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Morris v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 6, 2019




         Plaintiff Warren Morris alleges that, after he fractured a bone in his right hand in a physical altercation with another inmate, Defendants Scott, Lashbrook and Ebers were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs (Count I). Morris further alleges that Defendants Clark, Pearce, Johnson, Moore, Fagerland, Pruitt, Porter, Ebers and Wall used excessive force when handcuffing him following his injury (Count II). Defendant Scott moved for summary judgment (Doc. 116), as have Defendants Clark, Fagerland, Johnson, Lashbrook, Moore, Pierce, Porter, Pruitt and Wall (Doc. 119). The matter has been referred to the undersigned by Chief Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and Local Rule 72.1(a)(2). For the reasons delineated below, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court grant Defendant Scott's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 116) and grant in part the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Clark, Fagerland, Johnson, Lashbrook, Moore, Pierce, Porter, Pruitt and Wall (Doc. 119).

         I. Findings of Fact

         Morris, who was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, became involved in a physical altercation with another inmate on March 18, 2016, around 12:00 p.m. He injured his hand during the incident, leaving it painful and visibly swollen. At his deposition, Morris testified that Defendant Ebers, a correctional officer, arrived a few minutes after the fight and told Morris not to say anything. Morris alleges that Ebers saw that his hand was swollen and that he was in pain, but Ebers did nothing. (Doc. 117-2, p. 28).

         Morris was not taken to the healthcare unit until approximately 3:00 p.m. that day even though Ebers knew of his injury hours earlier. (Doc. 117-2, p. 30-31). Morris testified that around 3:00 p.m., Defendant Clark, who was aware of Morris's hand injury and pain, handcuffed and escorted him from his cell to an office. Clark questioned Morris about the altercation in the office before handcuffing him a second time and transporting him to the healthcare unit. (Doc. 117-2, p. 24). Clark testified at his deposition that he did not recall his interactions with Morris on August 18, 2016. (Doc. 122-1).

         When he arrived in the healthcare unit, Morris was treated by a nurse before seeing Defendant Michael Scott, a doctor, for what may have been an unofficial appointment. Morris testified that Dr. Scott told him that the x-ray technician was unavailable until Monday, March 21 because the technician did not work on the weekends. Morris recalled Dr. Scott telling him that he had a boxer's break and would need a cast from an outside orthopedist after his hand was x-rayed. Dr. Scott prescribed ibuprofen (400mg) three-times daily as needed for pain. (Doc. 117-1, p. 3, 13, 19). Morris stayed in the infirmary through the weekend and was given 24 ibuprofen pills for his pain. (Doc. 117-2, p. 11-13).

         Defendant Wall escorted Morris to see the x-ray technician on August 21, 2018. Wall handcuffed Morris while transporting him despite being aware that Morris had a hand injury. (Doc. 117-2, p. 11-13, 23-25). Dr. Scott reviewed the results of the x-ray with Morris and diagnosed a fractured third metacarpal with 30-degree angulation. Dr. Scott placed an ortho-glass splint on Morris's hand and told him that he would be sent to an orthopedist. In Dr. Scott's medical opinion, Morris's fracture was not urgent due to the minimal angulation, the closed nature of the fracture and the absence of neurological symptoms. (Doc. 117-1, p. 7). On March 22, 2016, Dr. Scott submitted a collegial review request, and he noted that an orthopedic outpatient visit was scheduled to be approved. (Doc. 117-1, p. 5, 19).

         Morris testified that after his appointment with Dr. Scott, Wall again handcuffed him behind his back and transported him from the healthcare unit to segregation. (Doc. 117-2, p. 25). Wall does not recall his interactions with Morris. (Doc. 122-3, p. 11). Defendant Pearce strip-searched Morris when he arrived at the segregation unit. Pearce then handcuffed Morris behind his back to transport him to the shower, even though Morris testified that he told Pearce about his broken hand and his severe pain. (Doc. 117-2, p. 25).

         Morris maintains that he received no pain medication between March 21-28, 2016. He testified that he spoke to numerous nurses about his pain medication and that the nurses told him to submit a sick call request to address the issue, but he refused to do it. (Doc. 117-2, p. 14). Dr. Scott testified that an inmate can request an evaluation through the sick call process if he is not receiving his pain medication. (Doc. 117-1, p. 13)). On March 28, 2016, Morris submitted a sick call request, received pain medication and was referred to see Dr. Scott. (Doc. 117-2, p. 14-15; Doc. 117-1, p. 20). Dr. Scott prescribed tramadol on March 29, 2016. Dr. Scott testified that he wrote that the tramadol prescription was “inadvertently omitted” from a previous request in order to help Morris cover his $5 co-pay for placing the nurse sick call request. (Doc. 117-1, p. 7-8).

         Morris testified that when he was transported to the nurse for the March 28, 2016 sick call, Defendant Moore handcuffed him behind his back, despite Morris telling him that he was in severe pain from his broken hand and showing him the splint. He testified similarly as to Defendant Johnson, who transported him to see Dr. Scott on March 29. (Doc. 117-2 p. 25-26). Neither Moore nor Johnson remember the interactions with Morris. (Doc. 122-5; Doc. 122-6).

         On April 5, 2016, Morris alleges that Moore transported him to the showers, again with his broken hand handcuffed behind his back. Defendant Fagerland then was responsible for transporting Morris to his outpatient appointment with an orthopedic specialist. Fagerland used box cuffs to handcuff Morris. Morris testified that he told Fagerland that he was in severe pain due to his broken hand and that he showed Fagerland his splint. Morris claims that the box cuffs caused more pain because they required that he place one palm face-up and the other face-down. (Doc. 117-2, p. 25-26).

         Morris was seen by Gretchen Mason, a physician's assistant at the Orthopedic Institute of Southern Illinois. At her deposition, Mason testified that she treats approximately 80 patients per week and that roughly 15-20% are referred for treatment more than one week after their date of injury. She determined that Morris had a clean fracture that was starting to heal and that he did not require surgery. She taught Morris hand exercises to strengthen his hand and to help control his pain. Mason testified that she did not believe that the two-week interval between Morris's injury and her appointment with him had any impact on the outcome of his injury. (Doc. 117-3, p. 4-8). Dr. Scott saw Morris on April 8, 2016, for a follow-up appointment. He prescribed Motrin (400mg) as needed for pain for approximately 30 days.

         On April 12, 2016, Defendant Porter handcuffed Morris behind his back to transport him to the showers even though Morris told him he was in severe pain from his broken hand. (Doc. 117-2, p. 26). On April 18, 2016, Dr. Scott reviewed records from Gretchen Mason. Dr. Scott noted that Mason requested a follow-up appointment, and he submitted a collegial review request to approve the appointment. (Doc. 117-1, p. 27). On May 3, 2016, Dr. Scott prescribed a new round of Tylenol in response to a request from Morris for pain medication. On May 4, 2016, Morris had a follow-up visit with Mason. She determined that his fracture was healed as expected. On May 27, 2016, Dr. Scott saw Morris for a follow-up appointment. He noted that Morris completed six weeks in a splint and showed healing without malalignment, per Mason's notes. Morris complained of pain, so Dr. Scott prescribed Motrin and Tylenol along with physical therapy.

         II. ...

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