Cause No. TH99-0194-C-M/F.
May 10, 2001
Scott Racop, Terre Haute, IN., for Plaintiffs.
Ted J Holaday, Deputy Attorney General, South Indianapolis, IN., for Defendants.
Roger K Kanne, Zeigler Cohen Koch, Indianapolis, IN., for Defendants.
ORDER ON CERTAIN DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This cause is now before the Court on two defendants', Craig L. Underwood's ("Underwood's") and Gilbert Kaufman's (Kaufman's), motion for summary judgment on the claims brought against them by plaintiff, Curtiss Doan ("Doan"). Doan filed a complaint alleging violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by the Indiana Department of Corrections ("IDC") and several individuals (the "Individual Defendants") at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility ("WVCF") where Doan was an inmate. Doan alleges that the IDC and the Individual Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when they failed to operate on his hernia in a timely manner. Doan has brought his claims against Underwood and Kaufman in both their official and their individual capacity.
The Court notes that neither Underwood nor Kaufman state in their briefs that they seek summary judgment on the issue of personal liability. On April 6, 2000, the Court denied Doan's request for injunctive relief because it had become moot in light of the surgery performed to repair his hernia. As a result, only the individual capacity claims remain.
Both Underwood and Kaufman allege that they never knew about Doan or had contact with Doan before commencement of this lawsuit. Therefore, they cannot be held personally liable for any alleged violation of Doan's Eighth Amendment rights.
The parties have submitted briefs on the issues and they are ripe for ruling. For the reasons stated herein, defendant Underwood's motion for summary judgment in his individual capacity is GRANTED. In addition, defendant Kaufman's motion for summary judgment in his individual capacity is GRANTED.
The background here comes from Doan's amended complaint and the statement of undisputed material facts in support of motion for summary judgment provided by each of the defendants, Underwood and Kaufman. The Court notes that Doan has not provided any statement of material fact to support his own contentions as required by Local Rule 56.1. Although it would be within the Court's authority to summarily grant summary judgment in that circumstance, see L.R. 56.1(k); see also Bradley v. Work, 154 F.3d 704, 708 (7th Cir. 1998) (finding that the district court in that case "was within its discretion to insist on compliance with [L.R.] 56.1"), in the absence of a motion by the moving party and in the interests of justice, the motions for summary judgment before the Court will be decided on the merits.
Doan is incarcerated at the WVCF in Carlisle, Indiana. Am. Compl. ¶ 20. Doan was diagnosed with a Right Inguinal Hernia by an IDC doctor, Dr. Chavez, on October 6, 1997. Id. ¶ 21. Dr. Chavez made a request for a surgical consultation for Doan on December 1, 1997. Id. ¶ 22. The request was denied by Prison Health Services's Dr. Hawley. Id. ¶ 23. In February 1998, Dr. Chavez again recommended surgery and made a request to Prison Health Services. Id. ¶ 25. When more information was requested by Prison Health Services, Dr. Chavez cancelled his request. Id. ¶ 25-27. Dr. Chavez submitted a third request for surgery on Doan's hernia on March 1, 1999; this request was denied by a Regional Medical Director at Prison Health Service on March 3, 1999. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. On May 12, 1999, Dr. Chavez submitted a fourth request that Doan be referred to an outside physician for his continued pain and his hernia. Id. ¶ 30. The referral was approved; on June 24, 1999, the outside physician, Dr. Patel, recommended surgery on Doan's hernia. Id. ¶ 32.
With respect to Underwood, Doan alleges the following in his amended complaint:
Defendant Craig Underwood is sued in his individual capacity and also in his official capacity as Regional Vice President for Prison Health Services, which oversees health care and medical decisions for all prisoners at the WVCF. Defendant Craig Underwood is, and was at all relevant times mentioned herein, an adult citizen of the United States and a resident of the state of Indiana. On information and belief, Defendant Craig Underwood was endowed with responsibility regarding the provision of health and medical services to persons in the custody of the WVCF and was charged with responsibility to ensure that all prisoners under his jurisdiction received timely and adequate medical treatment.
Am. Compl. ¶ 18.
At all times during Doan's treatment, Underwood was employed by Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS"), as Regional Vice President-Indiana, and subsequently as Senior Vice President-Midwest Region. Underwood Aff. ¶ 1; Underwood Resume, at 1. Underwood states in his resume that his responsibilities in these positions included developing policy and procedures, negotiating contracts for and procuring health providers and establishing operational goals and objectives. Underwood Aff. ¶ 3; Underwood Resume, at 1.
