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Murchison v. Niemeyer

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

December 19, 2017

JOSEPH MURCHISON, Plaintiff,
v.
KARMA NIEMEYER, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM REGARDING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          DAVID D. NOCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action is before the court on the second motion of defendants Karma Niemeyer, Melanie Powell, Michael Weis, and Theresa Salmons for summary judgment. (Doc. 66). The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 19). The court heard oral arguments on this matter on September 22, 2017. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his first amended complaint, plaintiff Joseph Murchison alleges he was incarcerated by the Missouri Department of Corrections at the Northeast Correctional Center ("NECC") at all times relevant to this lawsuit. (Doc. 50 at 1.) On November 14, 2013, he alleges he was attacked by another prisoner, which left him with an injured fifth digit on his left hand ("little finger"). He alleges this "finger was bent or unable to flex, and [was] left at a roughly 20 [degree] angle to the rest of his fingers. The bend in Plaintiff's finger is at the very end or 1st joint in the digit, " with resulting swelling and pain. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 11, 12). Plaintiff alleges that the defendant NECC medical personnel were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         On October 31, 2014, plaintiff commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Corizon Medical Services NECC Medical Director, Jane Doe Nurse, Jane Doe Nurse #1, Jane Doe Nurse #2, Jane Doe Nurse #3, James Hurley, George Lombardi, Missouri Department of Corrections Regional Health Services Director, and Corizon Medical Services Regional Medical Director, all in their individual and official capacities. (Doc. 1.) On January 5, 2015, District Court Judge Jean C. Hamilton dismissed the claims against defendants Corizon Medical Service NECC Medical Director, James Hurley, George Lombardi, Missouri Department of Corrections Regional Health Services Director, and Corizon Medical Services Regional Medical Director, in their individual and official capacities. (Docs. 6, 7.) On the same day, Judge Hamilton also dismissed the claims against Jane Doe Nurses #1-3 and John Doe Nurse in their official capacities. (Id.) On March 13, 2015, plaintiff provided the names of the Jane and John Doe Nurses as Karma Niemeyer, Melanie Powell, Michael Weis, and Theresa Salmons. (Doc. 13.) This court corrected the identities of the remaining defendants accordingly. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint on September 7, 2016. (Doc. 50). Remaining for disposition are the following claims:

(1) Count I, alleging a failure to use adequate procedures with deliberate indifference against defendants Niemeyer, Powell, Weis, and Salmons (Doc. 50 at ¶¶ 36-49) and
(2) Count II, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress against defendants Niemeyer, Powell, Weis, and Salmons. (Id. at ¶¶ 50-63).

         These Counts are against the respective defendants in their individual capacities only. (Doc. 7). Plaintiff seeks nominal damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, and costs. (Doc. 50 at 13-14).

         Defendants filed their first motion for summary judgment in January 2016, but it was denied without prejudice upon the agreement of the parties because of a variety of delays in the discovery process. Defendants renewed their motion for summary judgment on June 20, 2017. (Doc. 66).

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT PRINCIPLES

         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); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). 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). The burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that disputes of fact do exist only after the movant has made its showing. Id.

         Motions for summary judgment are typically ruled on showings of evidence by affidavit. However, affidavits “shall be made on personal knowledge, shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and shall show affirmatively that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated therein.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). “When an affidavit contains an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the statement that is inadmissible hearsay, the statement may not be used to support or defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Brooks v. Tri-Sys., Inc., 425 F.3d 1109, 1111 (8th Cir. 2005).

         III. UNDISPUTED FACTS

         The record establishes that, unless otherwise stated, the following facts are without genuine dispute. Plaintiff was a prisoner incarcerated by the Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC") at the Northeast Correctional Center from November 14, 2013, to May 12, 2014. (Doc. 68 at ¶ 1). During this time, Corizon, LLC, was under contract with the State of Missouri to provide medical care to MDOC prisoners, and employed at NECC defendants Karma Niemeyer and Melanie Powell as Licensed Practical Nurses, defendant Michael Weis as a part-time, as-needed Nurse, and Theresa Salmons as a Licensed Practical Nurse on temporary assignment to NECC. (Doc. 68 at ¶¶ 2-6).

         On November 14, 2013, plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with another prisoner. (Docs. 68, 72, and 78 at ¶ 7). NECC officers intervened and sprayed pepper gas on plaintiff in order to stop the altercation. (Doc. 68 at ¶ 8). After this use of force, the officers ordered plaintiff to be placed in administrative segregation (“ad-seg”). (Docs. 68, 72, and 78 at ¶ 9). Before being placed in ad-seg, and pursuant to NECC Standard Operating Procedure 11-39, defendant Niemeyer examined plaintiff for the presence of any acute illnesses or injuries that would preclude ad-seg confinement. (Docs. 68 and 72 at ¶¶ 10-15). During defendant Niemeyer's evaluation, plaintiff complained of an injury to and bleeding from the inside of his lower lip, a sore left elbow, and a sore left little finger. (Docs. 68 and 72 at ¶ 16). Plaintiff reported that he had a history of ...


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