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Smith v. Corizon

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 28, 2014

ERIC SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON, BRUCE LEMMON, A. BAKER, KIM DON, and MICHAEL MITCHEFF, RMD, Defendants.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 117, Filing No. 126) are GRANTED and Plaintiff Eric Smith's ("Mr. Smith") Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 138) is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

This civil rights action was removed to this Court from the Marion Superior Court. Mr. Smith is an inmate currently confined at the Plainfield Correctional Facility. The Defendants are: Corizon; Indiana Department of Correction ("IDOC") Commissioner Bruce Lemmon ("Commissioner Lemmon"); Alia Baker, and Dr. Michael Mitcheff ("Dr. Mitcheff") (collectively, the "Defendants"). In his Amended Complaint (Filing No. 52), Mr. Smith alleges that the Defendants unlawfully denied him hernia surgery and replacement eyeglasses. He alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and Dr. Mitcheff committed medical malpractice. Mr. Smith seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.[1]

As noted, the Defendants seek resolution of Mr. Smith's claims through the entry of summary judgment and Mr. Smith has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute about a material fact is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no "genuine" dispute. Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Undisputed Facts

On the basis of the pleadings and the portions of the expanded record that comply with the requirements of Rule 56(c)(1), the following facts are undisputed for purposes of the crossmotions for summary judgment:

1. Hernia issue

Mr. Smith first complained of a hernia on February 15, 2010 when he, then an inmate at the Westville Correctional Facility ("Westville"), submitted a Request for Healthcare about a lump in his lower stomach area. Mr. Smith was examined in nursing sick call on February 17, 2010. His hernia was soft and approximately 2 inches in diameter. The nurse noted that Mr. Smith did not grimace when she palpated the area and there was no redness, irritation, or inflammation. The hernia could be pushed back in and only popped out when Mr. Smith strained or exercised. The doctor ordered a hernia belt to contain the hernia. Mr. Smith received his hernia belt on March 10, 2010.

Mr. Smith was transferred from the Westville to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility ("Wabash Valley") on April 23, 2010. On April 26, 2010, he submitted a Request for Healthcare asking for his hernia belt, which was taken by officers during a cell extraction. In response to this request, a nurse examined Mr. Smith on April 28, 2010. She noted that he had a hernia in his lower pubic area that was contained by a binder at the last facility, but the binder was confiscated before his transfer to Wabash Valley. Dr. Alfred Talens ("Dr. Talens") examined Mr. Smith on May 3, 2010 and noted that Mr. Smith's hernia was reducible when standing and when lying down. Dr. Talens ordered another hernia belt, which Mr. Smith received on May 12, 2010.

Mr. Smith submitted a Request for Healthcare on May 31, 2010, stating that his hernia was burning and painful and that he wanted surgery. In response to this request, he was seen in nursing sick call on June 2, 2010. Mr. Smith complained of a tugging and a pressure feeling at the hernia site and that it popped out when his body was upright. He also reported that he stopped using his hernia belt two days ago because of chafing. The nurse referred Mr. Smith to the doctor. Dr. Talens examined Mr. Smith on June 21, 2010, and again on August 23, 2010. At these appointments, Mr. Smith did not complain about his hernia. Rather, Dr. Talens noted Mr. Smith's complaints concerning a rash and right ankle pain.

Mr. Smith submitted a Request for Healthcare on October 14, 2010, again asking for surgery to repair his hernia. He was examined in nursing sick call on October 15, 2010. Mr. Smith reported a golf-ball sized hernia and that he had already seen the doctor twice. On examination, the nurse could not locate the hernia and Mr. Smith said he had pushed it back in prior to the examination. Mr. Smith then said if he strained, the hernia would pop out and he attempted to strain and exercise in front of the nurse, but the nurse advised him to stop. The nurse advised Mr. Smith to keep an eye on his hernia since he could push the hernia back in and he had already seen the doctor twice. She also advised Mr. Smith to let medical staff know if the hernia became bigger or caused excessive pain.

On May 24, 2011, Mr. Smith submitted a Request for Healthcare stating that his hernia popped out when he stood up but popped back in when he laid down. He also said his hernia was painful and the size of a ping pong ball. Mr. Smith was examined in nursing sick call on May 25, 2011. The nurse noted that Mr. Smith's hernia popped in and out and was the size of a baseball. She also noted that Mr. Smith had a hernia belt. The nurse referred Mr. Smith to the doctor.

On June 6, 2011, Dr. Jacques LeClerc ("Dr. LeClerc") examined Mr. Smith and noted that the hernia was tense and not reducible manually and had gradually increased in size over the past 2-3 years. Dr. LeClerc referred Mr. Smith to Wishard Hospital for a surgical evaluation and the appointment was scheduled for July 19, 2011. Medical records reflect that on July 19, 2011, Mr. Smith had a court date and could not make his Wishard Hospital appointment, so the appointment was rescheduled for September 27, 2011.

