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Shropshire v. Toney

United States District Court, Southern District of Alabama, Southern Division

November 10, 2014




This matter is before the Court on the Magistrate Judges Report and Recommendation (R & R) (Doc. 92), Plaintiffs objections thereto (Doc. 93) and Defendants reply (Doc. 95). After due consideration of all issues, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judges conclusion that the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs claim that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs serious medical needs.

Background [1]

Plaintiff Donnie Shropshire, an inmate at the Atmore Work Release Center, an Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) facility, was injured after another inmate accidentally splashed mop water on his right foot. At the time, Shropshire did not know of any particular problem, other than his foot was drenched. He asked Sergeant Chandra Johnson, whom he was assisting at the time, for permission to change his shoe. Johnson denied the request because she needed Shropshires help. Shropshire took off his sock and put his wet shoe back on. Later that day, he told Johnson his foot was burning and felt irritated. That afternoon Shropshire took a shower and saw that his right foot was starting to turn red. The foot was also itchy and burning and later began to swell.

The next morning Shropshire met Warden Deborah Toney as she arrived for work. He told her about his foot getting wet, and showed her his injured foot. At this point, his foot was sweating and swollen and was “getting ready” to develop a blister. Shropshire told Toney he was in pain. Toney said there was nothing at the facility that would cause that and went about her business. Shropshire may or may not have explicitly requested medical attention from Toney. Shortly thereafter, Shropshire filled out a medical request form.

Inmates request medical care by filling out a medical care request slip and placing them in a box. Nurses visit Atmore Work Release daily and review the medical request slips. ADOC staff has no role in receiving or assessing these requests.

One day later (two days after the incident), Shropshire was called to the kitchen to do some cleaning. When he arrived, Shropshire told the steward, Kathy Stonewall, that he could not do cleaning duties because of his foot. Shropshire told her what had happened. According to Stonewall, the foot looked “awful”, “nasty”, had blisters that had popped, and was “swollen” and “puss[ie]”. Shropshire was having difficulty walking and was wearing shower slides. Johnson was standing nearby and appeared to be listening. Stonewall told Shropshire to go lie down. Johnson grabbed a squeegee and hit Johnsons swollen foot. Shropshire said nothing to Johnson at any time during this encounter.

The next day (three days after the incident) Johnson submitted another medical request form stating that his foot was numb, swollen, and in pain. That afternoon, blood and puss were running through his sock. Another inmate took him to the shift office in a wheelchair. Johnson, who was in the office, directed another officer to take Shropshire to another facility for medical attention.

According to the doctor who treated Shropshire, his injury was consistent with a chemical burn. In addition, Shropshire had developed a staph infection in his foot. Both injuries were serious, could cause further damage if not treated and, in the case of the staph infection, could result in death or loss of the foot.

Shropshire asserts claims against Johnson and Toney under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of her constitutional rights.[2] Specifically, Shropshire claims that Defendants refusal to provide medical treatment for his foot amounted to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. In addition, Shropshire assets that Johnson used unconstitutionally excessive force by hitting his injured foot. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims.

The R & R and Plaintiff’s Objections

The Magistrate Judge has recommended that summary judgment be: (1) granted in favor of both Defendants on the deliberate indifference claim but (2) denied as to the excessive force claim against Defendant Johnson. Shropshires


The Report and Recommendation sets out the applicable law, which will be restated here only to the extent necessary to address Shropshires objections. First, the Supreme Court has held that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction proscribed by the Eighth Amendment .” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1996) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). Deliberate indifference involves both an objective component (i.e., a serious medical need) and a subjective component (i.e., deliberate indifference to that need). Bozeman v. Orum, 422 F.3d 1265, 1272 (11th Cir. 2005). To satisfy the subjective element a plaintiff must prove: “(1) subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm; (2) disregard of that risk; (3) by conduct that is more than [gross] negligence.” Id. (quoting Brown v. Johnson, 387 F.3d 1344, ...

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