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Stephen Ganstine v. Edwin Buss et al

December 27, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert L. Hinkle United States District Judge


The plaintiff is a former prisoner in the Florida Department of Corrections. He asserts that a prison doctor violated the Eighth Amendment by failing to adequately treat his serious medical needs and that the Department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide necessary treatment, failing to provide wheelchair access to all facilities, and allowing correctional officers to harass him and require him to work too much. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. This order grants summary judgment primarily on the ground that the facts do not support the claims.


On the defendants' summary-judgment motion, disputes in the evidence of course must be resolved-and all reasonable inferences must be drawn-in the plaintiff's favor. When viewed that way, the facts are these.

The plaintiff Stephen Ganstine suffers from a number of medical conditions, including obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes, obesity, gout, chronic lower back pain, heart disease, and hypertension. Mr. Ganstine entered the Department of Corrections on March 1, 2007. He arrived at Lake Butler Reception Medical Center on March 2, 2007. He promptly received a brief medical screening from a physician's assistant. Mr. Ganstine received a physical examination from a physician, the defendant Erlinda Perez, on March 6, 2007.

Dr. Perez examined Mr. Ganstine for more than an hour. It was a thorough examination. Dr. Perez prescribed medicines for some of Mr. Ganstine's conditions. But Dr. Perez chose not to prescribe three treatments Mr. Ganstine said he needed.

First, Dr. Perez did not prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure ("CPAP") device to treat sleep apnea. Dr. Perez concluded, for reasons she has clearly articulated, that Mr. Ganstine was not in immediate need of a CPAP. Thus, for example, Dr. Perez noted no report of fatigue, a symptom ordinarily associated with serious sleep apnea. Dr. Perez concluded that the decision whether to prescribe a CPAP could safely await a pulmonary examination of the kind that could be arranged by the physician who would take responsibility for Mr. Ganstine when he arrived at the facility where he would serve his sentence.

Nor did Dr. Perez prescribe soft diabetic shoes or a wheelchair. Instead, Mr. Ganstine received a walker. Dr. Perez concluded from her examination-which included watching Mr. Ganstine walk-that Mr. Ganstine did not need diabetic shoes or a wheelchair. It is undisputed that Mr. Ganstine did not have a wheelchair before he entered the Department of Corrections and did not have one after he left. He could walk, though only with difficulty and for a limited distance.

Mr. Ganstine arrived at a permanent facility, Apalachee Correctional Institution, on May 4, 2007. Walkers were not allowed at Apalachee, so Mr. Ganstine received a cane instead. Dr. Perez had nothing to do with the change from a walker to a cane. Mr. Ganstine received soft shoes on his arrival at Apalachee but still no wheelchair or CPAP.

Mr. Ganstine suffered kidney failure on May 23, 2007, and was hospitalized. While in the hospital, he received a CPAP. When he left the hospital and returned to the Department of Corrections, the CPAP went with him. For the remainder of his imprisonment, Mr. Ganstine kept the CPAP.

After the hospitalization, Mr. Ganstine's permanent facility was Gulf Correctional Institution Annex. On July 20, 2007, a physician saw Mr. Ganstine at Gulf Annex and prescribed a wheelchair. Mr. Ganstine kept the wheelchair for the remainder of his imprisonment.

Gulf Annex had special recreational programs to accommodate inmates with disabilities. Its facilities, including restrooms, were fully accessible. Mr. Ganstine says, though, that it was hard to get to the recreational yard, because correctional officers discouraged the use of the only sidewalk, and the alternate routes were covered with sand too thick to traverse in a wheelchair without help. Mr. Ganstine says the only way to get to the canteen was through the rec yard, and that while the restroom adjoining the rec yard and canteen was properly equipped for use by a wheelchair-bound inmate, the sand made it difficult to get there.

Mr. Ganstine admitted at his deposition that he was assigned orderlies who assisted him in getting wherever he wished to go. He said the orderlies were available "most of the time" and that there were "very, very few times" when he could not get to a destination. Mr. Ganstine said sometimes he pushed himself to a destination: "It took longer, but I'd get there." Ganstine Dep. 57, ECF No. 44-12 at 15.

Mr. Ganstine says that correctional officers sometimes belittled him or treated him poorly. For example, a correctional officer once suggested a race between Mr. Ganstine and another inmate with a walker. An officer required Mr. Ganstine to work-all inmates are required to work-for an hour longer than other inmates, until Mr. ...

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