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Scott v. Coffee County Sheriff Dept.

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

September 27, 2019

EIBE SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
COFFEE COUNTY SHERIFF DEPT., et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION[1]

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is before the court on a complaint filed by Eibe Scott, a state inmate, in which he challenges the adequacy of the medical treatment he received and his placement in confinement following surgery while incarcerated at the Coffee County Jail. Specifically, Scott alleges that the defendants denied him adequate medical treatment for a broken finger he received in an altercation with a fellow inmate on October 3, 2016. (Doc. 1 at p. 2). He also alleges he was wrongly placed in “D.C. confinement” following his surgery and that the Coffee County Jail has inadequate grievance procedures. Id. Scott names Byron Caylor, Jail Administrator, as the correctional defendant. He also names multiple medical providers as defendants including Quality Correctional Health Care, Brenda Stuckey, L.P.N, and Dr. Jerry N. Gurley.

         The defendants filed special reports and relevant evidentiary materials in support of their reports, including affidavits and certified copies of Scott's medical records, addressing the claims raised in the complaint, as amended. In these documents, the medical and correctional defendants maintain they did not act with deliberate indifference to Scott's medical needs and the correctional defendants deny they subjected Scott to unconstitutional conditions.

         After reviewing the special reports filed by the defendants, the court issued an order on September 15, 2017, directing Scott to file a response to each of the arguments set forth by the defendants in their reports, supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. (Doc. 54 at 1-2). 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 reports 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.” Id. Scott filed a sworn response to this order on September 21, 2017. (Doc. 55).

         Pursuant to the directives of the order entered on September 15, 2017, the court now treats the defendants' reports as a motion for summary judgment and concludes that summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the defendants.

         II. FACTS

         At the time this action was filed, the plaintiff was an inmate at the Coffee County Jail. He was booked in the facility on September 30, 2016, and charged with three counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana in the first degree, attempt to elude, and violation of his probation. (Doc. 17-1). On October 3, 2016, a correctional officer observed the plaintiff strike another inmate inside the cell. (Doc. 17-3). The correctional officer notified the shift office of this incident and then he and two other officers entered the cell to intervene. (Doc. 17-3). During this altercation, the plaintiff hit a wall and broke his finger. (Doc. 16-2 at p. 4). Following the incident, the plaintiff was taken to disciplinary lock down for fighting. (Doc. 17-3).

         After his injury, he alleges that “I was denied to be taken to the hospital for (8) days[.] I was made to lay on the concrete floor and received [sic]literally no medical care. On the (3rd) day the radiologist came to xray(s) and confirmed the finger was broken and needed surgery.” (Doc. 1 at p. 2). During this time, he alleges that he was only provided Naproxen for pain. (Doc. 1-1). He also states that he saw Nurse Brenda Stuckey on the day of the incident and she told him “that she would see how bad it would swell overnight”. The next day Nurse Stuckey advised him that the radiologist would be coming to the jail. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 1). On October 12, 2016, he was taken to an outside medical provider for surgery and then was returned to Coffee County Jail. Id.

         Upon his return to the jail, the plaintiff alleges that he was placed in “D.C. confinement (per B. Caylor) because of the surgery, instead of housed in the front holding cell (which is normally used for medical) because of a personal vendetta by Mr. Caylor.” Id. As a result of his placement in confinement he alleges that “he has no access to the courts, no access to the phone, no access to visits, or communications with friends or family.” Id.

