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Goodrich v. Hacker

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division

March 20, 2017

DONALD W. GOODRICH, Plaintiff,
v.
JANA HACKER, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LEONARD T. STRAND CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 21). Proceeding pro se, the plaintiff filed a resistance (Doc. No. 23). The defendant did not file a reply. Neither party requested oral argument, and, in any event, oral argument is not necessary. The motion is fully submitted.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on May 4, 2015. In his complaint (Doc. No. 1), the plaintiff generally asserts that the defendant: (1) refused to send him to a specialist for his plantar fasciitis; (2) refused to provide him with proper medical footwear; and (3) refused to provide him with medication. With respect to relief, the plaintiff states that he wants: (1) injections to be reinstated and provided in the proper manner; (2) pain medication to be reinstated and provided in the proper manner; (3) a specialist to see him every six months unless the specialist orders otherwise; and (4) medical footwear as needed. In an order dated August 27, 2015, the court noted:

Before proceeding with his action, the plaintiff should consider that merely disagreeing with the medical treatment that is provided does not typically give rise to a valid cause of action. See Jones v. Norris, 310 F.3d 610, 612 (8th Cir. 2002) (dismissing case as frivolous because “[n]either differences of opinion nor medical malpractice state an actionable Constitutional violation”); see also Williams v. Kelso, 201 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2000) (“[T]he law requires that [the] plaintiff make a showing of subjective awareness by the prison officials of a “substantial risk” of “serious harm” . . . in order to establish [a viable] cause of action.”).

         Doc. No. 9. Additionally, in an order dated February 17, 2016, the court denied the plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel but, before doing so, observed:

It is a very close call as to whether the plaintiff's claim against the defendant survives initial scrutiny under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) because: (1) it is unclear whether the plaintiff actually suffers from a serious medical condition and (2) it appears that the plaintiff's plantar fasciitis has been treated and he is merely dissatisfied that more is not being done to help him, that is, he desires to be sent to a specialist every six months, to be provided proper fitting medical footwear and to receive different medication and/or medication in a different dosage.[1] Cf. Reif v. Griffin, 808 F.3d 1191, 1192 (8th Cir. 2015) (emphasizing that medical professionals remain free to exercise independent medical judgment and inmates do not have a constitutional right to their requested course of treatment); Triplett v. Palmer, 592 F. App'x 534, 535 (8th Cir. 2015) (finding that facts failed to show that defendants had actual and subjective knowledge of serious medical condition and chose to ignore it); Hartsfield v. Colburn, 491 F.3d 394, 396-98 (8th Cir. 2007) (concluding that defendants responded appropriately to complaints of pain and discomfort, which included first trying ibuprofen); Smith v. Corr. Med. Servs., 207 F. App'x 737, 739 (8th Cir. 2006) (determining that treatment provided comported with constitutional requirements); Rowe v. Norris, 198 F. App'x 579, 580-81 (8th Cir. 2006) (concluding that no constitutional violation occurred because plaintiff only established disagreement with the treatment that he received); Still v. Crawford, 155 F. App'x 241, 242 (8th Cir. 2005) (finding that doctor appropriately responded to plaintiff's complaints); Brewer v. Graves, 152 F. App'x 548, 549 (8th Cir. 2005) (holding that record did not establish that medical care was so inappropriate as to evidence intentional maltreatment); Bender v. Regier, 385 F.3d 1133, 1337 (8th Cir. 2004) (reiterating that neither negligent diagnosis nor negligent treatment of medical condition are sufficient to establish liability under the Constitution); Vonoczky v. Hedrick, 44 F. App'x 41, 42 (8th Cir. 2002) (finding that record established treatment of, not deliberate indifference to, plaintiff's medical conditions); Prater v. Dep't of Corr., 11 F. App'x 668, 669 (8th Cir. 2001) (holding that plaintiff failed to establish deliberate indifference because he did not allege that the medical staff defendants denied, delayed or refused him treatment and only alleged that they did not order x-rays, provide him boots rather than insoles or refer him to a foot specialist); Jolly v. Knudsen, 205 F.3d 1094, 1096-97 (8th Cir. 2000) (finding efforts to treat condition did not constitute deliberate indifference); Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1240 (8th Cir. 1997) (asserting that an inmate cannot create a question of fact by merely stating that she did not feel she received adequate treatment); Logan v. Clarke, 119 F.3d 647, 650 (8th Cir. 1997) (concluding that doctors' efforts to alleviate pain, while perhaps not as extensive as those a private-healthcare provider might have taken, did not reflect deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical needs); Long v. Nix, 86 F.3d 761, 765 (8th Cir. 1996) (observing that prisoners do not have a constitutional right to any particular type of treatment); Camberos v. Branstad, 73 F.3d 174, 177 (8th Cir. 1995) (concluding that thorough care did not support a finding of deliberate indifference); Beyerbach v. Sears, 49 F.3d 1324, 1326-27 (8th Cir. 1995) (determining that medical treatment claim failed because plaintiff did not suffer any detrimental effects); Fletcher v. Butts, 994 F.2d 548, 549 (8th Cir. 1993) (holding that conservative treatment did not establish deliberate indifference); Smith v. Marcantonio, 910 F.2d 500, 502 (8th Cir. 1990) (concluding that no Eighth Amendment violation occurred where inmate sought more medication).