Mr. Smith submitted another Request for Healthcare on August 2, 2011, asking when he would get surgery for his hernia. In response, medical staff informed him that his appointment was rescheduled because of his court date. Mr. Smith submitted another Request for Healthcare on September 22, 2011, again asking when he would get surgery for his hernia. In response, medical staff informed him that he would be reassessed, but was not given a specific date. Offenders are not told about the date and time of their medical appointments outside of the prison pursuant to the IDOC's security policies.

Mr. Smith went to Wishard Hospital on September 27, 2011, for a surgical evaluation of his hernia. The Wishard Hospital surgeon noted that the hernia was reducible with palpation, and that Mr. Smith did not have pain in his testicles, did not have bloody stools, and was not constipated. The Wishard Hospital doctor also noted that Mr. Smith was eating and drinking well. The Wishard Hospital doctor recommended surgery, but also stated that the "procedure may not benefit patient." At the prison, Dr. LeClerc submitted a consultation request for the surgery and Dr. Mitcheff, the Regional Medical Director for Corizon, Inc., responded that he would examine the patient himself.

Dr. Mitcheff's role as Regional Medical Director for Corizon is to hire physicians and review recommendations from the prison physicians for non-formulary medications or for surgery and/or off-site testing, treatment or referrals. Like other major healthcare organizations, Dr. Mitcheff reviews the recommendations for medical necessity and to determine if they meet insurance criteria. Dr. Mitcheff avers that the cost of healthcare is a consideration, but is rarely a factor in determining what medical treatment an offender needs. Offenders receive medical treatment that is medically necessary for them, regardless of the cost. If Dr. Mitcheff disagrees with a prison physician about a medication, surgery, or off-site treatment, the treating physician at the prison can ultimately do what he or she feels is medically necessary for the patient, regardless of Dr. Mitcheff's input.

Mr. Smith submitted a Request for Healthcare on October 6, 2011, stating that he thought he was having complications from his hernia. In response, medical staff told him he was scheduled to see the doctor.

On November 22, 2011, Dr. Mitcheff reviewed Mr. Smith's history regarding his hernia and concluded that surgery could be safely deferred because the hernia was reducible and therefore was at low risk for strangulation. While the Wishard Hospital doctor recommended surgery, he also noted that Mr. Smith's hernia was reducible and not causing him any problems with bowel function, did not extend into his scrotum, and was not causing him any problems eating or drinking. It was Dr. Mitcheff's opinion that surgical repair of Mr. Smith's hernia was not medically necessary at that time and was elective and his condition could be appropriately managed with conservative care. The cost of hernia surgery is minimal and was not a factor for Dr. Mitcheff to consider in determining whether Mr. Smith needed to have his hernia surgically repaired.

Dr. Lolit Joseph ("Dr. Joseph") examined Mr. Smith in the Chronic Care Clinic on December 5, 2011. Dr. Joseph noted that Mr. Smith reported pain and swelling in the left inguinal area. Dr. Joseph noted small swelling in the left inguinal area, but she was not able to do a proper examination because Mr. Smith was handcuffed. Dr. Joseph noted that she would check Mr. Smith's chart and find out why surgery was not done. On December 22, 2011, Dr. Joseph noted that Mr. Smith's hernia was reducible while lying down, so surgery was deferred.

Mr. Smith submitted a Request for Healthcare on January 10, 2012, asking for a medical pass to wear his hernia belt. He reports that correctional staff took his hernia belt from him on December 22, 2011, in retaliation against him and they told him he needed a pass to have his hernia belt. Mr. Smith was in extreme pain without it. Medical staff responded to the request the following day and informed Mr. Smith that Dr. Joseph thought that there was no need for a hernia belt and he could discuss the issue at Mr. Smith's next chronic care visit.

Mr. Smith was examined by Dr. LeClerc on February 20, 2012, for his hernia. Dr. LeClerc prescribed Zoloft. Dr. LeClerc examined Mr. Smith again on March 13, 2012, and noted that Mr. Smith had a non-reducible left inguinal hernia. Dr. LeClerc referred Mr. Smith for a surgical consultation. On April 11, 2012, Mr. Smith went to Terre Haute Regional Hospital for a general surgery consultation. The doctor noted that Mr. Smith had a left groin bulge for the last two years, with no bowel problems. The left inguinal hernia was reducible and tender.

On April 12, 2012, Dr. LeClerc submitted a consultation request for a laparotomy-assisted left inguinal hernia repair. Dr. Mitcheff agreed that the surgery was appropriate because Mr. Smith's hernia had been present for over two years and it was tender and at times non-reducible, so it was at an increased risk for incarceration and/or strangulation. Before surgery could be scheduled, however, Mr. Smith was transferred to the Westville on May 1, 2012.

On May 12, 2012, Mr. Smith submitted a Request for Healthcare regarding his hernia. He reports that three different doctors recommended surgery and that his hernia caused extreme pain and interfered with normal daily activities. He could not exercise, lift heavy objects, or stand for long periods of time.

Mr. Smith was seen in nursing sick call on May 24, 2012. He admitted that his hernia was reducible, but that it caused daily pain. Mr. Smith was given a supply of ...


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