United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
currently housed at Coffee Correctional Facility
(“CCF”) in Nicholls, Georgia, filed a cause of
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) For the
reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND the
Court DISMISS Plaintiff's claims for
deliberate indifference to medical needs as to Defendants
Augustin and Chaney's failure to release Plaintiff's
medical records and DISMISS Defendants Hall,
Andrews, Preston, Blaine, Bages, Stewart, and Stone in their
entirety. Additionally, the Court should
DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma
pauperis as to his claims against Defendants Hall,
Andrews, Preston, Blaine, Bages, Stewart, and Stone. However,
Plaintiff's allegations arguably state colorable claims
for relief against Defendants Augustin, Chaney, and Bell.
Accordingly, the Court DIRECTS the United
States Marshal to serve these Defendants with a copy of
Plaintiff's Complaint, (doc. 1), and this Order.
February 6, 2017, Plaintiff injured his leg after a head-on
collision with another inmate. (Id. at p. 6.)
Immediately following the incident, Plaintiff was taken to
CCF's medical unit and examined by Defendant Chaney.
(Id. at p. 7.) Defendant Chaney notified the Douglas
County ER, and Plaintiff was transported there for treatment.
(Id.) Following an x-ray examination, an ER doctor
diagnosed Plaintiff with a broken knee, provided an
immobility brace, and prescribed “an MRI immediately to
assess further damage . . . as well as to have a consultation
with an orthopedic surgeon - both were noted as being
critical and needed to be done immediately.”
(Id. at pp. 7-8.) Plaintiff did not immediately
receive this MRI but was taken to see Dr. Barber, an
orthopedic surgeon, on February 17, 2017. (Id. at p.
12.) Dr. Barber could not provide any further treatment
without MRI results and reiterated the necessity of an
immediate MRI. Plaintiff did not receive an MRI until March
6, 2017. (Id. at p. 16.)
after receiving his MRI, Plaintiff was transferred to the
Williamson County Sheriff's Department in Franklin,
Tennessee, to “face outstanding charges in the state of
Tennessee.” (Id. at p. 16.) However, Plaintiff
states that he was sent there three to four weeks earlier
than scheduled. (Id.) While there, Williamson County
Jail personnel attempted to retrieve Plaintiff's medical
files but were unable to do so. (Id. at p. 17.) On
April 19, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred back to CCF.
(Id. at p. 18.)
in April 2017, Dr. Barber advised Plaintiff that he could no
longer perform surgery on Plaintiff's leg because the
delay had caused Plaintiff's bones to set. (Id.
at p. 19.) On April 26, 2017, Plaintiff saw Dr. Gaines, an
orthopedic surgeon specializing in re-break surgeries.
(Id. at pp. 19-20.) Dr. Gaines advised Plaintiff
that he would have to do six weeks of physical therapy before
surgery because his knee had set incorrectly from the delay
and lack of treatment. (Id. at p. 20.) Plaintiff
alleges that, despite this directive, Plaintiff has not had
any type of physical therapy. (Id.)
further alleges that during the entirety of this three-month
period, CCF officials and medical staff failed to provide
appropriate care for his injury. In particular, Plaintiff
claims that Defendants failed to provide proper treatment,
even after it had been prescribed by outside doctors,
including allowing him to use a wheelchair, providing
prescribed pain medication, and entering non-standing
profiles. (Id. at pp. 15-16.)
seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and an
injunction to “ensure that the Defendant(s) as well as
the facility . . . [will not] attempt any type of
retaliation against Plaintiff . . . .” (Id. at
seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the
Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the
prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that
includes a statement of all of his assets and shows an
inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement
of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled
to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court
must dismiss the action if it is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a
complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must
dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in
forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions
for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading
that states a claim for relief must contain [among other
things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in
numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of
circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable
merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v.
Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir.
a complaint fails to state a claim under Section
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable
to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 F. App'x 675,
678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must
determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not
only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual
power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual
allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual
contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251
F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 327 (1989)).
analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle
that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a
less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and,
therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v.
Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006)
(“Pro se pleadings are held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys . . .
.”) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157,
1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's
unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding
procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S.
106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that
procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be
interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed
Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs
deliberate indifference claim requires analysis of the Eighth
Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment.
That proscription imposes a constitutional duty upon prison
officials to “ensure that inmates receive adequate
food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.” Farmer
v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The standard for
cruel and unusual punishment in the medical care context,
embodied in the principles expressed in Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976), is whether a prison
official exhibits a deliberate indifference to the serious
medical needs of an inmate. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 828.
However, “not every claim by a prisoner that he has not
received adequate medical treatment states a violation of the
Eighth Amendment.” Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d
1495, 1505 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Estelle, 429
U.S. at 105). Rather, “an inmate must allege acts or
omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs.” Hill v.
DeKalb Reg'l Youth Det. Ctr., 40 F.3d 1176, 1186
(11th Cir. 1994).
in order to prove a deliberate indifference to medical care
claim, similar to any other deliberate indifference claim, a
prisoner must: 1) “satisfy the objective component by
showing that [he] had a serious medical need”; 2)
“satisfy the subjective component by showing that the
prison official acted with deliberate indifference to [his]
serious medical need”; and 3) “show that the
injury was caused by the defendant's wrongful
conduct.” Goebert v. Lee Cty., 510 F.3d 1312,
1326 (11th Cir. 2007). As to the first component, a medical
need is serious if it “‘has been diagnosed by a
physician as mandating treatment or [is] one that is so
obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the
necessity for a doctor's attention.'”
