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Bradley v. Geo Care, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

May 5, 2017


          OPINION AND ORDER [1]


         This matter comes before the Court upon the following:

The motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Jacques Lamour, Geo Group, Inc., and Geo Care LLC (Doc. 160, filed November 30, 2016);[2]
Plaintiffs response in opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 165, filed February 21, 2017); and
Plaintiffs report on unanswered discovery requests and request to file a motion to compel (Doc. 167, filed March 13, 2017).

         For the reasons given in this Order, the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants (Doc. 160) is granted, and this case is dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiffs request for leave to seek additional discovery (Doc. 167) is denied.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Plaintiff, an involuntary civilly committed resident of the Florida Civil Commitment Center (“FCCC”) in Arcadia, Florida, [3] initiated this action on October 27, 2014 by filing a pro se complaint against Defendants Ms. Baker, Timothy Budz, Carolyn Dudley, Flavia Epps, George Zoley, GEO Inc., GEO Care, LLC, Rick Hebert, Rebecca Jackson, Kristen Kanner, Jacques Lamour, Melissa Masters, Richard Miraglia, Cindy Neads-Noriega, Sharon Pimley-Fong, Bill Price, Paul Pye, Dottie Riddle, Kimberly Roberts, Donald Sawyer, Darella Sharpe, and David Wilkins (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs amended complaint (Doc. 126) is the operative complaint before the Court. On April 27, 2016, all defendants were dismissed from this action with the exception of Defendants Jacque Lamour, GEO Care, LLC and GEO, Inc., collectively the GEO defendants (Doc. 142). In the dismissal order, the Court noted:

Plaintiff asserts that the GEO defendants have a policy or custom of basing medical decisions on cost, rather than medical necessity (Doc. 126 at 21). Plaintiff claims that Defendant Lamour “made decisions on Plaintiffs care based on the guidelines set forth by the corporation employing him, and not on sound medical judgment.” Id. at 21. A review of Plaintiffs allegations indicates that he communicated with, or was examined by, a medical professional for his Fuch's Dystrophy at least thirty-five times in the two and a half years he was at the FCCC before he filed this complaint. This included numerous outside consultations and six surgeries. Likewise, seven years passed from the diagnosis of Plaintiffs condition until his residency at the FCCC whereas Plaintiffs first eye surgery occurred less than ten months after his commitment.
Defendants urge that the volume and speed of care provided to Plaintiff appears to belie his allegations of deliberate indifference against these defendants (Doc. 133 at 18-19). This point is well taken. However, a doctor's choice of the “easier and less efficacious treatment” for an objectively serious medical condition can still amount to deliberate indifference for purposes of the Eighth Amendment. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104 & n. 10. While the “cost of treatment alternatives is a factor in determining what constitutes adequate, minimum-level medical care, . . . medical personnel cannot simply resort to an easier course of treatment that they know is ineffective.” Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1013 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal citations omitted); compare Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076, 1084 (9th Cir. 2014) (“A prison medical official who fails to provide needed treatment because he lacks the necessary resources can hardly be said to have intended to punish the inmate.”).
Accordingly, at this stage of the proceeding, the Court cannot conclude that Plaintiff has not stated a plausible deliberate indifference claim against Defendants Lamour, GEO, Inc., and GEO Care, LLC based upon the delay in treating his Fuch's Dystrophy. Plaintiff will be allowed to develop his Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against these defendants.

(Doc. 142 at 22-23). Both GEO defendants filed an answer and affirmative defenses to the amended complaint (Doc. 143), and on May 14, 2016, the parties were directed to conduct discovery (Doc. 31).

         On November 30, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 160). Plaintiff was directed to respond to the motion (Doc. 161). Plaintiff was cautioned that: (1) his failure to respond to the motions would indicate that they were unopposed; (2) all material facts asserted by the defendants would be considered admitted unless controverted by proper evidentiary materials; and (3) Plaintiff could not rely solely on the allegations of his pleadings to oppose the motions (Doc. 46) (citing Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985)). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the defendants' motions on February 21, 2017 (Doc. 165). In his response, Plaintiff complained that certain defendants and non-parties to this action failed to respond to his discovery requests. Id.In an abundance of caution, the Court directed Plaintiff to describe the discovery sought that was denied (Doc. 166). In his response, Plaintiff asserts that he sent numerous letters and requests to non-parties seeking information regarding his medical records (Doc. 167). Plaintiff now requests permission to file a motion to compel discovery. Id.

         II. Pleadings

         a. Amended Complaint

         The claims in Plaintiffs amended complaint are directed towards the quality of his medical care and the accommodation provided him at the FCCC facility for his visual disability. However, the remaining claims are directed towards the allegedly delayed and inadequate treatment for Plaintiffs eye disease (Doc. 142). Therefore, only the factual allegations surrounding those claims will be discussed in this Order.

         In September of 2005, prior to his commitment to the FCCC, Plaintiff was diagnosed with Fuch's Epithelial Dystrophy (“Fuch's Dystrophy”), a degenerative eye disease (Doc. 126 at 9). In October of 2006, Plaintiff was incarcerated by the State of Florida, and an optometrist for the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”) confirmed the diagnosis of Fuch's Dystrophy on October 30, 2006. Id. Between that date and April 4, 2012, Plaintiff received care for his condition from the FDOC. Id. at 9-10.

