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Brown v. Manlove

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

November 17, 2017

MARK BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY MANLOVE, NANCY GARCIA, GAIL WALTZ, MARIROSE HOWELL, and ANN SCARPITA, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff and prisoner Mark Brown is proceeding on claims that medical staff at the Waupun Correctional Institution violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to give him appropriate medical care after he injured his hand in October 2015. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, Dkt. 31, which is ready for review. Because no reasonable jury could find that any of the defendants violated Brown's Eighth Amendment rights, I will grant defendants' motion. Dhillon v. Crown Controls Corp., 269 F.3d 865, 869 (7th Cir. 2001) (under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, defendants are entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable jury could find in plaintiff's favor).

         ANALYSIS

         A prison official violates a prisoner's Eighth Amendment right to medical care if the official is “deliberately indifferent” to a “serious medical need.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976). A “serious medical need” is a condition that a doctor has recognized as needing treatment or one for which the necessity of treatment would be obvious to a lay person. Johnson v. Snyder, 444 F.3d 579, 584-85 (7th Cir. 2006). The condition does not have to be life threatening. Id. A medical need may be serious if it “significantly affects an individual's daily activities, ” Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997), if it causes significant pain, Cooper v. Casey, 97 F.3d 914, 916-17 (7th Cir. 1996), or if it otherwise subjects the prisoner to a substantial risk of serious harm, Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). “Deliberate indifference” means that the officials are aware that the prisoner needs medical treatment, but are disregarding the risk by consciously failing to take reasonable measures. Forbes v. Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 266 (7th Cir. 1997). In the context of a claim against medical professionals, deliberate indifference may be inferred only if the defendants' treatment decisions are “blatantly inappropriate” or represent “such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards as to demonstrate that the person responsible did not base the decision on [medical] judgment.” King v. Kramer, 680 F.3d 1013, 1018-19 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations omitted).

         Thus, a claim under the Eighth Amendment for failing to provide adequate medical care has three elements:

(1) Did the prisoner need medical treatment?
(2) Did the defendant know that the prisoner needed treatment?
(3) Despite his or her awareness of the need, did the defendant consciously fail to take reasonable measures to provide the necessary treatment?

         On a motion for summary judgment, it is the plaintiff's burden to show that a reasonable jury could find in his favor on each of these elements. Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 848 (7th Cir. 1999). Defendants do not challenge Brown's ability to show that he had a serious medical need as to any of his medical care claims, so I need not consider that issue.

         The undisputed facts make it clear that no defendant or anyone else was deliberately indifferent to Brown's serious medical needs. As an initial matter, Ann Scarpita (a nursing supervisor) was not involved in making medical decisions related to Brown's injured hand. Although Brown addressed letters to Scarpita, other members of the health care staff responded to those letters. In fact, it is undisputed that Scarpita was no longer working at the prison when Brown wrote to her. Because defendants cannot be held liable under the Eighth Amendment if they are not personally involved in the alleged constitutional violation, Kuhn v. Goodlow, 678 F.3d 552, 555 (7th Cir. 2012), Scarpita is entitled to summary judgment.

         As for the remaining defendants, it is undisputed that Brown received prompt treatment after he injured his hand.[1] On October 21, 2015, defendant Gail Waltz, a nurse, examined Brown for complaints of pain and swelling in his left hand. Waltz observed “slight” swelling, bruising, and edema. Brown was able to make a fist and move all of his fingers. Waltz prescribed ice, and directed Brown to rest his hand and keep it elevated. She scheduled a follow-up appointment in one week. The following day, Brown received a prescription for acetaminophen.

         In November 2015, medical staff took an x-ray of Brown's hand when he continued to complain about pain. The x-ray showed that Brown had “an acute left hand fifth metacarpal head/neck fracture, with no dislocation or destructive bony process.” Dkt. 33, ¶ 25. As a result, Brown's hand was immobilized with a bandage wrap and his fourth and fifth fingers were “buddy-taped.” Defendant Jeffrey Manlove, a physician at the prison, reviewed the x-ray results. He determined that “[t]he x-ray showed non-displacement and acceptable alignment and positioning of the fracture, ” suggesting that staff had acted appropriately by immobilizing the bone. Dkt. 34, ¶¶ 19-2.

         Nursing staff changed Brown's bandages on November 20, November 27, and December 4, 2015, and continued to provide acetaminophen and ibuprofen for Brown's pain. On December 8, 2015, Brown was transferred out of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

         Brown does not allege that he did not receive prompt treatment for his injury and he has not adduced evidence that his hand healed improperly because he did not receive the correct care. He alleges in his brief that “[t]he Defendants allowed Plaintiff's hand to continue to heal as a deformity, ” Dkt. 39, at 2, but he does not explain why he believes his hand is deformed or how any of defendants' conduct caused such a deformity. Instead, he cites documents showing results of two additional x-rays he received after his transfer. Dkt. #39-1. The first document, which is from December 2015, states that Brown suffered a fracture, but it also states that “no significant degenerative changes are seen” and that there is “no other acute bony abnormality” besides the fracture. The second document, which is from November 2016, states that “there is a prominent well-defined erosion at the ulnar aspect of the 5th metacarpal, ” but it also states that Brown's pain had been “worsening over the past 1.5 weeks, ” suggesting ...


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