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Blackwell v. Kramer

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 17, 2015

KEITH LAMAR BLACKWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
GERALD KRAMER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NOELLE C. COLLINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 102). Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at all times relevant to the Complaint and Amended Complaint, brings suit against officials of the St. Louis County Justice Center, as well as medical contractors at the Justice Center, under 42 U.S.C.§1983 for violations of the 8th and 14th Amendments. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and subjected him to unlawful conditions of confinement while he was incarcerated at the Justice Center. Defendants Gerald Kramer, Dolores Gunn and Janet Duwe have moved separately for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims. Additionally, Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment on all of the claims contained in his Amended Complaint. Based on review of the materials before the court, the court finds that Plaintiff’s motions for summary judgment against Defendants should be denied. Furthermore, Defendant Kramer’s, Gunn’s and Duwe’s motions for summary judgment will be granted.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

The standards applicable to summary judgment motions are well settled. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court shows A there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The initial burden is placed on the moving party. See City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988) (the moving party has the burden of clearly establishing the non-existence of any genuine issue of fact that is material to a judgment in its favor). Once this burden is discharged, if the record shows that no genuine dispute exists, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party who must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts showing there is a genuine dispute on a material factual issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

Once the burden shifts, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations in its pleadings, but by affidavit and other evidence must set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Herring v. Canada Life Assur. Co., 207 F.3d 1026, 1029 (8th Cir. 2000); Allen v. Entergy Corp., 181 F.3d 902, 904 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1063 (1999). The non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine" only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Herring, 207 F.3d at 1029 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A party resisting summary judgment has the burden to designate the specific facts that create a triable question of fact. See Crossley v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 355 F.3d 1112, 1114 (8th Cir. 2004). Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Armour and Co., Inc. v. Inver Grove Heights, 2 F.3d 276, 279 (8th Cir. 1993).

QUALIFIED IMMUNITY STANDARD

The Supreme Court has explained qualified immunity as follows:

An official sued under § 1983 is entitled to qualified immunity unless it is shown that the official violated a statutory or constitutional right that was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct. And a defendant cannot be said to have violated a clearly established right unless the right’s contours were sufficiently definite that any reasonable official in the defendant’s shoes would have understood that he was violating it. In other words, existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question confronted by the official beyond debate.

Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S.Ct. 2012, 2023 (2013).

A court must not “define clearly established law at a high level of generality, since doing so avoids the crucial question whether the official acted reasonably in the particular circumstances that he or she faced.” Id.; see also Blazek v. City of Iowa City, 761 F.3d 920, 922-23 (8th Cir. 2014). In considering the question of qualified immunity, a district court must determine which facts are genuinely disputed and view those facts favorable to the non-movant “as long as those facts are not so blatantly contradicted by the record that no reasonable jury could believe them.” Handt v. Lynch, 681 F.3d 939, 945 (8th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). “Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense for which the defendant carries the burden of proof. The plaintiff[], however, must demonstrate that the law is clearly established.” Harrington v. City of Council Bluffs, Iowa, 678 F.3d 676, 679 (8th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted).

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Keith Lamar Blackwell, initiated this action pro se on June 6, 2014, against eight (8) correctional and medical officials connected with the St. Louis County Justice Center. At that time, he was being held as a pretrial detainee at the Justice Center.[1] In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the conditions in the St. Louis County Justice Center were unsanitary and that Defendants had taken action against him in violation of his civil rights under the 4th, 8th and 14th Amendments[2] of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendants had been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. The Complaint sought monetary and injunctive relief.

Because Plaintiff sought to add additional claims and Defendants to his Complaint, on August 11, 2014, the court ordered Plaintiff to submit an amended complaint on a court-provided form. Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on August 18, 2014. In Plaintiff’s verified Amended Complaint, Plaintiff again asserted claims against eleven (11) named correctional and medical officials connected with the St. Louis County Justice Center. Plaintiff alleged that the conditions in the St. Louis County Justice Center were unsanitary and that defendants had taken action against him in violation of his civil rights under the 1th, 8th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also alleged that the named Defendants had been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. The verified Amended Complaint once again sought monetary and injunctive relief.

On November 10, 2014, the court reviewed Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 for frivolousness, maliciousness and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court dismissed several claims and Defendants pursuant to § 1915. However, the court ordered service of process on Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Dolores Gunn, Gerald Kramer, Fred Rottnek, Philip Wenger, Andrew Moore and Janet Duwe.

Rather than file an answer to Plaintiff’s claims, Defendants Gerald Kramer, Dolores Gunn and Janet Duwe immediately filed separate Motions for Summary Judgment after being served with process. See Doc. #41, #53 and #56. Defendants Philip Wenger and Fred Rottnek filed separate Answers to Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint. See Doc. #27 and #40. Plaintiff filed responses to Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment, while simultaneously moving for summary judgment on his claims against all of the named Defendants. See Doc. #62, #67, #68, #70, #75 and #77.

On May 5, 2015, Plaintiff’s claims against Andrew Moore were dismissed, without prejudice, due to Plaintiff’s failure to provide the court with an address at which Defendant Moore could be served. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint asserts that plaintiff suffers from the following medical conditions: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); sleep apnea; bleeding from his rectum/colon problems; an unspecified heart disorder; unspecified swelling in his breasts; gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD); neck and back pain/nerve spasms; “floaters” in his eyes due to glaucoma; and unspecified swelling in his feet/legs.

Plaintiff states that when he entered the Justice Center in November of 2013, he was receiving treatment for some of the aforementioned disorders by way of sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, sleeping with a “medical wedge” placed under his mattress, taking the medication Advair and using prescription eye drops.

Plaintiff claims that despite having medical documentation about his need for these treatments, Defendants Dolores Gunn, Dr. Fred Rottnek and Philip Wenger, Pharm. D, have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by failing to provide him with a “medical wedge, ” failing to provide him with prescription eye drops and Advair, and failing to act quickly when his CPAP machine broke and needed to be fixed/replaced.

Plaintiff also states that he was denied appropriate treatment for bleeding from his rectum, including suppositories and surgical follow-up, and he asserts that he was not given pain medication for his neck and back pain.

Plaintiff states that when he complained to Defendant Rottnek about the poor medical care, he was told that if he sued him he would be “transferred to the Downtown Justice Center” where Plaintiff would receive “real deliberate indifference.”

Plaintiff next asserts that Janet Duwe, the nurse on duty between the hours of 1:00 am and 6:00 am on August 1, 2014, was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when his CPAP machine malfunctioned while he was sleeping and he awoke to serious breathing problems and a coughing fit. Plaintiff asserts that when he sought assistance from Defendant Duwe, she told him that he would be fine until shift change, without assessing his medical condition. Plaintiff states that he continued to cough and choke through the night as a result of his broken machine.

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Kramer, the Floor Manager on 7D, was aware of and had taken his complaints regarding, the unlawful conditions of confinement at the Justice Center. Plaintiff asserts that Kramer knew that the food is served on “dirty trays, ” and that the showers were not properly cleaned, that they contained mold and mildew, and that the sheets and towels that contained mold and mildew were not properly cleaned between each use by the inmates. Plaintiff states that Defendant Kramer is also aware that the showers and toilets had not been cleaned properly and resulted in foot infections. Plaintiff asserts that these conditions have resulted in adverse medical consequences for himself and other inmates at the Justice Center.

Plaintiff became an inmate at the Justice Center on November 21, 2013 and was transferred from the Justice ...


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