Williams v. Corrections Corporation of America et al
OPINION AND ORDER by Judge Ronald A. White : Granting 33 defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Grounds 1,2,3,4 and 6; Ground 5 is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Denying 36 plaintiff's Motion for amendment of findings and/or alter the judgment. This action is DISMISSED in it's entirety.(case terminated) (acg, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
OF AMERICA, et al.,
No. CIV 14-157-RAW-SPS
OPINION AND ORDER
This action is before the Court on Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The
Court has before it for consideration Plaintiff’s complaint (Dkt. 1), Defendants’ motion (Dkt.
33), a special report prepared by officials of Davis Correctional Facility (DCF) at the
direction of the Court, in accordance with Martinez v. Aaron, 570 F.2d 317 (10th Cir. 1978)
(Dkt. 23), and Plaintiff’s responses to the special report and motion (Dkts. 26, 34).
Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections who
is incarcerated at Lexington Correctional Center in Lexington, Oklahoma, brings this action
under the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking relief for alleged constitutional violations
during his incarceration at DCF, a private prison in Holdenville, Oklahoma. The defendants
are Corrections Corporation of America (CCA); Tim Wilkinson, DCF Warden; DCF Nurse
Stewart; and Ray Larimer, DCF Clinical Supervisor.
Standard of Review
Defendants have moved the Court for dismissal of this action or in the alternative for
summary judgment. Having moved for summary judgment in their favor, the movants are
required to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that the movants are
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support
the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions,
documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations,
stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence
of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support the fact.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).
Summary judgment is not appropriate if there exists a genuine material factual issue
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-51 (1986). Plaintiff, as “the nonmoving party may
not rest on [his] pleadings but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial as to those dispositive matters for which [he] carries the burden of proof.”
Applied Genetics Int’l. v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 912 F.2d 1238 (10th Cir. 1990) (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). In this regard, all evidence of the
nonmoving party is deemed true, and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the
nonmoving party. Id. at 255 (citing Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 114, 158-59
(1970)). “To defeat a motion for summary judgment, evidence . . . must be based on more
than mere speculation, conjecture, or surmise.” Bones v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc., 366 F.3d
869, 875 (10th Cir. 2004). This Court’s function is not “to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 249. With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the merits of the defendants’
Plaintiff alleges the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical
needs. He claims that on April 18, 2013, he requested medical attention for his two broken
fingers and his severely sprained wrist. Defendant Nurse Stewart initially misdiagnosed the
injures and “snatched” one of his broken fingers, believing the finger was merely dislocated.
On April 23, 2013, Plaintiff’s hand was X-rayed, but he never saw a doctor at DCF. He was
transferred to another facility for medical treatment on May 14, 2013, but he claims his hands
have healed in their broken positions with loss of range, constant pain, loss of grip, and some
deformity. He sets forth six grounds for relief:1
Count 1: The failure of defendant’s [sic] Wilkinson and Larimer to take
disciplinary or other action to curb the known pattern of improper medical
treatment by defendant Steward constituted deliberate indifference to
Plaintiff’s and other prisoners’ safety, and contributed to and proximately
caused the above-described violation of 8th Amendment rights and denied
Count 2: The failure of defendant’s [sic] CCA and Wilkinson to train,
supervise, and discipline prison staff regarding all aspects of prison operations
including but not limited to appropriate serious medical needs, such as,
examination and treatment for broken hands and severely injured wrist
constituted an [sic] violation to the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Count 3: The actions of defendant Steward in misdiagnosing my broken
fingers as a dislocation and snatching it, demonstrated her incompetency to
properly treat the Plaintiff or other prisoners, constituted an 8th Amendment
violation to the U.S. Constitution.
Count 4: The failure of defendants Wilkinson and Larimer to provide medical
care, such as examination and treatment, along with physical therapy for his
broken hands and injured wrist, constitute deliberate indifference to the
Plaintiff’s serious medical needs in violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S.
Count 5: The failure of defendants Wilkinson and Larimer to provide
examination, treatment and physical therapy of the Plaintiff’s broken hands
and injured wrist constitutes the tort of negligence under the law of Oklahoma.
To the extent Plaintiff may be attempting to assert the rights of other inmates, “a section
1983 claim must be based upon the violation of a plaintiff’s personal rights, and not the rights of
someone else.” Archuleta v. McShan, 897 F.2d 495, 497 (10th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). A
plaintiff “generally must assert his own legal rights and interests” rather than those of third parties.
Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975).
