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Hamm v. Liggett

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

May 31, 2018




         This is a civil rights action filed pro se by Plaintiff, Lloyd N. Hamm, Jr., under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, Dr. Charles Liggett (“Dr. Liggett”). (ECF No. 52). Plaintiff filed a Response. (ECF Nos. 59, 60). Defendant filed a Reply. (ECF No. 62). The matter is ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently an inmate in the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”), Ester Unit. This case arises from incidents that occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the ADC, Ouachita River Correctional Unit (“ORCU”) in Malvern, Arkansas. Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the relevant facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff was involved in a car accident in July 2004. He has suffered from occasional seizures since the car accident. According to Plaintiff, the number of seizures he has each month varies depending upon “what my stress level had been, or what my medication was, or what was going on around me.” (ECF No. 52-2, p. 21). He was examined by a neurologist in August 2004, at which time he was prescribed Neurontin for a few months. Once this prescription expired Plaintiff did not take any medication for his seizures for approximately seven years. Sometime in 2011 Plaintiff began taking Neurontin again when he was incarcerated in Lee County, Arkansas, for a parole violation. (ECF No. 52-2, p. 118). Plaintiff's medication was changed from Neurontin to Tegretol in 2013. (ECF No. 52-2, p. 27). While Plaintiff was incarcerated at the ADC, Randall L. Williams Unit, the drug Topamax was added to his medications. Id. at 118.

         On June 28, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to the ORCU where he remained until October 14, 2016. At the time of his transfer, Plaintiff was taking 25 milligrams of Topamax (Topiramate) once a day and 100 milligrams of Tegretol (Carbamazepine) once a day for his seizures. (ECF No. 52-2, p. 106). While at the ORCU, Plaintiff was treated by Dr. Liggett. Although Plaintiff had active prescriptions for both Tegretol and Topamax, Dr. Liggett informed Plaintiff sometime in August 2016 that he would be better off without Tegretol. On September 20, 2016, Plaintiff suffered a seizure and hit his head. Plaintiff was monitored by the nursing staff at the ORCU in the infirmary immediately after the seizure, and the record reflects he was also examined by Dr. Liggett sometime later that day. Plaintiff had no urgent or emergent needs at that time, and he returned to his cell after resting in the infirmary for several hours. Plaintiff was examined again by Dr. Liggett the following day. Plaintiff complained of “cloudy” vision in his right eye.

         On October 14, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred from the ORCU to the Randall L. Williams Unit. On or about December 1, 2016, Plaintiff's prescription for Topamax was increased from 25 milligrams each evening to 50 milligrams twice a day. In late December 2016 Plaintiff was referred to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Jones Eye Center for evaluation regarding his complaint of loss of vision in his right eye. Plaintiff was examined on February 14, 2017, and the reports generated by the Jones Eye Center noted that Plaintiff had no obvious abnormalities of the right eye and that no follow-up appointments were required. (ECF No. 52-1, pp. 80-82). Plaintiff was told that his vision would likely come back.

         On March 31, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred back to the ORCU. On August 30, 2017, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. James Thomas, an outside neurologist. Dr. Thomas recommended increasing the dosage of Topamax to 100 milligrams twice a day, and that recommendation was implemented at the ORCU. Dr. Thomas did not recommend or prescribe Tegretol for Plaintiff. Dr. Thomas also recommended an MRI of the brain for Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on August 31, 2017. (ECF No. 1).[1] He is suing Dr. Liggett in his individual and official capacity. Plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and he asks that Defendant Liggett lose his “privilege to practice medicine anywhere ever under any name.” (ECF No. 1, p. 10). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Liggett violated his constitutional right to medical care by:

“repeatedly refused to refill medications & prescriptions that I have maintained prior to being transferred to the unit… His refusal to refill the medication Tegratal. That I take for pettite mal siezures, & refusal to remove me from outside duty eventually led to me having a severe seizure. During this seizure I hit my head & lost all but the sight of a bright light in my right eye.”[2] (ECF No. 1, p. 4).

         In accordance with the recommendation of Dr. Thomas, Plaintiff underwent an MRI on October 2, 2017. The MRI report states, “No evidence of intracranial mass or acute abnormality. No. findings to explain the patient's seizure disorder.” (ECF No. 52-1, p. 116). As of the date of Plaintiff's deposition, January 23, 2018, Plaintiff was taking 100 milligrams of Topamax twice a day. Even on this medication Plaintiff still suffers from “small seizures.” (ECF No. 52-2, p. 103).

         On April 5, 2018, Dr. Liggett filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff cannot establish a claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. (ECF No. 52). Defendant has not addressed Plaintiff's official capacity claim.


         Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the facts and 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), the record “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). “Once a party moving for summary judgment has made a sufficient showing, the burden rests with the non-moving party to set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other ...

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