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Mendoza-Vargas v. Byrd

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

August 8, 2017



          William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Efren Mendoza-Vargas (“Mr. Mendoza”) is an inmate in the custody of the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”). His amended civil rights complaint brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleges that defendants Dr. Samuel Byrd and Robin Knust, R.N. acted with deliberate indifference to Mr. Mendoza's facial injury that occurred while he was playing soccer. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         The defendants seek resolution of the plaintiff's claims through summary judgment. Mr. Mendoza has opposed the motion, defendants replied, and Mr. Mendoza filed a surreply. The motion is ripe for resolution. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the defendants' motion for summary judgment, [Dkt. 38], is denied in part and granted in part.

         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. 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 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, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         III. Discussion

         A. Undisputed Facts

         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. Mendoza 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).

         Mr. Mendoza is from Mexico and has an average education level of 4th-5th grade. Spanish is his primary language and he struggles with English. He has received help from another inmate in litigating this case. Dkt. 46-1, (Declaration of Mendoza), p. 14, ¶¶ 4-5, p. 22, ¶ 3.

         On September 27, 2015, Mr. Mendoza collided with another inmate while playing soccer. He was knocked unconscious and suffered an injury to the area below his right eye. After he woke up, he walked to the Wabash Valley clinic with assistance from the other inmate involved in the collision, and another inmate. Both injured inmates were seen by Robin Knust, R.N. (“Nurse Knust”). Mr. Mendoza was bleeding from a cut to the orbital area below his right eye. Dkt. 39-3, (Declaration of Robin Knust, R.N.), ¶ 6; Dkt. 39-2, (Medical Records), pp. 30-31; Dkt. 16, (Amended Compl.), pp. 3-4.

         Nurse Knust cleaned and dried the affected area on Mr. Mendoza's cheek and applied ice to reduce potential swelling. The bleeding from the injury to his cheek stopped when Nurse Knust applied pressure. Nurse Knust then applied steri-strips to close the cheek laceration. She also applied a band-aid to a small cut above Mr. Mendoza's eyebrow. She gave Mr. Mendoza cool compresses to control swelling in the area of his injury.

         As Mr. Mendoza's injury occurred on a Sunday afternoon, there was no physician on site at the facility. During her examination, Nurse Knust telephoned Dr. Samuel Byrd who was the physician on call that day. She described the injury to Dr. Byrd and her assessment of Mr. Mendoza's physical condition. Dr. Byrd entered an order to start Mr. Mendoza on an antibiotic (Keflex) and requested that Mr. Mendoza be seen by him for a follow-up evaluation the next day.

         Nurse Knust's examination and treatment of Mr. Mendoza on September 27, 2015, was the extent of her involvement in his medical care. Dkt. 39-3, ¶¶ 6, 7. During the examination, Mr. Mendoza was conscious, responsive and cooperative with the treatment the nurse provided.

         Nurse Knust did not rule out a possible concussion or the possible need for sutures to close the cheek wound. Id. at ΒΆ 7. The medical chart reflects that Nurse ...

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