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Jackson v. Brown

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

July 19, 2019

LEE BROWN, M.D., et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on Defendants' motions for summary judgment, with supporting evidentiary materials (ECF Nos. 32, 38, 57, 66, 70).[1]Plaintiff filed responses in opposition to the motions, with supporting evidentiary materials (ECF Nos. 78, 80, 81). Defendant Brown filed an authorized reply (ECF No. 87).

         The case was referred to the undersigned for the issuance of all preliminary orders and any recommendations to the district court regarding dispositive matters. See N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(C); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant law, the undersigned concludes that Defendants' motions should be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Craig A. Jackson (“Jackson”), an inmate of the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”) proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, commenced this case on October 31, 2017, by filing a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1). Presently before the court is Jackson's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 7). Jackson names eight Defendants: (1) Julie L. Jones, former Secretary of the FDOC, (2) Jimmy Coker, former warden of Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, (3) Centurion of Florida, LLC (“Centurion”), a private medical services provider under contract with the FDOC to provide medical services to FDOC inmates, (4) Dr. Lee Brown, former medical director of Santa Rosa C.I. employed by Corizon Health, a different FDOC medical contractor, (5) Dr. Denis Vilchez, former member of the medical staff at Santa Rosa C.I., (6) Dr. W.D. Rummel, former Chief Health Officer at Santa Rosa C.I. employed by Centurion, (7) Nurse S. Simpson, a nurse at Santa Rosa C.I. employed by Centurion, and (8) Nurse S. Melvin, a nurse at Santa Rosa C.I. employed by Centurion (see Id. at 1, 3-5). Jackson claims that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by exhibiting deliberate indifference to his need for treatment of pain in his left shoulder, left arm, and the left side of his neck (id. at 6-12). Jackson also brings state law claims of medical negligence/malpractice (id.). Jackson alleges he suffered pain as a result of Defendants' conduct (id. at 6). As relief, he seeks compensatory damages in the amount of $200, 000 from each Defendant (id. at 12-13). Jackson also seeks injunctive relief, specifically, an order (1) requiring Defendants to provide an MRI and examination by a neurologist, (2) demoting each Defendant's job position and wages, and (3) requiring Defendants to receive educational training in effective communication skills and “behavior management” (id.).

         All Defendants were served with process, with the exception of Defendant Vilchez. The court made extensive efforts to serve Defendant Vilchez, even enlisting the assistance of the FDOC (see ECF Nos. 16, 23, 28, 29, 74). Those efforts have been unsuccessful.

         On March 21, 2019, the district court dismissed Jackson's federal claims against Defendants Jones and Coker (ECF No. 86). The only claims remaining against these Defendants are Jackson's state law negligence claims.

         Defendant Nurse Melvin contends Jackson's Eighth Amendment claim is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 32). Nurse Melvin also asserts qualified immunity and Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to Jackson's claim for monetary damages (id.). Nurse Melvin further contends 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) bars any claims for compensatory and punitive damages (id.).

         The motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Nurse Simpson and Dr. Rummel argue the same grounds for dismissal as Nurse Melvin, but they additionally contend Jackson failed to satisfy the exhaustion requirement with respect to his federal claims (ECF Nos. 57, 70).

         Defendant Centurion seeks dismissal of Jackson's federal claims on grounds of failure to exhaust and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (ECF No. 38). Centurion contends Jackson's state law negligence claims are subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim and failure to meet statutory conditions precedent (id.).

         Defendant Brown asserts the same grounds for dismissal as Centurion (ECF No. 66). However, Dr. Brown submitted evidentiary materials in the form of Jackson's administrative grievances and medical records, which Dr. Brown contends demonstrate no deliberate indifference (id.).

         Jackson contends he exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to his § 1983 claims, and substantially complied with the statutory requirements for his state negligence claim (ECF Nos. 78, 80, 81). He further contends his Amended Complaint and supporting evidentiary materials are sufficient to overcome Defendants' dispositive motions (id.). Jackson submitted copies of administrative grievances and medical records in support of his arguments (see ECF No. 81, Exhibits).