         Plaintiff arrived at the FCCC on April 20, 2012 (Doc. 126 at 10). Plaintiff informed nurses in the medical department of his eye condition, and offered his medical records. Id. He was told that official copies of the records would be requested if needed. Id. Plaintiff asserts that the FCCC routinely refuses to accept hand-delivered medical records from residents. Id. at 11.

         On June 13, 2012, Plaintiff was examined by FCCC contract optometrist Dr. Brennon who confirmed Plaintiffs diagnosis of Fuch's Dystrophy (Doc. 126 at 11). Dr. Brennan also refused to take Plaintiffs medical records at that time. Id. On July 11, 2012, Dr. Brennon diagnosed Plaintiff with Advanced Fuch's Corneal Dystrophy. Id.

         In September of 2012, Plaintiff awoke with no clear vision in his right eye (Doc. 126 at 11). Plaintiff went to see Defendant Dr. Lamour who told him that he would see Dr. Brennan, the optometrist, soon. Id. In early October, Plaintiff still had no clear vision in his right eye, so he went to see Nurse Baker who saw no notes in Plaintiffs records regarding a visit to the optometrist. Id. The nurse wrote in Plaintiffs record that he needed to be seen by an eye doctor soon. Id.

         On November 19, 2012, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Dr. Brennan, informing him of the loss of clear vision in his right eye (Doc. 126 at 13). Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Brennan on December 12, 2012. Id. Brennan confirmed the loss of clear vision in Plaintiffs right eye and noted that Plaintiff had developed secondary glaucoma. Id. Dr. Brennan reviewed Plaintiffs earlier medical records and prescribed several eye medications. Id. at 14.

         On December 21, 2012, Defendant Lamour referred Plaintiff to an outside specialist, Dr. Spadafora (Doc. 126 at 14). On January 9, 2013, Defendant Lamour filed a “referral summary” that revealed a diagnosis of advanced glaucoma, cataracts, and Fuch's Corneal Dystrophy. Id.

         On February 12, 2013, Plaintiff received surgery on his right eye (Doc. 126 at 15).

         On February 13, 2013, Dr. Spadafora diagnosed nuclear cataract worsening, glaucoma, open-angle, primary, worsening, Glaucoma, Severe Stages, Fuch's Corneal Dystrophy, worsening. Id. On February 27, 2013, Defendant Lamour sought a referral in preparation for a right cornea transplant. Id. at 15. On March 5, 2013, Plaintiff returned for additional surgery on his right eye due to complications. Id. On March 5, 2013, Defendant Lamour filed a referral for Plaintiff to have a second surgery on his right eye. Id. On March 7, Defendant Lamour filed a referral for a follow-up visit. Id. On April 24, 2013, Defendant Lamour filed a referral for another follow-up visit on Plaintiffs right eye. Id. On May 2, 2013, Plaintiffs eye medication ran out, and Plaintiff had to request a refill. Id. On June 1, 2013, Plaintiff complained to Defendant Lamour about the eye medication, and Defendant Lamour told him that Plaintiff had not attended a chronic clinic, implying that it was Plaintiffs fault that the prescription refill was untimely. Id. at 16. On June 1, 2013, Plaintiff wrote Dr. Brennan to ask for help to correct the eye medication situation, but he never received a response. Id.

         On August 2, 2013, Plaintiff asked Dr. Spadafora (Spadafora) if he would change his opinion regarding the loss of vision in Plaintiffs right eye “or had too much damage already occurred before [he was] able to perform the surgeries?” (Doc. 126 at 16). Plaintiff received no response to the letter. Id. On September 21, 2013, Plaintiff requested that Defendant Lamour schedule an examination with Dr. Spadafora. Id. at 17.

         On October 22, 2013, a “full exam” was performed by Dr. Spadafora, and it was noted that Plaintiffs cataract and glaucoma were worsening and that Plaintiff still suffered from Fuch's Dystrophy (Doc. 126 at 17). It was also noted that the “visual limitations are affecting the patient's ability to perform desired activities and cannot be improved significantly with glasses.” Id. Dr. Spadafora told Plaintiff that his vision would not improve and that, had he cared for Plaintiff sooner, he would face a different outcome. Id. On November 19, 2013, Dr. Spadafora reported that Plaintiff suffered “severe glaucomatous damage.” Id.

         On December 11, 2013, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Brennan who diagnosed cataracts, cornea transplant, glaucoma, and Fuch's corneal Dystrophy (Doc. 127 at 17). On January 30, 2014, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Spadafora whose diagnosis did not change. Id. On January 30, 3014, Defendant Lamour wrote a referral for a consultation for cataract removal and cornea transplant on Plaintiffs left eye. Id. at 18. On April 22, 2014, Plaintiff had surgery to remove the cataract in his left eye, but he was unable to have the cornea transplant on that date. Id. The next day, Plaintiff was given medication to reduce the pressure in his eye, and the surgery was performed. On April 30, 2014, Plaintiff ...

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