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Powell v. Humphrey

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

August 2, 2017




         Before the Court is the motion for summary judgment (DN 54) filed by the only remaining Defendant in this action, Lea Humphrey. Plaintiff Charles L. Powell, Jr., did not file a response.

         The Court by Order (DN 56) gave Plaintiff additional time to file a response as well as guidance in responding to a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff then asked for an extension of time to respond, which this Court granted (DN 59). Plaintiff again did not file a response. Instead, shortly after the 30-day period for a response expired, Plaintiff filed another motion for extension of time (DN 60), this time stating that he needed additional time to find a lawyer because Henderson County Detention Center (HCDC) does not have a legal aide. The Court denied the motion for extension of time, noting that nothing had prevented Plaintiff from seeking to engage counsel in the over two years that this case has been pending; that the Court had warned in its prior Order that further extensions of time would not be granted; that in the approximately two months since he filed his motion, no counsel had entered an appearance for Plaintiff; and that Plaintiff still had not responded to the summary-judgment motion filed over six months earlier. The Court now takes the pending summary-judgment motion under consideration.


         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged in pertinent part that he had been denied pain and high blood pressure medication and a medical mat while he was incarcerated at HCDC. Defendant Humphrey was a nurse with Southern Health Partners employed at HCDC.

         In her summary-judgment motion, Defendant Humphrey asserts that she has reviewed Plaintiff's sick-call slips and affidavits provided by Plaintiff which involve her. She argues that based on these records there are no facts that Plaintiff could bring forward to support his constitutional claim of inadequate medical treatment.


         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).


         The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. An Eighth Amendment claim requires a plaintiff to prove two distinct components - one objective and one subjective. First, the alleged deprivation must be, objectively, “sufficiently serious, ” i.e., the “official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Second, the official must have been “deliberately indifferent” to the inmate's health or safety. Id.

         Both pain and high blood pressure can be a “sufficiently serious” medical need for purposes of a deliberate indifference claim. See Boretti v. Wiscomb, 930 F.2d 1150, 1154-55 (6th Cir. 1991) (recognizing that “a prisoner who suffers pain needlessly when relief is readily available has a cause of action against those whose deliberate indifference is the cause of his suffering”); Hensley v. Dugger, No. 2:13-CV-76-JRG-DHI, 2014 WL 6982397, at *5 (E.D. Tenn. Dec. 10, 2014) (“A prisoner's heart problems, high blood pressure, usage of a C-pap machine (presumably used to treat a breathing disorder such as sleep apnea), and bowel obstruction constitute serious medical needs.”).

         The second and subjective component of the Farmer test is met “where a plaintiff demonstrates that prison officials acted with ‘deliberate indifference' to a serious medical need, ” which “is the equivalent of ‘recklessly disregarding that risk.'” McCarthy v. Place, 313 F.App'x 810, 814 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836). In other words, “[s]atisfying the objective component ensures that the alleged deprivation is sufficiently severe, while satisfying the subjective component ‘ensures that the defendant prison official acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.'” Quigley v. Thai, 707 F.3d 675, 681 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 183-84 (2d Cir. 2003)).

         Defendant Humphrey argues that Plaintiff received “thorough medical treatment, medication, and prompt responses to all of his complaints every time” he filled out a sick-call slip. She further argues that “the majority of these requests were addressed by non-party medical providers” and that medical records show that Plaintiff “was regularly refusing medications, hoarding medications, exhibiting hostility ...

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