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Pfeifer v. Person

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 8, 2018

BRUCE D PFEIFER, JR., Plaintiff,


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Melvin Pfeifer, who at all relevant times was incarcerated at Correctional Industrial Facility (“CIF”), brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Dr. Michael Person, Health Staff Administrator Chris Hufford, and Corizon Medical (“Corizon”), alleging that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Mr. Pfeifer further alleges that Dr. Person is liable for medical malpractice under Indiana Law.

         The defendants now move for summary judgment on the merits of Mr. Pfeifer's claims. Mr. Pfeifer has not responded to the defendants' motion, and the time to do so has passed, leaving the defendants' motion unopposed. For the reasons explained, the defendants' unopposed motion for summary judgment, Dkt. No. 26, is granted.

         I. Factual Background

         As noted above, Mr. Pfeifer failed to respond to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, and the deadline for doing so has passed. The consequence is that Mr. Pfeifer has conceded the defendants' version of the events. See 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.”); see S.D. Ind. Local Rule 56-1 (“A party opposing a summary judgment motion must . . . file and serve a response brief and any evidence . . . that the party relies on to oppose the motion. The response must . . . identif[y] the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes that the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding summary judgment.”). This does not alter the standard for assessing a Rule 56 motion, but it 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).

         Accordingly, the following facts, unopposed by Mr. Pfeifer and supported by admissible evidence, are accepted as true. Although the defendants present substantial evidence, the Court sets forth only the facts necessary to resolve Mr. Pfeifer's claims given the unopposed nature of the defendants' motion.

         In December of 2012, Mr. Pfeifer complained of having irregular heartbeats and shortness of breath. An EKG was performed and the results were normal with rare premature ventricular contractions (“PVCs”). Dkt. No. 28-1. PVCs are common and their cause can be difficult to identify. Id. Patients who experience PVCs often require no treatment. Id. PVCs can lead to dangerous heart rhythms rarely when accompanied by heart disease, but Mr. Pfeifer suffered from no underlying heart disease. Id.

         In 2013, Mr. Pfeifer had another EKG which was again normal with occasional PVCs. Id. In 2014, complaining of chest pain, he was prescribed a beta blocker. Id. In 2015, an EKG again showed PVCs. The treating physician discussed lifestyle changes with Mr. Pfeifer and offered a referral to Behavioral Health, but Mr. Pfeifer declined. Id.

         Defendant Dr. Person treated Mr. Pfeifer for the first time on August 21, 2015. Mr. Pfeifer reported no chest pain or palpitations and reported that he was not taking any medications. His cardiac exam was normal. Dr. Person recommended lifestyle changes to treat his borderline hypertension. In November 2015, Mr. Pfeifer refused lab work ordered by Dr. Person. In January 2016, he again refused lab work and medication for hypertension. In March 2016, he again refused lab work ordered by Dr. Person. Id.

         Mr. Pfeifer alleges that he went into “cardiac arrest” on April 7, 2016, but he was not seen by any medical provider on that date. He saw a nurse the following day and complained of chest pain, but refused lab work and medication. A week later, an EKG showed a normal heart rhythm with occasional PVCs. He was again prescribed a beta blocker. Two days later, Mr. Pfeifer complained that the medication was not helping. A nurse found that his heart rate was irregular. Id.

         Dr. Person consulted with a cardiologist and ultimately ordered a holter monitor to record Mr. Pfeifer's heartbeat for seven days. The monitor revealed that Mr. Pfeifer had normal heart rhythms with occasional PVCs. No. other concerns were identified. On July 7, 2016, Mr. Pfeifer had a telehealth appointment with Dr. Ross, the cardiologist with whom Dr. Person had consulted. Dr. Ross recommended a treadmill stress test which Dr. Person ordered. Before the stress test, Dr. Person saw Mr. Pfeifer and noted that he had missed 13 of his last 15 doses of medication. He addressed this issue with Mr. Pfeifer but Mr. Pfeifer refused to follow Dr. Person's advice. Id.

         Mr. Pfeifer completed a stress test at St. Vincent Regional Stress Lab on July 29, 2016. The results showed PVCs and were otherwise normal. Over the next few months, Mr. Pfeifer had telehealth appointments with Dr. Ross and his medication and dosage were adjusted. Id.

         Dr. Person continued to treat Mr. Pfeifer for high blood pressure. In the fall of 2016, Mr. Pfeifer complained of bumps on his head and hair loss which he attributed to his heart medication. Dr. Person prescribed antibiotics for the bumps and injections for the hair loss. A few months later, Dr. Person prescribed him medicated shampoo and ordered lab work. In early 2017, Dr. Person performed a cardiac exam on Mr. Pfeifer, finding only ...

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