Butterfield v. Garden et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER granting 37 Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED with prejudice. This case is CLOSED. Signed by Judge Clark Waddoups on 9/26/2014. (jwt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH
MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER
GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY
RICHARD GARDEN et al.,
Case No. 2:12-CV-1043-CW
District Court Judge Clark Waddoups
Plaintiff, Ray Butterfield, asserts that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated when
Defendants, Utah State Prison (USP) medical staff members, Dr. Richard Garden, Medical
Technician Craig Miller, and Physician Assistant Ray Merrill, provided him inadequate medical
care. Specifically, he asserts they denied him necessary medication for pain and depression and
the use of a TENS unit. Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment.
Defendants filed several exhibits with their summary-judgment motion, including
declarations by Warden Alfred Bigelow, Defendant Garden, Office Specialist Susan Delong,
Paralegal Sharon Zeller, Defendant Medical Technician Michael (Craig) Miller, Utility Officer
Hal Bennett, Physician Assistant Kurt Umbrell, and Defendant Physician Assistant Raymond
Merrill. They also filed over a hundred pages of medical and other prison records regarding
When twice invited to respond to the summary-judgment motion, Plaintiff sent two short
letters to the Court, neither of which was substantive. Thus, the only documentation the Court
has to consider from Plaintiff is several grievance papers, which he attached to his Complaint.
However, exhaustion of grievances is not at issue, so the relevant evidence here has all been
provided by Defendants, unopposed by Plaintiff.
Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(a). Factual assertions may be supported by
citing to parts of materials in the record, including depositions,
documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations . . . , admissions, interrogatory answers,
or other materials; or . . . 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
Id. at 56(c)(1). A primary purpose of the summary-judgment rule “is to isolate
and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing “that there
is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.
This burden may be met merely by identifying portions of the record which show an absence of
evidence to support an essential element of the opposing party’s case. Johnson v. City of
Bountiful, 996 F. Supp. 1100, 1102 (D. Utah 1998).
Once the moving party satisfies its initial burden, “the burden then shifts to the
nonmoving party to make a showing sufficient to establish that there is a genuine issue of
material fact regarding the existence of [the disputed] element.” Id. Rule 56 requires a
nonmovant “that would bear the burden of persuasion at trial” to “go beyond the pleadings and
‘set forth specific facts’ that would be admissible in evidence in the event of a trial from which a
rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, 144 F.3d 664, 671
(10th Cir. 1998). The specific facts put forth by the nonmovant “must be identified by reference
to an affidavit, a deposition transcript or a specific exhibit incorporated therein.” Thomas v.
Wichita Coca-Cola Bottling, 968 F.2d 1022, 1024 (10th Cir. 1992). Mere allegations and
references to the pleadings will not suffice. However, the Court must “examine the factual
record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the
motion.” Lopez v. LeMaster, 172 F.3d 756, 759 (10th Cir. 1999).
Statement Of Undisputed Facts
Plaintiff was housed at USP during all relevant times regarding his claims.
Defendant Garden is Administrative and Clinical Director over health services for
the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC). He did not personally participate in providing
medical care to Plaintiff. (Garden Decl. at ¶¶ 2 & 7.)
Defendant Miller is a medical technician whose duties include dispensing
medication to inmates, but not prescribing medication or treatment. (Miller Decl. at ¶¶ 3 & 5.)
Defendant Merrill is a physician assistant, whose duties include prescribing
medication and treatment. (Merrill Decl. ¶¶ 2 & 3.) He saw Plaintiff on at least eleven sick
calls, between February 18, 2011 and July 25, 2013, each of which involved prescribing
medication. Every time, except one, Defendant Merrill prescribed various medications to
address Plaintiff’s pain and depression. The one time he did not, on February 18, 2011, he
documented that he temporarily discontinued Wellbutrin because Plaintiff had used up his last
prescription too quickly, indicating abuse.
To validly state a claim against a defendant in a § 1983 action, a plaintiff must allege the
personal participation of the defendant in violating the plaintiff’s federal constitutional rights.
Anaya v. Crossroads Managed Care Sys, Inc., 973 F. Supp. 1228, 1248 (D. Colo. 1997), rev’d
on other grounds, 195 F.3d 584 (10th Cir. 1999); see also Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2s 1260,
12162-63 (“Personal participation is an essential element in a § 1983 claim.”). The plaintiff
must assert an affirmative link between the violation and the defendant’s actions. Id.
Further, it is well settled in the Tenth Circuit that “[u]nder § 1983, government officials
are not vicariously liable for the misconduct of their subordinates.” Serna v. Colo. Dep’t of
Corrs., 455 F.3d 1146, 1151 (10th Cir. 2006). Supervisors are liable only “for their own culpable
involvement in the violation of a person’s constitutional rights.” Id. Section 1983 liability is not
available under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Monell v. New York City Dept’ of Social
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-692 (1978). For a plaintiff to simply state that a defendant is a
supervisor will not suffice to state a claim; “supervisor status by itself is insufficient to support
liability.” Mitchell v. Maynard, 80 F.3d 1433, 1441 (10th Cir. 1996).