         Doc. No. 10. After the defendants filed an answer (Doc. No. 12), the court entered a scheduling order (Doc. No. 13) and denied the plaintiff's additional requests for appointment of counsel (Doc. No. 16). On April 13, 2016, the plaintiff sought to supplement his complaint (Doc. No. 17), which the court permitted (Doc. No. 18). The plaintiff's supplement (Doc. No. 19) reiterates and expands upon the points that he makes in his complaint: (1) the defendant refused to send him to a specialist for his plantar fasciitis and (2) although the defendant sent him to Dr. Kosinski at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, she refused to provide proper medical footwear or muscle relaxers even after Dr. Kosinski recommended the use of medical footwear and muscle relaxers. Ultimately, the defendant filed her motion for summary judgment, which the plaintiff resists.

         III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). “A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case.” Amini v. City of Minneapolis, 643 F.3d 1068, 1074 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 252 (1986)).

         “The movant ‘bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for [his or her] motion, ' and must identify ‘those portions of [the record] . . . which [he or she] believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (second and third alterations in original) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A) (emphasizing that a motion must be supported by “the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials”). Once the movant has done so, “the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).

         When doing so, “[t]he nonmovant ‘must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts' . . . .” Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). “To survive a motion for summary judgment, the [nonmovant] must substantiate his [or her] allegations with sufficient probative evidence [that] would permit a finding in [his or her] favor based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy.” Barber v. C1 Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 801 (8th Cir. 2011) (third alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Putman v. Unity Health Sys., 348 F.3d 732, 733-34 (8th Cir. 2003)). The nonmovant cannot simply rely on unsupported “self-serving allegations and denials . . . to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Anuforo v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 614 F.3d 799, 807 (8th Cir. 2010); accord Wilson v. Miller, 821 F.3d 963, 970 (8th Cir. 2016). The nonmovant must substantiate factual allegations with independent documentary evidence. See Argenyi v. Creighton Univ., 703 F.3d 441, 446 (8th Cir. 2013). Hence, “[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         Throughout the summary judgment stage, the court must view genuinely disputed “evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and giv[e] the nonmoving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences.” Crawford v. Van Buren Cty., Ark., 678 F.3d 666, 669 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Lewis v. Heartland Inns of Am., L.L.C., 591 F.3d 1033, 1035 (8th Cir. 2010)); see also Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (stating that a court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts); Murchison v. Rogers, 779 F.3d 882, 886-87 (8th Cir. 2015) (viewing evidence in light most favorable to nonmoving party and giving nonmoving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences). Moreover, “the court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter itself, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Schilf v. Eli Lilly & Co., 687 F.3d 947, 949 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). No genuine issue for trial exists only if “the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Ricci, 557 U.S. at 586 (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587); accord Gannon Int'l, Ltd. v. Blocker, 684 F.3d 785, 792 (8th Cir. 2012); Reed v. City of St. Charles, Mo., 561 F.3d 788, 791 (8th Cir. 2009).

         IV. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff is an inmate at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility (FDCF). See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 21-1 at ¶ 1); Defendant's App'x (Doc. No. 21-3 at 32); Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 23-1). The defendant is employed as a nurse practitioner at FDCF. See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 21-1 at ¶ 2); Defendant's App'x (Doc. No. 21-3 at 32); Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 23-1).

         The defendant has access to inmate medical records, which are completed by medical staff as part of their duties and typically at or near the time of the fact or the event that is recorded, and she has access to and is familiar with documentation for inmates who receive treatment outside the Iowa Department of Corrections. See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 21-1 at ¶ 4); Defendant's App'x (Doc. No. 21-3 at 32); Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 23-1). The defendant is familiar with the plaintiff and his medical records. See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 21-1 at ¶¶ 3 & 5); Defendant's App'x (Doc. No. 21-3 at 32-33); Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 23-1).

         The plaintiff experiences plantar fasciitis, which is a common cause of heel pain. See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 21-1 at ¶ 6); Defendant's App'x (Doc. No. 21-3 at 33); Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. No. 23-1). Plantar fasciitis involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. Id. It commonly causes individuals to experience pain during their first morning steps, and generally ...


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