However, Underwood does not have a medical degree and at all times during Doan's treatment, Underwood had no responsibility regarding the provision of medical care for inmates in the IDC system. Underwood Aff. ¶ 4. Further, Underwood was never involved in providing medical care for Doan. Id. ¶ 9. In addition, Underwood never met or had heard of Doan or his alleged illness until Underwood received notice of this lawsuit. Id. 5-8. Underwood had no personal knowledge of medical care provided to Doan during the time frame in Doan's complaint. Id. ¶ 10.
Doan alleges the following about Kaufman in his complaint:
Defendant Gil Kaufman is sued in his individual capacity and also in his official capacity as Regional Director for Prison Health Services for the WVCF. Defendant Gil Kaufman is, and was at all relevant times mentioned herein, an adult citizen of the United States and a resident of Indiana. On information and belief, Defendant Gil Kaufman was endowed with responsibility regarding the provision of health and medical services to persons in the custody of the WVCF and was charged with responsibility to ensure that all prisoners under his jurisdiction received timely and adequate medical treatment.
Am. Compl. ¶ 17.
Kaufman was employed by PHS during the time of Doan's complaint. Kaufman Aff. ¶ 1. From approximately December 1996 until approximately June 1998, Kaufman served in an administrative capacity for PHS in Tennessee. Id. From June 1998 until February 2000, Kaufman served as PHS's Indiana Southern Regional Manager. Id. ¶ 2. During his employment as Indiana Southern Regional Manager, Kaufman was responsible for the management of the Health Care Administrators for sixteen correctional facilities in Indiana. Id. ¶ 4.
However, at all times relevant to Doan's complaint, Kaufman did not have a medical degree and he had no responsibility regarding the provision of medical care for inmates in the IDC system. Id. ¶ 5. In addition, Kaufman never communicated with Doan about any matter, had contact with Doan for any reason, or had heard of Doan or his alleged illness until Kaufman received notice of this litigation. Id. ¶¶ 6-9. Kaufman was never involved with providing Doan medical treatment. Id. ¶ 10.
II. STANDARDS A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT
As expressed by the Supreme Court in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, summary judgment is not a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather is an integral part of the federal rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action. 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). See also United Ass'n of Black Landscapers v. City of Milwaukee, 916 F.2d 1261, 1267-68 (7th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 111 S.Ct. 1317 (1991). Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides in relevant part:
The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Once a party has made a properly-supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party may not simply rest upon the pleadings but must instead submit evidentiary materials which "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). A genuine issue of material fact exists whenever "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The nonmoving party bears the burden of demonstrating that such a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Oliver v. Oshkosh Truck Corp., 96 F.3d 992, 997 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1116 (1997). It is not the duty of the Court to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather, the nonmoving party bears the responsibility of identifying the evidence upon which he relies. See Bombard v. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir. 1996). When the moving party has met the standard of Rule 56, summary judgment is mandatory. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23; Shields Enters., Inc. v. First Chicago Corp., 975 F.2d 1290, 1294 (7th Cir. 1992).
In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a court should draw all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party and should view the disputed evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Estate of Cole v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 257 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1109 (1997). The mere existence of a factual dispute, by itself, is not sufficient to bar summary judgment. Only factual disputes that might affect the outcome of the suit in light of the substantive law will preclude summary judgment. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; JPM Inc. v. John Deere Indus. Equip. Co., 94 F.3d 270, 273 (7th Cir. 1996). Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not deter summary judgment — even when in dispute. See Clifton v. Schafer, 969 F.2d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 1992). "If the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to his case, one on which he would bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment must be granted to the moving party." Ortiz v. John O. Butler Co., 94 F.3d 1121, 1124 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1115 (1997).
B. SECTION 1983
Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code creates a federal cause of action for "`the deprivation, under color of [state] law, of a citizen's rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.'" Spiegel v. Rabinovitz, 121 F.3d 251, 254 (7th Cir.) (quoting Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997)), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 998 (1997). "Section 1983 is not itself a font for substantive rights; instead it acts as an instrument for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere." Id. The validity of any claim under § 1983 is judged with reference to the specific constitutional standard governing the right that the plaintiff has alleged was violated. See id.
Doan alleges that his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when the WVCF, PHS, and employees of PHS made decisions that delayed surgery on his hernia in favor of other treatment. Under the Eighth Amendment, a state is required to provide inmates with basic medical care. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Collignon v. Milwaukee County, 163 F.3d 982, 988 (7th Cir. 1998). A prison official violates an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights when he or she is "deliberately indifferent" to the inmate's serious medical needs. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Gutterrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1369 (7th Cir. 1997). To succeed in his Eighth Amendment individual capacity claims against Underwood and Kaufman, Doan must show that each defendant was personally responsible for the violation stated in the complaint. See Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1428 (7th Cir. 1996). "A prisoner may not attribute any of his constitutional claims to higher officials by the doctrine of respondeat superior." Id.
