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Madison v. Payne

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

February 19, 2019

CHARLES MADISON, #166443, Plaintiff,
v.
MRS. PAYNE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is before the court on a complaint filed by Charles Madison, a state inmate, in which he alleges the defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to provide him medical treatment for “bleeding ulcers” in March 2016 at the Easterling Correctional Facility. Doc. 1 at 3. Madison also appears to challenge the constitutionality of the assessment and collection of a $4 medical co-payment undertaken by the Alabama Department of Corrections for medical treatment provided to him on May 25, 2016. Docs. 1 at 3 & 17 at 4. Madison names as defendants Nurse Mona Payne, Nurse Kay Wilson, Dr. Jean Darbouze, all medical personnel employed at Easterling during the time period relevant to the complaint, and Corizon Health, the contract medical provider at the time of his treatment. Madison seeks a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in the form of proper medical care. Doc. 1 at 4.

         The defendants filed a special report and relevant evidentiary materials in support of their report, including affidavits and certified copies of Madison's medical records, addressing the deliberate indifference claim presented against them. In these documents, the defendants assert that they provided medical treatment to Madison in accordance with their professional judgment and deny any violation of Madison's constitutional rights.

         After reviewing the defendants' special report and supporting exhibits, the court issued an order directing Madison to file a response to the arguments set forth by the defendants in their report and advising him that this response should be supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. Doc. 13 at 2. The order specifically cautioned that “unless within fifteen (15) days from the date of this order a party . . . presents sufficient legal cause why such action should not be undertaken . . . the court may at any time [after expiration of the time for the plaintiff filing a response to this order] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special report and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment and (2) after considering any response as allowed by this order, rule on the motion for summary judgment in accordance with the law.” Doc. 13 at 3. Madison filed an unsworn response to this order on August 26, 2016 (Doc. 14), and submitted exhibits in support of his response on September 9, 2016. Doc. 17 at 4-6.

         Pursuant to the directives of the aforementioned order, the court now treats the defendants' special report as a motion for summary judgment and concludes that summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the defendants.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         “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) (internal quotation marks omitted); Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. (“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.”). 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 issue [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that the moving party has the initial burden of showing there is no genuine dispute of material fact for trial). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present appropriate evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24; Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir. 2011) (holding that moving party discharges his burden by showing the record lacks evidence to support the nonmoving party's case or the nonmoving party would be unable to prove his case at trial).

         When the defendants meet their evidentiary burden, as they have in this case, the burden shifts to the 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); Jeffery, 64 F.3d at 593-94 (holding that, once a moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or statements made under penalty of perjury], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ” demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute of material fact). In civil actions filed by inmates, federal courts “must distinguish between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord deference to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage.” Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530 (2006) (internal citation omitted). This court also will consider “specific facts” pleaded in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable factfinder to return a verdict in its favor such that summary judgment is not warranted. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007). “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) (citation omitted). “[T]here must exist a conflict in substantial evidence to pose a jury question.” Hall v. Sunjoy Indus. Group, Inc., 764 F.Supp.2d 1297, 1301 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (citation omitted). “When 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 (2007).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation, 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, Madison's pro se status alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case.

         The court has undertaken a thorough and exhaustive review of all the evidence contained in the record. After this review, the court finds that Madison has failed to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact in order to preclude entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Deliberate Indifference

         Madison alleges that the defendants denied him “proper treatment for [his] bleeding ulcers here at Easterling . . . [on or about] March 27, 2016.” Doc. 1 at 3. In their response, the defendants deny acting with deliberate indifference to Madison's medical needs.

         To prevail on a claim concerning an alleged denial of medical treatment, an inmate must-at a minimum-show that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976); Taylor v. Adams, 221 F.3d 1254 (11th Cir. 2000); McElligott v. Foley, 182 F.3d 1248 (11th Cir. 1999); Waldrop v. Evans, 871 F.2d 1030, 1033 (11th Cir. 1989). Medical personnel may not subject an inmate to “acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Adams v. Poag, 61 F.3d 1537, 1546 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding, as directed by Estelle, that a plaintiff must establish “not merely the knowledge of a condition, but the knowledge of necessary treatment coupled with a refusal to treat or a delay in [the acknowledged necessary] treatment”).

         Under settled law, neither medical malpractice or negligence equate to deliberate indifference:

That medical malpractice-negligence by a physician-is insufficient to form the basis of a claim for deliberate indifference is well settled. Instead, something more must be shown. Evidence must support a conclusion that a prison [medical care ...

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