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Brown v. McClure

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

August 6, 2019

MICHAEL A. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL MCCLURE, M.D., PhD, BRYN MARCUS, and K. JOHNSON, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS P. BARBER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants Michael McClure, Bryn Marcus, and Kelly Johnson's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #92) filed on January 11, 2019. Plaintiff filed his Opposition Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #107) on April 26, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when the Court is satisfied that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "An issue of fact is 'genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Baby Buddies, Inc. v. Toys "R" Us, Inc., 611 F.3d 1308, 1314 (11th Cir. 2010). A fact is "material" if it may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "A court must decide 'whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., Inc., 357 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court views all evidence and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Tana v. Dantanna's, 611 F.3d 767, 772 (11th Cir. 2010). However, "if reasonable minds might differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then the court should deny summary judgment." St. Charles Foods, Inc. v. America's Favorite Chicken Co., 198 F.3d 815, 819 (11th Cir. l999)(quoting Warrior Tombigbee Transp. Co. v. M/V Nan Fung, 695 F.2d 1294, 1296-97 (11th Cir. l983)(finding summary judgment "may be inappropriate even where the parties agree on the basic facts, but disagree about the factual inferences that should be drawn from these facts")). "If a reasonable fact finder evaluating the evidence could draw more than one inference from the facts, and if that inference introduces a genuine issue of material fact, then the court should not grant summary judgment." Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ, 495 F.3d 1306, 1315 (11th Cir. 2007).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated within the Florida Department of Corrections, initiated this action by filing a pro se civil rights complaint form under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. #1). Plaintiff is proceeding on his Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 60), filed on January 26, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants McClure, Marcus, and Johnson violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by knowingly and intentionally failing to treat his depression and suicidal tendencies. (Id. at 13). Plaintiff attempted suicide on three different occasions. (Id. at 13-14). Defendants McClure, Marcus, and Johnson were healthcare providers at Charlotte Correctional Institution (CCI) during Plaintiffs attempted suicides. (Id. at 13).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff brings three counts against all Defendants alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights: Count I, deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs medical needs; Count II, discrimination against Plaintiff by deliberate indifference to his medical needs while under close management; Count III, pain and suffering caused by Defendant's deliberate indifference to suicidal tendencies. Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff merely disputes Defendants' treatment decisions.

         Count I Deliberate Indifference

         Prisoners have the right "to receive medical treatment for illness and injuries, which encompasses a right to psychiatric and mental health care, and a right to be protected from self-inflicted injuries, including suicide." Cook ex rel. Estate of Tessier v. Sheriff of Monroe County, Fla., 402 F.3d 1092, 1115 (11th Cir.2005) (quoting Hamm v. DeKalb County, 114 F.2d 1567, 1574 (11th Cir.1985)). "Because jail suicides are analogous to the failure to provide medical care, deliberate indifference has become the barometer by which suicide cases involving convicted prisoners as well as pretrial detainees are tested." Rolle v. Brevard Cty., Fla., No. 606CV-714-ORL-19JGG, 2007 WL 328682, at *6 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 31, 2007) (quoting Edwards v. Gilbert, 867 F.2d 1271, 1274-75 (11th Cir.1989). To establish an Eighth Amendment violation for failure to protect against self-inflicted injuries, a prisoner must show that the prison official(s) displayed deliberate indifference to the prisoner's threat of taking of his own life. Cook ex rel. Estate of Tessier, 402 F.3d at 1115.

         To establish deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show that he had an "objectively serious medical need." Id. A serious medical need is "one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Id. (citations omitted). "The medical need must be one that, if left unattended, pos[es] a substantial risk of serious harm." Id.

         Second, "to establish a defendant's deliberate indifference, the plaintiff has to show that the defendant had '(1) subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm; [and] (2) disregarded]... that risk; (3) by conduct that is more than mere negligence.'" Cagle v. Sutherland, 334 F.3d 980 (11th Cir.2003) (quoting McElligott v. Foley, 182 F.3d 1248, 1255 (11th Cir.1999)). "Whether a particular defendant has subjective knowledge of the risk of serious harm is a question of fact 'subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.'" Goebert v. Lee County, 510 F.3d 1312, 1327 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994)). "A difference in medical opinion does not constitute deliberate indifference so long as the treatment is minimally adequate." Whitehead v. Burnside, 403 Fed.Appx. 401, 403 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1504-05 (11th Cir. 1991)). A doctor's decision about the type of medicine that should be prescribed is generally "a medical judgment" that is "an inappropriate basis for imposing liability under section 1983." Adams v. Poag, 61 F.3d 1537, 1547 (11th Cir. 1995); see also Waldrop v. Evans, 871 F.2d 1030, 1033 (11th Cir. 1989) (stating that "[m]ere medical malpractice, however, does not constitute deliberate indifference. Nor does a simple difference in medical opinion.").

         Under this Circuit's precedent, in a prison suicide case, deliberate indifference requires that the defendant deliberately disregard "a strong likelihood rather than a mere possibility that the self-infliction of harm will occur." Id. at 986 (emphasis in original) (quoting Popham v. City of Talladega,908 F.2d 1561, 1563 (11th Cir.1990)). "Failure to take measures to protect an inmate from committing suicide can only constitute deliberate indifference so long as it is a failure that goes beyond negligence or medical malpractice." Freeman v. Lebedovych,186 Fed.Appx. 943, 944 (11th Cir. 2006). Furthermore, the official may escape liability for ...


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