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Phillips v. Tangilag

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

May 1, 2018



          Thomas B. Russell Senior Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon Motion by Plaintiff Donald Phillips for a preliminary injunction. [DN 56.] This matter is ripe for adjudication and, for the following reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Phillips' Motion, [DN 56], is DENIED.

         A. Background

         Phillips filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has sued the following Defendants: (1) Shastine Tangilag, (2) Lester Lewis, (3) Ted Jefferson, (4) Cookie Crews, (5) Denise Burkett, and (6) Correct Care Solutions, (collectively, “Defendants”). [See DN 1.] Phillips asserts claims under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section Seventeen of the Kentucky Constitution, and medical malpractice claims. By way of relief, Phillips requests compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief in the form of medical treatment. In the instant Motion, [DN 56], Phillips now seeks a preliminary injunction from the Court, ordering Defendants “to have [Phillips'] medical condition assessed by an outside provider for the possibility of surgical intervention or other treatment….” [Id. at 1.]

         In 2014, Phillips was assaulted by another inmate and suffered an injury to his left leg. [DN 1, at 4.] Later, his injury was diagnosed as a “probable plantaris rupture in the left lower leg.” [Id.] Phillips filled out a Healthcare Request form on November 26, 2014, [DN 57-1], and was seen by Tangilag on November 29. [DN 57-2.] In her notes, Tangilag stated that Phillips had “a mass on the posterior leg. Has been increasing in size for the past month. Pain is minimal.” [Id.] Phillips received an ultrasound on the affected area on February 3, 2015, the results of which were as follows: “Examination of the medial calf. There is a soft tissue mass in the area of concern with good blood flow. However no definite clearcut margins are seen…CT scan is recommended to better evaluate this region.” [DN 57-3.] Post-ultrasound notes from Tangilag three weeks later indicate that, at that time, the mass was growing and was more painful than it had been before. [DN 57-4.]

         On March 13, 2015, Phillips received an off-site CT scan at Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky. [DN 57-5.] The findings were as follows: “A palpable marker was placed on the skin at the region of the abnormality. Between the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, there is a heterogeneous fluid collection. This is in the normal course of the plantaris muscle and likely represents a plantaris rupture. There is no evidence of fracture or worrisome osseous lesion. No soft tissue lesions are identified. The visualized tendons and ligaments appear intact.” [Id.] The impression was a “[p]robable plantaris rupture in the left lower leg.” [Id.] Tangilag met with Phillips again after the CT scan results were obtained and informed him that the results would be forwarded to Jefferson, an outside orthopedic surgeon, “to see if this is something surgical that needs to be fixed. Other than the pain and the lump, he [Phillips] has full use of his leg (able to plantar flex) which is consistent with the CT scan finding.” [DN 56-7.]

         Jefferson saw Phillips in his office on July 3, 2015 for an examination of Phillips' left leg. [DN 57-7.] Jefferson indicated that the lump on Phillips' left leg was a hematoma. [DN 56-5, at 11-12.] In his own words, a hematoma is “bleeding that happens in the nonvascular space, like under the skin or deep to the fascia in a muscle belly. It's just basically a large collection of hemorrhagic blood.” [Id. at 12.] In Jefferson's estimation, Phillips ruptured his plantaris and the hematoma was likely the resultant effect of that injury. [Id.] During his examination of Phillips, Jefferson attempted to aspirate the mass, a technique wherein the treating physician inserts a syringe into the affected area to remove any fluid that has built up there. [DN 57-7.] Jefferson noted that “[n]o appreciable fluid was identified consistent with the diagnosis of chronic hematoma posterior aspect of the left leg.” [Id.] Jefferson recommended that Phillips be given an MRI to determine what his options were. [Id.] The MRI was given on August 11, 2015. [DN 57-9.] The MRI indicated that the amount of fluid in Phillips' left calf had “slightly decreased since his previous CT” scan. [Id.] No mass was identified. [Id.]

         Tangilag's meeting notes from August 19, 2015, wherein she talked with Phillips, state the following: “Dr. Ted Jefferson (Orthopedics) called last week stating that he does not need further treatment from a surgical standpoint. The hematoma is resolving.” [DN 57-10.] Surgical debridement of the hematoma had been one of the possible courses of treatment Jefferson had discussed with Phillips. Tangilag indicated that Phillips should put moist heat on the affected area twice daily. [Id.] Finally, Tangilag noted that Phillips told her he had “contacted an orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion because he still ‘wants to be treated, ” and that Phillips “was advised that he has the right to seek a second opinion at his own expense per policy.” [Id.] Phillips did not see another member of the prison medical staff or CCS until late 2017 or early 2018. [DN 56-4, at 140.] This was after he filed the instant lawsuit on June 16, 2016. [DN 1.]

         B. Legal Standard

         “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy which should be granted only if the movant carries his or her burden of proving that the circumstances clearly demand it.” Overstreet v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cnty. Gov't, 305 F.3d 566, 573 (6th Cir. 2002). There are four factors of particular import that the Court should consider when analyzing whether to grant a preliminary injunction to the movant: “(1) the likelihood of the plaintiff's success on the merits; (2) whether the injunction will save the plaintiff from irreparable injury; (3) whether the injunction would harm others; and (4) whether the public interest would be served.” Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n, AFL-CIO, Loc. Union No. 1937 v. Norfolk S. Corp., 927 F.2d 900, 903 (6th Cir. 1991). The Court scrutinizes each factor separately and balances them, “mak[ing] specific findings concerning each of the four factors, unless fewer are dispositive of the issue.” Id.

         In analyzing the first two factors, that is, the movant's likelihood of success on the merits and whether the injunction would save the movant from irreparable injury, the Sixth Circuit has held that “the probability of success that must be demonstrated is inversely proportional to the amount of irreparable injury the movant[] will suffer absent the stay.” Ne. Ohio Coal. for Homeless and Serv. Emp. Int'l Union, Local 1199 v. Blackwell, 467 F.3d 999, 1009 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Michigan Coal. of Radioactive Material Users, Inc. v. Griepentrog, 945 F.2d 150, 153 (6th Cir. 1991)). Notably though, “the proof required for the plaintiff to obtain a preliminary injunction is much more stringent than the proof required to survive a summary judgment motion.” Leary v. Daeschner, 228 F.3d 729, 739 (6th Cir. 2000).

         C. Discussion

         The impetus of Phillips' claims is that Defendants, aware of the plantaris rupture he suffered when he was assaulted in 2014, failed to provide him with adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section Seventeen of the Kentucky Constitution, and Kentucky common law. In Phillips' view, the injury has not resolved itself and “he has been denied another assessment and any consideration for surgical intervention or other treatment for his condition” and, therefore, a preliminary injunction is now necessary in order to force Defendants to provide him with an outside assessment of his left leg to determine what course of treatment would be most appropriate.

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