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Arce v. Barnes

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

July 29, 2015

JENNIFER BARNES, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

I. Background

Plaintiff Jose Carlos Arce, who was at all times relevant to this case an inmate at Plainfield Correctional Facility ("Plainfield") but is no longer incarcerated, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and state law. The defendants are Nurse Jennifer Barnes, a nurse practitioner at Plainfield, Dr. Michael Mitcheff, and their employer Corizon, LLC ("Corizon"). Mr. Arce alleges that the defendants failed to adequately treat his severe back pain that was caused by an injury that occurred prior to his incarceration. He brings the following claims: (1) an Eighth Amendment medical claim; (2) a First Amendment retaliation claim; and (3) a state law negligence claim. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all of Mr. Arce's claims.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when 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. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A "material fact" is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving 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). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011).

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, 477 U.S. at 248. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no "genuine" dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

III. Discussion

A. Undisputed Facts

In August 2007 Mr. Arce sustained work-related injuries to his back. A year later, he was diagnosed with, among other things, degenerative disc disease. This back condition causes Mr. Arce chronic back pain.

While incarcerated, Mr. Arce was seen by multiple health care providers for complaints of knee pain, back pain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, a cornea transplant and other health issues. Mr. Arce's medical records reflect that on June 22, 2010, while he was being examined for issues relating to a cornea transplant, he complained of arthritic problems, including back problems. A lumbosacral spine x-ray was ordered by his medical provider. A radiology report dated June 25, 2010, reflected a normal lumbar spine and normal sacrum and coccyx.

Mr. Arce was transferred to Plainfield in May 2011. Upon his arrival, Plainfield medical personnel provided him with an orthopedic mattress to alleviate pain caused by his back condition.

Mr. Arce's medical records reflect that in December 2011, he complained of generalized pain in his back and knees that he claimed resulted from standing for up to six hours during his work in the prison laundry. He sought pain medication or a back or knee brace. The record of the nurse visit scheduled in response to Mr. Arce's complaints reflect that Mr. Arce refused treatment for his complaints of back and knee pain stating that, in his opinion, the option of being evaluated by a nurse and receiving Tylenol or ibuprofen to address his complaints of pain would not treat his problem. Mr. Arce states that he refused treatment because he was no longer working in the prison laundry room, and thus no longer experienced pain.

There are no indications in the medical records of Mr. Arce complaining of back pain from December 2011 until April 15, 2013. Mr. Arce's complaints began again when he was returned to Plainfield after a court appearance and informed that the orthopedic mattress was no longer available. On April 15, 2013, he complained that removal of a "special mattress" from his cell caused his back pain to worsen and requested the return of the mattress. Plainfield healthcare staff scheduled him for a medical sick call. On April 29, 2013, Mr. Arce sent another healthcare request, stating that his chronic back pain was worsening and that he wanted his special mattress back.

The next day, on April 30, 2013, Mr. Arce was seen in the clinic by Rebecca Trivett, L.P.N. in response to a health care request form he submitted in which he complained that a "special mattress" was taken from him on April 11, 2013. Mr. Arce reported that the removal of the "special mattress" resulted in a recurrence of back pain from an injury he had suffered several years earlier when he was thrown from a forklift. Nurse Trivett informed Mr. Arce that if his back pain does not subside or becomes more severe to seek further care.

On May 5, 2013, Mr. Arce filed a third request for healthcare. He stated that his chronic back pain continues to bother him, but that all he needs is his special mattress returned. Shortly thereafter, healthcare staff looked into whether a special mattress was available. It was not. On May 20, 2013, Mr. Arce was denied his request for the special mattress, and was instead scheduled for another appointment the following day for pain management.

On May 21, 2013, Nurse Practitioner Loice Mukona saw Mr. Arce for a provider visit related to Mr. Arce's complaints of back pain. The visit notes reflect that Mr. Arce walked into the examining room with no limping or any signs of pain. Mr. Arce requested a "medical mattress" that he stated was prescribed by a nurse in 2011. Nurse Mukona found no documentation in Mr. Arce's medical records of any prescription for a medical mattress. Mr. Arce also requested strong pain medications. Nurse Mukona prescribed anti-inflammatory medications and back exercises to address Mr. Arce's complaints of back pain. At that time, Mr. ...

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