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Noel v. Liu

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

August 26, 2013

PATRICK NOEL PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. SIJIA LIU et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CHARLES R. SIMPSON, III, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court are the summary-judgment motions filed by Defendants Ruth Brekken and Roy Washington (DN 38) and Defendant Sijia Liu (DN 42). For the following reasons, those motions will be granted.

I. FACTS

Plaintiff is currently an inmate at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (LLCC). Previously, he was housed at the Roederer Correctional Complex (RCC). He sued in their individual and official capacities Dr. Sijia Liu, Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR) optometrist; Roy Washington, RCC ARPN; and Ruth Brekken, RCC LPN.[1]

Plaintiff alleged that in August 2011, while housed at RCC, he filled out a sick-call slip requesting medical attention for his right eye. He stated that RCC "medical" indicated that he would be seen by an eye doctor. After several more days, he was taken to KSR's eye clinic, was given some eye ointment, and told he had an eye infection. He alleged that, starting on August 29, 2011, RCC medical staff applied the ointment to both his eyes when it had been prescribed for only one eye. He alleged that on or about September 6, 2011, he "experienced a big massive flash of light in [his] left eye." He went to "medical" and the nurse said that she did not know what that meant but she stopped the use of the ointment. He stated that he was taken to the eye doctor the next day. While at the KSR eye clinic, KSR staff arranged to have him taken to the Bennett & Bloom Eye Center (BBEC) within one and one-half hours, where he was scheduled for eye surgery the following Tuesday. He stated that he has lost all sight in his left eye because Defendants prescribed him the wrong medication and applied it incorrectly. He also alleged that he will lose sight in his right eye if prompt treatment is not provided.

On initial review, the Court allowed the Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Liu, Washington, and Brekken in their individual capacities for monetary damages to go forward. The Court also allowed the claim against Defendants Liu in her official capacity for injunctive relief to go forward.

The facts which are not in dispute are that Plaintiff sought treatment and was taken to the KSR eye clinic, where he saw Defendant Liu. Defendant Liu diagnosed an infection and prescribed medication. That medication was administered to both of Plaintiff's eyes. Defendants do not dispute that Plaintiff on or about September 6, 2011, "experienced a big massive flash of light in [his] left eye." It is also undisputed that Plaintiff has suffered a retinal detachment in his left eye, which required surgery.

II. ANALYSIS

Summary judgment standard

Summary judgment is proper "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). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

The moving party's burden may be discharged by demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's case for which he or she has the burden of proof. Id. Once the moving party demonstrates this lack of evidence, the burden passes to the nonmoving party to establish, after an adequate opportunity for discovery, the existence of a disputed factual element essential to his case with respect to which he bears the burden of proof. Id. If the record taken as a whole could not lead the trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, the motion for summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmoving party must do more than raise some doubt as to the existence of a fact; the nonmoving party must produce evidence that would be sufficient to require submission of the issue to the jury. Lucas v. Leaseway Multi Transp. Serv., Inc., 738 F.Supp. 214, 217 (E.D. Mich. 1990). The moving party, therefore, is "entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Summary-judgment motion filed by Defendants Brekken and Washington (DN 38)

Defendants Brekken and Washington, both nurses at RCC, argue that they were not deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need as there is no objective manifestation of subjective intent of deliberate indifference. They further argue that Plaintiff's disagreement regarding the treatment he was given does not rise to a constitutional claim. They also argue that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. They attach Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) medical records relating to Plaintiff's treatment for his eyes. Those records show that on August 24, 2011, Plaintiff requested to see an eye doctor and was told that he would be added to the waiting list for the eye clinic. On August 28, 2011, Plaintiff again requested to see the eye doctor, stating: "My eyes hurt since I got blood in them and dry all the time. Need to see the doctor." The response was that he was already on the waiting list to go to the eye clinic. On September 5, 2011, Plaintiff went to the KSR eye clinic, with Defendant Brekken listed as the referring medical personnel. The reason for the consultation was listed as "eye pain." The optometry notes state that Dr. Liu diagnosed blepharitis[2] and prescribed Bacitracin ointment to be applied to both eyes for fourteen days.

The exhibits further reveal that on September 13, 2011, Plaintiff again requested to see the eye doctor. He stated, "My med make my eye hot." The response was that the eye doctor would be contacted to see what the doctor advised. On September 17, 2011, Plaintiff presented to medical complaining of no vision in his left eye. He was instructed to put a sick-call slip into the eye doctor and was given a patch to wear to "avoid extra strain on affected eye." The next day, he presented to medical complaining of losing vision in his right eye. He was seen again on September 19, 2011. The note for that visit, signed by Defendant Brekken, states that Plaintiff informed her that "he has no vision in the right eye and that he is having pain in and around the right eye. I have referred him back to the eye clinic. He wants to keep a patch over the eye as that is ...


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