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Spears v. Wexford Health

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

March 19, 2019

WEXFORD HEALTH, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Robert Spears has been confined within the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) since 2016. This action concerns the level of medical care Mr. Spears received while he was incarcerated at Pendleton Correctional Facility (Pendleton). Mr. Spears alleges that doctors he met with prior to his transfer to Pendleton, but while still incarcerated within IDOC, recommended that Mr. Spears receive an injection in his fifth lumbar nerve to relieve pain he had in his back.

         Defendant Dr. Charles Howe is a licensed physician who specializes in anesthesiology and pain management. Dr. Howe treated Mr. Spears at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital while Mr. Spears was held at Pendleton. Mr. Spears's complaint asserts a claim against Dr. Howe under the Eighth Amendment.[1]

         This civil rights action is before the Court for resolution of Dr. Howe's motion for summary judgment, dkt. 78. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is granted.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “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 genuine issue of material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Brown v. Advocate S. Suburban Hosp., 700 F.3d 1101, 1104 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         The court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941-42 (7th Cir. 2016). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome-determinative. Montgomery v. American Airlines Inc., 626 F.3d 382, 389 (7th Cir. 2010). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Miller v. Gonzalez, 761 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2014). The court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to “scour the record” for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them. Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University, 870 F.3d 562, 569, 572 (7th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation omitted). “Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party.” Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

         II. Facts

         Robert Spears is currently incarcerated at Pendleton. Dkt. 1 at 1. Prior to arriving at Pendleton, Mr. Spears was incarcerated at Putnamville Correctional Facility (Putnamville). Dkt. 1 at 2. In April 2017, while at Putnamville, Dr. William Spanenberg recommended that Mr. Spears undergo a selective nerve root injection (SNRI) on his second and fifth lumbar nerve to address Mr. Spears's chronic back pain. Dkt. 86-1 at 9-11.[2]

         Two months later, in June 2017, while still at Putnamville, Mr. Spears received medical care from Dr. Madsen regarding his back pain. Id.; dkt. 86-1 at 3. Dr. Madsen referred Mr. Spears to Dr. Ballestaros for an SNRI. Dkt. 86-1 at 3; see also dkt. 1 at 2. Dr. Madsen opined that the pain may be coming from Mr. Spears's fourth or fifth lumbar nerve or his first sacral nerve. Dkt. 86-1 at 3; see also dkt. 1 at 2.

         While Mr. Spears was waiting for this procedure to occur, he was transferred to Pendleton. Dkt. 1 at 2. On November 1, 2017, Mr. Spears had a medical appointment with Dr. Charles Howe at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital. Dkt. 1 at 2; dkt. 80-1 at ¶3. Dr. Howe was to perform an SNRI to treat Mr. Spears's back pain. Dkt. 80-1 at ¶3. Although Mr. Spears thought the procedure should target the fifth lumbar nerve, dkt. 1 at 2, Dr. Howe concluded that Mr. Spears's pain likely originated from the fourth lumbar nerve. Dkt. 80-1 at ¶¶4-5. Dr. Howe performed the SNRI on the fourth lumbar nerve in Mr. Spears's back. Dkt. 1 at 2; dkt. 80-1 at ¶6.

         The parties disagree as to the result of the SNRI. Mr. Spears claims that he told Dr. Howe that he was still in pain after the procedure and that Dr. Howe stated it would take three to seven days for the injection to take effect. Dkt. 1 at 2. Dr. Howe claims that Mr. Spears “reported complete pain relief immediately following the procedure.” Dkt. 80-1 at ¶6; see also ...

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