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Gilman v. Corizon Medical Services

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

August 20, 2019

JAMES E. GILMAN, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff James Gilman, an inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights have been violated because he received inadequate medical care for his knee pain while incarcerated. The defendants have moved for summary judgment and Mr. Gilman has responded. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. Summary Judgment 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).

         II. Factual Background

         The following statement of facts has been evaluated pursuant to the standard set forth above. Some of the facts that follow are disputed. The Court notes these disputes, but whether noted or not, the facts stated are not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light most favorable to Mr. Gilman, “the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

         A. The Parties

         Since his incarceration, Mr. Gilman has experienced chronic osteoarthritis of his knees, hands, and feet. Dkt. 160-1, ¶ 7.

         During the times relevant to Mr. Gilman's complaint, Defendant Corizon, LLC was the company that contracted with the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) to provide medical care to Indiana prisoners. Dkt. 2.

         Defendant Dr. Samuel Byrd was a physician providing medical services at Wabash during all times relevant to the complaint. Dkt. 160-1, ¶ 3. As a physician, Dr. Byrd saw inmates as they were scheduled by nursing staff. Id. Dr. Byrd asserts that he did not set the patient schedule. Id. Dr. Byrd treated Mr. Gilman for his arthritis at all relevant times. Id., ¶ 4.

         Defendant Dr. Michael Mitcheff was the Regional Medical Director for Corizon, LLC from 2006 to July 4, 2014. Dkt. 160-2, ¶ 4. Defendant Dr. Brian Buller was the Associate Regional Medical Director for Corizon from May 4, 2015, to April 2016. Dkt. 160-3, ¶ 4. As Corizon Regional Medical Directors, Dr. Mitcheff and Dr. Buller's duties and responsibilities included reviewing consultation requests from providers at prisons to refer inmates for outside specialty appointments, including surgeries, diagnostic imaging, or consultations with specialists. Dkt. 160-2 ¶ 5; dkt. 160-3, ¶ 5. Dr. Mitcheff and Dr. Buller would review these requests and either communicate their agreement or suggest an alternative treatment plan. Id. If either Dr. Mitcheff or Dr. Buller suggested an alternative treatment plan, the provider at the prison had the final authority to proceed with the requested course of treatment or agree with the alternative treatment plans offered. Id. Almost every time that Dr. Mitcheff, Dr. Buller, or other Corizon executives submitted an alternative treatment plan, the provider at the prison followed their recommendation. See Dkt. 181-2, pp. 331-334, 335-37.

         Defendant Chelsey Pearison was a qualified medical assistant (“QMA”) at Wabash at all relevant times. Dkt. 160-4, ¶ 4. QMA Pearison cannot diagnose medical conditions or prescribe medications. Id., ¶ 5. Part of QMA Pearison's duties and responsibilities as a medical assistant included coordinating with the onsite medical provider, in this case Dr. Byrd, to schedule provider appointments. Id.

         Defendants Nurse Barbara Riggs, Nurse Amy Wright, and Nurse Kimberly Hobson were licensed and qualified nurses at Wabash during all relevant times. Dkt. 160-5, ¶ 4; dkt. 160-6, ¶ 4; dkt.160-7, ¶ 4. Nursing staff cannot diagnose medical conditions or order medical treatment for offenders or any other patients. Dkt. 160-5, ¶ 5; dkt. 160-6, ¶ 5; dkt. 160-7, ¶ 5. Nursing and assistant staff also cannot prescribe medications. Id. Nursing staff does not schedule provider appointments. Dkt. 160-5, ¶ 7; dkt. 160-6, ¶ 7; dkt. 160-7, ¶ 5.

         At Wabash, inmates fill out a Healthcare Request Form (“HCR”), which describes who the inmate needs to see and the medical need the inmate is having.[1] Dkt. 181-1, ¶ 6. The inmate places the HCR in a box in their housing unit. Id. A nurse is supposed to pick up HCRs daily, but the nurse sometimes skips pickups on the weekends. Id. The nurse reviews the HCR and either conducts a visit with the inmate or issues a written response. Id. During a visit, the nurse will determine if the inmate should see a provider/doctor. Id. In response to an HCR, nurses would tell Mr. Gilman that he was already scheduled to see a provider during a regularly scheduled chronic care visit - visits that are scheduled every six months. Id., ¶ 7.

         B. Gilman's History of Knee Arthritis

         Mr. Gilman has a history of arthritis in his knees, hands, and feet. Dkt. 160-1, ¶ 5. Mr. Gilman previously filed a lawsuit regarding arthritis in his knees. Gilman v. Correctional Medical Services, [2] et al., No. 2:07-cv-00161. The parties agree that the medical treatment that was at issue in that case is not at issue in this case. The parties further agree that Mr. Gilman's claims in this case are his claims that the defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs between June 2014 and June 2016. Dkt. 180, p. 4.

