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Abrams v. Cabrera

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

April 28, 2017

TOMAS V. CABRERA, M.D., Defendant.



         Defendant Tomas Cabrera, M.D., has moved for summary judgment on plaintiff Christopher Abrams' claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. (ECF Nos. 1, 60). The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons below, the court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.


         Plaintiff, a Missouri state prisoner, seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendant Cabrera in his individual capacity. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges that the defendant, a prison physician where plaintiff was incarcerated, was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical need, in that he failed to treat his mature eye cataract in a timely fashion, which caused irreversible damage to his eye. (Id.) Defendant asserts that he provided reasonable medical care and seeks summary judgment on plaintiff's claims. (ECF No. 60). Plaintiff responds that there are genuine issues of fact as to whether Cabrera's actions rose to the level of gross negligence and a deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical need. (ECF No. 65).

         The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.


         Summary judgment is proper “if there is no dispute of material fact and reasonable fact finders could not find in favor of the nonmoving party.” Shrable v. Eaton Corp., 695 F.3d 768, 770 (8th Cir. 2012). The party moving for summary judgment must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact on which the non-moving party has the burden of proof and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325-27 (1986). The burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that disputes of fact do exist. Id.

         A fact is “material” if it could affect the ultimate disposition of the case, and a factual dispute is “genuine” if there is substantial evidence to support a reasonable jury verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Rademacher v. HBE Corp., 645 F.3d 1005, 1010 (8th Cir. 2011). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and accord it the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 379-80 (2007).

         Once the moving party has met its burden “its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Id. at 380 (quoting Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)). The nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in his pleading alone, but must "present evidence from which a jury might return a verdict in his favor. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). If the nonmoving party fails to proffer substantial evidence of an essential element of a claim, summary judgment is appropriate on that claim because “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.


         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are without substantial dispute. Plaintiff Christopher Abrams was incarcerated by the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC") in the Northeast Correctional Center (“NECC”) from July 2014 to March 2015. At this time, Corizon was under contract with the State of Missouri to provide medical care and treatment to MDOC inmates. Defendant Tomas Cabrera, M.D., was employed by Corizon as a physician to provide medical care and treatment to inmates at NECC, including plaintiff.

         Before July 25, 2014, plaintiff had a history of problems in his right eye, including a hypermature nuclear cataract, amblyopia, [1] and esotropia.[2] Plaintiff had suffered from partial blindness in that eye since at least 1994. An ophthalmologist examined plaintiff in June 2014 and prescribed eyeglasses. On July 25, 2014, plaintiff self-declared a medical emergency and presented himself for medical attention, complaining that his right eye hurt. A prison nurse examined his eye, noting the presence of a small amount of red on the white of his eye and that he could not keep his eye open for very long. Defendant saw plaintiff later on July 25, 2014.

         Defendant examined plaintiff's right eye, finding the eyeball was red with increased pressure in it. Defendant determined that plaintiff's signs and symptoms were consistent with eye infections he diagnosed and treated in other patients and diagnosed plaintiff with an eye infection. He accessed plaintiff's medical chart to determine if plaintiff was allergic to antibiotics, then prescribed an antibiotic for the infection, ibuprofen for pain, a return visit to medical the next day if he was not better, and rest from work and recreation for one week. (ECF No. 61 at ¶¶ 17-22).

         Defendant did not work the following two days, so he next saw plaintiff three days later, on July 28. Defendant did not know until that time that plaintiff's right eye had continued to be painful and red with increased pressure. As soon as defendant saw plaintiff's condition, that his right eye had not improved, he consulted with an ophthalmologist by telephone and scheduled to have plaintiff seen the next morning. The ophthalmologist was concerned that plaintiff might have ...

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