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Eller v. Stone

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

June 6, 2018

KAREN STONE, M.D., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Steven Wayne Eller, an Alabama prison inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed his Complaint[1] under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983. (Docs. 1, 4). This action was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72(a)(2)(R), and is now before the undersigned on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 19). After careful review of the pleadings, and for the reasons set out below, it is ordered that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted in favor of Defendant Stone and that the claims asserted against Defendant Stone be dismissed with prejudice.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff Eller alleges that Dr. Karen Stone released him from the healthcare ward prematurely, specifically while he was still bleeding and recovering from surgery. (Doc. 4 at 4). Plaintiff Eller was housed in general population approximately a week and was then readmitted to the healthcare unit ward after developing an infection, which required emergency surgery. (Id.). Plaintiff Eller is suing Dr. Stone for “not doing a proper job.” (Id. at 6).

         Dr. Stone has answered the suit, denied the allegations against her, and filed a special report in support of her position (Docs. 10, 14), and the Court has converted Defendant Stone's pleadings into a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 19). Plaintiff Eller has failed to respond to or oppose the motion for summary judgment (despite being granted an extension of time). (Doc. 20). After a thorough review of the record, the Court has determined that this motion is ripe for consideration.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard.

         Summary Judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)[2]; see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (2009) ("[S]ummary judgment is appropriate even if 'some alleged factual dispute' between the parties remains, so long as there is 'no genuine issue of material fact.'"(emphasis omitted)).

         The party asking 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 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing, or pointing out to, the district court that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-24.

Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must do more than show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). On the other hand, the evidence of the nonmovant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in its favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC v. United Forming, Inc., 926 F.Supp.2d 1286, 1289-90 (S.D. Ala. Jan. 29, 2013) (citations omitted).

         The requirement to view the facts in the nonmoving party's favor extends only to "genuine" disputes over material facts. A genuine dispute requires more than "some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Garczynski, 573 F.3d at 1165 (internal citations omitted). A "mere scintilla" of evidence is insufficient; the nonmoving party must produce substantial evidence in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. In addition, "[t]here is no burden upon the district court to distill every potential argument that could be made based upon the materials before it on summary judgment." Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995). More importantly, where "opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007); see also Logan v. Smith, 439 Fed.Appx. 798, 800 (11th Cir. Aug. 29, 2011) ("In cases where opposing parties tell different versions of the same events one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record-such that no reasonable jury could believe it-a court should not adopt the contradicted allegations." (citations omitted) (unpublished)).[3]

         II. Discussion.

         According to Plaintiff Eller, he has suffered from right hip dislocation issues since his confinement within the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) in January 2004. (Doc. 1 at 8). In 2008, while incarcerated at Fountain Correctional Facility (“Fountain”), the ADOC began providing custom-fit prosthetic “lift shoes” (annually) to treat his hip issues. (Doc. 1 at 8). Plaintiff Eller's lift shoes, however, were “thrown away” by ADOC staff in December 2015, and Plaintiff was reevaluated in the healthcare unit for possible surgical treatment options for his dislocated hip.[4] (Id. at 9; Doc. 14-2 at 10, 12).

         Plaintiff Eller alleges he was evaluated by an orthopedic specialist, Dr. Xing, in March of 2016 and, due to an infection in his hip, revision of his hip replacement was not possible at that time. (Doc. 1 at 9). Dr. Xing recommended exploratory surgery of the hip, removal of the infected prosthesis, antibiotic spacer placement, and IV antibiotics for 6-8 weeks to clear up the infection. (Id. at 10). The surgery was conducted in April of 2016 and was successful. (Id.). After months of antibiotic treatment and monitoring by Fountain staff and outside specialists, Plaintiff's infection cleared, and Plaintiff Eller was approved for a total hip replacement. Dr. Xing attempted to revise Plaintiff's right total hip in August of 2016, but was unable to complete the surgery due to the inadequate amount pelvic bone in place. (Id.). Instead, Dr. Xing inserted cadaver bone in place of Plaintiff's pelvic bone and planned to reattempt a total hip revision in 6 to 12 months if the cadaver bone was strong enough to support the total hip replacement. (Id.).

         It is during this postoperative period that Plaintiff's suit arises.

         Following the surgery, Plaintiff Eller was admitted to Fountain's infirmary for three days and then released to general population. (Id.). Plaintiff Eller maintains that Dr. Stone acted with deliberate indifference in discharging him from the infirmary while he still had staples and drainings at the surgical site and that she is thereby liable for the staph infection he contracted after leaving the infirmary. (Id.). Plaintiff Eller claims he has suffered excessive pain due to having to wait a year for total hip replacement and for not having proper living conditions[5] (Id.); thus, the Court will analyze Plaintiff's claim as a claim for denied medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         1. Eighth ...

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