         On October 15, 2016, the plaintiff filed a grievance with the Jail Administrator, Defendant Byron Caylor, and states that he received no response. Id. In this grievance, he complains that he has not been able to see his family since his surgery and he is wrongfully held in cell block #3 without a bunk bed or a cot. (Doc. 17-7). In response to this grievance, Administrator Caylor notified the on-duty shift supervisor to tell Scott that the medical staff recommended that he not be sent back to a general population cell unit and that he was under disciplinary lockdown for assaulting another inmate. (Doc. 17-2 at pp. 4-5). Further, Caylor testified that the plaintiff was housed in cell block #3 because he had been prescribed a narcotic following surgery. Id. at pp. 4-5. According to Caylor, cell block #3 consists of 4 different cell units which house inmates who are held under disciplinary lockdown, protective custody, or medical isolation. Id. at p. 4. In further response to this grievance, Caylor provided the plaintiff a bunk bed[2], and allowed his family to visit[3]. (Doc. 17-2 at pp. 4-5).

         With respect to the grievance procedure at Coffee County Jail, Administrator Caylor testified as follows:

“[i]t is the policy of the Coffee County Jail that inmates are permitted to submit grievances to the jail administrator and that each grievance will receive a response. An inmate wishing to file a grievance will be provided with an inmate grievance form upon request. Completed grievance forms will be delivered promptly to me, and I will respond to the grievance. If an inmate is unsatisfied with the decision I make, they may appeal such decision in writing to Sheriff Sutton within seventy-two (72) hours of the receipt of said grievance.”

(Doc. 17-2 at p. 4).

         Also, on October 15, 2016, the plaintiff filed a form entitled “Medical Grievance, ” wherein he complains that he was not taken to the emergency room and that he had to wait eight days before being seen by an outside medical provider. He also complained that he was housed in cell block #3 when he was supposed to be on medical observation. (Doc. 1-2 at p. 2). The same day Nurse Stuckey replied in writing to the grievance as follows:

“[t]here was not a need for you to go to the ER because the radiology technician comes here to do the x-rays. Your appointment was scheduled with Southern Bone & Joint as soon as they could see you. You were taking Naprosyn for pain until your surgery. You are in cell block #3 because you can not be in regular population due to your surgery. Capt. Caylor placed your in 3# block. I do not decide which block you are placed in and I have nothing to do with you getting a bed or not getting a bed.”

Id.

         On October 16, 2016, the plaintiff filed another “Medical Grievance” wherein he requested information about his medication prescribed by Dr. Fleming Brooks at Southern Bone and Joint. He also complained that “things got unprofessional” with Nurse Moa when he mentioned making a complaint about his medical care. (Doc. 1-2 at p. 1). On October 18, 2016, Nurse Stuckey replied in writing to the grievance as follows:

“[w]hile you were in Coffee County Jail you are under the care of the medical doctors contracted to the jail. They are the ones that state what medication you can take and how long you can take them not Dr. Brooks. I do not know about any words becoming unprofessional or harsh by Nurse Mo. I have already spoken with her.”

Id. With respect to the medical care provided to the plaintiff, Nurse Stuckey testified as follows:

