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Sullivan v. Therrian

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

March 14, 2018

EARL LEE SULLIVAN #156184, Plaintiff,
L.T. THERRIAN, et al., Defendants.




         This is a civil rights action brought by state prisoner Earl Lee Sullivan pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At this stage in the proceeding, the remaining Defendants are Lieutenant Therrian; Licensed Practical Nurse Hatfield; and Corrections Officer Amble. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Hatfield, Therrian, and Amble were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment, [1] and that Defendant Amble retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). (ECF No. 77.) Plaintiff has filed a response. (ECF No. 79.) Defendants have filed a reply. (ECF No. 80.) This matter is now ready for decision.

         Plaintiff suffers from chronic hypertension and cardiac disease. He has been prescribed various medications to treat his medical conditions including Aspirin, Nitroglycerin, Vasotec, Cardura, Tenormin, and Imdur. The undersigned previously summarized Plaintiff's medical records and the extensive treatment he received while incarcerated at Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) between May 2013 and August 2014. (ECF No. 53, PageID.902-906.)

         Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Hatfield and Therrian stem from events that occurred on July 17, 2013. On that day, Plaintiff went to the medical clinic at URF because he needed his medication and was suffering from a toe injury. Plaintiff apparently ran out of the medication 60-days earlier but never informed any healthcare providers. While two nurses were reviewing Plaintiff's medical records, a different nurse-Defendant Hatfield-asked Plaintiff to leave the clinic because he was exhibiting disruptive behavior. Plaintiff states that he was not being disruptive. Defendant Hatfield then called Defendant Therrian to assist her, and Plaintiff was forced to leave the clinic without receiving his medication or being treated for his toe injury. Shortly thereafter, on the same day, Plaintiff was ordered back to the medical clinic. His medical records show that he was evaluated by multiple healthcare providers. To treat his injured toe, he was issued a different shoe. As for the medications, Plaintiff was given one dose of his medication to take immediately and one dose to take the following morning. Healthcare staff also ordered a 30-day supply of Plaintiff's medication that arrived the following morning.

         On August 8, 2013, Plaintiff was seen by a health care provider because he was having trouble urinating. During this appointment, he told the healthcare provider that he stopped taking some of his medications three weeks prior because he thought the medication was causing the side-effects. On August 13, 2013, Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room because he was suffering a severe hypertensive episode. He remained at the hospital for three days, where he was forced to wear “leg irons and belly chains” the entire time.

         In addition to the July 17, 2013, incident, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Hatfield denied him his medication on several other occasions. In his complaint, Plaintiff only identifies one date in which Defendant Hatfield denied him his medication-September 18, 2013. (ECF No. 1, PageID.14.) In his response brief, Plaintiff identifies four dates in which Defendant Hatfield denied him his medication-August 26, 2013, September 12, 2013, September 18, 2013, and November 6, 2013. According to Plaintiff's exhibits, Defendant Hatfield initially denied Plaintiff his medication because he would show up to the medication distribution line over twenty minutes late. (ECF No. 79-5, PageID.1166-1173.) The MDOC policy requires that if an inmate is over twenty minutes late to the medication line, the inmate must obtain a pass or have an officer call to explain why he was late. Although he was initially denied his medication on these dates, Plaintiff appears to have received the full dose of medication shortly thereafter.

         Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Amble stem from events that began in January 2014. On January 6, 2014, Plaintiff's steroid medication arrived at URF. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Amble was supposed to tell him that his medication arrived and that he needed to go pick it up at healthcare. Defendant Amble failed to contact Plaintiff. Instead, a nurse contacted Plaintiff later that day to inform him that his medication arrived. The next day, on January 7, 2014, Plaintiff went to talk to Defendant Amble to ask why he was not told when the medication arrived. On January 11, 2014, Defendant Amble wrote a Class II Misconduct Ticket on Plaintiff for “Out of Place.” (ECF No. 67-7, PageID.1001.) Plaintiff was subsequently found not guilty of this violation. On January 12, 2014, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Amble for failing to inform him that his medication arrived. (ECF No. 67-6, PageID.994.)

         Five months later, on June 9, 2014, Defendant Amble wrote a second Class II Misconduct Ticket on Plaintiff for “Out of Place.” According to the ticket, Plaintiff attempted to go to “chow” at 12:34 p.m., which he was not authorized to do so. (ECF No. 67-7, PageID.1005.) A hearing was subsequently held on the ticket, and the hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty of the misconduct. The hearing officer explained that Plaintiff's itinerary provided that his callout was at 1:15 p.m. and, thus, not permitted to go to chow at 12:34 p.m. (ECF No. 67-7, PageID.1004.) As a result, Plaintiff lost two days of privileges.

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party establishes that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If the movant carries the burden of showing there is an absence of evidence to support a claim or defense, then the party opposing the motion must demonstrate by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Id. at 324-25. The nonmoving party cannot rest on its pleadings but must present “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Thus, any direct evidence offered by the plaintiff in response to a summary judgment motion must be accepted as true. Muhammad v. Close, 379 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Adams v. Metiva, 31 F.3d 375, 382 (6th Cir. 1994)). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

         In addition, “[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). Ultimately, the court must determine whether there is sufficient “evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Id. at 252. See also Leahy v. Trans Jones, Inc., 996 F.2d 136, 139 (6th Cir. 1993) (single affidavit, in presence of other evidence to the contrary, failed to present genuine issue of fact); cf. Moore, Owen, Thomas & Co. v. Coffey, 992 F.2d 1439, 1448 (6th Cir. 1993) (single affidavit concerning state of mind created factual issue).

         Plaintiff first alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment obligates prison authorities to provide medical care to incarcerated individuals, as a failure to provide such care would be inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 102, 103-04 (1976). A claim for the deprivation of adequate medical care has an objective and a subjective component. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). To satisfy the objective component, the plaintiff must allege that the medical need at issue is sufficiently serious. Id. In other words, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm. Id. The objective component of the adequate medical care test is satisfied “[w]here the seriousness of a prisoner's need[ ] for medical care is obvious even to a lay person.” Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 899 (6th Cir. 2004). If the plaintiff's claim, however, is based on “the prison's failure to treat a condition adequately, or where the prisoner's affliction is seemingly minor or non-obvious, ” Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 898 (6th Cir. 2004), the plaintiff must “place verifying medical evidence in the record to establish the detrimental effect of the delay in medical treatment, ” Napier v. Madison Cnty., 238 F.3d 739, 742 (6th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The subjective component requires an inmate to show that prison officials have “a sufficiently culpable state of mind in denying medical care.” Brown v. Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). Deliberate indifference “entails something more than mere negligence, ” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835, but can be “satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result.” Id. Under Farmer, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837.

         In this case, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by “denying or delaying” his medical treatment-specifically his prescribed medication. However, the record establishes that Plaintiff was never completely denied any medical treatment or any prescribed medication. It is true that on July 17, 2013, Defendants Hatfield and Therrian ordered Plaintiff out of the medical clinic. Plaintiff then submitted a kite to healthcare at 12:36 p.m. (ECF No. 42-1, PageID.484.) Plaintiff's medical records show that he was treated for his foot injury at 12:57 p.m., and received his medication at 1:19 p.m. (ECF No. 42-1, PageID.485-87.) In addition, although Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hatfield denied him his medication several other times during the Fall of 2013, the record shows Plaintiff was only initially denied until he returned with a pass explaining why he was late. Notably, even when Plaintiff did not return to take his medication, the healthcare supervisor issued a call out for ...

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