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Howard v. James

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

February 25, 2019

LANCE HOWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
KATHERINE JAMES, LORETTA L-P-N, Defendants.

          ENTRY GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Senior Judge

          Plaintiff Lance Howard, an Indiana State prisoner, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants Katherine James (“RN James”) and Loretta White (“NP White”) were deliberately indifferent to an injury he sustained to his right index finger in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amended complaint alleges:

[O]n June 12, 2017, Nurse Katherine James, RN, and Nurse Loretta, LPN, were allegedly deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they failed to send him to an outside emergency room for treatment of his hand injuries and associated pain. In addition, Nurse James wrapped up Mr. Howard's finger before custody staff could take pictures and falsified Mr. Howard's medical records to reflect that he was ordered a higher dose of medication.

Dkt. 10 at p. 2 (screening order) and dkt. 7 (amended complaint).

         Defendants seek resolution of this action through summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, RN James and NP White are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on the claims alleged in the amended complaint. The motion for summary judgment, dkt. 79, is granted.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant's favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011). “The applicable substantive law will dictate which facts are material.” National Soffit & Escutcheons, Inc., v. Superior Systems, Inc., 98 F.3d 262, 265 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

         II. Undisputed Facts

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Mr. Howard was incarcerated in the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) and housed at the Reception Diagnostic Center (“RDC”). On June 12, 2017, Mr. Howard sustained an injury to his right index finger when his hand was caught in his cell door upon opening.

         Defendant NP White is an advanced practice nurse (“APN”) licensed in the state of Indiana. An APN is also referred to as a nurse practitioner (“NP”). A nurse practitioner is considered a provider and can diagnose patients, prescribe medications, and make treatment plans for patients just like a physician. At all times relevant to Mr. Howard's amended complaint, NP White was employed at the RDC as a nurse practitioner by Wexford of Indiana, LLC, a private company that contracts with IDOC to provide medical services to Indiana prisoners.

         RN James is a registered nurse (“RN”) licensed in the state of Indiana. At all times relevant to Mr. Howard's amended complaint, RN James was employed at the RDC as a registered nurse by Wexford of Indiana, LLC. As a registered nurse, RN James provides patient care, which includes, but is not limited to, assessing patients, obtaining vital signs, and following provider (i.e., physician, physician's assistant, or nurse practitioner) orders, such as administering and dispensing medications. RN James is able to enter a provider's orders into a patient's Electronic Medical Record (“EMR”). As a registered nurse, RN James does not prescribe medications, diagnose patients, develop a treatment plan for patients, or dictate a patients' medical care-only a provider can do that.

         On June 12, 2017, NP White and RN James were working at the RDC when Mr. Howard came to the medical unit complaining of pain to his right index finger due to an injury. Upon visual inspection, the finger nail of the right index finger was pulled out and there was active bleeding.

         RN James cleaned the wound and applied pressure to control the bleeding.

         NP White performed a physical examination of Mr. Howard's right index finger and determined that stitches were not required and there was no apparent threat of loss of life or limb. Based on her professional training and experience as a nurse practitioner, NP White determined that the injury did not require consultation with a physician or transfer to a hospital emergency department. The wound was simple and could be cleaned and ...


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