United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE United States District Court
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by
Defendants Methodist/IU Hospital and Methodist Medical Group
(collectively, “Methodist”) (Filing No.
17). After being diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C,
pro se Plaintiff Ilene Ruffin (“Ms.
Ruffin”) requested medical records from Methodist in
hopes of supporting her claim that she contracted chronic
Hepatitis C from two blood transfusions that she received at
Methodist in 1996. In response to the records request,
Methodist produced numerous medical records, but the records
did not include laboratory reports from the time of Ms.
Ruffin's blood transfusions. Ms. Ruffin filed this
action, asserting that her right to due process was violated
because Methodist spoliated evidence thereby depriving her of
a fair trial in state court for medical malpractice.
Methodist filed its Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting
that Methodist is not a state actor thereby entitling it to
summary judgment on Ms. Ruffin's claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment. For the following
reasons, the Court GRANTS Methodist's Motion.
following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as
required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are
presented in the light most favorable to Ms. Ruffin as the
non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d
582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
Ruffin has received medical care at Methodist since as early
as the 1980s. She had been a “constant patient”
of Methodist until 2008. In conjunction with medical
procedures, Ms. Ruffin received two blood transfusions at
Methodist in August and September 1996. Fourteen years later,
Ms. Ruffin was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in September 2010.
She surmises that she contracted the disease from the two
blood transfusions received at Methodist in 1996 (Filing No.
12 at 2-3).
being diagnosed with Hepatitis C in September 2010, Ms.
Ruffin requested her medical records from Methodist.
Methodist produced numerous medical records, but the records
did not include laboratory reports from the timeframe when
Ms. Ruffin had received the blood transfusions in 1996.
6, 2011, Ms. Ruffin filed a proposed medical malpractice
complaint against Methodist with the Indiana Department of
Insurance pursuant to the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act
(“the Act”). In accordance with the Act, a
medical review panel convened to consider Ms. Ruffin's
claim. During discovery, Ms. Ruffin requested additional
medical records related to her claim; however, Methodist did
not produce additional records. Rather, Methodist sent a
letter to Ms. Ruffin through its attorney, explaining that
the medical records had been purged in accordance with
Methodist's records retention policy and Indiana Code
§ 16-39-7-1. Methodist's attorney informed Ms.
Ruffin that she could not seek records directly from
Methodist and would have to seek records through the
attorney. Later, Methodist's attorney produced to Ms.
Ruffin four CDs, which contained all of Ms. Ruffin's
medical records. The medical review panel proceeded to
consider Ms. Ruffin's claim, and it was determined that
her claim for medical malpractice was not viable.
2014, Ms. Ruffin determined that the medical records
Methodist admitted to purging were the records relating to
her laboratory reports from the timeframe of the 1996 blood
transfusions. In a letter dated July 28, 2014 Mr. Ruffin
contacted Methodist risk management department and demanded
any and all laboratory reports that were directly related to
her claims. While Methodist was not able to produce the
laboratory reports from the time of her blood transfusions in
1996, it was able to produce other medical records dating
back to the 1980s. Ms. Ruffin concluded that it was these
laboratory reports that formed the basis of her medical
malpractice claim against Methodist. On January 9, 2015 Ms.
Ruffin contacted Methodist risk management again, to give
them an update and to show that she had identified the
precise laboratory reports, however, Methodist failed to
respond. On February 23, 2015, Ms. Ruffin filed an amended
proposed complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance,
asserting allegations of spoliation of evidence. In response,
Methodist filed a motion for a preliminary determination of
law and a motion for summary judgment in state court, and Ms.
Ruffin's claim was disposed of in favor of Methodist by
the state court.
1, 2015, Ms. Ruffin filed her Complaint in this Court. She
asserted a claim for spoliation of evidence. Because her
claim was a state law claim between two citizens of the same
state, the Court dismissed the Complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. The Court granted leave to Ms. Ruffin to
amend her Complaint to assert a federal claim (Filing No. 11
Ruffin filed her Amended Complaint on February 11, 2016. She
used a “fill-in-the-blank” complaint form for
“non-prisoner filers without lawyers.” (Filing
No. 12.) She asserted a claim for violation of her due
process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 based on the destruction of her medical
records and the resulting alleged unfair state court
proceedings. Methodist filed its responsive pleading, denying
any liability, and on April 19, 2016, Methodist filed its
Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting that it is not a state
actor and its actions are not otherwise attributable to the
State of Indiana.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is
appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” Hemsworth v.
Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir.
2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court
reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at
584 (citation omitted). “However, inferences that are
supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a
summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan
Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who
bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest
on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by
specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue
of material fact that requires trial.”
Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted).
“The opposing party cannot meet this burden with
conclusory statements or speculation but only with
appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.”
Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F.Supp. 1065, 1072
(S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).
much the same way that a court is not required to scour the
record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary
judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the
merits of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden
Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and
quotation marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence
of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the
existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts
is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.”
Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391,
395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Court notes that “[a] document filed pro se is
to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted ...