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Eckes v. Riggs

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

June 19, 2019

AUSTIN ECKES, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Austin Eckes is an inmate who at all relevant times was incarcerated at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”). He brought this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Nurse Barbara Riggs, who he alleges denied him a splint for his broken finger and failed to adequately treat his stomach ulcers.

         Presently pending is Nurse Riggs' motion for summary judgment. Mr. Eckes has not responded, and the time to do so has passed. This leaves Nurse Riggs' motion unopposed. For the reasons explained below, Nurse Riggs' motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. Summary Judgment Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See 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). A dispute about a material fact is genuine only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (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. Barbera v. Pearson Education, Inc., 906 F.3d 621, 628 (7th Cir. 2018). The Court cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Johnson v. Advocate Health & Hospitals Corp., 892 F.3d 887, 893 (7th Cir. 2018).

         Because Mr. Eckes has failed to respond to Nurse Riggs' motion, he has conceded her version of the events. See McMahan v. Deutsche Bank AG, 892 F.3d 926, 929 n.2 (7th Cir. 2018) (“[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)); see also 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).

         II. Background

         The following factual background is drawn from the undisputed evidence submitted by Nurse Riggs. At all relevant times, Mr. Eckes was an inmate at Wabash Valley and Nurse Riggs employed there as a nurse. As a nurse at Wabash Valley, Nurse Riggs could assess patients and follow provider orders, such as administering medications. Dkt. No. 32-1 at 1. But she could not prescribe medications, diagnose patients, or dictate their care. Id.

         In early February 2018, Mr. Eckes broke his pinky finger playing basketball. Id. at 2-3. Dr. Byrd explained to Mr. Eckes that x-rays confirmed his finger was broken. Id. at 3. Dr. Byrd initially applied an ulnar gutter splint, but that caused Mr. Eckes pain, so Dr. Byrd removed it and applied a tongue blade splint. Id. This splint was to be worn until Mr. Eckes saw an outside specialist. Id. On two occasions in late February 2018 Mr. Eckes submitted a Request for Healthcare (“RFHC”) form requesting medical tape for his splint, and Nurse Riggs responded on both occasions by providing him medical tape. Id.

         Mr. Eckes saw an orthopedic specialist on March 2, 2018. Id. at 4. The orthopedic specialist provided Mr. Eckes with a “buddy strap” to replace his splint and instructed him to wear it except when showering or washing his hands. Id. The buddy strap, unlike the splint, kept the fourth and fifth fingers together. Id. The orthopedic specialist also recommended gentle range of motion exercises and not to hyperextend his finger beyond the normal range of motion. Id. The splint was thus not to be used any longer, as it hyperextended his finger. Id.

         Two days later, Mr. Eckes overdosed on Tylenol and Ibuprofen and was taken to the hospital via ambulance. Id. Testing at the hospital revealed that Mr. Eckes had three superficial, non-bleeding gastric ulcers. Id. Biopsies of the ulcers were normal. Id. Mr. Eckes returned to Wabash Valley on March 8, 2018. Id.

         Dr. Denning met with Mr. Eckes on March 13, 2018. Because of the ulcers, Dr. Denning recommended to Mr. Eckes that he avoid fatty, spicy, and acidic foods, as well as caffeine and peppermint. Id. at 5. However, Dr. Denning did not order Mr. Eckes to be placed on a special diet. Id. Mr. Eckes could not receive a special diet without an order from his medical provider, and Nurse Riggs did not have the authority to issue such an order. Id.

         On March 27, 2018, Mr. Eckes went to the hospital for an MRI on his finger. Id. When he returned to Wabash Valley that same day, he submitted a RFHC asking for the MRI results and whether he would need surgery. Id.; Dkt. No. 32-2 at 91. Nurse Riggs responded to the RFHC by informing Mr. Eckes that he was scheduled for a follow-up ...

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