United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Paul Jones,
M.D.'s (“Defendant”) Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 54). Plaintiff has responded (Doc. 60),
Defendant has replied (Doc. 61), and Plaintiff has filed a
sur-reply (Doc. 62) and another memorandum in opposition
(Doc. 69). For the following reasons, the Court will grant
October 24, 2016, Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the
Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”),
filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). His
complaint, as amended and as relevant, alleges that
Defendant, a physician employed by Corizon Medical Services
(“Corizon”), was deliberately indifferent to his
serious medical needs by failing to treat him for a neck
injury he suffered in November 2014 (Doc. 4). More
specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant refused to
treat him on June 25, 2014; September 25, 2014; October 3,
2014; October 10, 2014; and November 13, 2014 (Id.
at 5-6). Plaintiff asserts that-between July 16, 2014 and
November 17, 2016-he self-declared medical emergencies
several times because he was unable to raise his head without
experiencing severe pain because “the dis[c]s of his
spine [were] cutting into [his] spinal cord creating severe
nerve damage” (Id. at 6). In addition,
Plaintiff claims that a September 25, 2014, x-ray of his
spine revealed that he urgently needed treatment, but
Defendant refused to see him on September 30 (Id.).
According to Plaintiff, on November 21, 2014, Corizon
informed him that “if [he] wanted medical treatment to
exhaust [his] grievance process” (Id.).
Plaintiff underwent neck surgery in March 2015. (Id. at
5). He claims that the delay in treatment caused him
unnecessary pain, as well as severe and permanent nerve
damage, physical disfigurement, and loss of muscle tone
(Id. at 5-6). He seeks compensatory damages and an
order requiring Corizon to provide him the medical treatments
that his surgeon has recommended (Id. at 7).
previously moved for summary judgment on the ground that
Plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies
pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a) before bringing this action (Doc. 24).
Thereafter, Plaintiff also moved for summary judgment,
asserting that he is entitled to judgment on the merits
because the undisputed medical evidence establishes that
Defendant was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs
(Doc. 34). The Court denied both motions (Doc. 39). Defendant
now moves for summary judgment on the ground that the
Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that Defendant was deliberately
indifferent to his medical needs (Doc. 54).
Summary Judgment Standard
Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Peterson v. Kopp, 754 F.3d
594, 598 (8th Cir. 2014). A moving party bears the burden of
informing the Court of the basis of its motion. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the
moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must
set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a
dispute as to a genuine issue of material fact, not the
“mere existence of some alleged factual dispute.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
passing on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view
the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331. The Court's function
is not to weigh the evidence but to determine whether there
is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
249. “Credibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.”
Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042
(8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).
inmate must rely on prison authorities to treat his medical
needs; if the authorities fail to do so, those needs will not
be met.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103
(1976). Thus, “deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs of prisoners constitutes the ‘unnecessary
and wanton infliction of pain, ' proscribed by the Eighth
Amendment.” Id. at 104 (citing Gregg v.
Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). Deliberate
indifference claims have “both an objective and a
subjective component: ‘The [plaintiff] must demonstrate
(1) that [he] suffered [from] objectively serious medical
needs and (2) that the prison officials actually knew of but
deliberately disregarded those needs.'” Jolly
v. Knudsen, 205 F.3d 1094, 1096 (8th Cir. 2000)
(alterations in original) (quoting Dulany v.
Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997)). In order
to state a cognizable claim, however, the prisoner must
allege deliberate acts or omissions; “a complaint that
a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a
medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical
mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment.”
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106.
Motion for Summary Judgement, Defendant does not directly
dispute that Plaintiff suffered from objectively severe
medical conditions affecting his neck and back (Doc. 55 at 3,
8). Instead, Defendant argues that the medical records
reflect extensive and diligent treatment of those conditions
by him and others. (Id. at 3-10.) In his Complaint,
Plaintiff asserts that he first reported his spinal
conditions on June 24, 2014 (Doc. 4 at 5). Defendant asserts
that, during a chronic care appointment on December 14, 2014,
Plaintiff exhibited asymmetry in his left pectoralis
musculature for the first time, and that Defendant
immediately referred Plaintiff for an MRI that ultimately
resulted in surgery (Doc. 55 at 7; see also Doc.
55-2 at 19). Plaintiff concedes that he ultimately received
spinal surgery, but argues that Defendant refused to treat
his condition in the intervening months and that the delay
caused him unnecessary severe pain and resulted in permanent
nerve damage and physical disfigurement (Doc. 4 at 5).
succeed on a deliberate indifference claim premised on a
delay in treatment, the prisoner “must present
verifying medical evidence to show that the delay had
detrimental effect.” Moots v. Lombardi, 453
F.3d 1020, 1023 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing Crowley v.
Hedgepeth, 109 F.3d 500, 502 (8th Cir. 1997)). The Court
concludes that the undisputed record evidence illustrates a
history of consistent care provided by Defendant.
Defendant's notes, corroborated by other providers,
support his contention that Plaintiff did not exhibit a need
for surgery before the December 14 appointment.
examined Plaintiff numerous times between June 24 and
December 14, 2014. On July 14, 2014, Defendant noted normal
musculoskeletal conditions and extremities (Doc. 55-2 at
42-43). Plaintiff was cleared for normal activity
(Id. at 43). On July 21, 2014, Defendant noted no
abnormalities in Plaintiff's health (Id. at
38-39). On July 23, and August 6, 2014, Plaintiff sought care
from Defendant regarding a hernia (Id. at 40,
55-56). Defendant notes no complaints by Plaintiff regarding
his back or neck (Id. at 40, 55-56). On October 3,
2014, Defendant was scheduled to examine Plaintiff but was
unable to due to time constraints (Id. at 73). The
appointment was rescheduled (Id.). One week later,
on October 10, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant,
complaining of restless leg syndrome and neck pain
(Id. at 79-81). However, Plaintiff told Defendant
that he had suffered from restless leg syndrome for years,
and Defendant noted normal range of motion and no atrophy or
asymmetry in the neck, chest, back, or arms that might
indicate an emergent medical need (Id.). During an
examination on November 12, 2014, a nurse noted that
Plaintiff's left pectoral and arm were softer than those
on his right and that Plaintiff did not lift his head
(Id. at 90). The nurse indicated that he would
discuss Plaintiff's condition with Defendant
(Id.). According to Defendant, he was unaware of any
“atrophy or physical deformity” when, on November
13, 2014, he instructed Plaintiff to continue with his course
of care until his scheduled appointments in December (Doc.
55-1 at ¶ 15). Finally, on December 14, 2014, Defendant
noted that Plaintiff's musculature and nerve function was
irregular and ordered an MRI (Id. at 18-20).
January 10, 2015, Defendant noted that Plaintiff's
numbness and pain were progressing and that he was unable to
do pushups (Doc. 55-2 at 99). Again, Defendant noted
asymmetry in musculature and grip (Id.). Defendant
referred Plaintiff to a neurosurgeon, placed him in a soft
neck brace, and ordered that he be excused from work
(Id.). Defendant notes that the asymmetry was new
since he had last examined Plaintiff two months before
(Id. at 100). On January 16, 2015, Defendant
prescribed Nortriptyline for pain (Id. at 123).
Defendant examined Plaintiff in the infirmary on January 19
and 20, 2015, noting no change to the treatment plan
(Id. at 130, 133). On January 21, 2015, Defendant
increased Plaintiff's pain ...