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Barnett v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

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

December 19, 2019

WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Cameus Barnett, an inmate at Pendleton Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”), brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. Mr. Barnett also asserts a breach of contract claim and an Indiana tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Mr. Barnett alleges that the defendants, Dr. Talbot and Wexford of Indiana, LLC (“Wexford”), delayed medical treatment related to a back injury Mr. Barnett sustained on April 21, 2017.

         The defendants seek resolution of the claims alleged against them through summary judgment. They argue that Mr. Barnett's constitutional rights were not violated, that Mr. Barnett is not a third-party beneficiary to the contract between Wexford and the Indiana Department of Correction and that he has not sustained damages as a result of the alleged breach of that contract, and that Dr. Talbot is not liable under Indiana tort law because he did not act intentionally. Mr. Barnett has not responded to the motion for summary judgment, and the time for doing so has passed. For the reasons explained below, the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Gekas v. Vasilades, 814 F.3d 890, 896 (7th Cir. 2016). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009).

         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 that draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Skiba v. Ill. 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 every inch of the record” for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them. Grant v. Trustees of Ind. Univ., 870 F.3d 562, 573-74 (7th Cir. 2017).

         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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). 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). Not every factual dispute between the parties will prevent summary judgment, and the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         As noted above, Mr. Barnett has not responded to the motion for summary judgment, and the deadline for doing so has passed. The consequence is that Mr. Barnett has conceded the defendants' statement of undisputed facts. See Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”); see also S.D. Ind. Local Rule 56-1(b) (“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.”). Mr. Barnett's failure to respond, while deemed an admission of the defendants' statement of facts, nevertheless does not alter the summary judgment standard. This does not alter the standard for assessing a Rule 56 motion, but it does reduce “the pool” of facts from which inferences relative to the motion may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997).

         Finally, although pro se filings are construed liberally, pro se litigants such as Mr. Barnett are not exempt from procedural rules. See Pearle Vision, Inc. v. Romm, 541 F.3d 751, 758 (7th Cir. 2008) (noting that “pro se litigants are not excused from compliance with procedural rules”); Members v. Paige, 140 F.3d 699, 702 (7th Cir. 1998) (stating that procedural rules “apply to uncounseled litigants and must be enforced”).

         II. Statement of Undisputed Facts

         The following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the standards set forth above. That is, this statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Mr. Barnett, despite his failure to respond, as the non-moving party to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         On April 21, 2017, Mr. Barnett injured himself while playing basketball. Dkt. 45-2 at 28:17-25. While walking to a kiosk machine, he felt tightening in his back and fell to the ground after his legs buckled. Dkt. 45-3 at 187.

         Mr. Barnett was taken to the health care unit and was evaluated by Nurse Practitioner Wambui Murage. Id. Nurse Practitioner Murage ordered that Mr. Barnett immediately receive a Toradol injection, as well as a muscle relaxer. Id. She re-examined Mr. Barnett an hour later, and he reported that his pain had lessened, but he was still experiencing numbness and tingling. Id. Nurse Practitioner Murage ordered an x-ray, which revealed abdominal gas and stool, but no other abnormality. She gave Mr. Barnett a prescription for a muscle relaxer and an order for Toradol injections as needed. Id. at 187-89. Mr. Barnett received a second Toradol injection during the evening of April 21, 2017. Id. at 181-82.

         Nurse Practitioner Murage had a follow-up visit with Mr. Barnett on April 24, 2017. Dkt. 45-3 at 177-78. Although his symptoms had improved, Mr. Barnett reported a sudden onset of back pain. Nurse Practitioner Murage provided a medical lay-in for two weeks, continued the order for a muscle relaxer, and prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication. Id.

         Mr. Barnett had another appointment with Nurse Practitioner Murage on May 15, 2017. Dkt. 45-3 at 172-74. He stated that his symptoms had improved, but persisted. Mr. Barnett asked that the prescription for the muscle relaxer be extended, so Nurse Practitioner Murage ordered two more weeks of it. Id. When Mr. Barnett returned to the health care unit on May 30, 2017, again complaining of back pain, an order was entered for a practitioner evaluation. Dkt. 45-3 at 168-69.

         Dr. Talbot evaluated Mr. Barnett for the first time on May 31, 2017. Dkt. 45-3 at 165-67. At this visit, Dr. Talbot evaluated Mr. Barnett's active and passive range of motion in his hips and legs and reviewed a prior x-ray of Mr. Barnett's lumbar spine. Id. After finding no significant abnormalities, Dr. Talbot gave Mr. Barnett a Toradol injection, continued the order for a muscle relaxer, and provided an exercise plan. Id.

         On July 6, 2017, Mr. Barnett saw Nurse Practitioner Murage and reported persistent numbness in his left leg and periodic throbbing in his lower back. He also stated that the muscle relaxers no longer provided relief. Dkt. 45-3 at 159-61. Nurse Practitioner Murage prescribed Prednisone and submitted a request for an MRI of Mr. Barnett's lumbar spine. Id. at 160. After a collegial discussion, it was decided that Mr. Barnett would be referred for physical therapy before receiving an MRI. Dkt. 45-3 at 154-55.

         Nurse Murage informed Mr. Barnett of the treatment plan for physical therapy on July 26, 2017. Dkt. 45-3 at 148-50. In light of his complaints of significant discomfort, Nurse Practitioner Murage prescribed Tramadol for pain. Id. at 150.

         Mr. Barnett was evaluated by a physical therapist on July 27, 2017. Dkt. 45-3 at 144. The physical therapist attempted a number of exercises with Mr. Barnett, but he could not tolerate any of them. Id. Consequently, the physical therapist determined that Mr. Barnett could not tolerate physical therapy and recommended that he receive an MRI. Id.

         Mr. Barnett met with Dr. Talbot on August 8, 2017, for a follow-up appointment. Dkt. 45-3 at 140-41. Dr. Talbot noted that Mr. Barnett was approved for an MRI and, after evaluating Mr. Barnett, recommended that the MRI include Mr. Barnett's left hip. Id. at 140. He was ...

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