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Massey v. United States

November 27, 2002

MICHAEL MASSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 99 C 3309--Richard Mills, Judge.

Before Flaum, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Ripple, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED SEPTEMBER 17, 2002

Michael Massey, an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin, Illinois ("FCI-Pekin"), filed a medical malpractice suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"). The district court granted the United States' motion for summary judgment, and Mr. Massey now appeals from that ruling. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Mr. Massey was incarcerated at FCI-Pekin from March 26, 1996, to June 29, 2000. During the summer of 1995, while incarcerated at the Marion County Jail, Mr. Massey had begun experiencing pain in his abdominal region and had noticed a lump protruding from his naval. Once Mr. Massey arrived at FCI-Pekin, he began to complain about abdominal pain. On July 19, 1996, his attorney wrote David Helman, FCI-Pekin's warden, a letter stating that Mr. Massey had a hernia "for which he may need surgery" and that the prison's response to Mr. Massey's condition had been unsatisfactory. R.43, Ex.2. The letter complained that, although the prison medical staff instructed Mr. Massey to avoid heavy lifting, such a warning was "hardly an adequate response to a hernia." Id. According to his attorney, Mr. Massey was "really in pain and in need of medical attention." Id. at 2. Mr. Massey testified that he received a copy of this letter.

On July 31, 1996, Dr. John Otten, an FCI-Pekin staff physician, examined Mr. Massey with respect to his abdominal pain. Dr. Otten told Mr. Massey that he suffered from an umbilical hernia and that the hernia required surgery soon. Dr. Otten also informed Mr. Massey that "he would put the paperwork in to get the surgery scheduled." R.43, Ex.1 at 35. According to Mr. Massey, he believed, on the basis of his conversation with Dr. Otten, that the hernia required immediate treatment. On August 5, 1996, Dr. Otten placed Mr. Massey's name on a wait list for inmates in need of surgery; however, on August 27, 1996, Ferdinand Samalio, a health services administrator at FCI-Pekin, removed Mr. Massey's name from the list.

Over the next four months, Mr. Massey's hernia grew and his pain increased greatly. By October or November of 1996, Mr. Massey was becoming very uncomfortable; he testified that he could no longer sleep on his stomach and that he had trouble with bowel movements. Because of the increased pain and Mr. Massey's belief that he needed to "stay on top" of the prison's treatment of his condition, Mr. Massey spoke to Dr. Otten, health services administrator Samalio, FCI-Pekin nurses and his attorney about obtaining the surgery promptly. Id. at 36. Mr. Massey believed that the prison was delaying his surgery; indeed, he registered numerous complaints with a prison review committee, but nothing came of his efforts.

When 1997 began, the surgery still had not taken place. Mr. Massey testified that, by this point, the hernia caused him pain on a daily basis, and he believed that his requests for an operation were being completely ignored. On January 29 of that year, Mr. Massey's attorney wrote a second letter to FCI-Pekin's warden. He stated that Mr. Massey's "hernia keeps growing, with no surgery scheduled" and that Mr. Massey's "repeated phone calls" to him caused "serious concern on [his] part as to whether [FCI-Pekin] is violating [Mr. Massey's] constitutional rights, in addition to placing his life in serious jeopardy because of inattention to his medical needs." R.43, Ex.3. In the same letter, Mr. Massey's attorney also threatened to sue FCI-Pekin in order to remedy the situation. Mr. Massey testified that he received a copy of this letter and agreed with its accusations. On December 18, 1997, Dr. John Stephen Marshall, a surgeon with the Peoria Surgical Group, examined Mr. Massey pursuant to a consultation contract with FCI-Pekin. Dr. Marshall diagnosed Mr. Massey as suffering from a freely reducible hernia, which did not require immediate surgery. *fn1 Mr. Massey complained that his pain was increasing, and, consequently, Dr. Marshall recommended and performed Mr. Massey's hernia operation on January 28, 1998. Dr. Marshall testified that Mr. Massey's recovery was unremarkable, with no complications. After surgery, Dr. Marshall ordered Mr. Massey to refrain from heavy lifting. He also recommended that the prison administer Vicodin to Mr. Massey for pain relief as needed.

When Mr. Massey returned to FCI-Pekin, prison officials placed him in his cell and administered Tylenol with codeine (also known as "Tylenol 3") instead of Vicodin. Rather than bring Mr. Massey his Tylenol 3, prison officials required him to walk from his cell to the infirmary to get his prescription. They also required Mr. Massey to walk from his cell to the dining hall for meals.

Following this allegedly improper treatment, Mr. Massey filed an administrative tort claim, which the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") received on February 23, 1999. On November 10, 1999, Mr. Massey filed a medical malpractice suit against the United States pursuant to the FTCA.

B. District Court Proceedings

Mr. Massey raised two claims before the district court. First, Mr. Massey claimed that the prison was negligent in its delay in providing him with the surgical repair of his hernia. Second, Mr. Massey claimed that the prison was negligent in failing to follow post-surgical orders directing that he receive Vicodin and be placed in the prison observation unit for two ...


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