United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Miller alleges that while she was an inmate in the Missouri
Department of Corrections the prison medical providers were
deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs. She
alleges that she was in severe pain because of back and knee
problems and was unable to walk; she claims that the
defendant prison doctors, who are employed by defendant
Corizon LLC, delayed and denied necessary treatment. She
brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case against Corizon and
against doctors Justin Jones, Hari Kapur, Tom Bredeman and
considered the voluminous evidence presented by the parties
and will deny the doctors' summary judgment motion as to
the two counts of deliberate indifference, as numerous
factual disputes remain on those claims. I will, however,
grant summary judgment to Corizon as no evidence has been
presented showing that any policy or custom of Corizon caused
plaintiff's problems. I will also grant summary judgment
to all defendants on Miller's claims of denial of
life's necessities, retaliation, and conspiracy. The case
remains set for jury trial on September 3, 2019 in Hannibal.
Shannon Miller entered the Women's Eastern Reception,
Diagnostic, and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in January of
2014, she had a complicated medical history. That included a
right knee injury in 1999, a partial left knee replacement in
2013, past fractures of her collarbone, leg and arm,
additional surgeries because of complications of
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, rheumatoid
arthritis, lupus, sciatic nerve pain, and high blood
pressure. During her time at WERDCC from January 2014 to
August 2017, plaintiff complained of bilateral knee pain,
left leg pain, sciatic pain, and lower back pain.
defendants saw plaintiff numerous times and she often
complained of the same symptoms, describing her pain as
severe. Medical records indicate that plaintiff was
wheelchair bound and had difficulty walking, even with a
walker. During this two and half year period, she
self-declared three medical emergencies and was seen in the
infirmary numerous times.
complaints of knee pain began shortly after she arrived at
WERDCC and defendant Dr. Kapur saw her on several occasions.
In July 2014, an x-ray of both knees revealed that her left
knee had arthritis and that small fragments of bone or
cartilage were moving freely in the joint fluid. Throughout
the course of her confinement, plaintiff had three x-rays of
her left knee and a CT scan, each revealing a similar
problem. After the first x-ray was taken, Dr. Kapur requested
that plaintiff see an orthopedist to evaluate her left knee;
this request was denied by defendant Dr. Bredeman. Dr. Kapur
continued seeing her for complaints of knee pain for several
months after that. Over a year after her first medical visit
for knee pain, defendant Dr. Jones requested an orthopedic
referral to evaluate that same knee, which also was denied.
It was not until May 2016 that a referral was approved and
plaintiff was seen by an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Krautman.
Dr. Krautman concluded that plaintiff required a total left
knee replacement and he performed the procedure in October
2016. The parties have a factual dispute about why plaintiff
never received physical therapy after that surgery and about
whose job it was to order physical therapy.
claims that her back pain began in May 2015, after she
slipped and fell when leaving her cell. In October 2015,
Dr. Jones ordered an MRI of her lower spine and requested a
referral to an orthopedic surgeon. The MRI revealed a grade-1
anterior spondylolisthesis in the L6-S1 area, a left side
disc protrusion, likely nerve compression, and narrowing of
the space between discs. Dr. Bredeman agreed to the referral
for the back pain (this was the same time he first denied the
referral for knee pain). Dr. Jeff Lehman, an orthopedic
surgeon, saw Miller in December 2015 and scheduled her for
lower back surgery in January. Defendant Dr. Hammerly
reviewed Dr. Lehman's consultation and decided that
because of Miller's medical history she was not a good
candidate for surgery. He stated that he needed evidence that
plaintiff's lupus and rheumatoid arthritis were
adequately managed, although the evidence is undisputed that
she had never complained of symptoms or received treatment
for either condition while at WERDCC. Her back surgery was
never rescheduled although additional CT scans revealed the
same diagnosis. Instead of the surgery, Dr. Hammerly ordered
a nerve conduction study.
has presented evidence through an expert witness that the
decision to cancel her back surgery, the delay of knee
surgery, and the failure to provide physical therapy were
unreasonable decisions that resulted in permanent
limitations. Defendants deny that any of their actions were
unreasonable and argue that plaintiff cannot show any injury
from the delay or lack of treatment.
judgment must be granted when the pleadings and proffer of
evidence demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact
exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Torgerson v.
City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011)
(en banc). I must view the evidence in the light most
favorable to plaintiff (the nonmoving party) and accord her
the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 379 (2007). Where sufficient
evidence exists to support a factual dispute, a jury must
resolve the differing versions of truth at trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-49 (1986). A fact is considered “material” if
it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Id.
establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on
deliberate indifference to serious medical needs a plaintiff
must demonstrate an objectively serious medical need and that
each defendant had actual knowledge of that need but
deliberately disregarded it. Barton v. Taber, 908
F.3d 1119, 1124 (8th Cir. 2018). A medical need is
objectively serious if it has been diagnosed by a physician
or “if it is so obvious that even a layperson would
easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's
attention.” Id. (quoting Jackson v.
Buckman, 756 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2014)). “To
demonstrate that a defendant actually knew of, but
deliberately disregarded, a serious medical need, the
plaintiff must establish a mental state akin to criminal
recklessness: disregarding a known risk to the inmate's
health.” Vaughn v. Gray, 557 F.3d 904, 908
(8th Cir. 2009). Whether a serious medical need exists and
whether an official was deliberately indifferent to it are
questions of fact. Schaub v. VonWald, 638 F.3d 905,
915 (8th Cir. 2011).
delay in medical treatment forms the basis of the deliberate
indifference claim, the objective seriousness of the
deprivation is measured by the “effect of delay in
treatment.” Jackson v. Riebold, 815 F.3d 1114,
1119 (8th Cir. 2016). This requires verifying
medical evidence showing that the delay had a detrimental
effect. Id. Further, a plaintiff can show deliberate
indifference by either showing inadequate medical care or a
doctor's “decision to take an easier and less
efficacious course of treatment.” Langford v.
Norris, 614 F.3d 445, 460 (8th Cir. 2010).
Indifference Claims against Doctors ...