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Thomas v. Wilson

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

June 9, 2014

RALPH THOMAS, Plaintiff,



Plaintiff Ralph Thomas is a federal inmate currently serving a 65 year sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana ("USP-Terre Haute"). The lengthy procedural history associated with this case is summarized in Filing No. 96, at ECF pp. 1-4. The only claim remaining in this action is a claim for equitable relief against the defendant in his official capacity. Filing No. 96, at ECF pp. 5-6. Specifically, Thomas's amended complaint asserts that he is entitled to injunctive relief to treat his severe muscle cramps.[1] Filing No. 51, at ECF p. 3. Thomas states that the cause of his cramping is unknown and that medical staff continue to refuse to treat this symptom and deny that it is a problem. Filing No. 141, at ECF p. 2.

Defendant William E. Wilson, M.D., in his official capacity only, (hereafter "Dr. Wilson"), seeks resolution of this action through summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, Thomas is not entitled to injunctive relief and Dr. Wilson is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.


Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A motion for summary judgment asks that the Court find that a trial based on the uncontroverted and admissible evidence is unnecessary because, as a matter of law, it would conclude in the moving party's favor. To survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially the grant of summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e).

The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has "repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, " Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 898 (7th Cir. 2003). Furthermore, reliance on the pleadings or conclusory statements backed by inadmissible evidence is insufficient to create an issue of material fact on summary judgment. Id. at 901.

The key inquiry, then, is whether admissible evidence exists to support a plaintiff's claims, not the weight or credibility of that evidence, both of which are assessments reserved to the trier of fact. See Schacht v. Wis. Dep't of Corrections, 175 F.3d 497, 504 (7th Cir.1999). When evaluating this inquiry, the Court must give the non-moving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the evidence submitted and resolve "any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial... against the moving party." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330.


Applying the standards set forth above the following material facts are not in dispute:

1. Plaintiff Ralph Thomas is an 80-year-old male inmate with a significant past medical history with multiple comorbidities including coronary artery and vascular disease, renal artery stenosis, gout, renal insufficiency, diabetes, glaucoma, hypertension and reflux, all of which have required treatment with prescribed medications.[2] Filing No. 129-1, at ECF pp. 2-13, especially p. 3.

2. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Harvey testified that the care administered to Thomas was administered consistent with Bureau of Prisons policies and procedures, and community standards of care.[3] Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 3; Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 13; and Filing No. 129-20, at ECF pp. 4-5.

3. The medical records document that Thomas has been provided with regular and continual medical care consistent with his complaints and conditions throughout his incarceration at USP-Terre Haute, including at least twenty-four (24) full medical work-ups in the Chronic Care Clinics.[4] Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 5. Thomas has been seen by medical care providers almost once per week, sometimes more frequently, for his medical complaints, and has had emergency services available 24 hours per day, as well as the ability to sign up for sick call.[5] Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 13.

4. The medical staff has long attempted to isolate reasons for Thomas's subjective complaints of body and leg cramps. Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 3. The exact etiology of the body aches and muscle cramps has never been determined. Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 5; and Filing No. 129-21, at ECF p. 6. Numerous evaluations by rheumatologists have not definitively revealed any specific cause of Thomas's body aches outside of conclusions that they result from the normal aging process. Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 13.

5. Thomas has osteoarthritis, which is consistent with someone of his age and the consulting Rheumatologist concurs with the current diagnosis of osteoarthritis and the treatment plan. Filing No. 129-1, at ECF p. 7; and Filing No. 129-14, at ECF pp. 34-36.

6. In addition to the medicinal treatments Thomas has received, he has also been provided with a medical soft shoe, compression stockings, a wheelchair (when necessary), [6] and physical therapy in an effort to reduce his pain and cramping. Filing No. 129-16, at ECF pp. 42-44; ...

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