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Pope v. Williams

February 13, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Ronnie Greer United States District Judge


Ernest Pope, an inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction [TDOC], has filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the violation of rights secured to him by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He also asserts claims for medical malpractice under state law. The defendants are Robert Williams, a physician at the Northeast Correctional Complex [NECX], where plaintiff is confined, and Jerry Hayes, NECX's Director of Medical Services.

Plaintiff is ASSESSED the filing fee of three hundred and fifty dollars ($350). The custodian of plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides is DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk of Court, as an initial partial payment, twenty percent (20%) of the greater of either the average monthly deposits to the inmate trust account or the average monthly balance in the account, for the six (6) months immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C.§ 1915(b)(1).

After full payment of the initial partial filing fee, the custodian shall submit twenty percent (20%) of plaintiff's preceding monthly income credited to the account, but only when the amount in the account exceeds ten dollars ($10), until the full $350 fee has been paid to the Clerk of Court.*fn1 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

To ensure compliance with the assessment procedures outlined above, the Clerk is DIRECTED to mail a copy of this Order to the custodian of inmate trust accounts at the NECX and to TDOC Commissioner George Little.

The complaint raises claims for the denial of medical care, including prescribed medications. More specifically, plaintiff claims that, in May of 2006, he was taken to the Johnson County Health Center Emergency Room for back pain, where he was given X-rays, diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis, fluid build-up, and a bulging disk, and was prescribed three medications. When he returned to prison, however, he was denied those medications.

On July 16, 2006, plaintiff, who again experienced back pain, was moved to the prison infirmary and given a couple of injections. Four days later, he saw defendant physician Robert Williams, who asked him some questions and then pressed hard on the sore spot on plaintiff's back. Plaintiff moved forward because of the pain-not away from Dr. Williams. Apparently adhering to the latter perception of plaintiff's movement, defendant doctor asked plaintiff, "If you're not going to let me examine you, then what ...are you doing here?"

When plaintiff responded that his back hurt where defendant mashed it, defendant exclaimed that the only way that [mashing on his back] would hurt was if plaintiff 's back were broken. Defendant then said that he was "done," told plaintiff to leave, and informed the medical staff not to treat plaintiff because he had refused treatment. Plaintiff insists that at no time did he refuse medical treatment.

On that same date, plaintiff filed a grievance complaining about the above incident. Defendant Jerry Hayes, the Director of NECX's Medical Services, responded to the grievance as follows:

On 7/21/06, patient presented on sick call with lower back pain. Patient was referred to doctor that same day. patient was escorted to medical for doctor to examine. patient stated to doctor the medication helps tremendously, but have run out and that he had not been doing any stretching or toning exercises. Doctor then goes to evaluate patent and when doctor touches patient he cries out in pain and moved away. When doctor explained that he needed to exam him to help him. Patient turned to the officers and said, "I'm done" and asked to be taken back to his cell. Doctor noted that he was unable to assess patient as he refused to allow examination.

Patient is advised to allow and follow doctor's advise [sic]. If patient is still experiencing any medical issues or concerns, he needs but to sign up on sick call. [Compl., Exh. 1, Response, dated Aug. 4, 2006 to Grievance # 00182035].

It is plaintiff's position that defendant Hayes did not fully investigate the incident, but merely echoed defendant Williams' version of the events, without talking to plaintiff or other medical personnel to get the other side of the story. Plaintiff maintains that defendant Hayes' action or inaction with respect to his grievance has hindered him from seeking further medical care.

Plaintiff asserts that defendants' conduct violates the Eighth Amendment. He first alleges that defendant doctor showed deliberate indifference to his medical condition by refusing him medication prescribed by the Emergency Room physician, by misinterpreting his reaction to defendant's pressing on his back as a refusal of treatment, and by instructing the medical staff not to treat him.

Plaintiff next maintains that defendant Hayes' failure to investigate the facts underlying his grievance, which "bolstered Defendant Williams to continue his reckless methodology,"(whatever that means) likewise ...

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