At all times while Scott was incarcerated at the Coffee County Jail, he received timely and appropriate medical care. I have personal knowledge regarding the care and treatment I provided to Scott in October and November 2016.
On October 3, 2016 at 5;15 p.m., Scott reported that he hit a wall with his right hand. At that time, I observed that Scott's hand was swollen. There was no obvious broken bone or deformity in his right hand. At that time, in my medical judgment, it was reasonable and appropriate to see how Scott's right hand responded to ice and to perform a follow-up evaluation the following day. I offered Scott an ice pack and a sick call slip. Scott refused the sick call slip. I instructed Scott to apply the ice pack and to keep his hand elevated. I also told Scott that I would reexamine his hand the following day.
At 7:00 a.m. the next day, October 4, 2016, I examined Scott's right hand. At that time, I observed that Scott's hand was still swollen and he reported that it was painful. Because of the swelling and his report of pain in his right hand, I ordered an x-ray on his hand. I also instructed Scott to keep his hand elevated to prevent further swelling. On October 4, 2016, Scott received an x-ray from Vuepoint Diagnostics. Vue point Diagnostics provides portable x-ray services and came to the Coffee County Jail to perform an x-ray on Scott's right hand. The x-ray on Scott's right hand showed a fracture of the fourth metacarpal neck with angulation.
Once I received the results of the x-ray, I contacted Dr. Jerry Gurley, who is a physician employed by QCHC. I told Dr. Gurley the result of the x-ray on Scott's right hand. Dr. Gurley gave me a telephone order to make arrangements for Scott to see an orthopedic doctor. Dr. Gurley also gave me a telephone order to dispense Ibuprofen 400 mg to Scott twice daily for five days. Ibuprofen is a NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat pain. As indicated on the Medication Administration Record (MAR), Scott received the Ibuprofen from October 4, 2016 until October 6, 2016.
On October 6, 2016, I contacted Southern Bone and Joint to make Scott an appointment. Scott's appointment was scheduled by Southern Bone and Joint for October 11, 2016. On October 6, 2016, Dr. Kern discontinued the Ibuprofen and ordered Naproxen 500 mg to be given twice daily for seven days. Naproxen is a NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat pain. As demonstrated by the MAR, Scott was given Naproxen 500 mg as ordered.
On October 11, 2016, Scott was seen by Dr. Fleming Brooks at Southern Bone and Joint Specialists. According to Dr. Brooks note, Scott needed surgery on his right fourth metacarpal. Dr. Brooks also applied a splint to Scott's finger. Dr. Brooks scheduled Scott for surgery for October 12, 2016.
On October 12, 2016, Dr. Brooks performed surgery on Scott's right fourth metacarpal at Medical Center Enterprise in Enterprise, Alabama. Dr. Brooks prescribed Scott Percocet 7.5/325 to be taken every 4-6 hours as need for pain. Dr. Brooks also prescribed Naprosyn 500 mg to be taken twice daily and scheduled a follow-up appointment for Scott on October 25, 2016.
When Scott returned from surgery on October 12, 2016, I contacted Dr. Johnny Bates, the CEO of QCHC, and provided him with a report on Scott's surgery. Dr. Bates gave me a telephone order to give Scott Percocet 7.5/325 every four to six hours for 24-48 hours to treat his post-surgical pain. Based on this verbal order and as demonstrated on the MAR, Scott received Percocet 7.5/325 every six hours beginning after he returned from surgery on October 12, 2016 and ending on October 15, 2016. Naprosyn 500 mg was then prescribed for Scott to be given twice daily beginning on October 16, 2016 until his scheduled follow-up appointment at Southern Bone and Joint on October 25, 2016. As indicated on the MAR, Scott received Naprosyn as ordered from October 16, 2016 until October 25, 2016.
On October 25, 2016, Scott had a follow up appointment with Dr. Brooks at Southern Bone and Joint Specialists. According to the medical record, Scott did not have any new complaints. Scott's sutures were removed and he was placed in a few splint. A follow up appointment was scheduled in two weeks. On October 25, 2016, Dr. Bates gave me a telephone order to give Scott Naprosyn 500 mg twice daily for ten days. From October 26, 2016 until October 27, 2016, Scott took Naprosyn 500 mg twice daily. Beginning on the evening of October 27, 2016, Scott refused to take Naprosyn 500 mg and did not take Naprosyn again after October 27, 2016.
On November 9, 2016, Scott had a second follow-up appointment with Dr. Brooks at Southern Bone and Joint Specialists. According to the medical record, Scott reported that he was doing better. Scott was placed in a n Orthoglass splint and a follow-up visit was scheduled in three weeks.
Based on my review of his medical records from the Coffee County Jail and my personal recollection of the treatment I provided to him, Scott was not denied access to medical evaluation or treatment at any time. Based on my review of his medical records from the Coffee County Jail, Scott's requests for evaluation were neither ignored nor his treatment delayed. In my opinion, the treatment I provided to Scott during his incarceration at the Coffee County Jail was reasonable and appropriate. In my opinion, the treatment I provided to Scott during his incarceration at the Coffee County Jail exceeded the standard of care.

(Doc. 16-2 at pp. 3-8).

         III. ...


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