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Hebert v. City of Baton Rouge

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 13, 2017



         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have fourteen (14) days after being served with the attached Report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions, and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge which have been accepted by the District Court.




         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of defendant Dr. Rani Whitfield (R. Doc. 184). This Motion is opposed. See R. Doc. 210-1.

         The pro se plaintiff, an inmate previously confined at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (“EBRPP”), Baton Rouge, Louisiana, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against numerous defendants alleging that is constitutional rights were violated due to deliberate indifference to his health and serious medical conditions. Defendant Dr. Rani Whitfield now moves for summary judgment relying upon the pleadings, a Statement of Undisputed Facts, the plaintiff's responses to discovery requests, and Dr. Whitfield's affidavit. The plaintiff opposes the defendant's Motion relying upon the pleadings, and a Statement of Undisputed Facts.

         Pursuant to well-established legal principles, summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine disputed issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). A party moving for summary judgment must inform the Court of the basis for the motion and identify those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, that show that there is no such genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, supra, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party carries its burden of proof under Rule 56, the opposing party must direct the Court's attention to specific evidence in the record which demonstrates that the non-moving party can satisfy a reasonable jury that it is entitled to a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., supra, 477 U.S. at 248. This burden is not satisfied by some metaphysical doubt as to alleged material facts, by unsworn and unsubstantiated assertions, by conclusory allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). Rather, Rule 56 mandates that summary judgment be entered against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, supra, 477 U.S. at 323. Summary judgment is appropriate in any case where the evidence is so weak or tenuous on essential facts that the evidence could not support a judgment in favor of the non-moving party. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., supra, 37 F.3d at 1075. In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court may not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991).

         In his Complaint, the plaintiff alleges the following with regards to Dr. Whitfield: Due to overcrowding at the EBRPP, the plaintiff was temporarily housed at the Pine Prairie Correctional Center (“PPCC”) between August 20, 2013 and February 4, 2014. While housed at PPCC, the plaintiff was forced to consume water that was contaminated with unsafe levels of arsenic, as evidenced by an EPA notification posted at PPCC. The plaintiff exhibited persistent cold symptoms, and on or about February 4, 2014, the plaintiff noticed a lump in his left calf. The lump was evaluated by a doctor at PPCC but no testing or treatment was provided. The plaintiff was diagnosed with a blood clot. The plaintiff was subsequently transferred back to the EBRPP, and on February 17, 2014 the plaintiff was seen by defendant Dr. Whitfield. The plaintiff was returned to his cell without any tests, lab work, or treatment being performed. Dr. Whitfield knew that EBRPP prisoners were being exposed to contaminated water at PPCC and that PPCC had been fined by the Environmental Protection Agency due to the same, but failed to order tests, lab work and provide treatment in order to avoid the costs of his care.

         In September of 2014, the plaintiff lost vision in his right eye. On October 3, 2014, the plaintiff sought treatment due to several painful and discolored lumps on his legs, arms, back, stomach and chest. The plaintiff was examined by defendant Dr. Whitfield on October 13, 2014. Dr. Whitfield ordered lab work which later revealed that the plaintiff's white blood count was extremely high. The plaintiff was transported to Tulane University Medical Center on November 4, 2014 and the plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (“CML”) on November 13, 2013.

         The plaintiff asserts that Dr. Whitfield's failure to order basic lab work or tests for eight months constitutes medical malpractice and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, evidenced by the intentional denial of testing and treatment undertaken to avoid the astronomical costs associated with cancer treatment. The plaintiff further asserts that the delay in care eliminated available early treatments by the time the cancer was finally diagnosed in November of 2014.

         In response to the plaintiff's Complaint, defendant Dr. Whitfield contends in the instant motion that the plaintiff cannot meet his burden of proof at trial with regards to his claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs asserted against Dr. Whitfield.[1] Specifically, the defendant contends that the plaintiff has failed to present facts sufficient to show that the defendant has violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights through deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's serious medical needs.

         A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment if the official shows deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-06 (1976). The official must “know[ ] of and disregard[ ] an excessive risk to inmate health or safety” and “be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists”. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The official also must draw that inference. Id.

         Failed treatments, negligence, and medical malpractice are insufficient to give rise to a claim of deliberate indifference. Gobert v. Caldwell, 463 F.3d 339, 346 (5th Cir. 2006). A prisoner who disagrees with the course of treatment or alleges that he should have received further treatment also does not raise a claim of deliberate indifference. Domino v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice, 239 F.3d 752, 756 (5th Cir. 2001). Instead, an inmate must show that prison officials denied him treatment, purposefully provided him improper treatment, or ignored his medical complaints. Id. A delay in treatment may violate the Eighth Amendment if the delay was the result of ...

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