         Upon converting the motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgment, the court provided the parties an additional opportunity to submit supporting evidentiary materials (see ECF Nos. 82, 88, 90, 104). As of the date of this Report and Recommendation, none of the parties have submitted additional evidentiary materials.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party has no evidence to support his or her case or present affirmative evidence that the nonmoving party will be unable to prove his or her case at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party successfully negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with evidentiary material demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Id. The “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if the “evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id., 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id. The nonmoving party must show more than the existence of a “metaphysical doubt” regarding the material facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Speculation or conjecture from a party cannot create a genuine issue of material fact. See Cordoba v. Dillard's, Inc., 419 F.3d 1169, 1181 (11th Cir. 2005). “A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party will not suffice to overcome a motion for summary judgment.” Young v. City of Palm Bay, Fla., 358 F.3d 859, 860 (11th Cir. 2004); see also Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. The nonmoving party must either point to evidence in the record or present additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency. See Celotex Corp., supra; Owen v. Wille, 117 F.3d 1235, 1236 (11th Cir. 1997) (Rule 56 requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by his or her own affidavits, or by the depositions, documents, affidavits or declarations, admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials on file designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial); Hammer v. Slater, 20 F.3d 1137 (11th Cir. 1994).

         Regarding the factual positions asserted by the parties, the court must apply the standard set forth in Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides in relevant part:

(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
. . . .
(4) Affidavits or Declarations. An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (2010).

         Facts asserted in hearsay statements which are not subject to a hearsay exception, and thus would not be admissible in evidence, are insufficient to show that a fact is genuinely disputed. “The most obvious way that hearsay testimony can be reduced to admissible form is to have the hearsay declarant testify directly to the matter at trial.” Jones v. UPS Ground Freight, 683 F.3d 1283, 1294 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing Pritchard v. S. Co. Servs., 92 F.3d 1130, 1135 (11th Cir. 1996)). If a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence, it cannot be used for purposes of summary judgment. See Macuba v. Deboer, 193 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir. 1999); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court will consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion for summary judgment or grant summary judgment if the moving party's motion and supporting materials- including the facts considered undisputed-show that the moving party is entitled to it. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2, 3).

         Evidence presented by the nonmoving party in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, and all reasonable factual inferences arising from it, must be viewed in the light most favorable to him or her. See Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); Jones v. Cannon, 174 F.3d 1271, 1282 (11th Cir. 1999). Nonetheless, the nonmoving party still bears the burden of coming forward with sufficient evidence of every element that he or she must prove. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 317. A motion for summary judgment should be granted 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); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.

         B. Material Facts

         As this case comes before the court on Defendants' motions for summary judgment, the court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to Jackson, the nonmoving party. See Hairston v. Gainesville Sun Publ'g Co., 9 F.3d 913, 918 (11th Cir. 1993); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The court does so here, referring to Jackson's verified Amended Complaint, and taking those facts from the parties' pleadings and summary judgment materials of record. See Perry v. Thompson, 786 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1986) (holding that specific facts pled in a sworn complaint must be considered in opposition to summary judgment); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 56.1(B), (C), (F). Matters stated below as “facts” for purposes of summary judgment may not be the actual facts. See Montoute v. Carr, 114 F.3d 181, 182 (11th Cir. 1997).

         Upon Jackson's arrival at Santa Rosa C.I. in April of 2015, he received a baseline evaluation by a doctor for neurology, cardiovascular, and endocrine conditions (this doctor is not a named Defendant) (Jackson's medical records, ECF No. 65-1 at 11-13, 35-44). Jackson reported being treated for seizures, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol (id.). Jackson also reported he received “brain surgery” and pelvic surgery following a car accident in 1997 (id.). Jackson's initial physical examination revealed limitation of flexion and extension of Jackson's right elbow and a surgical scar on his right elbow (id. at 37). Jackson was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), Type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and seizures (id.).

         On May 14, 2015, Jackson submitted a sick call request regarding the following: (1) “need extra mattress pad, ” (2) sinus medication, (3) pain medication due to degenerative arthritis, and (4) dandruff shampoo (dry and flaky scalp and skin) (Jackson's medical records, ECF No. 65-1 at 105). The next day, on May 15, 2015, Jackson was seen by a nurse (who is not a named Defendant) (id. at 103-04, 106). Jackson complained of back pain on the left and right sides of his lumbar and sacral regions, which sometimes radiated to his legs (id.). Jackson reported his pain level as 4-5 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most severe level of pain) (id.). Jackson did not report pain in his neck, left arm, or left shoulder (see id.). Jackson reported that Naproxen decreased or relieved the pain in his back (id.). The same day, the nurse referred Jackson's chart to Dr. ...

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