         Dating back to at least 2012, Mr. Gilman's medical records note that conservative measures, including prescription medications, had failed.[3] Dkt. 181-2, pp. 215-217 (discussing pain in both knees). Mr. Gilman was prescribed Mobic, a Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (“NSAID”) for his pain. Dkt. 160-9, p. 175. By July 5, 2013, Mr. Gilman had taken so many NSAIDs that Dr. Naveen Rajoli advised he should avoid using NSAIDs altogether “because of the long-term side effects.” Dkt. 181-2, pp. 242-245. In 2013, when Mr. Gilman had an orthopedic consult, Dr. Madsen, an orthopedic specialist, diagnosed him with “degenerative joint disease severe erosive bilateral, left worse than right.” Id., p. 167. During this consultation, Mr. Gilman states that Dr. Madsen told him that while both knees needed to be replaced, he had to choose one. Dkt. 181-1, ¶ 31. Mr. Gilman had a total replacement of his left knee on February 18, 2013. Dkt. 160-9, p. 173.

         C. Treatment of Mr. Gilman's Right Knee Arthritis from 2014-2016

         From June 2013 through July 2014, Mr. Gilman submitted various HCRs requesting Mobic refills for his arthritis. Dkt. 160-9, pp. 177, 194-195; Dkt. 160-10, pp. 11-12, 25. On June 11, 2014, Mr. Gilman saw Dr. Rajoli and reported right knee pain that had been ongoing since he arrived at the IDOC. Dkt. 160-10, pp. 13-16. A physical exam was normal and revealed no tenderness or swelling. Id. Mr. Gilman was wearing a knee brace. Id. Dr. Rajoli reviewed Mr. Gilman's history and saw that he had previously received a short course of Prednisone (an oral steroid for arthritis) with success. Id. Dr. Rajoli ordered Prednisone, cortisone injections, and x-rays. Id.

         On July 9, 2014, Mr. Gilman's x-ray revealed moderate to severe arthritis with some swelling and no acute injury. Id., p. 17. That same day, Mr. Gilman requested his Prednisone prescription be refilled and medical staff told him he had a prescription through September 2014. See id., pp. 18-24.

         On August 1, 2014, Mr. Gilman saw Dr. Neil Martin and was concerned because “he was promised a knee injection.” Dkt. 160-10, pp. 26-28. A physical exam revealed a stable right knee, although Mr. Gilman reported pain on movement. Id. Dr. Martin ordered a cortisone injection for Mr. Gilman's arthritis pain. Id. On August 8, 2014, Mr. Gilman received the cortisone injection. Id., pp. 29-31. On August 27, 2014, Dr. Martin charted that Mr. Gilman had some arthritic flare-ups in his right knee, but was otherwise asymptomatic. Id., pp. 32-33. Mr. Gilman's physical exams were normal and he was able to ambulate. Id. He was also active at recreation and performed physical activities without limitations. Id.

         On September 14, 2014, Mr. Gilman submitted an HCR asking to see a doctor for his arthritis pain. Dkt. 181-2, p. 278. Nurse Riggs referred him to the doctor. Id.

         On September 18, 2014, Nurse Riggs noted that Mr. Gilman's “condition was not responding to protocols.” Dkt. 181-1, ¶ 39; dkt. 181-2, p. 280.

         On September 24, 2014, Mr. Gilman saw Dr. Rajoli for his arthritis. Dkt. 160-10, pp. 34-36. Dr. Rajoli inquired into Mr. Gilman's daily living activities and functions. Id. The parties dispute whether Mr. Gilman told the provider that he could complete certain daily living activities. The evidence in the light most favorable to Mr. Gilman is that he did not tell Dr. Rajoli that he could climb stairs, cook, get into or out of the bathtub, or get in and out of a car. Dkt. 181-1 ¶ 38. Dr. Rajoli diagnosed him with mild right knee arthritis that occurred intermittently. Id. Mr. Gilman told Dr. Rajoli that his arthritis was relieved with medications, heat, and Prednisone. Id. Dr. Rajoli ordered Prednisone through January 2015. Id., pp. 37-44.

         On December 9, 2014, Mr. Gilman saw medical staff for his annual health assessment. Dkt. 160-10, pp. 44-45. Mr. Gilman did not report any concerns with his arthritis or any limitations in his daily living activities or ambulation. Id. He was classified as free of disability or limitations. Id. On December 15, 2014, Dr. Michael Aluker ordered nursing staff to lower his Prednisone prescription and dosage to wean him off the steroid. Id., pp. 47-48.

