United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
WILLIE F. JEFFERSON, JR., Plaintiff,
MARK R. SEVIER, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
case, plaintiff Willie F. Jefferson alleges that defendants
Warden Mark R. Sevier, Dr. Andrew Liaw, and Corizon, LLC were
deliberately indifferent to medical needs arising from Mr.
Jefferson's sickle cell anemia while he was a prisoner at
Westville Correctional Center. He alleges for similar reasons
that the defendants violated his rights under the Americans
with Disabilities Act. The defendants each moved for summary
judgment, and Mr. Jefferson has informed the Court that he
does not intend to respond, so this matter is now ripe for
ruling. For the following reasons, the Court grants the
motions for summary judgment.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), if a party
“fails to properly address another party's
assertion of fact” in responding to a motion for
summary judgment, the court may “consider the fact
undisputed for the purposes of the motion.” Here, Mr.
Jefferson has not responded to the motions for summary
judgment, so the Court accepts the following facts submitted
by the defendants as undisputed.
Jefferson suffers from sickle cell disease, among other
conditions. Sickle cell causes chronic pain, and can also
cause acute episodes of pain known as pain crises. To
facilitate the rapid administration of pain medication during
such crises, Mr. Jefferson had a “Port-a-Cath”
chest port implanted before his time in prison.
August 18, 2015, Mr. Jefferson was sentenced to three years
in prison for aggravated battery. That month, he entered the
custody of the Indiana Department of Correction, which had
contracted with Corizon, Inc. to provide medical care to its
prisoners. On September 9, Mr. Jefferson arrived at Westville
Correctional Center, where Mr. Sevier served as warden and
Dr. Liaw worked as Corizon's chief medical officer. Upon
Mr. Jefferson's arrival, Corizon placed him in its
Chronic Care Clinic program, which ensured he saw either a
physician or nurse practitioner at least every ninety days
for his chronic conditions. He was also permitted to submit
requests for healthcare as needed. Between these policies, he
received a medical evaluation at a minimum of every month,
and sometimes much more frequently. In fact, Mr. Jefferson
spent about eight of his fifteenth months of incarceration in
the prison infirmary, which operates like the general medical
ward of a hospital and offered him around the clock nursing
numerous medical assessments went far beyond taking his
temperature. Corizon personnel prescribed him pain
medication, hydrea, and folic acid to treat and control the
symptoms of sickle cell, monitoring their effectiveness and
changing pain management drugs when Mr. Jefferson requested.
They sent Mr. Jefferson for urinalysis and bloodwork dozens
of times when he complained of pain to monitor his sickle
cell disease. In November 2015, April, July, and August 2016,
they sent him for chest x-rays and EKGs when he complained of
chest and abdominal pain. They sent him to St. Anthony
Hospital from July 12 to 19, 2016, where he was diagnosed
with and treated for salmonella sepsis originating in his
gastrointestinal tract. On March 3, 2016, a doctor even
examined him for acne complaints.
often tenuous objective evidence of medical need, the medical
defendants treated Mr. Jefferson vigorously in response to
his complaints and requests for assistance. Medical staff
admitted Mr. Jefferson to the infirmary for close monitoring
and evaluation whenever he alleged a pain crisis, even when
blood and urine tests performed by outside laboratories
showed no sign of one. They treated him even when his
behavior did not correspond with his reported discomfort. On
August 10, 2016, for example, he rated his pain 10/10 and
claimed it was preventing him from walking to the cafeteria,
yet he had walked to the cafeteria earlier that day, walked
to the infirmary, and was observed walking around and
socializing throughout. Nevertheless, Dr. Liaw issued him a
wheelchair and admitted him for his fourth lengthy infirmary
stay the next day, where he would stay for the remainder of
his release in December 2016, Mr. Jefferson retained counsel
and filed this suit against Mr. Sevier, Dr. Liaw, and
Corizon, asserting that they violated his rights under the
Eighth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He
later agreed to dismiss his ADA claim against Dr. Liaw and
Corizon, but the rest of his claims remain pending. During
discovery, the defendants had Mr. Jefferson's medical
records reviewed by Dr. Thomas Waits, a hematologist. Dr.
Waits opined that the treatment Mr. Jefferson received
“was very good, appropriate and within the community
standard of care.” [DE 53-6]. He opined, for example,
that Mr. Jefferson was given appropriate medications, that he
was given proper attention during times of possible crises,
and that he received appropriate treatment when he
experienced complications. In sum, Dr. Waits opined that he
“saw no breaches in the standard of care during any
portions of Mr. Jefferson's treatment.”
Id. Each of the defendants moved for summary
judgment following the close of discovery. By counsel, Mr.
Jefferson filed a notice stating that he did not intend to
file responses to those motions.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
must grant summary judgment if 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 “material” fact is one
identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of
the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A “genuine issue” exists with
respect to any material fact when “the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id. Where a factual record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial, and summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, courts must construe all facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all
reasonable and justifiable inferences in that party's
favor. Jackson v. Kotter, 541 F.3d 688, 697 (7th
Cir. 2008); King v. Preferred Tech. Grp., 166 F.3d
887, 890 (7th Cir. 1999). However, the non-moving party
cannot simply rest on the allegations contained in its
pleadings but must present evidence sufficient to show the
existence of each element of its case on which it will bear
the burden at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Robin v. Espo Eng'g
Corp., 200 F.3d 1081, 1088 (7th Cir. 2000).
Jefferson asserts claims against all three defendants under
the Eighth Amendment, and against Mr. Sevier under the
Americans with Disabilities Act. The Court begins with the
claims under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and
unusual punishment through deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs. To survive summary judgment on this claim,
there must be evidence from which a reasonable juror could
conclude that the defendants “knew about but
consciously disregarded a serious medical condition.”
Fitzgerald v. Greer, 324 Fed.Appx. 510, 514 (7th
Cir. 2009). Deliberate indifference is a high standard. Even
medical malpractice and incompetence do not state a claim of
deliberate indifference. Walker v. Peters, 233 F.3d
494 (7th Cir. 2000). “Under the Eighth Amendment, [a
prisoner] is not entitled to demand specific care. She is not
entitled to the best care possible.” Forbes v.
Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 267 (7th Cir.1997). Moreover, a
“disagreement with medical professionals [does not]
state a cognizable Eighth Amendment Claim under the
deliberate indifference standard of Estelle v.
Gamble [429 U.S. 97 (1976)].” Ciarpaglini v.
Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 331 (7th Cir. 2003).
viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Mr.
Jefferson, no reasonable juror could conclude that Mr.
Sevier, Dr. Liaw, or Corizon were deliberately indifferent to
Mr. Jefferson's medical condition. The affidavit of
hematologist Dr. Thomas Waits contains the uncontested
opinion that the “medical care Mr. Jefferson received
in the Indiana Department of Corrections was very good,
appropriate and within the community standard of care.”
[DE 53-6 at 2]. His sickle cell treatment included
appropriate prescriptions to treat sickle cell and its
symptoms, timely emergency responses to the alleged onsets of
crises, and admission to the infirmary for closer care when a
crisis was suspected. [DE ...