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Beckermann v. Babich

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

January 2, 2018

GLEN BABICH, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on defendants' motions for summary judgment (#74; #79). The defendants are divided into two groups. Dr. Glen Babich, Julie Fipps, Jewel Cofield, Jason Clements, Cody Stanley, Lisa Taber, and Dr. John Eppolito make up the “Corizon Defendants.” Brad Clark, Brandy Hickey, Myrtle Pruitt, and William Strange make up the “Correctional Center Defendants.” Plaintiff Jeffrey Beckermann has not responded to either motion, and the time for doing so has passed. Both motions are granted.

         I. Background

         The events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred at the Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”), where plaintiff was an inmate. On June 2, 2015, plaintiff fractured his right hand while fighting with another inmate. After the fight, plaintiff was taken to the segregation unit. Shortly after, defendant Stanley (“Nurse Stanley”) evaluated plaintiff. Plaintiff complained that his right hand hurt, so Nurse Stanley asked plaintiff to move his hand. Plaintiff did so easily, and Nurse Stanley observed no swelling, deformity, signs of major physical trauma, or signs of apparent distress. Nurse Stanley did not see anything that suggested plaintiff had fractured his right hand or fingers or that plaintiff required further evaluation or work up.

         Next, Nurse Stanley explained to plaintiff the two ways to seek medical care while in segregation. First, plaintiff could submit a Health Services Request (“HSR”). Nurses collect HSRs each morning and then determine the appropriate care. Second, if plaintiff had emergent health concerns, he could activate the Incident Command System (“ICS”), a self-declared medical emergency system that requires correctional officers to contact health services.

         About thirty minutes later, plaintiff was interviewed by defendant Clark (“Officer Clark”), the lieutenant who was supervising the segregation unit. In this role, Officer Clark talked with offenders to find out why they were placed in the segregation unit. Plaintiff claims he told Officer Clark that medical refused to treat him and he was suffering due to lack of treatment and pain medication. Plaintiff also claims that his hand was obviously fractured, swollen, and discolored. Officer Clark disputes this and says plaintiff did not say that he was refused medical treatment.

         Later that night, defendants Pruitt and Hickey (“Officer Pruitt” and “Officer Hickey”) interviewed plaintiff. Plaintiff showed Officer Hickey his right hand and asked Officer Hickey when a nurse would look at it. Officer Hickey did not think plaintiff's hand presented a medical emergency. Officer Hickey explained that plaintiff already had seen a nurse when he was first taken to segregation. Officer Hickey then explained to plaintiff the two ways to seek medical care while in segregation. Officer Pruitt does not recall plaintiff showing his hand or saying that he was refused medical treatment, was in pain, or needed medical care.

         A couple hours later, plaintiff saw defendant Taber (“Nurse Taber”). Plaintiff showed Nurse Taber his hand and asked for medical attention. Nurse Taber gave plaintiff an HSR and told him to fill it out. Plaintiff claims he filled out the HSR and submitted it the next day, but there is no documentation to this effect.

         Three days later, plaintiff submitted an HSR requesting care for his knee; he did not submit an HSR for his right hand. Four days after that, plaintiff submitted an HSR about his right hand. Later that day, defendant Clements (“Nurse Clements”) evaluated plaintiff. Plaintiff reported pain and swelling in his right hand and explained that he could not make a fist. He denied numbness and tingling. Plaintiff's right hand exhibited no heat, redness, ecchymosis (reddish or bluish discoloration of the skin), deformity, or discoloration, but Nurse Clements observed swelling and warmth. Nurse Clements assessed plaintiff with a possible fracture or dislocation, administered ibuprofen, immobilized and splinted plaintiff's hand, applied ice, and referred plaintiff to a higher-level provider. Nurse Clements also noted that he would follow up with plaintiff's care to ensure that a doctor had ordered an x-ray. At no point did plaintiff activate the ICS.

         Two days later, plaintiff received an x-ray that showed a fracture. Defendant Eppolito (“Dr. Eppolito”) requested an orthopedic referral and ordered Tylenol #3, a narcotic pain medication. Defendant Babich (“Dr. Babich”) approved the consult request, and plaintiff met with an orthopedic specialist twelve days later. Plaintiff claims that, because of the long delay in medical treatment, the orthopedic specialist said he would require extensive reconstructive surgery that would involve re-fracturing his hand. This is not reflected in any of the orthopedic specialist's medical records. The orthopedic specialist requested approval for surgery, Dr. Babich approved the request, and the specialist operated about a month later. Of course, if the orthopedic specialist thought the surgery were urgent, she could have requested an earlier date. Nothing in plaintiff's medical records shows that a delay in treatment affected his surgery or recovery.

         After plaintiff's first appointment with the orthopedic specialist, but before surgery, plaintiff was transferred to Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center. Defendant Strange (“Deputy Warden Strange”) did not request plaintiff's transfer, but he did approve it. Deputy Warden Strange claims that plaintiff was transferred from SECC to open up beds for safety and security reasons.

         Plaintiff then filed suit based on the medical treatment (or alleged lack thereof) he received for his fractured hand. He claims both groups of defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[1]

         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). Because plaintiff did not oppose the motions, the matters in the Corizon Defendants' and the ...

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