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Watson v. Witty

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

February 21, 2018

TERRY G. WATSON, Plaintiff,
KAREY L. WITTY, et al., Defendants.



         In this prisoner civil rights case, defendants Dr. Ashok Chada, Dr. Paul Jones and Katherine Barton move for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff failed to properly exhaust available administrative remedies. After reviewing the evidence and the arguments, the Court will grant defendants' motion.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), ''a civil rights complaint must contain facts which state a claim as a matter of law and must not be conclusory.'' Gregory v. Dillards, Inc., 565 F.3d 464, 473 (8th Cir. 2009) (en banc) (quotations and citation omitted). AA plaintiff must assert facts that affirmatively and plausibly suggest that the pleader has the right he claims rather than facts that are merely consistent with such a right.'' Id. (quotations and citation omitted). ''While a plaintiff need not set forth detailed factual allegations or specific facts that describe the evidence to be presented, the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to provide the grounds on which the claim rests.'' Id. (quotations and citations omitted).

         Rule 56(c) provides that summary judgment shall be entered ''if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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.'' 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 his 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); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         Once the moving party has met his 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Coop., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273-74 (8th Cir. 1988). Rule 56(c) ''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).


         Plaintiff, an inmate at Moberly Correctional Center, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Court did a pre-service review of the action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, on March 9, 2017. In the pre-service review, the Court found that plaintiff's claims for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs relative to his leg and back issues survive review with respect to Dr. Ashok Chada, Dr. Paul Jones and Katherine Barton. These defendants are all current or former employees of Corizon, Inc. The Court found that several of plaintiff's ADA claims also survive review with respect to Missouri Department of Corrections employees Lisa Pogue, Michelle Buckner and Correctional Officer Allen.[1] See Memorandum and Order issued March 9, 2017, Docket #40. Plaintiff's additional claims, as well as several other defendants, however, were dismissed from this action. Id.

         At all times relevant in this lawsuit, plaintiff was incarcerated at both South Central Correctional Center (“SCCC”) and Moberly Correctional Center (“MCC”). By way of background, plaintiff alleged in his amended complaint that when he entered the correctional system in May of 2012, he had already been determined by the Department of Veteran's Affairs to be disabled, with a start date for his disability of October 2010. Plaintiff claims that his “disability” was based on a myriad of conditions, including: (1) chronic adjustment disorder; (2) left knee replacement; (3) degenerative disc lumbar spine; (4) spondylolisthesis-cervical spine; (5) left lower extremity radiculopathy; (7) left hip trochanteric bursitis; (8) lateral left foot metatarsalgia; (9) GERD with constipation; (10) tinnitus; (11) osteoarthritis-right knee; (12) radiculopathy-right lower extremity; (13) bilateral hearing loss. However, as noted above, after § 1915 screening, the Court found that plaintiff's allegations relating to his assertion that the Corizon defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs for his leg and back issues were the only claims that would move forward against these particular defendants. The factual assertions relating to these issues against the Corizon defendants are as follows.

         In Count I of the amended complaint, plaintiff asserts that he sought numerous services for his chronic pain. He claims that while he was incarcerated at SCCC, in December 2015, he sought treatment from Dr. Chada for “great pain in his cervical spine and left leg.” He claims that despite having been told by a specialist prior to being incarcerated that he would need disc replacement surgery, he was only being given naproxen and Effexor for pain. He told Dr. Chada he needed additional treatment, but Dr. Chada told him in December of 2015 that it was him, and not the President of the United States, who would decide at MDOC who was disabled. Plaintiff claims that he filed a grievance relating to Dr. Chada's refusal to treat his medical issues, and defendant Ms. Cathy Barton “promised to correct the issues, ” but ultimately failed to do anything about the situation.

         Plaintiff claims he was transferred to MCC a few months later, in March of 2016. Plaintiff asserts that after he was transferred to MCC he saw Dr. Jones, who also failed to treat his leg and back issues adequately.

         Plaintiff states “it was explained to him” by Dr. Chada and Katherine Barton that MDOC's Central Office would not approve the type of treatment plaintiff was in need of because they did not recognize his VA ratings and because the treatment was too expensive. Plaintiff appears to be asserting that he should have been taken to see an orthopedic surgeon, a pain mitigation specialist, as well as an outside physical therapist.

         Plaintiff does admit that when he was transferred to SCCC in March 2013, he provided information about his VA disabilities and was taken to see a physical therapist at that time.

         Plaintiff states that he was then given exercises that helped mitigate his pain, but he complains that no ...

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