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Johnson v. Whitman

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

March 2, 2015

JAMES WHITMAN, et al., Defendants.


L. SCOTT COOGLER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jerry Wayne Johnson ("Johnson") brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Johnson alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights when Defendants were deliberately indifferent in providing medical treatment for a broken wrist Johnson suffered while incarcerated at the Winston County Jail. Johnson also brings a state law claim for negligence. Before the Court is Defendants George A. Lyrene, M.D. ("Lyrene"), Denise Cummings, ("Cummings"), Amber Thompson ("Thompson"), and Adam Whitehead's ("Whitehead") motion to dismiss Johnson's complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] (Doc. 27.) The issues have been fully briefed by the parties and are ripe for review.

I. Factual Background[2]

Johnson was incarcerated at the Winston County Jail ("Jail") in the summer of 2013. Defendant Lyrene was a physician employed by Correctional Managed Care Consultants, LLC ("CMCC"), and served as director of the medical program at the Jail. Defendants Cummings, Thompson, and Whitehead were also employed by CMCC, and provided nursing services for Jail inmates.

On July 8, 2013, Johnson fractured his right wrist while an inmate at the Jail. On July 12, 2013, Cummings examined Johnson's wrist. She noted bruising and swelling, and treated the wrist injury with an ice pack. After Johnson told Cummings that he believed the wrist to be broken, Cummings indicated that she would refer Johnson to another nurse the next day to see if he needed x-rays. On July 13, 2013, Thompson examined Johnson's wrist. Johnson indicated that he experienced pain when trying to move the wrist, and Thompson prescribed naproxen and acetaminophen for pain. Thompson discussed Johnson's wrist with Dr. Lyrene, but no x-rays were ordered at the time. On July 18, 2013, Thompson saw Johnson again for an unrelated medical condition. Johnson's injured wrist was not discussed during this visit.

On August 29, 2013, Lyrene personally examined Johnson's wrist due to Johnson's continued complaints. Lyrene ordered x-rays to be taken. On September 11, 2013, Johnson was taken to an off-site hospital where he had his wrist x-rayed. On September 18, 2013, Dr. Lyrene again examined Johnson's wrist. Lyrene diagnosed Johnson with a fractured wrist and indicated that he would discuss Johnson's condition with an orthopedist. Lyrene saw Johnson again in October 2013 for a leg issue. During this visit, Lyrene noted that Johnson's right wrist did not flex or grip normally. However, Lyrene did not prescribe any additional treatment for the wrist injury at that time.

On November 13, 2013, Johnson was again examined by Dr. Lyrene for his wrist fracture. Johnson indicated that the wrist injury was still painful, and asked whether surgery was an option. Lyrene told Johnson that, after reviewing the x-rays with the orthopedist, he had determined that it was "too late" for surgery. Johnson's fracture ultimately healed in an malunion position. Johnson was released from the Jail in March of 2014, and had surgery to repair the malunion in his right wrist in May of 2014.

Johnson filed his complaint in this Court on April 16, 2014. Johnson amended his complaint on October 29, 2014 to include claims against the Lyrene, Cummings, Thompson, and Whitman. Johnson's § 1983 claim is based on an alleged Eighth Amendment violation, as Johnson asserts that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. Johnson also brings a claim for negligence/wantonness against Lyrene, Thompson, Cummings, and Whitehead.

II. Standard of Review

A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the facts alleged in the complaint must be specific enough that the claim raised is "plausible." See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. ") (internal quotations omitted) (emphasis added). "To be plausible on its face, the claim must contain enough facts that allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Pouyeh v. Univ. of Ala. Dep't of Ophthamology, No. CV-12-BE-4198-S, 2014 WL 2740314, at *3 (N.D. Ala. June 16, 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (alteration in original). Conclusory statements of law may "provide the framework of a complaint, " but the plaintiff is required to support them with "factual allegations." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

The process for evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint has two steps. This Court "begin[s] by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. Conclusory statements and recitations of a claim's elements are thus disregarded for purposes of determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to access discovery. See Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 687). Next, this Court "assume[s] [the] veracity" of "well-pleaded factual allegations" and "determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A complaint's factual matter need not be detailed, but it "must... raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

In reviewing the complaint, this Court "draw[s] on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Nonetheless, "[a] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of [the facts alleged] is improbable." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. This Court considers only "the face of the complaint and attachments thereto" in order to determine whether Plaintiff states a claim for relief. Starship Enters. of Atlanta, Inc. v. Coweta Cnty., Ga., 708 F.3d 1243, 1252 n.13 (11th Cir. 2013). Generally, the complaint should include "enough information regarding the material elements of a cause of action to support recovery under some viable legal theory.'" Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Orgs v. City of Miami, Fla., 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683-84 (11th Cir. 2001)).

III. Analysis

A. Deliberate Indifference to a Serious ...

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