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Palmer v. Wexford Medical

United States District Court, District of Arizona

November 6, 2014

Donald Ray Palmer, Plaintiff,
v.
Wexford Medical, et al., Defendants

Donald Ray Palmer, also named as: Donald R. Palmer, Plaintiff, Pro se, FLORENCE, AZ.

For Elise Stowell, Wexford Health Sources, Complex Manager at Winslow Prison, Defendant: Brandi Christine Blair, Daniel Oliver King, Edward G Hochuli, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Jones Skelton & Hochuli PLC, Phoenix, AZ.

For Charles L Ryan, named as: Charles Ryan/ Director of Arizona Department of Corrections at Central Office, Phoenix, AZ, Defendant: Brandi Christine Blair, Daniel Oliver King, Edward G Hochuli, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Jones Skelton & Hochuli PLC, Phoenix, AZ; Kelley Joan Morrissey, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the Attorney General, Phoenix, AZ.

For Corizon Health Incorporated, Movant: Joseph Scott Conlon, LEAD ATTORNEY, Renaud Cook Drury Mesaros PA, Phoenix, AZ.

ORDER

Honorable Steven P. Logan, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Donald Ray Palmer brought this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Charles L. Ryan, Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Director, and Elise Stowell, former complex manager for Wexford Health, the health care company contracted to provide medical services to prisoners (Doc. 1). Before the Court are Ryan's and Stowell's separate Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 59, 61).

The Court will grant the motions and terminate the action.

I. Background

Palmer's claims arose during his confinement at the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)--Winslow, Kaibab North Unit (Doc. 11). Palmer alleged that he suffers from serious knee injuries that cause unbearable pain and limit his ability to walk and navigate the hilly terrain of the Winslow Complex. Palmer averred that he requested, and his doctor supported, a transfer to another complex with flat terrain and handicap access. According to Palmer, to receive the transfer, he was told that he would have to cancel a pending appointment with an outside specialist and resume treatment after his move. Palmer states he canceled the appointment and requested a transfer.

In Count I of his First Amended Complaint, Palmer alleged that Stowell acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs when she denied his transfer to a new unit and refused to reschedule his appointment with the specialist ( id . at 3-3C). In Count II, Palmer claimed that Ryan acted with deliberate indifference when he, too, denied Palmer's request for a transfer and his request to reschedule his appointment with the specialist ( id . at 4-4B).

Palmer stated that as a result of Defendants' actions, he suffers extreme pain that is aggravated by the difficult terrain at the Winslow Complex and the lack of handicap accessible facilities ( id .). He requested money damages and injunctive relief ( id . at 6).

Stowell moves for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) Palmer cannot show he suffered a deprivation or harm serious enough to implicate the Eighth Amendment, (2) Stowell did not act with deliberate indifference, (3) Palmer is not entitled to punitive damages, and (4) Palmer's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief should be dismissed (Doc. 61)

Ryan argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on the grounds that (1) he was not deliberately indifferent to Palmer's medical needs, (2) the Eleventh Amendment bars Palmer's damages claim against Ryan in his official capacity, (3) claims for declaratory or injunctive relief against Ryan in his individual capacity are not appropriate, (4) Palmer's claim for punitive damages is misplaced, and (5) Ryan is entitled to qualified immunity (Doc. 59).[1]

II. Summary Judgment Standard

A court must 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The movant bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

If the movant fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmovant need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). But if the movant meets its initial responsibility, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute and that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor, First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968); however, it must " come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (internal citation omitted); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

At summary judgment, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In its analysis, the court must believe the nonmovant's evidence and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

III. Relevant Facts

The relevant facts, most of which are undisputed, are taken from the parties' separate Statements of Facts and attached exhibits (Doc. 60, Ryan's Statement of Facts (RSOF); Doc. 62, Stowell's Statement of Facts (SSOF); Doc. 71 at 24-27 (PSOF)[2]).

In 2010, Palmer injured his knee playing basketball at the Lewis Complex, and, on November 10, 2010, he saw a prison physician to address pain resulting from the injury (PSOF ¶ 3; [3] RSOF ¶ 13; SSOF ¶ 5). He was seen again on October 25, 2011, for complaints of ongoing pain; Dr. Merchant, the prison physician, assessed Palmer with right knee instability, prescribed Ibuprofen, and ordered x-rays and an MRI (RSOF ¶ ¶ 14-15; SSOF ¶ 6). Also on this date, Palmer signed an inmate outside consultation appointment agreement (PSOF ¶ 5).

On January 23, 2012, an x-ray and an MRI were performed (PSOF ¶ 6; RSOF ¶ ¶ 16-17; SSOF ¶ ¶ 7-8). The x-ray showed no fracture or dislocation; however, the MRI revealed a complex tear in the lateral meniscus, a subacute bone bruise on the tibial plateau, [4] and small joint effusion (RSOF ¶ ¶ 16-17; SSOF ¶ ¶ 7-8).[5] On January 24, 2012, Palmer was issued a Special Needs Order (SNO), good for one year, for a large right knee sleeve (RSOF ¶ 18; SSOF ¶ 9). Two ...


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