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Wagner v. Hurst

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

May 21, 2019




          Robert R. Summerhays, United States District Judge.

         Before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. 49] filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by defendants Jack Hurst, Nikki Davis, Ramona Poullard, and Justin Deville. Defendants have also filed a Motion to Strike [doc. 56] relating to several exhibits submitted in support of plaintiffs opposition and plaintiff has filed a Motion to Amend/Correct Response [doc. 60] to provide a corrected copy of one of the objected-to exhibits. The motions relate to a lawsuit brought by plaintiff Michael Wagner, an inmate in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections ("DOC"). Wagner, who is represented by counsel, complains about medical care he received while incarcerated at Allen Correctional Center ("ALC") in Kinder, Louisiana.



         Wagner allegedly injured his back in December 2015 at ALC, when attempting to reach the top bunk on a bunkbed with no ladder. Doc. 1, p. 3. In his complaint, he asserts as follows: He sought care at ALC's medical unit on December 29, 2015, where he informed the nurse that he was having lower back pain and that his left leg felt as though it had fallen asleep. Id. at 3-4. The nurse said he would be referred to a nurse practitioner, but no follow-up appointment occurred.[1]Id. at 4. On March 24, 2016, he returned to health services complaining of unbearable back pain and a limp. Id. He was prescribed Motrin. Id. He received a follow-up appointment with ALC physician Jack Hurst on March 28, 2016, who diagnosed him with a herniated disk, ordered an X-ray, and prescribed naproxen and a cane. Id. at 4-5; see doc. 49, att. 6, p. 2 (X-ray request and radiologist report). Hurst failed to follow up on his promise to order that Wagner be moved to a dormitory closer to the cafeteria and "pill shed," and when Wagner requested medication he was told that none had been ordered. Doc. 1, pp. 4-6.

         Wagner fell on March 31, 2016, after his leg gave out, but medical personnel refused to transport him to the hospital. Id. at 5-6. Instead, his naproxen prescription was filled. Id. at 6. He returned to health services the next day, complaining of excruciating pain, and was admitted to the infirmary. Id. Hurst and Nurse Nikki Davis refused to let him stay there despite excruciating pain and had him charged with aggravated disobedience when he would not return to his dormitory. Id. at 7-8. He returned to the dormitory on crutches and fell again on April 14, Id. at 8. Again, he was denied a wheelchair and trip to the hospital. Id. Nurse Ramona Poullard told him that his injury and pain were his fault, because he put himself in prison, and returned him to his dorm with a pamphlet on back pain. Id. at 8-9. ALC Health Administrator Justin Deville contacted him shortly thereafter about a grievance he had filed and told him he would see about getting him a wheelchair. Id. Deville also told him that Hurst was refusing to treat Wagner because of his attitude. Id. at 9.

         Wagner states that his pain medication was discontinued on May 5, and that on May 7 the pain became so unbearable that he attempted to hang himself in the shower. He continued to make emergency sick calls over the next few days but Hurst refused to see him. Id. at 9-10. He further alleges that he fell twice on May 25, and made another sick call complaining of pain the following day, but that nothing was done. Id. at 10-11. Wagner continued to make sick calls throughout June and July, but alleges that Hurst refused to see him or to order a wheelchair. Id. at 11-12. Instead, Wagner's unit captain authorized use of a trash cart to pull Wagner around and Wagner used this method of transport from July 6 through August 1, 2016. Id. at 12.

         Wagner's medical records reflect that, on April 4, 2016, he was examined by Hurst. Doc. 49, art. 3, p. 16. Hurst recorded that Wagner was a "VERY difficult person to communicate with" and ordered that he receive a CT scan and be returned to his dorm, Id. Hurst ordered the CT scan and an outside consult on April 6, 2016. Id. Wagner received his CT scan on April 27, 2016. Id. at 13. Hurst requested an outside consult with an orthopedist on May 31, 2016, noting Wagner's complaint of leg pain and noting a diagnosis of lumbar radiculopathy. Id. at 10-12. The consult was denied by the DOC on June 15 with the explanation that back pain is part of routine primary care and that the facility had the responsibility to obtain and fund routine primary care. Id. at 9. On that date, Hurst completed a referral form for the DOC Pain Management Clinic, listing Wagner's diagnosis as suspected lumbar radiculopathy. Id. at 7. Wagner returned to health services on June 20, at which time he was seen by Hurst and referred to a wellness program. Id. at 8.

         Hurst's employment with ALC ended on or about June 27, 2016. Doc. 49, art. 3, p. 3. On August 1, Wagner returned to health services and was prescribed moist heat, a walker, and ibuprofen. Id. at 6. He was transferred to the pain management clinic at another DOC facility on August 12, 2016, but refused admission because he was still on suicide watch from his May 7 attempt. Doc. 1, pp. 12-13; doc. 49, art. 3, p. 3. Wagner complains that Poullard saw him at sick call on August 15, 2016, after he slipped in the shower, but refused to refer him for further care. Doc. 1, pp. 13-14. He asserts that Poullard told him to "stop crying like a bitch," that he would receive no further care as long as she was there, and that "that white boy needs an attitude adjustment." Id. at 13. He also alleges that he was told that Deville had determined he would not receive any further treatment at ALC. Id. at 13-14.

         Poullard denies that she ever berated Wagner. Doc. 49, art. 4, pp. 1-2. Her records from the August 15 visit reflect that she examined Wagner and consulted with the new ALC physician, Dr. Chatman (who is not a party to this suit), over Wagner's care. Id. at 4-5. Wagner was prescribed acetaminophen for two weeks and encouraged to use an ice pack. Id. Poullard's notes also reflect that Chatman ordered an X-ray, despite believing there was no need for one. Id. Wagner maintains that he continued to suffer from his back, without treatment, until he was transferred to David Wade Correctional Center on August 29, 2016. Doc. 1, pp. 13-14.

         Wagner filed suit in this court on October 17, 2016, alleging violation of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and negligent medical treatment under Louisiana tort law. As defendants he names Deville, Hurst, Davis, and Poullard, all of whom now move for summary judgment. Wagner opposes the motion, and defendants move to strike several of the exhibits he uses in support of that opposition.


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