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Wright v. United States

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

July 22, 2019





         Before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the defendant, the United States ("government"). Doc. 69. This motion relates to the suit brought by plaintiff, Charles William Wright, Jr., against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in forma pauperis in this matter. The motion is unopposed.



         Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") and is incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Oakdale, Louisiana ("FCIO"). He states that he suffered serious injury on January 29, 2014, when he slipped on an icy pavement at FICO while waiting for his medication at the "pill line." Doc. 1, p. 2. Plaintiff also complains of his medical care following the fall. Id. at 3-5. Specifically, he alleges that no medical care was provided to him for the week following his fall. Id. at 3. He states that one night that week, a tendon broke loose in his injured arm, causing a "popeye" mass that put him in excruciating pain. Id.

         Records show that plaintiff was seen at FCIO Health Services on February 11, 2014, for a complaint of shoulder pain relating to his fall. Doc. 41, att. 6. At that examination the medical officer observed the mass on plaintiffs arm and ordered an X-ray. Id.; See doc. 41, att. 7. The officer diagnosed plaintiff with a ruptured tendon and requested an orthopedic consult, which was approved the following day. Doc. 41, atts. 6 & 8. Plaintiff visited Health Services complaining of arm pain on February 26, April 14, and June 17, 2014, and was prescribed pain medication, issued an arm sling, and given a bottom bunk pass. Doc. 41, att. 9, pp. 4-5, 6-7, 8-9. His orthopedic consult occurred on July 18, 2014, and he was diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear and bicep rupture. Doc. 41, att. 10, pp. 3-5. The orthopedist recommended an MRI of the shoulder and noted that the bicep did not require surgery. Id. Plaintiff was given a steroid injection and ordered to continue his pain medication and to wear his sling as needed for his comfort. Id.

         The MRI was not performed until April 1, 2015. See doc. 41, att. 11. Based on that imaging, the orthopedist determined that plaintiff should undergo a rotator cuff arthroscopy and entered an order for that procedure on May 1, 2015, with a target date of August 5, 2015. Doc. 41, att. 3. The procedure was performed on August 22, 2016. Doc. 41, att. 5, pp. 3-5. While awaiting surgery, plaintiff exhausted his remedies with the BOP. Doc. 1, att. 2. He then instituted this action on November 23, 2015, under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., claiming negligence by the government in the maintenance of FCIO premises and in his medical care. Doc. 1. On January 4, 2016, he amended the title of his complaint to read: "Complaint by Prisoner Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)." Doc. 5.

         The government filed a motion to dismiss relating to the premises maintenance claim, which this court granted. See doc. 37; doc. 53 (judgment adopting report and recommendation). As to plaintiffs medical care claim, both parties sought summary judgment. Docs. 32, 41. The government argued plaintiff would be unable to prove the essential elements of a medical malpractice claim because he had not designated an expert witness. Doc. 41. Plaintiff argued that the government had provided inadequate responses to the complaint and discovery therefore there was no genuine issue as to any material fact. Doc. 32. The magistrate judge assessed plaintiffs claim under the relevant standards governing Louisiana medical malpractice claims and agreed with the government that plaintiffs allegations did not rise to the level where she could infer negligence without an expert. Doc. 54. Accordingly, she recommended that plaintiffs medical care claim be dismissed with prejudice. Id. The district court rejected the recommendation and denied both motions for summary judgment. Doc. 56. It suggested the suit was more appropriately assessed as civil rights claim for violation of plaintiff s Eighth Amendment rights, rather than as a medical malpractice claim. Id. at 3.

         On June 18, 2019, the government filed the instant motion for summary judgment. Doc. 69. It maintains that plaintiffs claim is properly assessed as a medical malpractice claim but argues that, under any standard, plaintiff received appropriate medical treatment. See doc. 69, att. 1, p. 17. In support of its motion it provides the expert opinion of Dr. Shawn Granger, an orthopedic surgeon. Doc. 69, atts. 3-4. Dr. Granger reviewed plaintiff s medical records and found the treatment received by plaintiff in this case to be "appropriate and reasonable." Doc. 69, att. 4, p. 6. The motion is unopposed.


         Summary Judgment Standard

         A court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the movant shows "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. Civ. P. 56. The party moving for summary judgment is initially responsible for identifying portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Tubacex, Inc. v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5 th Cir. 1995). The court must deny the motion for summary judgment if the movant fails to meet this burden. Id.

         If the movant makes this showing, however, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (quotations omitted). This requires more than mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings. Instead, the nonmovant must submit "significant probative evidence" in support of his claim. State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman,896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th Cir. 1990). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or ...

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