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Williams v. Lewis

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

July 3, 2018

GARY WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
RUTH LEWIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 28) The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.[1]

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Gary Williams (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Ruth Lewis (“Lewis”), Phyllis Berkley (“Berkley”), and Dimitri Davis (“Davis”) in their individual and official capacities, and Corizon, LLC (“Corizon”). At all relevant times, Lewis, Berkley and Davis were nurses at the St. Louis City Criminal Justice Center (“CJC”) and employed by Corizon. Plaintiff's action was originally filed in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri on January 14, 2016 and removed to this Court on February 25, 2016. (Doc. No. 1) Plaintiff alleges Nurses Lewis, Berkley, and Davis were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs while he was confined at CJC. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that despite being informed of his seizure disorder, Lewis delayed dispensing his anti-seizure medication, and Berkley and Davis ignored his complaints of an impending seizure and refused to give him his medication. As a result, Plaintiff suffered a seizure and fell from the second floor of the CJC housing unit, fracturing his skull. Plaintiff further alleges that Corizon refused to provide him with his medical records in violation of R.S. Mo. § 191.227.1, thereby impairing his ability to properly evaluate his medical treatment while under Corizon's care, custody and control. (See Complaint (“Compl.”), Doc. No. 2) Defendants move for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff cannot demonstrate they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists in the case and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The initial burden is placed on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). If the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of fact is in dispute, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts showing a genuine dispute on that issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate in a particular case, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Osborn v. E.F. Hutton & Co., Inc., 853 F.2d 616, 619 (8th Cir. 1988). Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Armour & Co., Inc. v. Inver Grove Heights, 2 F.3d 276, 279 (8th Cir. 1993).

         III. Facts[2]

         On July 2, 2012, at or about 8:54 p.m., Plaintiff was transferred from the Jennings Municipal Jail to CJC for confinement. Lewis was working as the medical intake screening nurse on the midnight shift, from 11:00 p.m., July 2, 2012 to 7:00 a.m., July 3, 2012. At or about 12:26 a.m. on July 3, 2012, Lewis conducted a medical intake screening of Plaintiff to determine his fitness for confinement. For safety and security measures, the intake nurse takes possession of any prescription medications included with an inmate's personal items. If the prescription medication is found to be medically necessary, a physician with CJC will order it replaced with the same or similar medication from CJC's pharmacy. Among Plaintiff's personal items were 1, 000 milligram tablets of an anti-seizure medication known as Keppra and prescribed by his private doctor to be taken twice daily. Plaintiff has a history of seizures and has been diagnosed with epilepsy. Lewis took possession of Plaintiff's Keppra during the medical intake screening.

         It was Lewis's normal practice to contact the on-call physician near the end of her shift, between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., to receive orders for replacement medications for newly processed inmates. Lewis would make an exception to this practice if she determined, based on her nursing experience and judgment, that an inmate had an immediate need for medication at that time. According to Plaintiff, he began shaking and sweating profusely during the intake screening and told Lewis he felt a seizure coming on. He asked Lewis for Keppra, but she did not provide him with his medication. Lewis disputes that Plaintiff exhibited any shaking, fidgeting, nervousness or profuse sweating, and states that had he complained to her about needing his medication, she would have notified the on-call physician for further instructions and made an entry to that effect in his medical chart. Similarly, if Plaintiff had told her he was experiencing the onset of a seizure, or exhibited symptoms of an impending seizure, she would have notified the St. Louis City Police Department to transport him to a local hospital, and made an entry to that effect in his medical chart. (Affidavit of Ruth Lewis (Lewis Aff.”), Doc. No. 30-7 at ¶¶ 22, 25-27) The Medical Intake Screening Form does not indicate “sweating” or “tremors, ” and Plaintiff's affect, mood, speech and activity was observed as appropriate. (Id. at 26-27) After completing Plaintiff's intake screening, Lewis advised CJC guards that Plaintiff had a history of seizures.[3] Nevertheless, Plaintiff was assigned to a cell on the second tier.

         At the end of her shift, at approximately 6:25 a.m., July 3, 2012, Lewis advised Brenda Mallard, M.D., the on-call physician at CJC that night, that Plaintiff had a personal prescription for Keppra. Dr. Mallard replaced Plaintiff's prescription with Keppra from CJC's pharmacy and ordered that he receive 1, 000 milligrams twice daily, during the 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. med-passes. It was acceptable practice at CJC that inmates receive their medication within one hour before and one hour after the scheduled time. Medical personnel dispensed the replacement-Keppra to Plaintiff at or about 8:00 a.m., July 3, 2012.

         At approximately 8:45 p.m. on July 3, 2012, Plaintiff suffered a seizure as he exited his cell and fell from the second tier to the floor below, injuring his head. At the time of Plaintiff's fall, Berkley and Davis were working the evening shift, from 3:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Berkley and Davis were summoned and responded to the scene of the fall and treated Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts that throughout the day, Berkley and Davis ignored his complaints that his medical condition was worsening and refused to give him his medication. Berkley and Davis dispute any interaction with Plaintiff prior to his fall. Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to Saint Louis University Hospital for treatment. Since the fall, Plaintiff claims he has experienced frequent seizures, headaches, and neck and back pain.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Official capacity claim[4]

         Plaintiff sues Lewis, Berkley and Davis in their individual and official capacities. The official capacity claim against them is treated as a claim against Corizon. See Johnson v. Hamilton, 452 F.3d 967, 973 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing Sanders v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 984 F.2d 972, 975-76 (8th Cir. 1993), and holding that to “support a claim against” a private prison medical provider under § 1983, a prisoner “must show there was a policy, custom, or official action that inflicted an actionable injury”). Plaintiff does not allege that Lewis, Berkley and Davis have authority to set policies, practices, or customs on behalf of Corizon. Further, no evidence of record demonstrates the alleged delay in providing Plaintiff with anti-seizure medication was caused by a policy, practice, or custom of Corizon, or of Corizon's state affiliate, the Missouri Department of Corrections. Therefore, the official capacity claims fail as a matter of law. See Hamilton v. Grubbs, No. 4:14-CV-766-CEJ, 2017 WL 264511, at *3-4 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 20, 2017), appeal dismissed sub nom. Hamilton v. Gremminger, No. 17-2781, 2017 WL 7668597 (8th Cir. Dec. 20, 2017).

         B. Deliberate indifference

         The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment extends to protect prisoners from deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Davis v. Oregon Cnty., Mo., 607 F.3d 543, 548 (8th Cir. 2010). Deliberate indifference has both an objective and a subjective component. Jackson v. Buckman, 756 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2014). The objective component requires a plaintiff to demonstrate an objectively serious medical need. Id. An objectively serious medical need is one that either has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment, or is so obvious that even a “ ‘layperson would easily ...


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