United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY DISCUSSING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
Jane Magnus-Stinson, United States District Court Judge.
Leonard Thomas, an inmate at the Westville Correctional
Facility, filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 based on events which occurred at the Pendleton
Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”) from April
2010 through April 2012. Mr. Thomas's primary complaint
is that he was denied adequate medication (Dilantin) and
accommodations (bottom range pass) for his seizures in
violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. As a result, Mr.
Thomas allegedly had seizures and was injured. The
Defendants, Dr. William Wolfe, Nurse Practitioner Vanessa
Suffoletta, Nurse Deborah Wallen, Nurse Mary Blomquist, Nurse
Linda Ashby and Yvonne Goodson (collectively the
“Medical Defendants”) filed a motion for summary
judgment on September 25, 2015. That same day, defendants
Andrew Cole and Danny Fountain (collectively the “State
Defendants”) filed their motion for summary judgment.
Mr. Thomas has opposed both motions in a single brief. Dkt.
reasons explained below, the Medical Defendants' motion
for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part
[dkt. 113] and the State Defendants' motion for summary
judgment [dkt. 116] is denied.
preliminary matter, Mr. Thomas's motion for expert
witness [dkt. 149] is denied. This motion is untimely because
it was filed after the close of discovery and after the
motions for summary judgment were fully briefed. Given the
current record, no court-appointed expert witness pursuant to
Rule 706 is appropriate because there is no evident need for
an expert, to “assist the trier-of-fact to understand
the evidence or decide a fact in issue.” Ledford v.
Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 358 -359 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing
Fed.R.Evid. 702). For these reasons, the motion for
appointment of an expert witness  is denied.
action was screened as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and
the following claims were identified [dkt. 38]:
Eighth Amendment; Denial of Dilantin and Bottom Range
Pass. Doctor William H.
and Nurse Practitioner Vanessa G. Suffoletta allegedly denied
Mr. Thomas the medication Dilantin and a bottom range pass.
As a result, Mr. Thomas had a seizure and injured himself on
the stairs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Eighth Amendment; Denial of or Interference with Medical
Treatment. Nurse Mary Blomquist, Nurse Wallen, Nurse
Lindy Ashby and Medical Records Clerk Yvonne Goodson
allegedly falsified records, the effect of which was that Mr.
Thomas was denied medical care for his seizures.
First Amendment; Retaliation. Yvonne Goodson
allegedly retaliated against Mr. Thomas for submitting health
care request forms and seeking copies of his medical records
by issuing him a conduct report in violation of the First
Eighth Amendment; Conditions of Confinement. Andrew
Cole and Counselor Fountain allegedly had the authority to
move Mr. Thomas to a bottom or low range but refused to do so
even after Mr. Thomas informed them that such a move was
necessary to prevent injury.
Standard of Review
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. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
56. 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).
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).
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.
Thomas responded to the defendants' motions with a
41-page response. See dkt. 126. The State defendants then
filed a motion to strike some of Mr. Thomas's exhibits.
Specifically, the State Defendants request that the Court
strike 42 specifically identified documents. The State
defendants argue that these documents are irrelevant,
needlessly cumulative, not properly authenticated or are
otherwise inadmissible. The motion to strike [dkt. 137] is
denied because Local Rule 56-1 states that any dispute over
the admissibility or effect of evidence must be raised
through an objection within a party's brief. Similarly,
the Medical Defendants' objection to the plaintiff's
designation of evidence is overruled as presented. The
Medical Defendant's objection should have been (but was
not) included in their reply brief. That said, this Court shall
apply Local Rule 56-1 such that only evidence which would be
admissible at trial will be considered in ruling on the
defendants' motions for summary judgment. See L.R.
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.
with the foregoing, the following statement of facts was
evaluated pursuant to the standards set forth above. That is,
this statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true,
but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed
facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light
reasonably most favorable to Mr. Thomas as the non-moving
party with respect to the motion for summary judgment.
