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Hoelcel v. Arkansas Dep't of Correction

June 5, 2007



I. Introduction

This matter is before the Court on the defendants' motions for summary judgment (DE ##86, 89). Plaintiff has filed responses to the motions (DE ##96, 101), and defendants have filed motions to deem admitted their statements of indisputable material facts (DE ##92, 93).

Plaintiff is a former state inmate of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). He filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Eighth Amendment, in connection with the treatment of his serious eye condition which eventually led to his blindness. Specifically, plaintiff alleges defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by failing to provide him with cataract surgery in March, 2004, and that the resulting pressure in his eyes damaged his optical nerve, causing glaucoma and resulting in blindness. Plaintiff names as defendants: the ADC and the Arkansas Board of Correction; ADC employees John Byus, Max Mobley, Larry Norris, and Rick Toney; Correctional Medical Services, Inc (CMS), the medical services contractor for the ADC; CMS employee Dr. Roland Anderson, and Dr. Jonathan Simmons, an optometrist who contracts with CMS to provide eye care to the inmates. Plaintiff asks for monetary relief from defendants.

II. Facts

According to the mostly undisputed facts set forth by the parties, including portions of plaintiff's medical records, plaintiff was incarcerated at the ADC from 2001 until July 14, 2005. During most of this time, plaintiff was housed in the Jefferson County Jail Unit of the ADC.

Plaintiff was initially evaluated by Dr. Simmons on July 11, 2002, at which time his intra ocular pressure (IOP) registered as normal. Corneal scarring was noted and bifocals and Tobradex were prescribed for the plaintiff. See DE #88, Ex. 1, Ex. 4 p. 1. A second visit in April, 2003 revealed normal IOP. Id. On March 11, 2004, plaintiff's IOP was again unchanged, and cataracts were noted. Dr. Simmons recommended in his "Provider Consult Report" that cataract surgery would benefit plaintiff, and that he should have a follow-up visit within six months. Id. Plaintiff then filed a grievance, on March 18, 2004, complaining about the lack of surgical treatment for his cataracts. See DE #99, Ex. 3. This grievance was not answered by the Infirmary until June 9, 2004, and defendant Mobley later noted that although there was a delay in the grievance response, plaintiff's medical records showed he was to be seen again by the eye doctor in less than six months for a check up. DE #91, Ex. 3. When plaintiff was examined by Simmons on September 9, 2004, his IOP was normal, but his vision had worsened and Simmons recommended a visit to an opthamologist. Plaintiff was sent to the Jones Eye Institute on September 20, 2004, at which time his IOP had increased and he was diagnosed with glaucoma. Ex. 1, Ex. 4.

Sometime following his initial appointment with the opthamologist, plaintiff became blind. He was released from the ADC in July, 2005, and underwent eye surgeries on September 27, 2005, October 25, 2005, and November 8, 2005. Plaintiff remains blind.

III. ADC Summary Judgment Motion

A. ADC Motion

The ADC, Board of Correction, and officials Norris, Mobley, Byus, and Toney, move for summary judgment for the following reasons: 1) plaintiff's deposition testimony establishes no ADA claim, in that he acknowledges that no ADC officials denied him access to health services request forms or medical treatment; 2) ADC officials are not involved in medical treatment decisions, and therefore, can not be held liable for diagnostic decisions made by medical staff; 3) plaintiff fails to establish that these defendants were aware of his problems and deliberately denied him medical care and treatment; 4) plaintiff can not sue these defendants based on their supervisory capacities.

B. Plaintiff's Response

In his response, plaintiff states that he vigorously sought medical treatment while at the ADC and filed numerous complaints and grievances about such. Specifically, plaintiff filed grievances on March13 and March 18, 2004, following his visit with Dr. Simmons, complaining that he was diagnosed with cataracts but that Dr. Simmons told him he would almost have to be blind before surgery could take place. Plaintiff states that the ADC defendants were aware of his problems, through this grievance, and that their failure to correct the problem resulted in his blindness. Plaintiff also relies on an affidavit which he provided to defendants on January 29, 2004, detailing his medical history and lack of adequate treatment. See DE #100, Ex. 2.

C. Standard of Review/Applicable Law

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Dulaney v. Carnahan, 132 F.2d 1234, 1237 (8th Cir. 1997). "The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Webb v. Lawrence County, 144 F.3d 1131, 1134 (8th Cir. 1998). "Once the moving party has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on mere denials of allegations in the pleadings; rather, the non-movant must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 1135. Although the facts are viewed in a light most favorable to the ...

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