United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
LEONARD T. STRAND, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Robert Anthony Celia, an inmate in Iowa's state prison system, commenced this lawsuit on January 8, 2013. He then filed a pro se complaint on July 24, 2013. Celia alleges the named defendants were deliberately indifferent to serious medical needs regarding his injured ankle while he was an inmate at North Central Correctional Facility (NCCF) in Rockwell City, Iowa. He seeks compensation for pain and suffering, along with better medical policies for other inmates. The named defendants are the facility and certain individuals who were associated with the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) during the relevant period of time.
Defendants Kathy Weiss and Kendra Walker filed an answer in which they deny Celia's claim. No party has demanded a jury trial. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. Doc. No. 19. Celia has not filed a resistance. The Honorable Mark W. Bennett has referred the motion to me for the preparation of a report and recommended disposition. Doc. No. 20. No party has requested oral argument and, in any event, I find that oral argument is not necessary. See N.D. Ia. L.R. 7(c). The motion is fully submitted.
II. RELEVANT FACTS
The following facts are undisputed for purposes of defendants' motion:
The Parties. Celia was committed to the custody and care of the Iowa DOC on November 8, 2010. He was incarcerated at NCCF from December 22, 2010, through March 14, 2011, and again from May 19, 2011, through March 14, 2012, when he was transferred to Des Moines, Iowa, for work release. His work release was subsequently revoked and he was then transferred to various facilities within the Iowa DOC. He is currently in the Newton Correctional Release Center. Weiss is the nursing supervisor at NCCF and Walker is a nurse at NCCF.
Celia's Treatment History. Celia underwent a physical exam on November 9, 2010, when he came into the custody of the DOC. The medical staff noted that Celia reported having a "bad right knee" but did not restrict Celia to a lower bunk, nor did they restrict his participation in work, sports or transportation. Doc. No. 19-3 at 10, 13.
On March 3, 2011, Celia reported that he injured his right ankle when he jumped off his top bunk. On that day, Nurse Kinney examined Celia's ankle and contacted Dr. Ed O'Brien (the on-call DOC doctor). Per Dr. O'Brien's orders, Kinney ordered ice, crutches, an ace wrap and extra pillows for Celia, restricted him to the lower bunk, and released him from work for several days. Celia was seen by other nursing staff for follow-up on March 4 and March 5 with complaints about his ankle. The staff advised him to comply with the treatment orders, such as keeping the foot elevated and using the provided ice packs.
On March 6, 2011, Walker saw Celia for the first time. She examined him and advised him to properly use the crutches, ace wrap, and brace; to take ibuprofen as prescribed; to elevate his foot; to treat his foot with ice and heat; and to avoid weight-bearing activities (as he had been previously instructed but had not followed). She also provided him with a second ace wrap and an ankle brace. Id. at 21. Walker saw Celia again the next day.
Celia was then seen by Dr. Tobin Jacks on March 8, 2011. Dr. Jacks ordered an x-ray at a local hospital, which was conducted on the following day and indicated a fracture of the right ankle. On March 14, Weiss contacted the on-call surgeon at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in Iowa City and transferred Celia to Iowa City for surgery.
The fracture was surgically repaired on March 15, 2011. Following discharge, Celia was transferred to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale, Iowa, until he could be medically cleared to return to NCCF. Dr. O'Brien prescribed crutches, an extra pillow and a wheelchair (for distance) on March 16. Dr. O'Brien had nurses keep a sleep log and document Celia's activities to ensure his pain was effectively managed from March 17 to 20. The results showed normal activity and sleep pattern.
Celia had follow-up visits with health services on March 22, 24 and 31 to discuss his recovery. At the March 24 visit, the nurse noted that Celia "ambulates in a wheelchair at all times" but otherwise completed tasks without difficulty and was only taking ibuprofen to control pain. Id. at 60. On April 1, doctors at UIHC removed Celia's cast and prescribed a short leg cast for 2-4 weeks. Dr. O'Brien reported that an examination on that date showed "the ankle was doing well [with] minimal ankle pain." Id. at 65. On April 13, Dr. Jacks reported that Celia was not complying with orders to use crutches at all times (rather than hopping about) and to only use the wheelchair for long distances. Doc. No. 19-3 at 72.
On April 29, 2011, Celia was again seen at UIHC, where his short cast was removed and replaced with a boot. Dr. Mendoza at UIHC recommended that Celia wean off crutches within 2-3 weeks. Dr. Mendoza reported that the ankle appeared to be healing well and did not look infected. During the examination, Celia requested that the syndesmosis screw in his right ankle be removed because he feared it would break due to his active lifestyle. The doctor agreed and scheduled the removal for two months out. On May 4, 2011, Celia fell while using crutches but reported no injuries at the time.
On July 20, 2011, Celia had a pre-operative evaluation before having the syndesmosis screw removed at UIHC. The evaluation noted that Celia reported he had been running since mid-June with no pain or difficulty but "fe[lt] that he limps a little bit with a jog." Doc. No. 19-3 at 93. Celia also noted some pinpoint numbness, some minor swelling after being on his feet, and some "pressure or irritation at the medial aspect of his ankle." Id. On August 8, 2011, Dr. Mendoza removed the syndesmosis screw. Celia was then seen by health services at NCCF on August 10 for follow-up. The nurse practitioner noted minimal swelling and no drainage but Celia reported needing to take hydrocodone every four hours for pain relief. Doc. No. 19-3 at 104. Celia requested a renewal for the hydrocodone when his prescription ran out but his request was denied. Id. On August 17, Celia was again seen by health services and was scheduled to have his sutures removed with no restrictions.
The Grievance Process. Celia alleges that he presented the facts relating to his complaint through the prisoner grievance procedure. Doc. No. 1 at 2. He claims to have spoken to the nurses at NCCF and that he "never got any thing [sic] back on the grievance [he] filed" despite waiting over eighty days. Id. However, the defendants contend he never filed the required grievance form regarding the care he received after his fall. Doc. No. 19-1, ¶ 12. The Grievance Coordinator for NCCF states, by affidavit, that "Celia never filed any grievance concerning his March 2011 right foot injury nor the medical care he received for the same." Doc. No. 19-3 at 122.
Celia commenced this case on January 8, 2013. Doc. No. 1. He brings his claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. His complaint alleges that given his knee problems, he should have been assigned a low bunk at NCCF, but was not, and that his knee gave out, causing him to twist his ankle in February 2011. Doc. No. 6 at 6. Celia asserts that despite an alleged statement by Corrections Officer Kelly Goodman that Celia needed to go to the hospital because his ankle was likely broken, some amount of time (five days, according to the records) passed before Celia was actually transported to a local hospital. He contends that a doctor then told him he needed emergency surgery or else he "would have arthritis in [his] ankle." Id. Celia alleges that he was not taken to Iowa City for surgery until eleven days later and, in the interim, was only given crutches and ice for treatment. He states that he fell down twice but was refused a wheelchair. He also states that he has lingering pain in his knee and ankle. He requests compensation for pain and suffering and "better medical policies for other inmates." Id.
III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS
Any party may move for summary judgment regarding all or any part of the claims asserted in a case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment should be granted, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.'" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus, "the substantive law will identify which facts are material." Id. Facts that are "critical" under the substantive law are ...