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Allah v. Gurley

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

March 2, 2015

JUSTICE I. ALLAH, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. GURLEY, et al., Defendants. JUSTICE I. ALLAH, Plaintiff,
v.
QUALITY CORRECTIONAL HEALTH CARE, et al., Defendants.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

WALLACE CAPEL, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

In this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 action, Plaintiff challenges the medical care and treatment provided to him between January and February 2012, during his incarceration at the Montgomery County Detention Facility in Montgomery, Alabama.[1] Specifically, Plaintiff complains Defendants denied him adequate medical care and treatment which caused him to suffer two strokes. Plaintiff also complains that he was charged a co-pay for notifying the medical staff that he had suffered a stroke. Named as defendants are Quality Correctional Health Care, Inc., ["QCHC"], Nurse Callie Johnson, Dr. Jerry Gurley, and Dr. Johnny Bates. Civil Action No. 2:12-CV-255-WHA, Doc. Nos. 5, 10, Civil Action No. 2:12-CV-915-WHA, Doc. No. 1. [2]

In accordance with the orders of the court, Defendants filed answers, special reports, and supporting evidentiary material in response to the allegations contained in the complaints. The court then informed Plaintiff that Defendants' special reports, may, at any time, be treated as a motion for summary judgment, and the court explained to Plaintiff the proper manner in which to respond to a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a response to the special report filed by Defendants Gurley and Johnson. This case is now pending on Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motions, Plaintiff's opposition, and the supporting and opposing evidentiary materials, the court concludes that the motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants are due to be granted.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citation to former rule omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) ("The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.").[3] The party moving for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence to support some element on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-24.

Defendants have met their evidentiary burden and demonstrated the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Thus, the burden shifts to Plaintiff to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3) ("If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required [by citing to materials in the record including affidavits, relevant documents or other materials] the court may... grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it."). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263. Consequently, to survive Defendants' properly supported motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff is required to produce "sufficient [favorable] evidence" which would be admissible at trial supporting his claims for relief. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). "If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted). "A mere scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for that party." Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 242). Conclusory allegations based on subjective beliefs likewise cannot create a genuine issue of material fact and, therefore, do not suffice to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (plaintiff's "conclusory assertions..., in the absence of [admissible] supporting evidence, are insufficient to withstand summary judgment."); Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11th Cir. 1995) (grant of summary judgment appropriate where inmate produces nothing beyond his own conclusory allegations challenging actions of the defendants); Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 557 (11th Cir. 1984) ("mere verification of party's own conclusory allegations is not sufficient to oppose summary judgment"). Hence, when a plaintiff fails to set forth specific facts supported by requisite evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 ("[F]ailure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial."); Barnes v. Sw. Forest Indus., Inc., 814 F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir. 1987) (If on any part of the prima facie case the plaintiff presents insufficient evidence to require submission of the case to the trier of fact, granting of summary judgment is appropriate).

For summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant. United States v. One Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74 th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). What is material is determined by the substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Lofton v. Sec'y of the Dep't of Children and Family Servs., 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004) ("Only factual disputes that are material under the substantive law governing the case will preclude entry of summary judgment."). "The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case." McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003). To demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact, the party opposing summary judgment "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine [dispute] for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (internal citations omitted). In cases where the evidence before the court which is admissible on its face or which can be reduced to admissible form indicates there is no genuine dispute of material fact and establishes the party moving for summary judgment is entitled to it as a matter of law, summary judgment is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24 (summary judgment appropriate where pleadings, evidentiary materials and affidavits before the court show there is no genuine dispute as to a requisite material fact); Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs., Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001) (to establish a genuine dispute of material fact, the nonmoving party must produce evidence such that a reasonable trier of fact could return a verdict in his favor).

Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. See Beard, 548 U.S. at 525; Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Thus, Plaintiff's pro se status alone does not mandate this court's disregard of elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case. In this case, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a requisite genuine dispute of material fact in order to preclude summary judgment.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Background

Plaintiff was processed into the Montgomery County Detention Facility ["MCDF"] on January 21, 2012. He informed intake correctional staff that he was an insulin dependent diabetic and also suffered from hypertension for which he previously had been prescribed Lisinopril (10 mg.) twice a day. He claims he suffered a mild stroke on February 18, 2012, and that from January 21, 2012, to February 18, 2012, he had not been given any insulin or medication for hypertension. Civil Action No. 2:12-CV-255-WHA ["CA No. 12-255"], Doc. No. 5 at 7. In an amendment to the complaint, Plaintiff states, upon being processed into MCDF, he informed jail staff of the medication he was taking, that he suffered from hypertension, and that he had been without his medication for six days. Id . Doc. No. 10 at 3. He claims the lapse in medication occurred because of his extradition from New Jersey to Alabama. Id. Prior to this transfer, Plaintiff had been incarcerated at the Union County Jail where he had been prescribed Clonidine (.1 mg.) and Lisinopril (10 mg.) twice a day for ten months. Id.

In his complaint filed in Civil Action No. 2:12-CV-915-WHA ["CA No. 12-915"], Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Bates prescribed him.1 mg. of Clonidine but prior to entering MCDF he had been prescribed Clonidine (.2 mg.) and Lisinopril (10 mg.). Doc. No. 1 at 3. Plaintiff alleges that his request to be put on this same medication regimen was denied and that Dr. Bates prescribed him insulin. Id. Plaintiff asserts, however, that he "is not an insulin dependent diabetic and never told Dr. Bates or any other medical personnel at MCDF that he was prescribed insulin. Id. Finally, Plaintiff claims that QCHC's policies and procedures allowed Drs. Bates and Gurley to place him in medical isolation for refusing insulin and faults the entity for failing to obtain his medical records from the jail in New Jersey. Id.

B. Declaratory and/or Injunctive Relief

Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the Montgomery County Detention Facility. The transfer or release of a prisoner renders moot any claims for injunctive or declaratory relief. See County of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631 (1979); see also Cotterall v. Paul, 755 F.2d 777, 780 (11th Cir. 1985) (past exposure to even illegal conduct does not in and of itself show a pending case or controversy regarding injunctive relief if unaccompanied by any continuing present injury or real and immediate threat of repeated injury). As it is clear from the pleadings and records before the court that Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the county detention facility, his request for declaratory and/or injunctive relief has been rendered moot.

C. Immunity

To the extent Defendants maintain they are entitled to sovereign immunity in their official capacities and/or qualified immunity in their individual capacities, the court notes that Alabama officials are immune from claims brought against them in their official capacities for monetary damages because the State is the real party in interest. Lancaster v. Monroe Cnty., Ala., 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997). QCHC, however, is a private corporation which contracts with MDCF to provide medical care and services to inmates in their custody, and Defendants Gurley, ...


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