Brookins v. Renshaw et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim [Doc. # 44 ] is denied. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 4/17/2017. (CLO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
WALTER W. BROOKINS,
TODD RENSHAW, et al.,
Case No. 4:16-CV-192 (CEJ)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim for relief, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff has not filed a
response in opposition and the time for doing so has elapsed.
Plaintiff Walter W. Brookins is an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic
and Correctional Center (ERDCC). He alleges that nurses employed at the ERDCC
by Corizon Health, Inc., violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing
to provide proper medical care. He brings suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
defendants Corizon Health, director of nursing Todd Renshaw, assistant medical
director Rebecca Henson, and nurse practitioner Victoria L. Reinholdt.
First Amended Complaint [Doc. # 42]
After he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, plaintiff had surgery and was
given a colostomy. He was transferred to the ERDCC medical facility for a few days
and then was returned to the general population. First Amended Complaint at ¶¶
6(a), 6b. Dr. Emmanuel A. Afuwape provided a medical lay-in that excused plaintiff
from working and from getting up for headcounts between October 27, 2014 and
October 27, 2015. ¶ 6(c). Plaintiff alleges that defendants Reinholdt and Renshaw
made unauthorized changes to the prescribed lay-in to require him to sit up during
counts. ¶¶ 6(d), 6(e). Dr. Charles Chastain provided a new medical lay-in that was
to begin on June 24, 2015. Dr. Chastain noted that plaintiff had “EXTENSIVE
PROTRUSION OF COLON SINCE CANCER SURGERY AND HAS TROUBLE RAISING UP
TO SIT: NEEDS RECUMBENT FOR COUNT.” ¶ 6(f) (emphasis in original). Defendants
Reinholdt and Renshaw “continued to unilaterally change the physician’s lay-in
restrictions.” When plaintiff filed a complaint with defendant Henson, she denied the
complaint and discontinued Dr. Chastain’s lay-in restrictions. ¶ 6(g). Plaintiff
received several conduct violations “so that the correctional officers could try to
challenge his need for the recumbent medical lay-in restriction.” In addition, the
correctional officers harassed plaintiff and threatened to write conduct violations for
failing to sit up during count, knowing that he was unable to sit without
experiencing extreme pain.¶¶ 6(h), 7. Defendant Corizon has a “policy, custom and
practice” of changing lay-in restrictions at the request of correctional officers in
order to “protect its relationship” with the State of Missouri. ¶ 5. As a result of
straining to sit up for headcounts, plaintiff suffered extreme pain and required an
additional surgical procedure to correct a prolapse. ¶ 7.
The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal
sufficiency of the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The factual 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. Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236. 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 id. at 563 (stating that the “no set of facts” language in Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45–46 (1957), “has earned its retirement”); see also Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678–84 (2009) (holding that the pleading standard set forth
in Twombly applies to all civil actions). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise
a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The Eighth Amendment requires state prison officials to provide inmates with
needed medical care. Cullor v. Baldwin, 830 F.3d 830, 836 (8th Cir. 2016) (citation
omitted). Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment when they are “deliberately
indifferent” to the “serious medical needs” of inmates. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 104 (1976). The deliberate-indifference standard requires “both an objective
and subjective analysis.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016)
(citations omitted). To meet the objective component of the deliberate-indifference
standard, the complaint must plead facts sufficient to demonstrate that plaintiff
suffered from an objectively serious medical need. Id. To be objectively serious, a
medical need must have been “diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment” or
must be “so obvious that even a layperson would easily recognize the necessity for
a doctor's attention.” Jackson v. Buckman, 756 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2014)
(citation omitted). “The subjective component requires a plaintiff to show that the
defendant actually knew of, but deliberately disregarded, such need.”
Gray, 557 F.3d 904, 908 (8th Cir. 2009). This showing requires a mental state
“akin to criminal recklessness.” Scott v. Benson, 742 F.3d 335, 340 (8th Cir. 2014)
(citation omitted). Defendants argue that plaintiff has failed to adequately plead
either prong of the deliberate-indifference standard.
The existence of an objectively serious medical need is determined based on
“attendant circumstances.” Barton, 820 F.3d at 965. Plaintiff pleads that he had
surgery resulting in a colostomy, that two physicians specifically restricted him from
sitting up for count, that he suffered extreme pain by straining to sit up for the
count, and that after being required to sit for counts he required additional surgery
to address a prolapse. The attendant circumstances as pleaded in the complaint are
sufficient to establish the existence of an objectively serious medical need.
With respect to the subjective prong, plaintiff alleges that defendants
rescinded two medically-ordered restrictions on his activities at the request of
correctional officers. A decision to alter medical care for non-medical purposes
amounts to more than negligence or an inadvertent failure to provide adequate
medical care. Indeed, the constitutional obligation to provide medical care to those
in custody may be violated when officials “intentionally deny[ ] or delay[ ] access to
medical care or intentionally interfer[e] with the treatment once prescribed.” Dadd
v. Anoka Cty., 827 F.3d 749, 756 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 10405) (emphasis added). Accepting the truth of plaintiff’s allegations and viewing the
facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the Court concludes that he has
adequately stated a claim that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim [Doc. # 44] is denied.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 17th day of April, 2017.
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