See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530
U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
the time period relevant to his complaint, Mr. Thomas was a
52-year-old inmate incarcerated at Pendleton. Mr. Thomas was
diagnosed with epilepsy and schizophrenia and enrolled in the
Chronic Care Clinic. As an offender enrolled in the Chronic
Care Clinic, Mr. Thomas was seen by a medical provider every
90-days for his chronic condition and received regular lab
work, including monitoring of his Dilantin levels and seizure
Dr. William Wolfe is a physician licensed to practice
medicine in the State of Indiana. Dr. Wolfe was one of
several physicians at Pendleton who would see and treat
inmates as they were placed on his schedule by nursing staff.
He did not set or arrange the patient schedule.
Vanessa Suffoletta is a nurse practitioner licensed in the
State of Indiana. She was a nurse practitioner at Pendleton.
Nurse Practitioner Suffoletta had regular patients assigned
to her for treatment. All other patients were assigned to the
other physicians at Pendleton. Mr. Thomas was not one of
Nurse Practitioner Suffoletta's regular patients. She had
very limited involvement with Mr. Thomas's
Deborah Wallen and Mary Blomquist are registered nurses
working at Pendleton. Nurse Wallen and Nurse Blomquist are
unable to diagnose medical conditions or order medical
treatment for offenders or any other patients. As registered
nurses, they triage offenders and communicate their medical
needs to the provider and then follow the provider's
orders. They cannot prescribe medications.
Linda Ashby is a registered nurse who worked at Pendleton.
Her duties and responsibilities included distributing
prescribed medication to inmates and monitoring the inmates
as they took the medications. Nurse Ashby was not permitted
to diagnose medical conditions or to order medical treatment
for offenders or any other patients.
Yvonne Goodson is currently, and was at all times relevant to
Mr. Thomas's Complaint, the medical records clerk at
Pendleton. As the medical records clerk, Goodson works under
the Health Care Administrator and maintains the paper and
electronic health records in the regular course of business,
oversees requests for health records, and facilitates
in-person offender reviews and copying of health records.
Goodson is not involved in generating health records for
offenders or documenting their medical care. Goodson is not
involved in the disciplinary process at Pendleton and does
not make decisions on whether to discipline an inmate.
September 2011 to August 2012, Andrew Cole was the
Classification Supervisor or Acting Classification Supervisor
Fountain was the Caseworker/Counselor in J Cell House at
Pendleton in 2011.
The Indiana Department of Correction's Request for
Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) follows
a policy and procedure wherein offenders may initiate medical
services through a Request for Healthcare Form
(“HCF”). These forms are kept in all housing
areas and are made available upon request from an offender.
Drop boxes for HCFs are available. Health care staff
retrieves these forms from each drop box and reviews and
responds to the requests daily. Depending upon the number of
staff available and the time and circumstances of the form
review, a two-step process occurs whereby one health care
staff, typically a nurse, reviews the information, and
schedules the offender to be evaluated by another nurse in
the clinic area, if necessary. Nursing staff do not schedule
practitioner appointments in the absence of an appropriate
Bottom Range Pass
offender who has a bottom range pass is to be housed on the
first tier of a cell block. A bottom bunk pass requires that
if the inmate is housed in a cell with bunked beds, the
inmate is to sleep on the bottom bunk. A bottom bunk pass is
different from a bottom range pass.
