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Hudson v. Krembs

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

November 6, 2017

ROBERT P. HUDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN KREMBS and AMDREW LIAW, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Robert Hudson, a former inmate at the Westville Correctional Facility in Westville, Indiana, filed his complaint pro se alleging that prison staff denied him proper medical treatment after part of the facility's shower ceiling fell on him. Hudson originally brought claims against the prison warden, a prison nurse, and two doctors who treated him in the aftermath of his accident: Dr. Kevin Krembs and Dr. Andrew Liaw.

         The Court screened the complaint, dismissed the warden and the nurse, and granted Hudson leave to proceed with four distinct claims against Dr. Krembs and Dr. Liaw, related to treatment he received on four separate dates. [DE 6] Pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the Court dismissed the claim against Dr. Liaw pertaining to the events alleged on January 8, 2013, with prejudice. [DE 64] That left Hudson with his two claims against Dr. Krembs, corresponding to the events on September 25, 2012, and September 27, 2012, and his one claim against Dr. Liaw, corresponding to the events on September 13, 2013. The doctors have moved for summary judgment [DE 62] and Hudson, now represented by counsel, responded in opposition. [DE 67] For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Hudson was an inmate at the Westville Correctional Facility from May 2012 until October 2013. Prior to arriving at Westville, he served time at the Reception Diagnostic Center. There, physical and psychological evaluations reported chronic back pain related to a car accident and an unspecified form of schizophrenia. Staff at the RDC performed x-rays on his cervical and dorsal spine regions, each with normal results.

         On May 23, 2012, Hudson transferred to Westville, where Dr. Krembs served as the Medical Director and as a treating physician, and where Dr. Liaw also served as a treating physician. On September 20, 2012, ceiling tiles in the prison shower fell on Hudson, injuring him and requiring that he be sent to St. Anthony Hospital. Emergency room staff and doctors evaluated and treated Hudson, ordered CT scans, and diagnosed him with a lower back strain and a neck muscle strain. Hudson returned to Westville that same day, where Dr. Liaw evaluated him, prescribed Naproxen for his pain, and ordered a 3-day lay-in pass and a 7-day bottom bunk pass.

         Around midday on September 25, 2012, Hudson visited Dr. Krembs at the prison, complaining of left shoulder and lower back pain. Dr. Krembs reviewed the hospital records and CT scan results, reviewed Hudson's current Naproxen prescription, performed an independent evaluation, and concluded that Hudson did not require any new medication for his pain. Later that night, Dr. Krembs received a phone call from one of the prison's nurses, who informed him that Hudson's pain was not controlled. In response, Dr. Krembs ordered two injections of pain medication and extended Hudson's lay-in and bottom bunk passes.

         Over the course of the next year, Hudson complained about and was treated for problems with his back in December 2012 and January 2013, and made several requests for more Naproxen in February 2013. The record does not indicate that Hudson had any medical problems over a six-month period from February 2013 until August 2013, when he started having pain in his back and hip.

         Nurse Hutchinson evaluated and treated Hudson on September 13, 2013, in response to his complaint of back pain and swollen knees made about one week prior. The nurse contacted Dr. Liaw for treatment and orders, and Dr. Liaw prescribed one injection of pain medication and a 5-day lay-in pass. Less than one month later, Hudson transferred to Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill, Indiana.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper when 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). A “material” fact is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A “genuine issue” exists with respect to any material fact when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. Where a factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial, and summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Servs. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable and justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Jackson v. Kotter, 541 F.3d 688, 697 (7th Cir. 2008); King v. Preferred Tech. Grp., 166 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. 1999).

         DISCUSSION

         Hudson asserts that Dr. Krembs and Dr. Liaw violated the Eight Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment through their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. To survive summary judgment on this claim, there must be evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that the doctors “knew about but consciously disregarded a serious medical condition.” Fitzgerald v. Greer, 324 F. App'x 510, 514 (7th Cir. 2009). A constitutional claim based on inadequate medical care contains two elements: “(1) the prisoner suffered an objectively serious harm that presented a substantial risk to his safety, and (2) the defendants were deliberately indifferent to that risk.” Minix v. Canarecci, 957 F.3d 824, 831 (7th Cir. 2010); Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 728 (7th Cir. 2016) (en banc).[1]

         Deliberate indifference requires a dual showing that the defendants (1) had subjective knowledge of a risk to the inmate's health, and (2) intentionally disregarded that risk. Thomas v. Cook Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 604 F.3d 293 (7th Cir. 2010); Minix, 597 F.3d at 831 “For a medical professional to be liable for deliberate indifference to an inmate's medical needs, he must make a decision that represents such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards, as to demonstrate that the person responsible ...


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