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Mann v. Corizon Health Care Services, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 1, 2017

ANTHONY FREDERICK MANN, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON HEALTH CARE SERVICES, INC., CORIZON, LLC, and KAREN STONE, M.D., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Callie V. S. Granade SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 32), Plaintiff's opposition thereto (Doc. 36), and Defendants' reply (Doc. 37). For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted.

         FACTS

         Plaintiff Anthony Frederick Mann is an inmate at Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama. (Doc. 1, ¶ 4). Plaintiff filed this action seeking damages for injuries he received when another inmate allegedly doused him with hot Liquid Fire that had been mixed with baby oil. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17). “Liquid Fire” is a drain line opener. (Doc. 32-12). Plaintiff filed this suit against Correctional Officer Mack Smith, Maintenance Supervisor Ricky Morgan, Maintenance Employee Ernie Pulley, Corizon Health Care Services, Inc., Corizon, LLC and Dr. Karen Stone. (Doc. 1). However, all claims against Smith, Morgan and Pulley have been dismissed. (Doc. 16; Doc. 23, p. 1, fn 1). Thus, the only remaining defendants are Corizon Health Care Services, Inc. and Corizon, LLC[1] (referred hereafter collectively as “Corizon”), and Dr. Karen Stone.

         The Complaint asserts state law claims against Corizon and Dr. Stone based on their failure to mitigate and properly treat Plaintiff's severe acid burns. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 6, 11). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Stone, who is an employee or independent contractor of Corizon, “failed to meet the minimum standard of care in the relevant medical community” because she “treated acid burns with water exacerbating his serious physical injuries.” (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 11, 33). The complaint states that “Defendant Stone is being sued in her capacity as an employee or independent contractor of Defendant Corizon, and in her capacity as a physician independently licensed in the State of Alabama.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 11). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' “negligence aggravated Plaintiff's injuries, when these defendants, as medical professionals, attempted to treat the active burning of Plaintiff's body with water, instead of something with the requisite pH to stop the burning further.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 32). The complaint also alleges that Corizon owed a duty to Plaintiff to hire and oversee its employees and independent contractors and to ensure that they had proper training. (Doc. 1, ¶ 34). The Complaint asserts that Corizon “should be held to at least the minimum standard of care as an employer of a negligent treating physician in a medical malpractice case.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 10).

         Defendants submitted the affidavit of Dr. Karen Stone who treated Plaintiff on the day of the incident. (Doc. 32-1). Plaintiff was brought to the health care unit at Holman Correctional Facility with chemical burns to his face, neck, abdomen, hands and knees at 11:35 a.m. on April 15, 2014. (Doc. 32-1, p. 3). Stone reports that an ambulance was immediately called and it arrived within approximately 30 minutes. (Doc. 32-1, p, 4). “Immediate actions were taken to look after the medical needs of Mr. Mann immediately upon his arrival at the health care unit at Holman.” (Doc. 32-1, p. 5). For the 30 minutes that Plaintiff was at the health care unit at Holman, Plaintiff's body was washed continuously with water. (Doc. 32-1, p. 4). According to Dr. Stone, her medical education and training has taught her that water is the best solution to be applied to chemical burns such as those suffered by Plaintiff on April 15, 2014. (Doc. 32-1, p. 4). The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Liquid Fire states that for emergency and first aid:

EYES: Flush immediately with water for at least 15 minutes. Forcibly hold eyelids apart to ensure complete irrigation of eye/lid tissue. GET IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION
SKIN: Wipe off excess. Flush immediately with water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing.

(Doc. 32-1, p. 4, Doc. 32-12, p. 4). The MSDS for Liquid Fire also states that “[c]ontact with eyes may result in permanent visual loss unless removed quickly by thorough irrigation with water.” (Doc. 32-12, p. 4). Dr. Stone also attached to her affidavit a copy of a document from the Mayo Clinic that states that if you have an immediately recognized chemical burn:

Rinse the burn immediately. Run a gentle, steady stream of cool tap water over the burn for 10 or more minutes.

(Doc. 32-13, p. 2). Dr. Stone avers that Plaintiff “was kept alive miraculously through the dedication of the health care staff at Holman until the paramedics arrived” to transport him to the burn unit at University of South Alabama Hospital in Mobile, Alabama. (Doc. 32-1, p. 5). According to Dr. Stone, “[w]ere it not for the actions of [herself], as well as the nurses and medical staff at the health care unit at Holman, Mr. Mann would have surely died of the chemical burns he suffered as a result of the actions of another inmate at Holman.” (Doc. 32-1, p. 5). Dr. Stone states that Plaintiff “was treated with appropriate medical treatment for his chemical burns.” (Doc. 32-1, p. 8). Based on Dr. Stone's medical education, training, background and experience, as well as her first-hand knowledge of the treatment that Plaintiff received at the Holman Correctional Facility, Dr. Stone opines that Plaintiff at all times received medical treatment at or above the standard of care of physicians practicing medicine in the state of Alabama. (Doc. 32-1, p. 8).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted: “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.” The trial court's function is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “The mere existence of some evidence to support the non-moving party is not sufficient for denial of summary judgment; there must be ‘sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.'” Bailey v. Allgas, Inc., 284 F.3d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 2002) ...


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