Fountain is approached by an inmate seeking a bottom range
pass due to a medical issue, Fountain tells the inmate to
submit a HCF so that medical personnel can determine if the
inmate's medical condition requires him to be on the
bottom range. Fountain instructs the inmate to let him know
if medical personnel determine that the inmate should be
housed on the bottom range so that Fountain can start the
process of getting him a bottom range pass. Fountain does not
place a request into the Classification Department for an
individual to be housed on the bottom range unless the inmate
produces a medical order indicating that he should be placed
on the bottom range. If medical verifies the order, Fountain
will then put in a request to the Classification Department
indicating that the inmate should be moved to a bottom range
bottom range assignment is necessary due to a medical matter,
the Classification Department relies on medical personnel to
make the recommendation. The medical recommendation will be
accommodated if at all possible. Usually, the Classification
Department evaluates requests for a bottom range pass when
the Unit Team or Counselor indicates that one should be
issued. If the offender contacts the Classification
Department directly about a bottom range pass, the
Classification Department will usually tell the inmate to
take it up with his counselor.
order verifying the need for a bottom range pass has been
issued by medical personnel, the Classification Department
places a note in the Location History section in the Offender
Information System Database. Mr. Thomas's Location
History section does not show any notes stating that medical
personnel restricted him to the bottom range while he was
housed at Pendleton.
Classification Department at Pendleton places an inmate in
the most appropriate setting possible and has final approval
of where an inmate is placed. Just because an offender
desires to live in a specific housing unit for whatever
reason, there may be multiple factors (including
availability, conduct record, victim/aggressor flags,
potential for violence, etc.) that would cause the
Classification Department to place him elsewhere.
Thomas requested a bottom range pass from Dr. Wolfe on
several occasions, but was denied. Mr. Thomas wrote a letter
to Andrew Cole, the Classification Supervisor dated February
8, 2011. The letter states that Mr. Thomas has done
everything in his power to secure a bottom range permit due
to his epilepsy, but his requests have been denied. See dkt.
126-3 at p. 4. Mr. Thomas was never given a bottom range pass
while at Pendleton.
Thomas arrived at Pendleton on October 30, 2009. From October
30, 2009 to November 13, 2009, Mr. Thomas was housed in a
cell on the second tier in J Cell House.
November 13, 2009, to February 25, 2011, Mr. Thomas was
housed in H Cell House in a first tier cell.
February 25, 2011, to May 11, 2011,  Mr. Thomas was housed in
various cells in J Cell House and G Cell House on the second
May 11, 2011 to October 31, 2011, Mr. Thomas was housed on
the third tier in J Cell House.
October 15th and October 29th, 2011, Mr. Thomas suffered a
seizure in which he fell down the stairs. Medical personnel
were called to respond to these events.
Thomas states that both before and after his seizures in
October 2011, he personally spoke to his counselor, defendant
Fountain, and asked to be moved to a first floor range. Dkt.
126 at p. 37, ¶ 65. Specifically, On October 17, 2011,
Mr. Thomas filed an informal complaint with several medical
administrative officials and custody officials and personally
handed Fountain his copy while speaking to him in his office.
Within the informal complaint Mr. Thomas requested a bottom
range permit, medical idle cell and medical idle state pay.
Dkt. 126 at p. 38 ¶¶ 69-70. Mr. Fountain responded
stating “don't see a need for bottom range and you
already get idle pay. Medical will have to give your MID
status then I'll change your pay.” Dkt. 126 at p.
39, no. 74.
Thomas states that after the October 29, 2011 seizure he
personally spoke to Mr. Fountain about his cell placement.
Mr. Fountain responded that just because Mr. Thomas is
epileptic does not mean he is eligible for a bottom range
cell location. Dkt. 126 at p. 37, no. 66.
Thomas states that both before and after the seizure
incidents he told Mr. Cole on several occasions that he
needed to be moved off the third floor and that Mr. Cole did
not tell him to raise the issue with his counselor. Dkt. 126
at p. 35, no. 60 and p. 34, no. 57.
Thomas admits that Mr. Cole and Mr. Fountain knew that Mr.
Thomas was being seen regularly by medical personnel for
treatment of his epilepsy.
October 31, 2011, to Mr. Thomas's transfer to Wabash
Valley Correctional Facility in April of 2012, Mr. Thomas was
housed on a first tier cell. Mr. Thomas was moved to the
bottom range as a “courtesy.” He was not issued a
bottom range pass.
Mr. Thomas's Medical Treatment ...