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Tucker v. Rudd

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 30, 2018

JOHN RUDD, et al., Defendants.


          ALISTAIR E. NEWBERN United States Magistrate Judge.

         Upon the consent of the parties, this case has been transferred to the Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings and enter final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 184.) Pending before the Court are the motion for summary judgment of Defendants John Rudd, Rudd Medical Management Services, and Kenneth Tucker (the Medical Defendants) (Doc. No. 81); the motion for judgment on the pleadings, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, of Defendants Robert Arnold, Derrell Cagle, and Chris Deal (the Jail Defendants) (Doc. No. 123). For the reasons provided below, the Defendants' motions for summary judgment are GRANTED. This case will be DISMISSED and all other pending motions are FOUND MOOT.

         I. Background

         A. Factual History[1]

         Tucker is an inmate at the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center (RCADC) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 2.) During the time of the events described in Tucker's complaint, Defendant John Rudd was the owner and Medical Director of Defendant Rudd Medical Management Services, PLC (RMMS), a private company that contracts with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office to provide healthcare services to inmates. (Doc. No. 61-1, PageID# 313, 315.) Defendant Kenneth Tucker (K. Tucker) was a registered nurse and RMMS's Director of Health Services. (Id. at PageID# 313.) Defendant Robert Arnold was the Sheriff of Rutherford County (Doc. No. 125-1, PageID# 923, ¶ 1), Defendant Chris Deal was the Jail Administrator of RCADC (Doc. No. 127-1, PageID# 934, ¶ 1), and Defendant Derrell Cagle was the Captain of Detention at RCADC (Doc. No. 126-1, PageID# 928, ¶ 1).

         Tucker alleges that he has not received proper medical care for his injured back while incarcerated at RCADC. (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 5-6.) Tucker's back problems stem from a lifting injury he suffered at some point prior to his arrival at RCADC on February 13, 2015. (Doc. No. 1-1, PageID# 17; Doc. No. 136, PageID# 1091.) To treat that injury, Doctor Michael Moran, Tucker's surgeon, operated on Tucker's back, performing a lumbar laminectomy on November 19, 2013. (Doc. No. 1-1, PageID# 11.) Tucker's pain recurred after the operation. On June 6, 2014, Moran examined Tucker and concluded that Tucker should “continue with non-surgical management” despite Tucker's interest in additional surgery. (Doc. No. 95, PageID# 598.) In another post-operation appointment on January 2, 2015, Tucker was “very adamant” about additional surgery even though Moran “stressed [that surgery] is not the most favorable way to deal with” Tucker's pain. (Doc. No. 1-1, PageID# 11.) Tucker emerged from that appointment convinced that Moran had prescribed him another surgery. (Doc. No. 83, PageID# 473; Doc. No. 140-2, PageID# 1240.)

         Tucker arrived at RCADC on February 13, 2015 (Doc. No. 136, PageID# 1091), and informed medical staff that he had recently undergone back surgery and that his “nerve block [was] about to w[ear] off.” (Doc. No. 95-1, PageID# 603) Tucker also claims that he immediately requested another back surgery. (Id.) Tucker alleges that, despite having notified the Medical Defendants of his back problems, he received no medical attention until March 18, 2015, when he saw Nurse Wisdom. (Doc. No. 83, PageID# 473.) That allegation is inconsistent with medical records submitted by the Jail Defendants indicating that Tucker was seen for intakes on the day of his arrival and on February 20, 2015, although the notes associated with those entries do not mention Tucker's back. (Doc. No. 124-2, PageID# 856.) On March 23, 2015, Tucker was put on “medical observation status.” (Doc. No. 136, PageID# 1092, ¶ 6.)

         Tucker alleges that, throughout his time at RCADC, he was “being see[n], not treated.” (Doc. No. 95-1, PageID# 604.) Tucker believed “proper treatment” required an additional surgery on his back, consistent with what Tucker understood to have been Moran's recommendation. (Doc. No. 83, PageID# 473; Doc. No. 136, PageID# 1092, ¶ 10.) Tucker claims that the Medical Defendants denied him such surgery so that Rudd could save money. (Doc. No. 83, PageID# 472-73.) Even if proper treatment did not require surgery, Tucker argues that he should have been sent to see a specialist who could prescribe “medication used to treat serious back pain[.]” (Doc. No. 136, PageID# 1092, ¶ 9.) Tucker received pain medication throughout his time at RCADC, but contends that the medication was ineffective. (Id.; Doc. No. 206, PageID# 1748.) Tucker concedes that, between March 27, 2015, and June 6, 2017, he had a total of 111 encounters with medical personnel, yet he states that such interactions did not amount to “treatment.” (Doc. No. 136, PageID# 1092, ¶ 8.) Tucker also concedes that he received a spinal x-ray and an intrathecal injection at the office of Cedar Grove Medical Associates on May 4, 2015, and an MRI of his spine at the Imaging System of Murfreesboro on March 17, 2016. (Id. at PageID# 1093, ¶ 12.) Tucker claims that the Jail Defendants knew of the deficiencies in the treatment he was receiving, yet “d[id] nothing[.]” (Doc. No. 83, PageID# 474.)

