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Joe Champs v. Dr. Marvin Powers

March 16, 2011

JOE CHAMPS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. MARVIN POWERS, AND TERRY CALIPER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Joe Champs, an inmate in the Tamms Correctional Center ("Tamms"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for deprivations of his constitutional rights. At this juncture, Champs' First Amended Complaint (Doc. 8) controls, and the only remaining defendants are Dr. Marvin Powers and Terry Caliper. See Doc. 27. Dr. Powers is Champs' treating physician and the Medical Director at Tamms; Terry Caliper, a registered nurse by trade, is the Administrator of the Health Care Unit at Tamms. Put succinctly, Champs alleges that Powers and Caliper have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs-- a knee injury and resulting pain-- in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Before the Court are two motions for summary judgment filed by Caliper (Docs. 40 and 70), Dr. Powers' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 78), and Plaintiff Champs' own motion for summary judgment (Doc. 62). Caliper argues that she is entitled to qualified immunity, and Caliper and Powers both contend they are entitled to summary judgment on the merits of the case. Champs also asserts that he is entitled to summary judgment based on the undisputed facts in the record.

United States Magistrate Judge Clifford J. Proud issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 96), recommending that Caliper's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 40) be granted because, in accordance with Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001 (7th Cir. 2006), Caliper was entitled to qualified immunity; in the alternative, it was recommended that Caliper's Second Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 70) be granted, as Johnson v. Doughty again controls on the merits of the case. Judge Proud also recommends that Defendant Powers' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 78) be granted, in that the evidence fails to rise to the level necessary to establish deliberate indifference. Concluding that Caliper and Powers are entitled to summary judgment on the merits of the case, Judge Proud further recommends that Champs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 62) be denied, because Plaintiff Champs has failed to adequately substantiate his claims, or otherwise present a question of fact for trial.

Plaintiff Champs objects to the Report and Recommendation "in its entirety" (Doc. 101). However, upon closer reading, Champs does not take issue with the factual recitation, per se, only with Judge Proud's legal conclusions. Champs offers nine pages of legal precedents and principles of law regarding deliberate indifference to serious medical needs (Doc. 101, pp. 6-15), all of which are consistent with the legal principles upon which Judge Proud relied. Champs' arguments contain little or nothing new, or specific to Judge Proud's analysis and conclusions.

Relative to Defendant Caliper, Champs argues that qualified immunity is inappropriate in this scenario because, as a nurse and the Administrator of the Health Care Unit, Caliper had a duty to recognize that Champs was not receiving adequate medical care and to take action. Plaintiff also observes that Caliper is not an orthopedic specialist, implying that she was incompetent to realize he was receiving inadequate care. With respect to Defendant Powers, Champs reiterates his position that the evidence establishes the Eighth Amendment claim. Champs further asserts that Dr. Powers is not a surgeon or orthopedic specialist, inferring that Powers is incompetent to assess and treat Champs' knee injury.

In response to Champs' objections, Defendant Caliper contends that Champs has offered nothing more than his own opinions, without foundation or evidentiary support (Doc. 105). In reply, Champs again asserts that the medical records speak for themselves and demonstrate Dr. Powers' incompetence (Doc. 106). In addition, Champs distinguishes Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001 (7th Cir. 2006), upon which Judge Proud relies, by observing that Johnson did not involve a trained nurse who, as Administrator of the Health Care Unit, was charged with ensuring that inmates receive proper medical care.

Accordingly, the Court will undertake de novo review of the portions of the Report to which specific objection was made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); Southern District of Illinois Local Rule 73.1(b); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court may accept, reject or modify the recommended decision, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Local Rule 73.1(b); Willis v. Caterpillar, Inc., 199 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1999).

1. Controlling Legal Principles

A. The Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Estate of Suskovich v. Anthem Health Plans of Va., Inc., 553 F.3d 559, 563 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining summary judgment motions, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). Further, the party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After "a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 at 255 (quotation omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2) (requiring adverse party to "set out specific facts"). Finally, at summary judgment, the "court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact."National Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

B. Deliberate Indifference

The Supreme Court has declared that a prison official's "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). In order to prevail on such a claim, a plaintiff must first show that his condition was "objectively, sufficiently serious" and secondly, that the "prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind." Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 652-653 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations and quotations omitted); see alsoWilliams v. Liefer, 491 F.3d 710, 714 (7th Cir. 2007). With respect to the objective component of this inquiry, "[a] 'serious' medical need is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Foelker v. Outagamie County, 394 F.3d 510, 512-513 (7th Cir. 2005).

A prisoner also must show that "prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind" -namely deliberate indifference, a subjective standard. Greeno, 414 F.3d 645 at 653. "The infliction of suffering on prisoners can be found to violate the Eighth Amendment only if that infliction is either deliberate, or reckless in the criminal law sense."Duckworth v. Franzen, 780 F.2d 645, 652-653 (7th Cir. 1985). Negligence, gross negligence, or even "recklessness," as that term is used in tort cases, is not enough. Id. at 653; Shockley v. Jones, 823 F.2d 1068, 1072 (7th Cir. 1987). Put another way, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a prison official was "aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists," that the official actually drew the inference, and then disregarded this risk.Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653 (internal quotations omitted). While a series of negligent acts can evince a prison official's awareness of an inmate's exposure to a serious risk, "showing deliberate indifference through a pattern of neglect entails a heavy burden." Zentmyer v. Kendall County, 220 F.3d 805, 811 (7th Cir. 2000)(quoting Dunigan ex rel. Nyman v. Winnebago County, 165 F.3d 587, 591 (7th Cir.1999)).

Inmates are not entitled to demand specific treatment or even "to the best care possible." Forbes v. Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 267 (7th Cir. 1997) ("Under the Eighth Amendment, [an inmate] is not entitled to demand specific care. She is not entitled to the best care possible. She is entitled to reasonable measures to meet a substantial risk of serious harm to her."). Moreover, "[m]ere dissatisfaction or disagreement with a doctor's course of treatment is generally insufficient." Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1013 (7th Cir. 2006); See also Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir.1996). However, "a medical professional's erroneous treatment decision can lead to deliberate indifference liability if the decision was made in the absence of professional judgment." Johnson, 433 F.3d at 1013; see also Collignon v. Milwaukee County, 163 F.3d 982, 989 (7th Cir. 1998) ("A plaintiff can show that the professional disregarded the need only if the professional's subjective response was so inadequate that it demonstrated an absence ...


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