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Jones v. Corizon Medical Services

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

November 28, 2017

CORIZON MEDCAL SERVICES, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on plaintiff Rodney Jones's motion to depose (#55), motion to produce (#56), motion to amend the case management order (#61), and motion to pursue state-law claims through supplemental jurisdiction (#71). Defendants Eddie Hartline (“Nurse Hartline”) and Mina Massey's (“Dr. Massey”) motion for summary judgment (#65) is also before the Court. The matters are fully briefed. Summary judgment is granted in favor of both defendants.

         I. Background[1]

         On January 12, 2014, Jones was involved in a physical altercation with his cellmate, and several other inmates attempted to break it up. After the altercation, he immediately assumed his hands were broken. Jones was in excruciating pain and wanted to seek medical attention. He did not for fear that the inmates who tried breaking up the fight would be punished when prison officials investigated the incident. Three days later, prison officials found out about the altercation and “locked everyone up involved . . . .” Then, Jones and his cellmate were being escorted to “medical” when Nurse Hartline intercepted the group. Nurse Hartline asked if anyone needed medical attention. Jones immediately responded, “Yes my hands are broken.” Nurse Hartline told Jones to turn around (he was cuffed from behind) and wiggle his fingers. Jones did, and Nurse Hartline said Jones was “fine, ” clearing Jones for segregation custody. According to Jones, his hands were noticeably swollen at this time. Jones claims that Nurse Hartline intentionally deprived him of medical care because the two had unpleasant encounters in the past.

         Later that day, Jones stopped a nurse who was making daily rounds in segregation. He told the nurse that his hands were broken and that he had a fever. The nurse diagnosed Jones with a flu virus and gave him Tylenol and antibiotics to treat the virus. She gave him an icepack for his swollen hands and requested that Jones's hands be reevaluated. The medical records show that flu symptoms, not broken hands, were the reason for Jones's complaint. He believes this record was altered but has no proof that it was.

         Medical staff continued to treat Jones's flu-like symptoms over the next several days. In fact, he saw medical staff six more times over the next four days. Nothing in the medical records for these encounters shows that Jones complained about his hands. He makes only a passing comment that “the other nurses would not talk to [him] about his hands.” Eight days after entering segregation custody, Jones requested medical attention due to hand pain. A doctor examined him the same day and requested x-rays. The x-rays showed fractures in both hands, and Jones later had surgery to repair the fractures. He was admitted to the infirmary under Dr. Massey's care after surgery. Four days after the surgery, Dr. Massey noted in the medical records that Jones would be discharged from the infirmary when he was able to perform activities of daily living and was not taking narcotic pain medication. Eight days after the surgery, the medical records show that Jones was doing well and that Dr. Massey thought Jones might be discharged the following day. The same day, Jones was accused of stealing another inmate's food. The next day, nine days after surgery, Jones was discharged from the infirmary. The medical records show that he was able to perform activities of daily living and was not taking narcotic pain medication. Dr. Massey also issued “layins, ” or restrictions, when discharging Jones: Jones was restricted to bedrest for a month, and his meals were to be brought to medical, among other things. Contrary to the medical records, Jones claims that Dr. Massey actually discharged him as punishment for his alleged stealing. He claims he was never told of his layins or given a paper copy to show correctional officers. Thus, he was discharged while unable to care for or defend himself.

         Jones had a second surgery on his left index finger in July 2014. Fifteen days after the surgery, Nurse Hartline was told to remove Jones's sutures. Nurse Hartline asked a correctional officer to cut the sutures while Nurse Hartline pulled. Jones claims the procedure was very painful, but there were no other complications at that time. The next day, the wound reopened, and a nurse had to apply Steri-Strips to close it.

         Jones now brings suit pro se and alleges that Nurse Hartline violated his Eighth Amendment right in denying Jones access to medical care during Nurse Hartline's pre-segregation evaluation. Jones also claims that Nurse Hartline violated his Eighth Amendment right when removing Jones's sutures after the second surgery. Finally, Jones argues that Dr. Massey violated his Eighth Amendment right by discharging him from the infirmary because Jones allegedly stole another inmate's food.

         II. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Poller v. Columbia Broad. Sys., Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962). The burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant v. Assoc. Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there is sufficient evidence in its favor to allow a jury to return a verdict for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and must give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. N. States Power Co. v. Fed. Transit Admin., 358 F.3d 1050, 1053 (8th Cir. 2004). The Court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chem. Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir. 1976).

         III. Discussion[2]

         Jones has an Eighth Amendment right not to have known, objectively serious medical needs disregarded by prison officials. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-06 (1976). “For a violation, [Jones] must show ‘(1) that [he] suffered [from] objectively serious medical needs and (2) that the prison officials actually knew of but deliberately disregarded those needs.'” Fourte v. Faulkner Cty., 746 F.3d 384, 387 (8th Cir. 2014) (second and third alterations in original) (quoting Jolly v. Knudsen, 205 F.3d 1094, 1096 (8th Cir. 2000)). The first element is objective, the second subjective. Jolly, 205 F.3d at 1096.

         “A serious medical need is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment, or one that is so obvious that even a layperson would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Fourte, 746 F.3d at 388 (quoting Coleman v. Rahija, 114 F.3d 778, 784 (8th Cir. 1997)). “Deliberate indifference may include intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care, or intentionally interfering with treatment or medication that has been prescribed.” Pietrafeso v. Lawrence Cty., 452 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Vaughan v. Lacey, 49 F.3d 1344, 1346 (8th Cir. 1995)). “Deliberate indifference is ‘more than negligence, more even than gross negligence, and mere disagreement with treatment decisions does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.'” Fourte, 746 F.3d at 387 (quoting Jolly, 205 F.3d at 1096). “A prison official is deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs only if he is ‘aware of facts from which the ...

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