensive inquiry.” Nelson, 603 F.3d at 448. “The inmate must clear a substantial evidentiary
threshold to show the prison’s medical staff deliberately disregarded the inmate’s needs by
administering inadequate treatment.” Id. at 448-49. “A prisoner’s mere difference of opinion
over matters of expert medical judgment or a course of medical treatment fails to rise to the level
of a constitutional violation.” Id. at 449 (citing Taylor v. Bowers, 966 F.2d 417, 421 (8th Cir.
1992)). “In the face of medical records indicating that treatment was provided and physician
affidavits indicating that the care provided was adequate, an inmate cannot create a question of
fact by merely stating that she did not feel she received adequate treatment.” Id. (citing Dulany
v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997)).
Here, McKinney’s affidavit and the medical records establish that Burgdorf was provided
appropriate treatment for his wrist pain. Contrary to Burgdorf’s allegations in his complaint,
McKinney never denied Burgdorf medical care. Instead, the undisputed evidence demonstrates
that McKinney provided Burgdorf with examination, testing, treatment, and assessment for his
reported injuries. After Burgdorf asked to see a doctor for his wrist pain, McKinney examined
him and found no soft tissue swelling or discoloration of his wrists, full range of motion and
normal fine motor control and strength in Burgdorf’s wrists and fingers, and normal hand grip.
McKinney noted that his findings were consistent with a soft tissue injury, and each subsequent
examination by McKinney revealed no changes in Burgdorf’s wrists. McKinney’s treatment
included Ibuprofen for pain, which McKinney assessed as sufficient to treat Burgdorf’s type of
injury, as well as medical lay-in restrictions. McKinney did not believe that X-rays were
medically necessary at that time, given his assessment of a soft tissue injury.
Burgdorf complains that that the failure to order X-rays at that time amounted to a denial of
medical care, his personal opinion about his need for X-rays is simply insufficient to create a
question of fact regarding the adequacy of his treatment in the face of McKinney’s affidavit and
the undisputed medical records demonstrating that X-rays were unnecessary at that time.
When Burgdorf continued to complain of wrist pain, McKinney examined Burgdorf and
Burgdorf’s subjective complaints McKinney conducted further diagnostic testing, a trial of
prednisone to rule out inflammation injuries, and ordered X-rays, which showed only
degenerative changes and no fracture or dislocation.1 Based on the results of his physical
examinations of Burgdorf, X-rays, Burgdorf’s lack of an inflammatory condition or motor or
neurological symptoms, lack of palpation defects, and the fact that Burgdorf’s pain was
positional and immediately relieved by a change in position, McKinney concluded that, in his
medical judgment, additional radiological evaluations and/or medications beyond Ibuprofen were
unlikely to produce any benefit for Burgdorf’s condition. He continued to treat Burgdorf with
Ibuprofen, which McKinney believed sufficient to relieve any pain, and told him to follow up as
needed. When Burgdorf reported continued pain and stress, McKinney again examined him and
found no changes in Burgdorf’s wrists. McKinney advised an antidepressant to assist with pain,
sleep, and stress, but Burgdorf declined the prescription.
Burgdorf continued to receive
Ibuprofen for his pain and by March of 2015 reported good relief from its use.
The undisputed evidence demonstrates that McKinney never denied care to Burgdorf.
Instead, McKinney exercised sound medical judgment in treating Burgdorf and provided him
timely and appropriate medical care. McKinney considered but rejected a wrist brace, which
could have caused Burgdorf additional problems without alleviating his positional pain. At no
point was referral to an outside specialist or pain medication other than Ibuprofen medically
indicated, and Burgdorf’s subjective belief to the contrary does not create an issue of fact
sufficient to resist summary judgment. In an attempt to evade summary judgment, Burgdorf
provides incomplete portions of medical records, but these records predate the incident at issue
here by several years and are related to his right wrist. As such, they do not create a genuine
dispute of material fact as to whether McKinney was deliberately indifferent to his serious
medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Burgdorf’s complaint amounts to nothing
more than a disagreement with McKinney’s prescribed course of treatment, which fails to
Degenerative changes do not amount to “bone damage” as alleged in the complaint.
establish an eighth amendment violation as a matter of law. Nelson, 603 F.3d at 449. As such,
McKinney is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Burgdorf’s complaint, and Burgdorf’s
complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendant’s motion for summary judgment  is
granted, defendant McKinney shall have summary judgment on plaintiff’s complaint, and
Burgdorf’s complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
A separate Judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is entered this
RODNEY W. SIPPEL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 27th Day of October, 2015.
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