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Edwards v. Wheat

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

January 14, 2015

MR. WHEAT, et. al., Defendants

Dexter K. Edwards, Plaintiff, Pro se, Springville, AL.



This is an action commenced pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Dexter K. Edwards, a prisoner proceeding pro se. The plaintiff is presently incarcerated at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama. He alleges rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him under the Constitution or laws of the United States were abridged during his incarceration there. The remaining defendants in this action are Nurse Jennifer Webb, Nurse Kelly Phillips, and Dr. David Pavlakovic.[1] The gravamen of the complaint is that on October 20, 2012, the two nurse defendants performed an unauthorized medical procedure on the plaintiff by removing skin from a wound on his foot with a scalpel, causing him great pain, and that thereafter the nurse defendants and Dr. Pavlakovic denied the plaintiff adequate medical care. (Doc. 1). The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and declaratory relief. (Id.). In accordance with the usual practices of this court and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(2), the complaint was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a preliminary report and recommendation. See McCarthy v. Bronson, 500 U.S. 136 (1991).

I. Procedural History

On February 27, 2014, the previously assigned magistrate judge entered an order for special report directing copies of the complaint to be forwarded to the defendants and requesting that the defendants file a special report addressing the factual allegations contained in the complaint. (Doc. 10). The defendants were advised their special report could be submitted under oath or accompanied by affidavits and, if appropriate, would be considered as a motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. By the same order, the plaintiff was advised that after he received a copy of the defendants' special report, he should file affidavits if he wished to rebut the matters presented in the defendants' special report. The plaintiff was further advised such affidavits should be filed within twenty days after receiving a copy of the defendants' special report.

On May 9, 2014, the defendants filed a special report accompanied by affidavits and portions of the plaintiff's inmate medical record. (Doc. 19). The undersigned construed the defendants' special report as a motion for summary judgment and notified the plaintiff he had twenty days to respond to the motion by filing affidavits or other material. (Doc. 20). The undersigned also advised the plaintiff of the consequences of any default or failure to comply with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985). The plaintiff filed a response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment on July 29, 2014. (Doc. 21).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment may be granted only if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. In making that assessment, a court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The burden of proof is on the moving party to establish his prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by showing the absence of genuine issues and that he is due to prevail as a matter of law. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604 (11th Cir. 1991). Once that initial burden has been carried, the non-moving party may not merely rest on his pleadings, but must come forward with evidence supporting each essential element of his claim. See Celotex, supra; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923 (11th Cir. 1989). Unless the plaintiff, who carries the ultimate burden of proving his action, is able to show some evidence with respect to each element of his claim, all other issues of fact become immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex, supra; Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530 (11th Cir. 1990). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained:

Facts in dispute cease to be " material" facts when the plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case. " In such a situation, there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Thus, under such circumstances, the public official is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, because the plaintiff has failed to carry the burden of proof. This rule facilitates the dismissal of factually unsupported claims prior to trial.

898 F.2d at 1532 (internal citation omitted).

III. Summary Judgment Facts

Applying the above standard, the following facts are undisputed or, if disputed, are taken in a light most favorable to the plaintiff:[2]

The plaintiff is an inmate at the St. Clair Correctional Facility. ( See Doc. 1). Dr. Pavlakovic has been employed as the medical director there since September 13, 2012. (Doc. 19-1 at 1). Nurse Webb has been a registered nurse for ten years. (Doc. 19-8 at 1). She worked as a registered nurse at the St. Clair Correctional Facility from September of 2011 until February of 2013. (Id.). Nurse Phillips has been a registered nurse for over twenty years. (Doc. 19-7 at 1). She began working as a registered nurse at the St. Clair Correctional Facility shortly before the incident in question. (Id.).

In early 2012, the plaintiff developed a significant stasis ulcer on his lower right leg.[3] (COR 192). The plaintiff saw a specialist outside of the prison system in February of 2012 regarding slow-healing foot and ankle ulcers. (Doc. 19-1 at 5). In March of 2012, the plaintiff had an arteriorgram at the specialist's recommendation. (Id.). On March 21, 2012, during an evaluation by medical staff at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, the plaintiff reported an ulcer on his right foot. (Id.). Between that time and Dr. Pavlakovic's arrival in September of 2012, the plaintiff saw various medical providers, who treated and monitored his stasis ulcer in an attempt to prevent infection and ensure his wound healed properly. (Doc. 19-1 at 5-6). The plaintiff's medical records reflect he saw Dr. Talley, a physician who preceded Dr. Pavlakovic at St. Clair Correctional Facility, approximately fifteen times for treatment of the stasis ulcer on his right leg and that he was ordered to report to the health care clinic several times each day for wound assessments. (Doc. 19-1 at 7). During the daily wound assessments, members of the nursing staff cleaned the wound with an antibacterial skin cleaner, removed any loose debris from the wound, then applied clean dressing to the wound. (Doc. 19-8 at 3-4).

Dr. Pavlakovic first saw the plaintiff on September 14, 2012. (Doc. 19-1 at 7). The plaintiff had a prescription for the pain reliever Norco, which Dr. Pavlakovic refilled for thirty days. (Doc. 19-1 at 7; COR178-179). The plaintiff submitted sick call requests on September 18, 2012 and September 24, 2012, complaining about the pain in his foot and requesting an increase in the dosage of pain reliever. (Doc. 19-1 at 7; COR 45, 52). Dr. Pavlakovic examined the plaintiff on September 27, 2012. (Doc. 19-1 at 7). He did not notice any signs of infection or improper treatment, but because of the plaintiff's complaints of continuing pain, Dr. Pavlakovic temporarily increased the plaintiff's Norco dosage. (Id. at 8; COR 180). Dr. Pavlakovic saw the plaintiff again during a chronic care clinic on October 8, 2012. (Doc. 19-1 at 8; COR 57). Dr. Pavlakovic noted the plaintiff's wound was healing very slowly but saw no signs of infection. (Id.).

On October 20, 2012, the date of the incident in question, the plaintiff saw Nurse Webb and Nurse Phillips for a daily wound assessment.[4] The nurse defendants evaluated the plaintiff's ulcer and noticed the presence of debris in the soft portion of the wound. (Doc. 19-7 at 3-4; Doc. 19-8 at 4). Because of concerns about infection and the ability to ...

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