The Court finds that summary judgment is proper in this case because there is no question of material fact that Underwood or Kaufman acted or failed to act with a deliberate or reckless disregard of Doan's Eighth Amendment rights. Doan argues that as supervisors in PHS, both Underwood and Kaufman could have affected the medical care received by him at the WVCF. Pl.'s Mem. in Resp., at 1. Moreover, Doan alleges that as policy-makers, Underwood and Kaufman were in positions to affect the IDC's policy regarding the treatment of inmates who have hernias. Id. at 2. Because Doan alleges that he was adversely affected by this policy, Underwood and Kaufman should be held personally liable for their role in affecting the policy. See id.
But, Doan has not shown that either Underwood or Kaufman was "directly responsible for the improper conduct, and `knowingly, willfully, or at least recklessly caused the alleged deprivation by [his] action or failure to act.'" McPhaul v. Board of Commissioners of Madison County, 226 F.3d 558, 566 (7th Cir. 2000) (quoting Rascon v. Hardiman, 803 F.2d 269, 274 (7th Cir. 1986)) (internal citation omitted). Doan's allegations amount to little more than asserting respondeat superior liability for both defendants. There is no § 1983 liability under respondeat superior without a showing that the alleged illegal acts were committed pursuant to an official policy or custom. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 691, 694 (1978). Doan cites Underwood's resume and affidavit for the proposition that because Underwood and Kaufman were in positions at PHS to affect policy at the WVCF, and part of Doan's case is that the defendants implemented and maintained a policy of not treating hernias with surgery, there is a material question of fact about whether Underwood or Kaufman was involved with making the decision that affected Doan. However, Doan offers no evidence that there was such a policy or custom at the WVCF or within the IDC system set by PHS.
Even if the Court assumes that the manner in which Doan was treated, by itself, establishes such a policy or custom, Doan has not shown that the alleged constitutional deprivation occurred at the direction of either Underwood or Kaufman, or with either Underwood's or Kaufman's knowledge. Although a supervisor's direct participation in the deprivation is not required, a plaintiff must show that the defendant "`act[ed] or fail[ed] to act with a deliberate or reckless disregard of plaintiff's constitutional rights," or "the conduct causing the constitutional deprivation occur[red] at [the defendant's] direction or with [the defendant's] knowledge and consent.'" McPhaul, 226 F.3d at 566 (quoting Rascon, 803 F.2d at 274).
Underwood asserts in his affidavit that he had no responsibility regarding the provision of medical care for inmates in the IDC system. Underwood Aff. ¶ 4. Similarly, Kaufman asserts in his affidavit that he had no responsibility regarding the provision of medical care for inmates in the IDC system. Kaufman Aff. ¶ 4. From these facts, it is reasonable to conclude that decisions about treatment of Doan were not "directed" by either Underwood or Kaufman. Moreover, Doan provides no evidence that either Underwood or Kaufman "directed" Dr. Chavez, Dr. Hawley or the Regional Medical Director to treat Doan's hernia with a truss instead of surgery. The facts of Underwood's and Kaufman's positions as supervisors in PHS alone cannot support such an allegation on a motion for summary judgment.
In addition, Underwood asserts by affidavit that he had no knowledge of Doan's medical information or needs. Underwood Aff. ¶¶ 8, 10. Kaufman also asserts that he had no knowledge of Doan's medical information or needs. Kaufman Aff. ¶¶ 9, 11. Other than pointing out their supervisory positions in PHS, Doan offers no evidence that either Underwood or Kaufman had actual knowledge that Doan or any other inmate were having hernia's treated with trusses instead of surgery to the inmates' detriment. Doan's assertions amount to nothing more than an argument for imputing knowledge to Underwood and Kaufman by virtue of their positions in the PHS organization. This argument fails in light of established precedent and without evidence of an official policy or custom put into effect by these defendants. See McPhaul, 226 F.3d at 566. Accord Ivey v. Harney, 47 F.3d 181, 182 (7th Cir. 1995); Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 323 (2d Cir. 1986).
Doan has failed to show a material question of fact on whether either Underwood or Kaufman directed employees to delay surgery on Doan's hernia, or whether either Underwood or Kaufman knew or directed employees to treat Doan's hernia with a truss instead of surgery for nearly two years. Having failed to put forth such evidence, Doan's § 1983 claims against Underwood and Kaufman in their individual capacities must fail.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant Underwood's motion for summary judgment in GRANTED. Furthermore, defendant Kaufman's motion for summary judgment is also GRANTED.