         B. Procedural History

         On March 3, 2016, Tucker filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the Medical and Jail Defendants asserting that they were deliberately indifferent to his back problems in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 1, 5.) On June 20, 2016, the Court granted Tucker's motion to amend his complaint to “include claims related to his neck.” (Doc. No. 78, PageID# 453-54.) Tucker has filed two additional motions to amend his complaint, both of which are currently pending before the Court.[2] (Doc. Nos. 83, 95.)

         The Medical Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on June 21, 2016. (Doc. No. 81.) Tucker has responded in opposition multiple times. (Doc. Nos. 94, 97, 112, 121, 140, 147, 154.) The Jail Defendants have also responded (Doc. No. 103). In support of that motion, the Medical Defendants filed a memorandum of law (Doc. No. 84), a statement of undisputed material facts (Doc. No. 85), and Rudd's affidavit (Doc. No. 86). The Jail Defendants filed their motion for judgment on the pleadings, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on July 26, 2016 (Doc. No. 123), to which Tucker responded several times (Doc. Nos. 136, 137, 154). In support of their motion, the Jail Defendants submitted a memorandum of law (Doc. No. 124), the affidavits of Arnold, Cagle, and Deal (Doc. Nos. 125, 126, 127), and a statement of undisputed facts (Doc. No. 128). On September 14, 2016, Tucker filed a document entitled “motion for summary judgment” in which he argues that there are material facts in dispute meriting a trial (Doc. No. 154, PageID# 1325, 1343-44), and which, as both the Medical and Jail Defendants point out (Doc. No. 155, PageID# 1501; Doc. No. 156, PageID# 1509 n.1), is therefore better labeled a response to their motions for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court construes Tucker's “motion for summary judgment” as another response in opposition to the Defendants' dispositive motions.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 fact is material when its proof would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action. Golevski v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 143 Fed.Appx. 638, 642 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984). To demonstrate the absence of a material factual dispute, the movant must cite to “particular parts of materials in the record” (including depositions, affidavits or declarations, and other materials), Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), or show- “that is, point[] out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B)(stating that a movant may demonstrate the absence of a material factual dispute by “showing that the materials cited” do not establish such a dispute). Thus when the non-moving party has the burden to establish an essential element of the cause of action, but fails to do so, and the movant points that out, the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Williams v. Ford Motor Co., 187 F.3d 533, 537 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the factual evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). However, the non-moving party, in responding to a motion for summary judgment, “cannot rest solely on the allegations” contained in the pleadings. Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 496 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Skousen v. Brighton High Sch., 305 F.3d 520, 527 (6th Cir. 2002)).

         This Court's Local Rule 56.01 governs motions for summary judgment. Regarding responses to statements of material facts, Local Rule 56.01(c) provides that, “[a]ny party opposing the motion for summary judgment must respond to each fact set forth by the movant by either (i) agreeing that the fact is undisputed; (ii) agreeing that the fact is undisputed for the purpose of ruling on the motion for summary judgment only; or (iii) demonstrating that the fact is disputed. Each disputed fact must be supported by specific citation to the record.” M.D. Tenn. R. 56.01(c) (motions for summary judgment). Rule 56.01(g) states that “[f]ailure to respond to a moving party's statement of material facts . . . shall indicate that the asserted facts are not disputed for the purposes of summary judgment.” Id. § 56.01(g).

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, an individual has “a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, [has deprived the individual] of any right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution and federal law.” McKnight v. Rees, 88 F.3d 417, 419 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983). A private company contracting with the state to provide medical services to prison inmates may be sued under § 1983 as an entity acting “under color of state law.” Hicks v. Frey, 992 F.2d 1450, 1458 (6th Cir. 1993) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 54 (1988)). Private physicians serving inmate populations are subject to suit under § 1983 as well. Carl v. Muskegon County, 763 F.3d 592, 596 (6th Cir. 2014).[3] A county official sued in her official capacity is also subject to suit under § 1983, although such a suit is treated as one against the county. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985) (“[a]s long as the government entity receives notice and an opportunity to respond, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity”); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994).

         In the analysis that follows, the Court assumes that Tucker has not sued any defendant in his individual capacity and that Tucker seeks only injunctive relief in this action. In Tucker's complaint, he states that he is suing Rudd, Arnold, and Cagle in their official capacities only, but does not mention K. Tucker or Deal. (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 4.) However, Tucker does not demand monetary relief in his complaint or in any subsequent pleadings.[4] A defendant should be “properly named and clearly notified” before being held liable for the payment of damages individually, Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 593 (6th Cir. 1989). The Defendants have not been properly named or notified so as to support individual capacity damages claims in this action.

         III. Analysis

         The Court makes its analysis into two parts, according to the legal standard that is relevant to the alleged Eighth Amendment violation: (a) the standard governing Tucker's claim for injunctive relief against the individual Defendants sued in their official capacities and (b) the standard governing Tucker's claim against RMMS.[5]

         A. Claims Against the Jail Defendants In Their Official Capacities

         Because Tucker has sued Jail Defendants in their official capacities only, his suit is treated as one against Rutherford County. See Kentucky, 473 U.S. at 166. When a § 1983 claim is brought against a municipality, the Court must determine: “(1) whether plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation, and (2) if so, whether the [county] is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). A county will only be found liable if the plaintiff can show ...

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