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Jones v. Clement

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

January 31, 2018

BERNARD CLEMENT, et al., Defendants.


         Before the Court is Defendants' construed Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 60], seeking dismissal of this pro se prisoner civil rights action arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will GRANT Defendants' Motion [Doc. 60], DENY AS MOOT Defendants' Motion to Take Deposition [Doc. 75], and DISMISS this action WITH PREJUDICE.


         On May 20, 2016, Plaintiff Tommy Earl Jones, a pro se prisoner, filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 2]. Over the course of the next nine months, Jones filed numerous amendments and supplements to his Complaint [Docs. 6, 8, 10-12, 14, 17-19, 21-23]. On February 22, 2017, the Court entered an Order granting Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and screening Plaintiff's pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A [Doc. 24].[1] The Court dismissed numerous defendants and proposed claims, but it concluded that Plaintiff had stated plausible claims for Eighth Amendment medical deliberate indifference against several doctors and nurses who had treated him during his period of incarceration at Northeast Correctional Complex (“NECX”) - Amy Bowen, Bernard Clement, and Heather Ollis - based on their alleged denial of pain medication for Plaintiff's chronic medical condition, Crohn's disease [Id.].

         On August 24, 2017, Defendants Bowen, Clement, and Ollis filed their “Second Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment” [Doc. 60].[2] Defendants argue that they are entitled to judgment as to Plaintiff's claim against them for refusal to prescribe pain medication [Doc. 61]. Defendants specifically argue that the evidence demonstrates that Plaintiff's claim amounts to no more than a dispute over the adequacy of his treatment - specifically, the decision of the Defendants that narcotic pain medications should not be prescribed as part of Plaintiff's treatment for Crohn's disease [Id.].

         On November 30, 2017, the Court entered an Order placing the parties on notice of the Court's intent to treat Defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 [Doc. 76]. The Court provided Plaintiff with an opportunity to file a belated response to the Motion and provided both parties with an additional opportunity to “present all material that is pertinent to the motion” [Id. at 4 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)]. The Court noted that it would defer ruling on Defendants' Motion until this matter was fully briefed [Id.].

         On December 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed his two-page response [Doc. 81]. Plaintiff stated that his response “shall reflect the §§ 1983 Complaint in its entirety, ” that he has presented all information in his control “for defendant's attorney to subpoena for the Court as exhibits, ” and that he further relies on “ruling of Sixth Circuit in Jones v. Cuddy and Jones v. Willie, et al.” [Id.]. He argues that he is “disadvantaged” in this proceeding because he has been denied counsel and because he is in pain due to his underlying medical conditions [Id.]. Plaintiff did not attach an affidavit or any other evidence.[3]

         In their December 13, 2017 reply, Defendants note that Plaintiff's filing fails to respond to the only issue before this Court on summary judgment: that is, whether the Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment by refusing to acquiesce to Plaintiff's requests for prescriptions pain medications [Doc. 82]. Defendants reiterate that Plaintiff's claims raise nothing more than a dispute over the adequacy of his treatment - specifically, his disagreement with the medical judgments of the Defendants that Plaintiff should not be prescribed narcotic pain medication [Id.].


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 permits a party to move for summary judgment - and the Court to grant summary judgment - “if 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(a). A party asserting the presence or absence of genuine issues of material facts must support its position either by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, ” including depositions, documents, affidavits and other materials, or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts contained in the record and all inferences that can be drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). The Court cannot weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of any matter in dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “Rule 56 must be construed with due regard not only for the rights of persons asserting claims and defenses that are adequately based in fact to have those claims and defenses tried to a jury, but also for the rights of persons opposing such claims and defenses to demonstrate in the manner provided by the Rule, prior to trial, that the claims and defenses have no factual basis.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Id. at 323. The moving party may discharge this burden either by producing evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact or simply “by ‘showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Id. at 325. Where the movant has satisfied this burden, the nonmoving party cannot “rest upon its . . . pleadings, but rather must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578 F.3d 351, 374 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). The nonmoving party must present sufficient probative evidence supporting its claim that disputes over material facts remain and must be resolved by a judge or jury at trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49 (citing First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253 (1968)); see also White v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc., 617 F.3d 472, 475-76 (6th Cir. 2010). A mere scintilla of evidence is not enough; there must be evidence from which a jury could reasonably find in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; Moldowan, 578 F.3d at 374.

         As discussed above, Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment with any supporting evidence, let alone probative evidence demonstrating that any dispute over material facts remain.[4] Nonetheless, a district court cannot grant summary judgment in favor of a movant simply because the adverse party has not presented sufficient evidence or argument in opposition; at a minimum, the Court is required to examine the motion to ensure that the movant has met its initial burden. Stough v. Mayville Cmty. Sch., 138 F.3d 612, 614 (6th Cir. 1998). The Court is not, however, required to “sua sponte comb the record from the partisan perspective of an advocate for the non-moving party.” Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Trs., 980 F.2d 399, 410 (6th Cir. 1992). “Rather, in the reasoned exercise of its judgment the court may rely on the moving party's unrebutted recitation of the evidence, or pertinent portions thereof, in reaching a conclusion that certain evidence and inferences from evidence demonstrate facts which are uncontroverted.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If such evidence supports a conclusion that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the court will determine that the moving party has carried its burden, and “judgment shall be rendered forthwith.” Id. (alteration omitted).


         The Court has carefully reviewed the entire record, including those “particular parts of materials in the record” to which Defendants cite in their Motion, accompanying brief, and reply brief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). The record supports Defendants' recitation of the material facts [See Doc. 61 at 3-6; Doc. 82 at 2-5], and the Court will therefore rely on them as uncontroverted:

         On January 14, 2016, Inmate Jones was treated by Dr. Jorge Benitez. Inmate Jones' Medical Records from the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”). During that visit, Dr. Benitez noted that Inmate Jones was “noncompliant wishing only ‘his way' for treatment which includes getting daily Lortab.” At that visit, Inmate Jones stated that he used to get narcotic pain medication “in the [f]ree world.” ...

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