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Greg Ruley v. Corrections Corporation of America

April 29, 2013

GREG RULEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Greg Ruley sued the Corrections Corporation of America and several of its employees and alleged that they violated his civil rights during his incarceration at Otter Creek Correctional Center. R. 19. The defendants filed for summary judgment. R. 96. For the reasons given below, their motion is granted in part, denied in part, and supplemental briefing is ordered.

BACKGROUND

When Greg Ruley arrived at the Otter Creek Correctional Center (OCCC) he had a gastric ulcer, back pain (apparently due to a herniated disc), and neuropathy, which caused numbness and pain in his right side.*fn1 R. 19 at 4; R. 94 at 4, 12; R. 98-1 at 3, 8--13. Ruley claims that the defendants ignored or inadequately treated his ailments, which caused him permanent harm. R. 19 at 2--8.

After arriving at OCCC, Ruley was dismayed to find that his physician, Dr. Steven Conrotto, would not prescribe Neurontin, a drug used to relieve neuropathic pain. R. 98-1 at 3. Ruley believes that this drug would have effectively treated both his back pain and his neuropathic ailments. R. 19 at 4. According to Ruley, the medications that Dr. Conrotto did prescribe were not only less effective than Neurontin but also made his stomach ulcer worse.

R. 19 at 7; R. 98-1 at 3, 7; R. 98-6 at 8. One morning, approximately nine months after arriving at OCCC, Ruley began vomiting "bright red blood with black flecks" as a result of the inadequate medication. R. 16 at 6. Officer Michael Ryan observed Ruley's condition and radioed the medical staff at around 6:30 a.m. Nurses Rose Little and Christie Thornsberry were on call, but allegedly told Ruley that he would have to wait forty-five minutes before coming to OCCC's medical wing. R. 98-5 at 2. But when a different officer called the medical wing around 8:00 a.m., the staff had no record of Ruley's illness. R. 98-4 at 4--5. Medical personnel examined Ruley shortly thereafter. At this time, neither Little nor Thornsberry were on duty. Id.

Two days later, Dr. Conrotto examined Ruley and scheduled him for a gastrointestinal consult at a hospital in Hazard, Kentucky. R. 94-2 at 25, 31. Ruley believes he was supposed to have a gastroenterological procedure during this appointment to address his bleeding ulcers. R. 19 at 6; R. 93-1 at 65. But once Ruley arrived at the hospital, Nurse Day "with the knowledge and authority of all defendants," allegedly ordered Ruley's guards to bring him back to OCCC and deny Ruley the treatment he needed. R. 19 at 6; R. 98-5 at 3. So instead of performing surgery, the doctor evaluated Ruley's condition and recommended an abdominal ultrasound and a colonoscopy. R. 93-1 at 65--66; R. 98-8 at 1.

Dr. Conrotto scheduled the abdominal ultrasound for the following week. R. 98-8 at 1. The night before the ultrasound, OCCC staff brought Ruley to medical observation to ensure that he did not eat anything before his procedure. R. 93-1 at 71. Ruley told medical personnel that he did not want to stay in medical observation overnight and could follow their directions from his cell. R. 98 at 5. When OCCC staff told him that he could only receive the ultrasound if he stayed in medical observation, Ruley refused the procedure.

R. 94-2 at 62, 65. Ruley was transferred to Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex five days later. R. 95 at 25. But, he believes that his transfer paperwork falsely minimized the seriousness of his condition. R. 98 at 6--7.

Ruley also makes several general allegations about his medical care at OCCC. First, Ruley believes OCCC was "grossly understaffed," and that medical personnel were not properly trained to respond to emergencies. R. 19 at 3, 5, 7; R. 98 at 11--12. Second, Ruley alleges that the defendants' hiring and training decisions were part of a "brutal conspiracy[] to save money and their jobs." R. 19 at 5. Third, Ruley believes that CCA's policy requiring it to authorize any outpatient treatment caused him to receive constitutionally inadequate care. R. 19 at 7. Finally, Ruley alleges that the individual defendants denied him adequate medical care because they did not approve of his religious beliefs.

As a result of OCCC's medical care, Ruley alleges that he suffered permanent damage to his stomach, back, neck, and right side. R. 19 at 7. He filed a pro se suit against CCA, Dr. Conrotto, and Nurses Day, Little, and Thornsberry under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), claiming that their various failures to provide medical care violated his constitutional rights.*fn2 The defendants have now filed for summary judgment.

ANALYSIS

The defendants are entitled to summary judgment on a claim if they can show that there is no genuine dispute over the material facts underlying the claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). As the moving party, the defendants must either: (1) present undisputed evidence that forecloses the possibility of Ruley succeeding on a claim; or (2) identify an essential element of a claim that Ruley cannot support with proper evidence. See id. at 323-24. If they do so, Ruley must respond with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The Court then decides whether a reasonable juror could find for Ruley on each of his claims when all reasonable inferences from the evidence are drawn in his favor. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

I. Failure to Prescribe Neurontin

Ruley argues that Dr. Conrotto and Nurse Day violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical treatment when they did not give him Neurontin, a drug used to treat nerve pain. R. 19 at 4. He alleges that the medications that Dr. Conrotto did prescribe were ineffective in combating Ruley's back problems and neuropathic pain and that the doctor should have prescribed Neurontin for both conditions. Id.

If Dr. Conrotto and Nurse Day were deliberately indifferent to Ruley's serious medical needs, then they violated his Eighth Amendment rights. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104--05 (1976). Deliberate indifference requires more than negligence. Dr. Conrotto and Nurse Day must have "recklessly disregard[ed]" a "substantial risk of serious harm" to Ruley. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 836 (1994). Deliberate indifference therefore has an objective component and a subjective component. First, Ruley must show "that the medical need at issue [wa]s sufficiently serious." Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3d 693, 702--03 (6th Cir. 2001) (quotation ...


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