Defendant Garden oversees the administration and delivery of medical services to
inmates throughout the USP population. Plaintiff has not even alleged, nor do any of the records
filed with this case show, that Defendant Garden participated in any sick calls or personally
prescribed medication or treatment for Plaintiff. The Court then assumes that Plaintiff named
Defendant Garden simply because of his supervisory role over USP’s medical personnel.
However, his supervision, minus “’exercise of control or direction’” as to Plaintiff’s specific
case, is insufficient to sustain a claim against him. Green v. Branson, 108 F.3d 1296, 1302 (10th
Cir. 1997) (quoting Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1527 (10th Cir. 1988)). There is no
allegation or evidentiary support for the possibility that Defendant Garden deliberately or
intentionally acted toward Plaintiff. See Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1196 n.4, 1209
(10th Cir. 2010) (Tymkovich, J., concurring). Accordingly, Defendant Garden cannot be held
responsible, either personally or vicariously, for violating Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Thus,
Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Garden fail as a matter of law and are dismissed.
Further, inasmuch as Plaintiff’s claims regard the discontinuation of certain medical
prescriptions and use of a TENS unit, his claims also cannot stand against Defendant Miller. It is
undisputed on the record that Defendant Miller did not have the authority or ability to prescribe
medication or treatment. Defendant Miller then could not possibly have discontinued medical
prescriptions or treatment. His activities were ministerial only—that is, he dispensed the
medication prescribed by others who had the credentials to do so. There is, thus, no affirmative
link established between Defendant Miller and the inadequate medical treatment complained of
by Plaintiff. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Miller.
Finally, as to personal participation, Plaintiff has linked no defendant to the
discontinuation of use of a TENS unit. The Court then dismisses this claim, leaving as the only
remaining claim the allegation that Defendant Merrill inadequately cared for Plaintiff by
discontinuing or “underprescribing” certain medications.
Inadequate Medical Treatment
To prove that Defendant Merrill violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate
medical treatment, Plaintiff must present admissible evidence showing that Defendant Merrill
acted with deliberate indifference to a serious harm—e.g., that he intentionally interfered with a
treatment once prescribed. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976). A defendant must
have a sufficiently culpable state of mind to be termed “deliberately indifferent.” Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). And, the defendant’s “state of mind” is evaluated from a
subjective standard: “[T]he official must be both 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.
at 837. The deliberate indifference standard applied in Eighth Amendment cases equates with
the “subjective recklessness” standard of criminal law. Id. at 839-40.
Based on the uncontroverted evidence, which the Court has thoroughly reviewed—
declarations provided by Defendant Merrill and other prison staff members and over a hundred
pages of medical and prison records—this Court cannot term Defendant Merrill deliberately
indifferent to Plaintiff’s need for medicine. To the contrary, on every sick visit of record that
they had together, Defendant Merrill prescribed medication, reviewed dosages, and renewed
prescriptions. One time, on February 18, 2011, the record shows that Defendant Merrill
temporarily discontinued a prescription for Wellbutrin, but this was only after he documented the
concern that Plaintiff had used up his previous allotment too early, indicating potential abuse.
Far from “deliberate indifference”--“the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain”-- the
record over many sick visits shows Defendant Merrill ensuring medication for complained-of
pain and depression every time. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104 (quotation marks & citation omitted). It
may not have been the exact medication or dosage Plaintiff wanted, but the medical care was
uniformly adequate in that Plaintiff’s expressed need for help with pain and depression was
consistently treated by Defendant Merrill. Plaintiff has not disputed this—either by unsupported
or supported allegations. Plaintiff’s whole point is that he, as an unqualified layperson, wanted
more or different treatment from a medical professional, Defendant Merrill—not, as it must be
shown to prevail, that Defendant Merrill, with full knowledge of the deleterious effects of his
actions or inactions, outright ignored or even exacerbated Plaintiff’s serious medical needs
(assuming Plaintiff’s needs could even be termed as being or remaining serious, considering the
record of Plaintiff’s nearly constant sick visits with a variety of personnel, who unvaryingly
provided access to medical professionals, medications for pain and depression, and physical
therapy). Id.. at 107 (stating that, when inmate contended “that more should have been done by
way of diagnosis and treatment” and “suggest[ed] a number of options that were not pursued,
that was “a classic example of a matter for medical judgment . . . and does not represent cruel
and unusual punishment”). As a matter of law, Defendant Merrill’s treatment of Plaintiff, as it is
set forth in unopposed documentation simply cannot be said to “offend ‘evolving standards of
decency’ in violation of the Eighth Amendment.” Id.. at 106.
The claims against Defendant Merrill are therefore also dismissed.
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s Complaint is
DISMISSED with prejudice. This case is CLOSED.
DATED this 26th day of September, 2014.
BY THE COURT:
United States District Judge
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