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Abner v. Everson

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

June 5, 2017

RONALD EVERSON Medical Doctor, LEANN WHEELER Medical Nurse, CHARLES MURPHY Jail Commander, Defendants.


          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE United States District Court

         Plaintiff Lawrence Abner, Jr., is a former inmate of the Jackson County Jail. He alleges that defendants Dr. Ronald Everson, Nurse Leann Wheeler and Jail Commander Charles Murphy are liable to him for violating his constitutional rights and state tort law. Specifically, Mr. Abner alleges that the defendants denied him medication prescribed by Dr. Cook while incarcerated at the Jackson County Jail. Defendants Nurse Wheeler and Jail Commander Murphy (hereinafter "defendants") seek resolution of the remaining claims through summary judgment.[1] For the reasons explained below, the motion for summary judgment, dkt. [27], is granted.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." 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). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant's favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011). "The applicable substantive law will dictate which facts are material." National Soffit & Escutcheons, Inc., v. Superior Systems, Inc., 98 F.3d 262, 265 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

         "[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

         In this case, the defendants have met that burden through their unopposed motion for summary judgment. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) ("[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission."). By not responding to the motion for summary judgment, Mr. Abner has conceded to the defendants' version of the facts. Brasic v. Heinemann 's Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 286 (7th Cir. 1997). This is the result of Local Rule 56-1, of which Mr. Abner was notified. See dkt. 29. This does not alter the standard for assessing a Rule 56 motion, but does "reduc[e] the pool" from which the facts and inferences relative to such a motion may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997).

         II. Undisputed Facts

         Mr. Abner was booked into the Jackson County Jail on April 2, 2016 on several counts of theft and possession of a syringe. While at the Jail, Mr. Abner was treated by Dr. Ronald Everson, who is employed by Advanced Correctional Health, with which the Jackson County Jail contracts to provide medical services to the inmates. Mr. Abner also occasionally sees a medical doctor in Austin, Indiana. He was transferred to and from his appointments by employees of the Jackson County Jail. In his complaint, Mr. Abner states that he was prescribed medication "by Dr. Cook[e] from Austin, Indiana, " which was then denied by employees of the Jail. Pursuant to Dr. Everson's orders, Defendants Murphy and Wheeler withheld this medication from Mr. Abner because it was a narcotic, which are generally not given to inmates.

         Charles Murphy, as the jail commander, is not qualified to make medical decisions and must follow the orders of the treating physician.

         Nurse Wheeler is not qualified to prescribe medication. Consistent with the division of labor inside the Jackson County Jail, Nurse Wheeler must follow the orders of Dr. Everson.

         III. Discussion

         Mr. Abner contends that Jackson County Jail employees' refusal to distribute certain medication is "deliberate indifference" and accuses them of "medical neglect." The defendants argue that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because they acted appropriately by following the orders of Dr. Everson in regards to what medication Mr. Abner should receive.

         The constitution imposes a duty on prison officials to provide medical care to inmates. See Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991 (7th Cir. 1996), cert, denied, 520 U.S. 1230 (1997). Because Mr. Abner was a pretrial detainee, it is the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment which is the source of this right. Estate of Miller, ex rel. Bertram v. Tobiasz, 680 F.3d 984, 989 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-37 (1979)). However, courts still look to Eighth Amendment case law in addressing the claims of pretrial detainees, given that the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause are at least as broad as those that the Eighth Amendment affords to convicted prisoners. Rice ex rel. Rice v. Correctional Medical Services, 675 F.3d 650, 664 (7th Cir. 2012)(citing cases).

         A claim based on deficient medical care must demonstrate two requirements: 1) an objectively serious medical condition, and 2) an official's deliberate indifference to that condition. Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 114 ...

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