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Harris v. Bartles

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

August 10, 2017

DRAE HARRIS, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Drae Harris, a prisoner incarcerated in the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on January 21, 2016. He alleged that defendants Dr. Mandip Bartles, Nurse R. Robinson, and Dr. Neal Martin, all responsible for providing health care at the prison, were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Plaintiff and defendants have each submitted motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. [19], is denied, and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, dkt. [24], is also denied.

         I. Discussion

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis of its motion, and identifying those portions of designated evidence that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After “a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         A factual issue is material only if resolving the factual issue might change the outcome of the case under the governing law. See Clifton v. Schafer, 969 F.2d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 1992). A factual issue is genuine only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party on the evidence presented. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court “may not ‘assess the credibility of witnesses, choose between competing reasonable inferences, or balance the relative weight of conflicting evidence.'” Bassett v. I.C. Sys., Inc., 715 F.Supp.2d 803, 808 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (quoting Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 619 (7th Cir. 2010)). Instead, it must view all the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve all factual disputes in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         “The existence of cross-motions for summary judgment does not, however, imply that there are no genuine issues of material fact.” R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., LLC v. Int'l Union of Operating Engineers, 335 F.3d 643, 647 (7th Cir. 2003). Specifically, “[p]arties have different burdens of proof with respect to particular facts; different legal theories will have an effect on which facts are material; and the process of taking the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant, first for one side and then for the other, may highlight the point that neither side has enough to prevail without a trial.” Id. at 648.

         B. Factual Contentions

         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 the non-moving party with respect to each party's motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). In most instances, the evidence is simply contradictory. The facts are taken from the affidavits submitted by the parties, with some contextual details supplied by the assertions in the pleadings.

         On June 2, 2015, plaintiff fell during a recreation period and his right hand was stepped on, breaking it. Dkt. 2, p. 3. The parties agree that on that date - June 2 - plaintiff submitted a health care request form to be seen for shoulder/arm numbness that he believed was caused by a bump on his back. Dkt. 30-1, p. 1; Dkt. 20-1, p. 3. The next day, on June 3, 2015, plaintiff was seen by Nurse Robinson for the bump on his back. The parties disagree as to what happened at that visit. Plaintiff's evidence is that he complained to Nurse Robinson about the pain in his hand, which was visibly swollen, and asked to see the doctor. She refused to allow him to see the doctor and failed to have the hand x-rayed and did not nothing for his hand pain. Defendants' evidence is that Nurse Robinson saw plaintiff for the bump on his back but did not make any record of plaintiff complaining about a hand injury and she saw no sign of injury.

         Plaintiff was next seen by medical personnel when he saw Dr. Byrd on June 9, 2015, as a follow-up visit to his earlier hemorrhoid surgery. Plaintiff's evidence is that he complained to Dr. Byrd about his hand injury, but that Dr. Byrd told him he could only be seen for one condition per medical visit. Dr. Byrd told him to put in a request to be seen by the medical personnel if his hand was not better within two weeks. Defendants dispute this, providing evidence that Dr. Byrd discussed a number of issues with plaintiff, but an injury to his hand was not one of them. See Dkt. 20-1, p. 3 at ¶ 7; dkt. 30-1, p. 2; and dkt. 24-2 (request for health care form from plaintiff noting that a doctor told him to request a follow-up if his hand had not improved, dated July 13, 2015).

         Plaintiff's evidence next shows that he saw Dr. Martin on June 18, 2015, who only addressed the numbness in plaintiff's arm and told him to submit another health care request form if his hand did not get better. Dkt. 30-1, p. 2. Dr. Martin's affidavit states that when he saw plaintiff on that date, plaintiff never mentioned anything about his hand.

         The parties agree that plaintiff was seen by Nurse Robinson on July 16, 2005, for an injury to his right hand. Plaintiff's description of the meeting is that Nurse Robinson told him there was no break and told him to squeeze on a rolled up sock to strengthen his hand. Defendants add that Nurse Robinson was able to manipulate a full range of motion in plaintiff's right fifth finger, found the grip on the right hand to be slightly less than in the left hand, and saw no evidence of fracture. Nurse Robinson prescribed ice and cool compresses for any pain or swelling and gave him instructions for using a rolled up sock for exercises to strengthen the hand. She also told plaintiff to request further health care if his symptoms did not get better or worsened. Dkt. 30-1, p. 2; dkt. 20-1, p. 5.

         On July 30, 2015, plaintiff submitted a request for health care complaining of pain and a lack of strength in his right hand. Plaintiff says he was never seen for this request; defendants' evidence is that because he was already scheduled for a chronic care visit for August 18, he would ...

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