Id. (quoting Hill, 40 F.3d at 1187). Under
the second, subjective component, the Eleventh Circuit has
consistently required that “a defendant know of and
disregard an excessive risk to an inmate's health and
safety.” Haney v. City of Cumming, 69 F.3d
1098, 1102 (11th Cir. 1995). Thus, the subjective component
requires an inmate to prove: “(1) subjective knowledge
of a risk of serious harm; (2) disregard of that risk; (3) by
conduct that is more than mere negligence.” Melton
v. Abston, 841 F.3d 1207, 1223 (11th Cir.
that is more than mere negligence includes: (1) grossly
inadequate care; (2) a decision to take an easier but less
efficacious course of treatment; and (3) medical care that is
so cursory as to amount to no treatment at all.”
Bingham v. Thomas, 654 F.3d 1171, 1176 (11th Cir.
2011). Additionally, a defendant who “delays necessary
treatment for non-medical reasons” or “knowingly
interfere[s] with a physician's prescribed course of
treatment” may exhibit deliberate indifference.
Id. (citations omitted).
instances where a deliberate indifference claim turns on a
delay in treatment rather than the type of medical care
received, the Court considers “the reason for the delay
and the nature of the medical need.” Farrow v.
West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1246 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing
McElligott, 182 F.3d at 1255). When a claim turns on
the quality of treatment provided, however, “‘a
simple difference in medical opinion between the prison's
medical staff and the inmate as to the latter's diagnosis
or course of treatment' does not support a claim of
deliberate indifference.” Melton, 841 F.3d at
1224 (quoting Harris, 941 F.2d at 1505). In other
words, “medical malpractice does not become a
constitutional violation merely because the victim is a
prisoner.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104
(1976). Furthermore, deliberate indifference is not
established when an inmate receives medical care, but
“may have desired different modes of treatment.”
Hamm v. DeKalb Cty., 774 F.2d 1567, 1575 (11th Cir.
alleges sufficient facts to support a claim of deliberate
indifference to medical needs against Defendant Augustin, the
treating doctor at CCF. Plaintiff claims that, despite the
Douglas ER doctors specifically prescribing an immediate MRI,
use of a wheelchair, and pain medications, Defendant Augustin
failed to timely schedule an MRI, specifically directed
medical staff not to provide a wheelchair, and refused to
provide the prescribed pain medications because “she
believed [the pain medications] to be unnecessary and
costly.” (Doc. 1, p. 13; see also id. at pp.
9, 14, 15, 17, 20-21, 23-24.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges
that Defendant Augustin refused to refer him to physical
therapy, even after Dr. Gaines set it as a precondition for
re-break surgery. (Id. at pp. 20-21, 24.) Plaintiff
contends that these actions exacerbated his injury and caused
him unnecessary pain. Thus, Plaintiff's allegations
support his claim that Defendant Augustin acted with more
than mere negligence in failing to provide adequate medical
care and refusing to follow the treatment plans from outside
Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Augustin for failing
to provide medical records to Williamson County Jail
officials are without merit. (Id. at pp. 23-24.)
Plaintiff does not allege that this failure prevented
appropriate medical treatment while he was housed at the jail
or that jail staff would have been able to provide his
required surgery with the medical files. (Id. at pp.
17-18.) Consequently, the Court should
DISMISS Plaintiff's claims for
deliberate indifference to medical needs as to Defendant
Augustin's failure to release his medical records.
allegations against Defendant Chaney, the head nurse at CCF,
are similar to those against Defendant Augustin: refusal to
provide a wheelchair, order an MRI, or order physical
therapy. (Id. at pp. 15, 20-21, 23-24.) As noted
above, this failure to provide proper treatment for
Plaintiff's leg, much less the treatment prescribed by
the doctors at the Douglas ER and by Dr. Gaines, sufficiently
states a claim for deliberate indifference.
Plaintiff's allegations against Defendant Chaney for her
post-accident examination and failure to release his medical
records to Williamson County Jail officials do not state a
viable Section 1983 claim. (Id. at pp. 7-8, 23-24.)
Defendant Chaney provided immediate medical care when she
realized the severity of Plaintiff's injuries by
contacting and transferring Plaintiff to the Douglas ER.
(Id.) Additionally, similar to the analysis for
Defendant Augustin, Plaintiff does not allege that Defendant
Chaney's failure to release his medical records prevented
appropriate treatment from Williamson County Jail officials.
(Id. at pp. 17-18.) Thus, the Court should
DISMISS Plaintiff's deliberate
indifference claims against Defendant Chaney regarding her
actions in the immediate aftermath of Plaintiff's
accident and for failing to release Plaintiff's medical
claims Defendant Bell acted deliberately indifferent by
refusing to enter the appropriate prison profile for him,
even though she knew of his medical needs. (Id. at
pp. 9-10.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims that as a result of
Defendant Bell's actions, Plaintiff was unable to notify
other correctional staff of his need for, among other things,
a limited standing profile and delivered meals.
(Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Bell
delayed his MRI examination and refused to provide him with a