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Moberly v. Wexford Medical

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

October 22, 2018

WEXFORD MEDICAL, et al., Defendants.



         Donald Ray Moberly, a prisoner without a lawyer, proceeds on an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference against Dr. Liaw and Dr. Eichmann for discontinuing his medication in September 2017 at the Westville Correctional Facility. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they discontinued his medication based on information that Moberly had abused his medication and in accordance with their medical judgment.

         The defendants also provided Moberly with the summary judgment notice required by N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1 and a copy of both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56-1. ECF 29. The notice informed Moberly of the consequences of forgoing a response. It advised that, unless he disputed the facts presented by the defendants, the court could accept those facts as true. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). It further advised that a lack of response could result in the dismissal of his case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Nevertheless, Moberly did not file a response.


         Dr. Barbara Eichmann works as a psychiatrist at the Westville Correctional Facility. ECF 30-1. Dr. Andrew Liaw worked as a physician at the Westville Correctional Facility. ECF 30-2. In support of the motion for summary judgment, the defendants submitted affidavits and medical records, which revealed the following. On June 20, 2017, Dr. Eichmann examined Moberly, who was diagnosed with mood disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. ECF 26-4 at 3. She noted that he was placed in restricted housing due to a positive test for methamphetamine use. Id. At Moberly's request, Dr. Eichmann prescribed Effexor, a psychotropic medication, at 75 mg per day but, based on his history of substance abuse, ordered that he receive the medication crushed and floated in a cup of water. Id.; ECF 26-1 at 2-3.

         On July 12, 2017, Moberly asked to increase his dosage of Effexor, and Dr. Eichmann increased the dosage to 75 mg twice per day. ECF 26-4 at 10-14. On July 13, Dr. Liaw renewed Moberly's order for Neurontin, which was prescribed to alleviate the pain from a chronic back condition. Id. at 16. On August 15, Moberly asked to double his dosage of Effexor. Id. at 30. On September 5, Dr. Eichmann increased the morning dosage to 150 mg. Id. at 35-38.

         On September 13, 2017, a correctional officer asked a nurse if Moberly's medication included an orange powder. Id. at 40. The nurse confirmed that he was prescribed Effexor, which becomes an orange powder when crushed. Id. On September 14, Dr. Eichmann became aware of reports that Moberly had attempted to traffick Effexor. Id. at 42-43; ECF 26-1 at 3-4. Dr. Eichmann recalled that Moberly had specifically requested that he not be prescribed the extended release version of Effexor, which would have been less attractive to a drug-seeking individual. ECF 26-1 at 4. She also considered that she had not observed or seen documentation of significant mental health symptoms since Moberly's placement in restricted housing. Id. at 3. As a result, she discontinued the Effexor prescription. Id.

         On September 22, 2017, Dr. Liaw became aware of the reports that Moberly was trafficking Effexor and was concerned that he might also traffick Neurontin, which is among the most commonly trafficked drugs in the correctional system. ECF 26-2 at 2. Additionally, Moberly's lab work revealed inconsistent levels of Neurontin, which suggested that he was not taking Neurontin as prescribed. Id. As a result, Dr. Liaw discontinued the Neurontin prescription. ECF 26-4 at 48-49. On September 26, a nurse described Moberly as aggressive and irate due to the discontinuation of his medication and indicated that he yelled, “I didn't hoard them three times. I only did it twice, and the one time was when that guy gave me meth.” Id. at 51.

         On October 13, 2017, Dr. Liaw examined Moberly during a chronic care appointment. Moberly complained of back pain and asked for Neurontin, but Dr. Liaw declined based on his previous concerns. Id. at 56-59. Dr. Liaw noted that Moberly had a potentially legitimate source of pain but observed that Moberly was able to walk and get on and off the examination table with no assistance and without difficulty. ECF 26-2 at 3-4. Dr. Liaw offered acetaminophen to alleviate pain, but Moberly declined. Id. On November 28, Moberly asked for Effexor, but Dr. Eichmann observed no significant mental health symptoms and refused. ECF 26-4 at 71-73. She described him as irate and indicated that she would not see him again if he did not show improvement in his behavior and treatment compliance during psychotherapy sessions. Id. On January 16, Moberly refused a chronic care appointment with Dr. Liaw. ECF 26-2 at 4. In May 2018, Moberly transferred to the New Castle Correctional Facility, and his prescriptions for Neurontin and Effexor remain discontinued. ECF 17, ECF 56-3 at 46.

         Though Moberly did not respond to the motion for summary judgment, in his complaint and deposition testimony, he suggests that his record of drug trafficking is misleading and that the defendants should have not relied on it. For example, in his complaint, Moberly alleges that, on September 22, 2017, he was not attempting to traffick drugs. ECF 1 at 2. Instead, he immediately returned an envelope to the correctional officer distributing mail because it was addressed to another inmate and that he had no prior knowledge of its contents. Id. He alleges that he pled guilty to disciplinary charges not because he had attempted to traffick Effexor but to avoid a harsher sentence. Id. at 3. At his deposition, he testified that he tested positive for methamphetamine because another inmate put it in his food without his knowledge. ECF 56-3 at 15-16. He explained that his lab work reflected fluctuating levels of Neurontin because medical staff did not consistently provide his medication. Id. at 23. He also explained that the nurse misheard him when she recorded his statement that he had hoarded his medication twice. Id. at 25-26.


         Summary judgment must be granted when “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 genuine dispute of material fact exists when “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). Not every dispute between the parties makes summary judgment inappropriate; “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id. In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the deciding court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). “However, our favor toward the nonmoving party does not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture.” Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Harper v. C.R. Eng., Inc., 687 F.3d 297, 306 (7th Cir. 2012)).


         Moberly alleges that Dr. Eichmann and Dr. Liaw acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs by discontinuing his medication. The defendants respond that they discontinued his medication based on information that Moberly had abused his medication and in accordance with their medical judgment. Under the Eighth Amendment, inmates are entitled to adequate medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). To establish liability under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must show: (1) his medical need was objectively serious; and (2) the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to his medical need. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994.) A medical need is “serious” if it is one that a physician has diagnosed as mandating treatment, or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention, and ...

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