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Hamilton v. Russell

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

January 20, 2017

JONNA GRUBBS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the joint motion of defendant LeAnn Vogt for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The issues are fully briefed.

         Plaintiff James J. Hamilton, an inmate confined at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre, Missouri, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count III of the fourth amended complaint, plaintiff claims that Vogt, a licensed clinical social worker, was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

         I. Legal Standard

         Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be entered if the moving party shows “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment the court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts. AgriStor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). The moving party bears the burden of showing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations of his pleadings but must set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co. v. Honea, 458 F.3d 788, 791 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Rule 56 “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         II. Background

         From January 17, 2014, until March 13, 2014, plaintiff was confined in the administrative segregation unit in House 1. After a brief transfer to a different unit, plaintiff returned to administrative segregation in House 1 on April 9 Vogt, an employee of MHM Correctional Services, Inc., was contracted to provide mental health services to prisoners at the ERDCC. Her duties included conducting weekly rounds of the administrative segregation unit in House 1, assessing the prisoners' mental health. According to plaintiff, Vogt's primary role was to determine if prisoners were homicidal or suicidal. She examined plaintiff once per week while he was confined in House 1, inquiring whether he was intent on harming himself or others. He admits that he was neither homicidal nor suicidal at any point during his confinement.

         Plaintiff alleges he began suffering from symptoms of PTSD and psycho-affective disorder in January 2014 while confined in House 1. At his deposition plaintiff alleged his symptoms included “flashbacks, ” “cold chills, ” “hurting” badly, and experiencing a state “between waking and sleep, ” which he described as a “mental living hell.” Id. at 75-77. Plaintiff admits he did not alert Vogt to his condition during his first few encounters with her.

         Once his symptoms became more acute, plaintiff filed at least one health service request (HSR). In that HSR, dated January 27, 2014, plaintiff reported having been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, PTSD, “multiple personality disorder, ” and epilepsy. [Doc. #118-5] He also wrote: “need sleep psyc & medication bad.” Id. Plaintiff did not identify any extant symptoms on that form, only his past diagnoses and his present desire for sleep and to receive psychiatric services and medications. See Id. It is assumed Vogt was aware of the HSR.

         In addition to the HSR, the record shows plaintiff was examined by other medical professionals while confined in House 1. Plaintiff denied mental health complaints on twenty-one separate occasions from January 17 through March 13. [Doc. #118-6] The treatment providers' notes specifically reflect that plaintiff denied mental health complaints on January 24 and January 29, just days before and after he filed the HSR on January 27. Id. at 4. Though plaintiff argues that those records do not reflect his actual condition, he does not deny he had nearly two dozen encounters with other medical staff during the timeframe at issue. He also does not contend that he asked them to refer him to a psychiatrist, told them about his alleged symptoms, or demanded medication. Plaintiff also offers no evidence to suggest that the records are inaccurate. He does not accuse any medical professional other than Vogt of withholding psychiatric treatment or medications from him.

         Plaintiff testified in deposition that on February 12, 2014, he first told Vogt that he had “a history of mental illness” and that he needed “to see the psychiatrist.” [Docs. ##118-3 at 9, 13; 128-2 at 3-4]. Plaintiff initially told Vogt that he was “not okay.” [Doc. #123-10 at 75-76] When Vogt inquired what issues plaintiff was experiencing plaintiff responded: “I need to see the psychiatrist.” Id. He also referenced filing “multiple” HSRs. Id. Plaintiff testified that Vogt said she had received the HSRs, but that she was “not going to refer [him] to see the psychiatrist, ” because she thought he “want[ed] sleeping medication” to “help [him] sleep through” his time in administrative segregation. Id. at 76.

         Plaintiff demurred, telling Vogt, “you don't know my mental health history, ” and reiterating he needed to see the psychiatrist. Id. at 105. He “tried to explain it to her, ” that he has “a long history of mental health issues, dating back 25 years, ” that he was “not trying to get sleeping pills, ” and that he needed “to see the psychiatrist.” Id. at 76, 104. Vogt again refused to refer him.

         In his deposition, plaintiff testified that he told Vogt that he “would like some sleep, ” that he had a “long history of post-traumatic stress disorder” and “psycho-affective disorder, ” and that he “need[ed] to see the psychiatrist.” Id. at 76, 105, 109. He testified he did not remember going into detail with Vogt about his history of brain injuries or his mental health, “other than standing at the door and telling her that she didn't understand [his] mental health history, that [he] ha[s] a long history of [PTSD], psycho-affective disorder, [and] that she should let [him] see the psychiatrist.” Id. at 109. Plaintiff did not testify that he described to Vogt the symptoms he was experiencing, either on February 12 or at any other time before April 15.

         Vogt's treatment notes from her February 12 encounter with plaintiff show that plaintiff reported no “mental health concerns, ” and that his “sleep and appetite” were “good.” [Doc. #118-4 at 5] In Vogt's assessment, plaintiff was “[c]alm, cooperative, alert, oriented, ” and in “no acute distress.” Id. He “did not exhibit” signs or symptoms of “significant mental illness” that “would clinically contraindicate continued placement in administrative segregation, ” and his “behavior and mental health [did] not appear to be negatively impacted by placement in” administrative segregation. Id. at 6. His hygiene was “adequate, ” and his mood was “euthymic, ” with congruent affect. Id. at 5. His response to questions indicated his thoughts were “organized” and ...

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