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Henson v. Brennan

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

September 17, 2019

BONNIE BRENNAN, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. No. 105] and Plaintiff's Motion for order to obtain medical treatment [Doc. No. 124]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is granted, and Plaintiff's Motion is denied.

         Facts and Background

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights through deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs while he was an inmate at the Northeast Correctional Center (“NECC”).

         Defendants have, in accordance with the Court's Local Rules, submitted a Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts. Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants' facts.[1] Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule 7-401(E) of this Court's Local Rules, Defendants' facts are deemed admitted. Local Rule 7-401(E) provides:

         Rule 7 - 4.01 Motions and Memoranda.

(E) A memorandum in support of a motion for summary judgment shall have attached a statement of uncontroverted material facts, set forth in a separately numbered paragraph for each fact, indicating whether each fact is established by the record, and, if so, the appropriate citations. Every memorandum in opposition shall include a statement of material facts as to which the party contends a genuine issue exists. Those matters in dispute shall be set forth with specific references to portions of the record, where available, upon which the opposing party relies. The opposing party also shall note for all disputed facts the paragraph number from movant's listing of facts. All matters set forth in the statement of the movant shall be deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the opposing party.

         The undisputed facts are as follows:

         At all times relevant to his Complaint, Plaintiff William Henson was an inmate at NECC in Bowling Green, Missouri.

         At all times relevant to Plaintiff's Complaint, the State of Missouri contracted with Corizon to provide medical care and treatment to offenders incarcerated within the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”).

         Defendant Bonnie Brennan was employed by Corizon as a nurse practitioner at NECC. While assigned to NECC, Brennan's duties consisted of providing medical care and treatment to the inmates at the institution, which included identifying patients' health problems on a case-by-case basis and prescribing and implementing treatment plans approved by a Corizon physician.

         Defendant Tamara Anderson was employed by Corizon as a Health Services Administrator (HSA) at NECC. While assigned to NECC, Anderson's duties consisted of managing health systems and staff functions. Anderson was not responsible for developing treatment plans for patients. Rather, it was the responsibility of Corizon physicians to create treatment plans and order medications for patients on a case-by-case basis.

         One of Defendant Anderson's job functions as HSA was to review inmate grievances related to medical care, review the relevant medical records, and issue written responses and/or meet with inmates to resolve their complaints. The MDOC has an administrative policy in place for the resolution of inmate grievances. The MDOC grievance policy has three major phases: The Informal Resolution Request, Offender Grievance Process, and Appeal Process. The MDOC grievance policy directs that staff should respond to Informal Resolution Requests (IRRs) within 40 days. Expiration of this time limit will allow an inmate to proceed to the next stage of the grievance process. In resolving inmate grievances related to medical care, the HSA reviewed the relevant medical records to ensure that requests for medical care were addressed and that treatment plans ordered by physicians were implemented. Defendant Anderson had no authority to compel a Corizon physician to order a different plan of treatment as part of the grievance resolution process.

         On July 26, 2016, Plaintiff transferred to NECC from another prison camp.

         At approximately 1:30 a.m. on July 28, 2016, Plaintiff self-declared a medical emergency for back pain. Corizon Nurse Hunter responded to the call and noted that Plaintiff complained of pain from a spinal cord injury sustained in 2003 that was surgically repaired in 2005. Nurse Hunter recorded that Plaintiff complained of increased pain at the incision area from the 2005 surgery, as well as numbness and pain in his right leg and foot. Nurse Hunter observed no physical injuries, so she educated Plaintiff about the processes for Health Services Requests (HSR), sick call, and medication times.

         On July 29, 2016, Plaintiff submitted an HSR for complaints of “worsening symptoms and meds.” It was received by the medical department on July 31, and an appointment was scheduled for August 24.

         On August 24, 2016, Dr. Paniagua, a Corizon physician, saw Plaintiff in Corizon's “chronic care clinic” for chronic pain to address complaints of lower back pain. Dr. Paniagua assessed Plaintiff as having low back pain at his L1 spinal segment, but a normal gait and normal range of motion in his extremities. Dr. Paniagua ordered Tramadol to treat Plaintiff's pain and discontinued his preexisting order for Gabapentin. On August 31, Dr. Paniagua requested outside medical records from Forrest Park Hospital to review Plaintiff's medical history of a spinal cord injury. The records arrived at NECC on September 19.

         On September 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed IRR NECC 16-1159 in which he complained that he was given an incorrect medication in place of Tramadol on August 29. Defendant Anderson met with Plaintiff to discuss his IRR on September 13. She told Plaintiff that there was no evidence that he had been given the wrong medication in place of Tramadol. She nonetheless informed Plaintiff that she would meet with nursing staff to remind them of the importance of correct medication administration and professionalism. Anderson considered Plaintiff's IRR to be resolved through discussion. Plaintiff requested that his old medical records and Electromyography (EMG) studies be reviewed to validate that he had nerve damage as a result of complications from back surgery. Anderson agreed to review the records.

         On October 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed IRR NECC 16-1357, in which he complained of receiving incorrect and inadequate medications to treat his chronic pain and numbness in his legs. He wrote in his IRR that his Gabapentin (Neurontin) was discontinued and that as a result, he lost feeling in his left leg and fell twice on unspecified dates. His IRR also stated that he had not been seen by medical personnel for his chronic pain issues. Nurse Niemeyer met with Plaintiff on October 13 to address Plaintiff's complaints of numbness and nerve pain. Plaintiff explained that his pain arose from a prior motor vehicle accident resulting in spinal cord damage. Plaintiff further explained to Nurse Niemeyer that his order for Gabapentin was discontinued and that he currently took Tramadol and Cymbalta (a nerve pain medication) for pain. He stated that he needed both Tramadol and Gabapentin to effectively treat his pain. Nurse Niemeyer referred him to the chronic care physician for further evaluation and follow-up.

         On October 28, Defendant Anderson met with Plaintiff to follow-up on Plaintiff's request that his old medical records be reviewed to confirm nerve damage. During this encounter, Anderson reviewed prior medical records and Electromyography (EMG) studies with Plaintiff. Anderson told Plaintiff that, according to her review of the medical records, EMG studies did not confirm positive results for nerve damage. She noted that records from Cameron Regional Medical Center stated that Plaintiff was being weaned off Gabapentin and Tramadol. Plaintiff told Anderson at their meeting that he was going to fall due to numbness and pain in his leg. Anderson encouraged him to submit a medical services request if he felt that he needed to be seen by a physician to determine if diagnostic testing was indicated. Plaintiff ended the conversation by stating that he intended to file more IRRs for his pending lawsuit.

         On November 1, 2016, Plaintiff submitted an HSR for complaints of chronic back pain and requested to be seen by a physician. That same day, a Corizon nurse responded to the HSR and Plaintiff told the nurse that he needed to be seen by a physician about his chronic leg pain. The nurse referred Plaintiff for an appointment with a physician. Plaintiff had an appointment with Dr. Paniagua on November 9, 2016 that was rescheduled because Plaintiff was unable to attend.

         MDOC policy directs that inmates have access to 24-hour emergency medical care as needed. The MDOC defines Emergency Care as: “Care for an acute illness or an unexpected health need that cannot be deferred until the next scheduled sick call or clinic.” MDOC policy directs that custody staff will transport an inmate to the Medical Unit in the event of a medical emergency and contact medical staff for any questions. True medical emergencies are reserved for conditions that require immediate attention in order to preserve life or bodily function. Numbness in the legs is not usually a condition that threatens life or bodily function, so it does not constitute ...

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