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Blackwell v. Wenger

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

September 1, 2016

KEITH LAMAR BLACKWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILIP WENGER and FRED ROTTNEK, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NOELLE C. COLLINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Fred Rottnek's (“Rottnek”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 129), Defendant Philip Wenger's (“Wenger”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 133), and Plaintiff Keith Lamar Blackwell's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 154). The Motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 102). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion will be DENIED.

         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 "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). “ dispute about a material fact is Agenuine” 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).

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

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

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

         On November 10, 2014, the Court reviewed Blackwell'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 in accordance with § 1915. However, the Court ordered service of process on Blackwell's claims against Defendants Dolores Gunn, Gerald Kramer, Rottnek, Wenger, Andrew Moore and Janet Duwe.

         Rather than file an answer to Blackwell's claims, Defendants Gerald Kramer, Dolores Gunn and Janet Duwe immediately filed separate Motions for Summary Judgment after being served with process (Docs. 41, 53, 56). Defendants Wenger and Rottnek filed separate Answers to Blackwell's Amended Complaint (Docs. 27, 40). Blackwell filed responses to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment, while simultaneously moving for summary judgment on his claims against all of the named Defendants (Docs. 62, 67, 68, 70, 75, 77). On May 5, 2015, Blackwell's claims against Andrew Moore were dismissed, without prejudice, due to Blackwell's failure to provide the Court with an address at which Defendant Moore could be served (Doc. 100). On July 17, 2015, the Court granted Defendants Gerald Kramer, Dolores Gunn and Janet Duwe's Motions for Summary Judgment (Doc. 110) and entered Partial Judgment on behalf of these Defendants (Doc. 114).

         Defendants Rottnek and Wenger filed Motions for Summary Judgment on November 17, 2015, and December 2, 2015, respectively (Docs. 129, 133). Blackwell responded to Wenger's Motion for Summary Judgment by filing an “Affidavit”[3] (Doc. 145). Blackwell also filed a response to Rottnek's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 147). In support of his response, Blackwell filed another “Affidavit”[4] (Id. at 11-13) and a copy of Rottnek's Affidavit (Id. at 15-24). Additionally, Blackwell filed a more specific response addressing the medical wedge issue (Doc. 149) along with a photograph of a medical wedge (Doc. 148). Rottnek and Wenger both replied to Blackwell's various filings (Docs. 152, 153). In his reply, Wenger specifically requested the Court strike Blackwell's Affidavit (Doc. 153 at 5). The Court will deny this request and will treat Blackwell's Affidavit as a supplement to his response.

         Thereafter, Blackwell moved for summary judgment against all Defendants[5] (Doc. 154). Wenger filed a response which in part requests the Court strike the motion (Doc. 155). The Court will deny Wenger's request to strike and will address Blackwell's cross Motion for Summary Judgment. Rottnek also responded (Doc. 156). Blackwell subsequently filed a “Motion, Opposition Briefs, ” a second filing of his Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 158). Rottnek and Wenger responded incorporating their prior briefing (Docs. 160, 161), with Wenger again requesting, in part, that the Court strike the filing (Doc. 160). Again, the Court will not strike the supplemental filing, even in consideration of its repetitive nature, but will instead, in an abundance of caution, treat the filing as additional briefing in support of Blackwell's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND[6]

         Federal inmate Blackwell was housed in the St. Louis County Justice Center (“Justice Center”) from November 21, 2013 to November 1, 2014. During his incarceration, Blackwell reported that he was suffering from or had experienced symptoms related to the following medical conditions: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)[7]; sleep apnea[8]; glaucoma[9]; edema; gastrointestinal problems, including a pre-incarceration history of rectal bleeding; and back and neck pain.

         Defendant Rottnek is a licensed medical doctor who offers medical care to inmates incarcerated at the Justice Center (Affidavit of Fred Rottnek (“Rottnek Aff.”) ¶ 3, Doc. 131-1). Blackwell received medical care from Rottnek and other health care providers, including Defendant Wenger, during his incarceration at the Justice Center (Id. ¶ 2). Wenger is a licensed clinical pharmacist in the State of Missouri (Affidavit of Philip Wenger (“Wenger Aff.”) ¶ 1, Doc. 135-1). As a pharmacist, Wenger's involvement with the care and treatment of Blackwell was dependent upon and required the approval, orders and/or prescriptions from a medical doctor (Id. ¶ 5).

         Treatment for Sleep Apnea

         Shortly after his arrival at the Justice Center, Rottnek provided Blackwell with an additional mattress to use as a medical wedge[10] to prop up the head of his bed (Rottnek Aff. ¶ 13). This was done to help alleviate breathing difficulties related to Blackwell's sleep apnea and his COPD (Id.). The Justice Center Medical Staff does not have access to “traditional” medical wedges (Id.). In Rottnek's medical opinion and professional judgment, the second folded mattress accomplished the same medical purpose as a traditional wedge (Id.).

         As part of Blackwell's treatment for his Sleep Apnea, Blackwell used a CPAP machine at night (Id. ¶ 7). On several occasions, Blackwell complained about the efficacy of his machine and the mask he used with the machine (Id.). In response, Rottnek contacted a Medical West Representative to recalibrate his machine (Id. ¶¶ 8-10). On January 10, 2014, an employee from Provider Plus, a Medical Products and Services Company that works with the Justice Center, provided Blackwell with instructions on how to properly use his CPAP machine (Id. ¶ 8). At that time, the technician informed Blackwell that his CPAP mask was too big for him (Id.). He responded that it was not, denied having any issues using it, and informed the Provider Plus employee that it was working well (Id.). Rottnek contacted the U.S. Marshals Service to get approval for a new CPAP mask for Blackwell (Id.). Despite complaining about ...


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