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Parker v. Matchett

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

April 4, 2018

MATCHETT Physical Therapist, Defendant.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         This action was initiated on December 15, 2017, when the Court ordered that Plaintiff Terry Alton Parker's claim against physical therapist Ashley Matchett be severed from claims proceeding in a different lawsuit. The action is now before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) and for resolution of pending motions.

         I. Screening of Complaint

         Because Mr. Parker is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen his complaint before service on the defendant.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,

[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se complaints such as that filed by Mr. Parker are construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).

         A. The Complaint

         As directed by the Court's entry of December 15, 2017, this action consists of a single claim. Under the theory recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), Mr. Parker alleges that Physical Therapist Matchett failed to treat a serious medical condition in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, the complaint asserts that Mr. Parker suffered from a serious injury to his foot when he arrived at the Federal Prison Camp in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2016 and that Physical Therapist Matchett failed to treat the condition.

         In support of the complaint, Mr. Parker attached a medical record showing that he met with Physical Therapist on April 13, 2017. See Dkt. No. 2-1 at 92-93. This record describes “distinct weakness and dysfunction” in Mr. Parker's right foot and suggests that Mr. Parker should meet with an orthopedist to determine a proper course of treatment. It is unclear, however, whether Physical Therapist Matchett actually took steps to arrange for Mr. Parker to be examined by an orthopedist or provided any treatment beyond giving Mr. Parker two “ace wraps.” Id.

         B. The Eighth Amendment

         Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment, prison officials have a duty to provide humane conditions of confinement, meaning they must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates and ensure that they receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). To prevail on an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference medical claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate two elements: (1) he suffered from an objectively serious medical condition; and (2) the defendant knew about the plaintiff's condition and the substantial risk of harm it posed, but disregarded that risk. Id. at 837; Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. County of Madison, Ill., 746 F.3d 766, 775 (7th Cir. 2014).

         “[C]onduct is ‘deliberately indifferent' when the official has acted in an intentional or criminally reckless manner, i.e., “the defendant must have known that the plaintiff ‘was at serious risk of being harmed [and] decided not to do anything to prevent that harm from occurring even though he could have easily done so.'” Board v. Freeman, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Armstrong v. Squadrito, 152 F.3d 564, 577 (7th Cir. 1998)). “To infer deliberate indifference on the basis of a physician's treatment decision, the decision must be so far afield of accepted professional standards as to raise the inference that it was not actually based on a medical judgment.” Norfleet v. Webster, 439 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2006). See also Plummer v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 609 Fed.Appx. 861, 2015 WL 4461297, *2 (7th Cir. 2015) (holding that defendant doctors were not deliberately indifferent because there was “no evidence suggesting that the defendants failed to exercise medical judgment or responded inappropriately to [the plaintiff's] ailments”). In addition, the Seventh Circuit has explained that “[a] medical professional is entitled to deference in treatment decisions unless no minimally competent professional would have [recommended the same] under those circumstances.” Pyles v. Fahim, 771 F.3d 403, 409 (7th Cir. 2014). “Disagreement between a prisoner and his doctor, or even between two medical professionals, about the proper course of treatment generally is insufficient, by itself, to establish an Eighth Amendment violation.” Id.

         C. ...

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