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Seeber v. Payton

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

December 11, 2019

JESSICA PAYTON, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Uriah Pasha has filed a motion for partial summary judgment regarding his Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Stephanie Thompson. In support, Pasha stated there is no genuine dispute over any material fact concerning his need for medical shoes or Thompson's denial of his request for low-cut work boots. [Record No. 108] This matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins for the issuance of a recommendation in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Magistrate Judge Atkins filed a Recommended Disposition, concluding that Pasha's motion for summary judgment should be denied. [Record No. 143]

         This Court conducts a de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to which objections are made, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), but “[i]t does not appear that Congress intended to require that district court review of a magistrate's factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard, when neither party objects to those findings.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Here, Pasha submitted untimely objections to the Recommended Disposition. But after considering the record and Pasha's objections, the Court concludes that he has failed to produce any evidence demonstrating a prima facie case for a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Accordingly, his motion for partial summary judgment will be denied.


         Pasha filed this civil rights action against prison officials at the Northpoint Training Center (“Northpoint”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He originally asserted various constitutional claims against fifteen defendants. After conducting a preliminary review of Pasha's Complaint, the Court found that among a handful of other claims, Pasha's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Thompson (alleged at ¶¶124-126 of his Complaint) could go forward against her in her individual capacity. [Record No. 28]

         Pasha asserts that Thompson acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by failing and/or refusing to ensure that he received the proper medical shoes and physical therapy recommended by Dr. Clifford. Thompson is the medical administrator at Northpoint Training Center. In his motion for summary judgment, Pasha contends that Thompson “forced him to wear certain shoes in all climates and while working in body waste as a Janitor.” He asserts that the “wear” on the toe of one of his shoes and not being allowed low-cut work boots constitute cruel and unusual punishment. While Thompson disputed acting deliberately indifferent and denying Pasha low-cut work boots in her Answer, she did not respond to Pasha's motion for summary judgment. [Record No. 44]

         Magistrate Judge Atkins filed a Recommended Disposition, concluding that Pasha had not overcome his initial burden of demonstrating how he is entitled to summary judgment. More specifically, he has not shown how the facts presented demonstrate a prima facie showing of cruel and unusual punishment. [Record No. 183] The magistrate judge reasoned that attaching a receipt for new shoes and the “wear” on his old shoes is insufficient to establish cruel and unusual punishment as a matter of law. And he further determined that the conclusory allegations by Pasha are insufficient to grant his request for partial summary judgment. Pasha filed untimely objections, asserting that the record clearly indicates that Defendant Thompson refused to provide him medical shoes and that, because Thompson failed to reply, the plaintiff's motion was “defaulted.” [Record No. 150]


         Entry of summary judgment is appropriate if there are no genuine disputes regarding any material facts and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The determination must be “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 251-52 (1986).

         The moving party carries an initial burden to produce evidence to present a prima facie case that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317; see also Angelo v. Kroger Co., No. 86-3912, 1987 U.S. App. LEXIS 11965, at *24 (6th Cir. Sept. 3, 1987) (“The burden of production imposed by Rule 56 requires the moving party to make a prima facie showing that it is entitled to summary judgment.”) (internal citations omitted)). Once the moving party has met his or her burden of production, “[the] opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Keeneland Ass'n, Inc. v. Earnes, 830 F.Supp. 974, 984 (E.D. Ky. 1993) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court views all the facts and inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 58. Pro se filings are evaluated under a more lenient standard. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).


         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States (2) that was committed by a defendant acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). It is not disputed that Thompson was acting under the color of state law during the alleged incident. Accordingly, this opinion focuses solely on whether there was a deprivation of Pasha's constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

         The Eighth Amendment requires that the government provide incarcerated individuals medical care and the failure to provide medical care may be a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Harrison v. Ash, 539 F.3d 510, 517 (6th Cir. 2008). “‘Deliberate indifference' by prison officials to an inmate's serious medical needs constitutes ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” Miller v. Calhoun County, 408 F.3d 803, 812 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)).

         There is both a subjective and objective component to an Eighth Amendment claim. Id. The objective component requires the existence of a “sufficiently serious” medical need, meaning that the inmate demonstrates that he “is incarcerated under conditions imposing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Blackmore v. Kalamazoo County, 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). “A serious medical need is ‘one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that ...

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