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Moore v. Singh

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

August 9, 2019




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

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have 14 days after being served with the attached report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations set forth 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 accepted by the District Court.



         Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment.[1] Defendants have also filed an Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.[2] Plaintiff did not file a timely opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the undersigned recommends that the Motion for Summary Judgment[3] filed on behalf of Defendants be granted, dismissing Plaintiff's claims with prejudice, and that the Motion for Summary Judgment[4] filed by Plaintiff be denied.

         I. Background

         Pro se Plaintiff, Theodore Moore (“Plaintiff”), an inmate confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (“LSP”), Angola, Louisiana, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dr. Raman Singh (former medical director for Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections [“DPSC”]), Dr. Randy Lavespere (LSP medical director), Warden Darrell Vannoy, Medical Warden Tracy Falgout, and Secretary James Leblanc (collectively “Defendants”), complaining that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by exhibiting deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have implemented an unconstitutional policy that has resulted in Plaintiff not receiving appropriate treatment and accommodation for his inguinal hernia.[5]

         Records indicate Plaintiff's first complaint of a left inguinal hernia was on September 9, 2016.[6] On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff's hernia was, for the first time, evaluated by Dr. Lavespere, [7]and on this same date, Dr. Lavespere completed the Louisiana Department of Corrections Referral Form for General Surgery and referred Plaintiff for surgery on his reducible, yet large, left inguinal hernia.[8] Between Plaintiff's diagnosis on September 9, 2016 and his surgery referral on October 26, 2016, Plaintiff was seen on several occasions for his hernia and related symptoms.[9] At a visit only weeks after his diagnosis, on September 23, 2016, a request to “escalate” was placed, and on October 5, 2016, a notation was made that a referral to the hernia clinic was pending.[10] On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff was also issued a temporary duty status to last six months with restrictions consistent with his diagnosis.[11] After the surgery referral from Dr. Lavespere, medical personnel at LSP continued to monitor Plaintiff.[12] On May 10, 2017, Plaintiff received another surgery referral from Dr. John Morrison.[13] On June 12, 2017, Plaintiff underwent surgery to repair his left inguinal hernia at the Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center.[14]

         The Louisiana Department of Corrections, “Referral Guidelines, Hernia” provide, in pertinent part, as follows:

         Indications for Specialty Care Referral

• Hernia is non reducible
• Hernia is very large in size failing medical management
• Any signs/symptoms indicating incarceration or strangulation I.e. diminished cough reflex
• Significant pain/discomfort requiring narcotics/inpatient pain management[15]

         Plaintiff alleges that this policy denies surgical intervention to all inmates with reducible hernias and delays treatment and surgical intervention until an inmate's condition has deteriorated and becomes emergent or life-threatening.[16] Plaintiff further alleges that this policy violates his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment.

         Plaintiff has sued all Defendants in their official capacities and seeks injunctive relief against all Defendants.[17] Plaintiff also named Dr. Lavespere and Dr. Singh in their individual capacities and seeks monetary relief against these two Defendants in addition to injunctive relief.[18]

         II. Law & Analysis

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] However, under Fed. Rule. Civ. Proc. 56(c), a party must cite to evidence or show that the materials cited do not support the presence or absence of a dispute.

         B. Rights of Other Prisoners

         The right to bring an action under the civil rights act is personal in nature and may not be asserted by third parties.[26] All persons who claim a deprivation of constitutional rights must prove some violation of their personal rights.[27] Insofar as Plaintiff's Complaint may be read to assert a deliberate indifference claim on behalf of other prisoners, such claims should be dismissed.

         C. Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference

         In order for there to be liability in connection with a claim of deliberate medical indifference, an inmate plaintiff must allege that appropriate medical care has been denied and that the denial has constituted “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”[28] Whether the plaintiff has received the treatment or accommodation that he believes he should have is not the issue.[29] Nor do negligence, neglect, unsuccessful treatment, or even medical malpractice, give rise to a § 1983 cause of action.[30] Rather, “subjective recklessness as used in the criminal law” is the appropriate definition of “deliberate indifference” under the Eighth Amendment.[31] Farmer lays out both an objective prong, and a subjective prong.[32] The objective prong requires plaintiffs to demonstrate that “the deprivation alleged [was], objectively, ‘sufficiently serious.'”[33] Second, under Farmer's “subjective” prong, plaintiffs must show that prison officials acted with a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.”[34] The deliberate indifference standard sets a very high bar: the plaintiff must be able to establish that the defendants “refused to treat him, ignored his complaints, intentionally treated him incorrectly, or engaged in any similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs.”[35] Further, a mere delay in providing medical treatment does not amount to a constitutional violation without both deliberate indifference and a resulting substantial harm.[36]

         First, to the extent Plaintiff claims that his primary care providers refused to diagnose a hernia earlier than September 2016, his claim cannot succeed, as he has not named any of his primary care providers as Defendants.[37] In Plaintiff's Complaint, which was filed over two years ago, he alleged he was “not certain of the identity of his assigned LSP primary physician, although Plaintiff has been interviewed by several LSP physicians employed at LSP, all of whom have perpetuated the policy, practice or custom of deliberately delaying access to surgery for this serious medical need.”[38] Rather than naming his primary care providers, the Defendants named by Plaintiff have all allegedly played a part in implementing “an unconstitutional policy, practice or custom of denying or delaying corrective hernia surgery indefinitely after diagnosis.”[39] Plaintiff's Complaint centers entirely on the implementation of a policy by officials responsible for various administrative tasks and for policy development at LSP and/or the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

         In order for a prison official to be found liable under' 1983, the official must be shown to have been personally and directly involved in conduct causing an alleged deprivation of an inmate's constitutional rights, or there must be shown to be a causal connection between the actions of the official and the constitutional violation sought to be redressed.[40] Any allegation that a named defendant is responsible for the actions of subordinate officers or co-employees under a theory of vicarious responsibility or respondeat superior is alone insufficient to state a claim under' 1983.[41] Further, in the absence of direct personal participation by a supervisory official in an alleged constitutional violation, an inmate plaintiff must be able to show that the deprivation of his constitutional rights has occurred as a result of a subordinate's implementation of the supervisor's affirmative wrongful policies or as a result of a breach by the supervisor of an affirmative duty specially imposed by state ...

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