         On January 14, 2015, Mr. Gilman requested a refill of his Prednisone. Dkt. 160-10, p. 49. This was the first time defendant Dr. Byrd treated Mr. Gilman. Dkt. 160-1, ¶ 10. Prednisone is a corticosteroid aimed at reducing inflammation in the joints. Id. Since Mr. Gilman reported relief with Prednisone, Dr. Byrd refilled his prescription through July 15, 2015. Dkt. 160-10, pp. 50-59.

         On February 4, 2015, Dr. Byrd examined Mr. Gilman for his right knee arthritis. Id., pp. 60-63. Mr. Gilman reported that he had been getting cortisone injections for some time until the staff physicians changed. Id. Mr. Gilman stated that no one else would give him injections. Id. He reported that anti-inflammatory medications did not provide him with relief. Id. He also wore a knee brace and reported modest relief from the brace. Id. Mr. Gilman reported swelling if “I do much.” Id. He requested a right knee cortisone injection. Id. Dr. Byrd's physical exam was normal and there was no swelling or weakness in Mr. Gilman's right knee, although Mr. Gilman did report pain. Id. Dr. Byrd gave Mr. Gilman a cortisone injection and ordered him to return for a follow up in three months. Id. Dr. Byrd also ordered replacement bilateral knee braces. Id. On February 26, 2015, Mr. Gilman received his knee braces. Id., pp. 64-66.

         On April 8, 2015, Mr. Gilman submitted an HCR requesting a cortisone injection for his right knee and reporting that he believed he was on a ninety-day cycle for his injections. Dkt. 160- 10, p. 67. QMA Pearison responded that Mr. Gilman was scheduled to see a provider in the Chronic Care Clinic. Id. On April 15, 2015, Dr. Byrd examined Mr. Gilman in the Chronic Care Clinic for his right knee arthritis. Id., pp. 68-72. Mr. Gilman told Dr. Byrd that the last injection provided him with relief for two months and requested another injection. Id. Mr. Gilman also complained of left knee pain and was concerned about damaged hardware from his prior surgery. Id. Dr. Byrd ordered a cortisone injection in Mr. Gilman's right knee and a left knee x-ray. Id. On April 24, 2015, Mr. Gilman received a cortisone injection. Id., pp. 73-75.

         On April 27, 2015, Dr. Byrd examined Mr. Gilman in Chronic Care Clinic and Mr. Gilman reported that the cortisone injection “took.” Id., pp. 76-79. Dr. Byrd ordered labs to monitor Mr. Gilman's medical condition since he had a long-standing Prednisone prescription for arthritis. Id.

         On June 29, 2015, Mr. Gilman filed an HCR requesting another right knee injection. Id., p. 80. Nurse Riggs responded that Mr. Gilman was scheduled for a Chronic Care Clinic visit. Id. On July 8, 2015, Dr. Byrd saw Mr. Gilman in Chronic Care for his right knee arthritis pain. Id., pp. 81-95. Mr. Gilman's left-knee x-rays revealed arthritis and intact hardware. Id. Dr. Byrd ordered a cortisone injection, prescribed the pain medication Imipramine through January 12, 2016, and prescribed Prednisone through January 4, 2016. Id. On July 17, 2015, Dr. Byrd administered a right knee cortisone injection. Id., pp. 96-97.

         On September 8, 2015, Mr. Gilman submitted an HCR reporting that his cortisone injection had worn off. Id., p. 98; Dkt. 160-4, ¶ 7. QMA Pearison reviewed Mr. Gilman's records and confirmed that his last cortisone injection was in July 2015. Id. She scheduled an appointment for Mr. Gilman to see a provider and responded to the HCR by notifying him that he was scheduled for a visit with a provider. Dkt. 160-10, p. 98.

         On October 2, 2015, Dr. Byrd saw Mr. Gilman in a Chronic Care Clinic visit and Mr. Gilman requested another cortisone injection. Dkt. 160-1, ¶ 17; dkt. 160-10, pp. 99-103. Mr. Gilman also reported that the orthopedic physician who completed his left knee total replacement surgery (Dr. Madsen) told him he would require a right knee total replacement as well. Id. Dr. Byrd noted that Mr. Gilman did not experience relief with NSAIDs. Dkt. 160-10, p. 99. Mr. Gilman did not have any acute injury or ligament damage, although he did report pain on movement which is not uncommon in patients with arthritis. Id. Dr. Byrd ordered a cortisone injection “when possible” and a follow-up x-ray ...

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