Count 6: The aforemention [sic] acts and/or omissions of the individual
defendants in being deliberately indifferent to the safety and health of Plaintiff,
violating Plaintiff’s civil rights, where the direct and proximate result of
custems [sic], policies, and/or practices of CCA, by and through thier [sic]
employees and/or agents. At all times relevant, defendants Wilkinson, Larimer
and Steward were acting as CCA’s employee and/or agents in furtherance of
CCA’s business of housing inmates for DOC. The aforemention [sic]
defendants were CCA’s decision makers, charged with the responsibility for
making and implementing decisions on behalf of CCA, including medical care.
(Dkt. 1 at 9-10).
Eighth Amendment Medical Claim (Counts 1-4 and 6).
Defendants allege they did not violate Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights with
regard to medical care. The special report indicates that on April 18, 2013, Plaintiff
submitted a Request for Health Services, stating he had injured both hands while boxing, and
his hands could be broken or dislocated. On that same day, Patricia Smith, LPN, examined
Plaintiff’s hands and determined that both hands had swollen areas. Plaintiff had pain in his
left ring finger and was unable to move it or his right pinky finger (Dkt. 23-1 at 2-3).
The Progress Note by Joann Steward, LPN, stated she saw Plaintiff on April 21, 2013,
and noted that his right 5th finger was jammed with slight swelling. The finger was
repositioned and aligned. Plaintiff’s left middle ring finger had a possible fracture. Good
circulation and sensation was noted in both injured fingers. Limited movement with
guarding also was observed. Plaintiff was instructed on the use of heat and ice, as well as
rest and elevation of the affected areas for three days. He was prescribed acetaminophen and
ibuprofen with an analgesic balm and was advised that an X-ray appointment would be made
as soon as possible. A follow-up appointment was scheduled. (Dkt. 23-1 at 4-5).
Plaintiff filed an “emergency” grievance on April 23, 2013, No. 2013-1001-109-G,
requesting “medical treatment (X rays)” as soon as practical (Dkt. 23-2 at 2-3). On that same
day, the request was granted, and Plaintiff was seen in Medical where three X rays of each
hand were taken. Both hands were normal with no fractures, dislocations, soft tissue
processes, or effusion noted. (Dkt. 33-5 at 6).
On April 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed another “emergency” grievance, No. 2013-1001116-G, requesting to see a doctor and to receive proper treatment ASAP. The request was
granted. (Dkt. 5-6). On April 26, 2013, Jamie Baldwin, R.N.’s Progress Note stated Plaintiff
was seen for complaints regarding his hands. He denied current pain, and a full range of
motion to both hands was noted. Plaintiff stated, “It’s not about the pain, I want to know
where my knuckle is.” He pointed to the second digit knuckle and stated he wanted to see
the doctor. Plaintiff abruptly interrupted Baldwin’s attempts to discuss a plan of care and X
rays. Plaintiff was notified of a pending appointment with Medical. (Dkt. 23-1 at 6-7).
On May 3, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a third “emergency” grievance, No. 2013-1001132-G, requesting to be taken to the local hospital or a hand specialist to have his left ring
finger, his right pinky finger, and his wrist examined by a physician. Nurse Larimer
responded on May 6, 2013, granting Plaintiff’s request to be seen by a physician. Plaintiff
already was scheduled to see the facility physician on May 9, 2013. Plaintiff’s request to be
taken to the hospital or to a hand specialist was denied (Dkt. 8-9). He alleges he never saw
a doctor at DCF for his injuries (Dkt. 34 at 5).
On May 9, 2013, Jamie Baldwin, R.N., noted in a Progress Note that Dr. Sanders had
requested Plaintiff’s hard X-ray films, and Dr. Sanders was to discuss Plaintiff’s chart and
the status of his right elbow and hand complaints. On May 14, 2013, Ray Larimer, R.N.,
stated in a Medical Transfer Summary that no current acute problem was noted, and Plaintiff
was suitable for transport without restrictions.
Plaintiff was transferred to Cimarron
Correctional Facility (CCF). (Dkt. 23-1 at 8-10).
On May 21, 2013, Mark Weissman, M.D., examined Plaintiff’s hands during a clinic
visit and found no evidence to support Plaintiff’s claim of a fracture. Therefore, no outside
referral for a hand specialist was initiated. (Dkts. 23-1 at 9-10 at 11; 23-2 at 11).
Plaintiff alleges in his response to Defendants’ motion (Dkt. 34) that after his transfer
to CCF, his hands were X-rayed on June 6, 2013. According to Plaintiff, the X rays showed
that the two fingers he injured at DCF were broken. Plaintiff asserts he was taken to a
physician at the University of Oklahoma hospital.
In Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), the Supreme Court addressed the Eighth
Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in the context of medical
[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the
“unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” proscribed by the Eighth
Amendment. This is true whether the indifference is manifested by prison
doctors in their response to the prisoner’s needs or by prison guards in
intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally
interfering with the treatment once prescribed. Regardless of how evidenced,
deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury states a cause of
action under §1983.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976) (citations and footnotes omitted).
Deliberate indifference involves both an objective and a subjective component.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A prisoner first must produce objective
evidence that the deprivation at issue was in fact “sufficiently serious.” Id. (quoting Wilson
v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). “A medical need is serious if it is one that has been
diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay
person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Riddle v. Mondragon,
83 F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). The subjective
component is met if a prison official “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate
health or safety.” Farmer, 511 at 837. “[T]he official must both be aware of facts from
which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must
also draw the inference.” Id.
“[A] misdiagnosis, even if rising to the level of medical malpractice, is simply
insufficient under our case law to satisfy the subjective component of a deliberate
indifference claim.” Self v. Crum, 439 F.3d 1227, 1234 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 549 U.S.
856 (2006). “[Negligence] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a
valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice
does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner.” Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).
With this standard in mind, the Court is of the view that the acts complained of do not
show deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s medical needs as alleged. It is clear from the
record that medical care was provided. Where there is such evidence of a “series of sick
calls, examinations, diagnoses, and medication . . . it cannot be said there was a ‘deliberate
indifference’ to the prisoner’s complaints.” Smart v. Villar, 547 F.2d 112, 114 (10th Cir.
1976). To the extent Plaintiff is complaining about the inadequacy of medical care provided,
the Court finds he is merely asserting a difference of opinion as to the kind and quality of
medical treatment necessary under the circumstances. It is well settled that this type of
disagreement fails to give rise to a cause of action under § 1983. See McCracken v. Jones,
562 F.2d 22, 24 (10th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 917 (1978), and cases cited therein.
After careful review, and for the reasons set forth above, the Court finds there are no
genuine issues of material fact and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Therefore, summary judgement is GRANTED in favor of the
defendants on Plaintiff’s Counts 1-4 and 6.
State Negligence Claim (Count 5)
Plaintiff alleges in Count 5 that Defendants Wilkinson and Larimer are liable under
Oklahoma law for their failure to provide examination, treatment, and physical therapy for
his injuries. The preceding analysis disposes of all of Plaintiff’s claims arising under federal
law, and, consequently, the basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction. “Under these
circumstances, the district court may decline to exercise continuing ‘pendent’ or
supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state claims.” Lancaster Independent Sch. Dist. No.
5, 149 F.3d 1228, 1236 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); United Mine
Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725-26 (1966)). The Court, therefore, declines jurisdiction
over Plaintiff’s state law claim for negligence, and Ground 5 is DISMISSED WITHOUT
Motion for Amendment of Findings and/or Alteration of Judgment
Finally, Plaintiff has filed a “motion for amendment of findings and/or alter the
judgment,” pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52, 59, and 60 (Dkt. 36), requesting the Court to
“reconsider, alter, and grant relief from the minute order filed on 8-29-16” (Dkt. 35). The
minute order in question granted Plaintiffs’s motion to re-urge (Dkt. 28) his notice of
contempt of court (Dkt. 16). The minute order, however, denied Plaintiff’s request for
sanctions against Defendants regarding their delay in filing an answer until Plaintiff’s in
forma pauperis status was determined.
Plaintiff admits he requested sanctions in his original notice of contempt (Dkt. 16).
He complains, however, that the Court considered sanctions in its August 29, 2016, Minute
Order (Dkt. 35), when he did not repeat his request for sanctions when he asked to re-urge
the notice of contempt (Dkt. 28). To the extent Plaintiff has re-urged his notice of contempt,
the Court finds Defendants reasonably believed this case could not proceed until the Court
determined whether Plaintiff had accrued three “strikes” under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The
Court further finds Plaintiff has shown no prejudice from the Defendants’ delay in filing an
answer until the issue of Plaintiff’s in forma pauperis status was settled. There was no
contempt of court. Plaintiff’s “motion for amendment of findings and/or alter the judgment”
(Dkt. 36) is DENIED.
ACCORDINGLY, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 33) is
GRANTED with respect to Grounds 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6; Ground 5 is DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE; and Plaintiff’s motion for amendment of findings and/or alter the judgment
(Dkt. 36) is DENIED. This action is DISMISSED in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 23rd day of March 2017.
RONALD A. WHITE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?