United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Bryson City Division
D. WHITNEY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for
Summary Judgment by Defendants Captain Scott Allen,
Lieutenant Anthony Gould, Lieutenant David Bishop, and
Captain William Salyers, (Doc. No. 67), and on a Motion for
Summary Judgment by Diane Ray, (Doc. No. 65).
Plaintiff Rocky Johnson, an inmate in the custody of the
United States Bureau of Prisons, filed this action, under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, on August 25, 2014, bringing various
claims arising while he a pre-trial detainee at the Buncombe
County Detention Center in Asheville, North Carolina, between
October 2012 and August 2013. (Doc. No. 1; see also
Doc. No. 68-1 at 8: Pl.'s Dep.). Plaintiff purported to
bring numerous claims against Defendants, including claims
for excessive force, deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs, and unconstitutional conditions of
confinement, and claims under the First Amendment and the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq.
Plaintiff originally named as Defendants Eva Fields, Tabiatha
Bruner, Ryan P. Zabloudil, FNU Cox, FNU Ray, FNU Watkins,
Diane Ray, Scott Allen, Lieutenant Gould, Lieutenant David
Bishop, and Captain Bill Salyers.
November 14, 2014, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's
Complaint without prejudice based on a failure to exhaust
administrative remedies and for failure to state a claim
against Defendant Diane Ray for deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs. (Doc. No. 9). Plaintiff appealed, and
on June 30, 2015, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
affirmed the dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims
except for the following claims: (1) a claim against
Defendants Salyers and Ray for deliberate indifference to a
serious medical need, in violation of his rights under the
Eighth Amendment; (2) a claim against Defendants Allen and
Bishop that he was prohibited from possessing his Bible for
sixty days, in violation of RLUIPA and the First Amendment;
(3) a claim against Defendants Allen and Bishop that he was
deprived of his ability to write letters for the same period,
in violation of his rights under the First Amendment; and (4)
a claim against Defendants Gould, Allen, and Bishop, that he
was denied a shower and a change of clothes for twelve days,
in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.
(Id., Doc. No. 14).
remand, this Court entered a scheduling order, setting the
deadline for dispositive motions as May 15, 2017. On May 15,
2017, Defendant Ray filed a summary judgment motion. (Doc.
No. 65). Defendant Ray's summary judgment materials
include all pleadings and attachments, Ray's own
Affidavit, the Affidavit and curriculum vitae of Dr. James
Parsons, and the medical records reviewed by Defendant Ray
and Dr. Parsons. On the same date, the remaining Defendants
filed their own summary judgment motion. (Doc. No. 67). The
remaining Defendants' summary judgment materials include
excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition; affidavits of each
of the moving Defendants; Plaintiff's relevant medical
records; and the affidavit of non-party April Stroupe, the
Clinical Site Coordinator for the Buncombe County Detention
Center, attesting that Plaintiff's medical records are
true and correct.
6, 2017, this Court entered an order in accordance with
Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975),
advising Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response
to the motions for summary judgment and of the manner in
which evidence could be submitted to the Court. (Doc. No.
75). Plaintiff has responded to the summary judgment motions,
and Defendants have filed Replies. See (Doc. Nos.
87, 88, 89). This matter is therefore ripe for disposition.
The Parties' Evidence Regarding Plaintiff's Claim for
Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs
alleges that, while a pre-trial detainee at the Buncombe
County Detention Center, Defendants Ray and Salyers failed to
provide “adequate medical care” and that
Defendants have been “deliberately indifferent”
to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. (Doc. No. 1-2 at p.
4, ¶ A). Plaintiff asserts that, while in isolated
confinement, “correctional personnel without medical
training” were allowed to decide if medical treatment
should be awarded. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that,
while in confinement, he was having “electrifying back
pain from being assaulted and laying on concrete.”
(Id. at p. 4, ¶ 1). Plaintiff asserts that
“jail officials” should not be allowed to
determine whether an inmate needs prompt treatment.
(Id. at p. 4, ¶ A).
asserts that on February 15 he was eventually allowed to see
the nurse, who noted that he was lying on the concrete
without a mattress, holding his back. (Id. at p. 4,
¶ 2). Plaintiff states that he was seen on February 21
in a sick call for back pain, and on March 7 he was given
Neurontin for the back pain. (Id. at p. 4, ¶
3). He states that from June 6 to July 6, “Transform
Health” denied him medical treatment. (Id. at
p. 4, ¶ 4). He states that on August 6, he
“finally received gabapentin [sic] for nerve
damage.” (Id. at p. 4, ¶ 5). According to
Plaintiff's own allegations, he was seen on at least four
different occasions: February 15, February 21, March 7, and
June 6 for treatment of his back pain. (Id.).
Moreover, the medical records show he was seen on June 27 for
follow-up on his back pain as a result of him submitting a
sick call. (Doc. No. 6-1 at p. 9). Plaintiff's grievance
dated June 26, 2013, asserts that Defendant Ray told him that
the medical provider told her not to put him on the provider
list. (Doc. No. 1-2 at p. 12). Plaintiff asserts the same
allegation in his grievance report dated July 8, 2013.
(Id. at p. 24).
Defendants' Summary Judgment Evidence As to
Plaintiff's Medical Treatment at the
Plaintiff's Medical Treatment by the Provider Eva Fields
detention center engages TransformHealth to provide medical
treatment to its inmates. (Doc. No. 68-4 at ¶ 7: Salyers
Aff.). During Plaintiff's confinement, Eva Fields, a
licensed Family Nurse Practitioner employed with
TransformHealthRX at all relevant times, provided medical
treatment to inmates and was colloquially referred to as the
detention center's “Provider.” (Id.
at ¶ 11; Doc. No. 68-1 at 190:1-2: Pl. Dep.).
March 7, 2013, Fields documented that Plaintiff had been in a
car accident in 1998 and was told that he had damage to his
lumbar spine at ¶ 4. (Doc. No. 1-2 at 21). In the past,
he has been taking Neurontin (gabapentin) and ibuprofen for
pain. (Id.). He also reported that, before being in
the “tank, ” he had been getting ibuprofen from
the commissary and taking that twice a day, but he had not
had any in the last three days and had been sleeping on the
floor. Fields diagnosed him with chronic back pain and wrote
medication orders for Plaintiff to receive 800 mg of
ibuprofen and 300 mg of Neurontin, both twice a day.
(Id.; see also Doc. No. 68-1 at
199:18-200:6). After the detention center discovered
Plaintiff was hoarding his Neurontin, Fields discontinued his
Neurontin on June 6, 2013. (Doc. No. 68-4 at ¶¶
14-16; Doc. No. 68-1 at 208:16-209:15). On around June 19,
2013, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance, complaining about
his Neurontin being discontinued. (Doc. No. 68-4 at ¶
14). Defendant Salyers provided Plaintiff with a response to
the grievance, attaching a letter from Ms. Jami Reese, a
registered nurse for TransformHealthRX, stating that the
provider had discontinued Plaintiff's Neurontin.
(Id. at ¶ 16). Salyers also repeated Ms.
Reese's instructions that, if Plaintiff had further
complaints, he should submit a “Sick Call.”
27, 2013, Nurse Tirgoala documented seeing Plaintiff for a
sick call to follow-up on back pain: “Inmate was
informed that due to being caught multiple times hiding his
meds (Neurontin) that there may not be anything else we can
start him on at this time - will discuss with Bruce before
placing him on Eva's list.” (Id. at p. 9).
Due to Plaintiff's complaints regarding his back pain,
Fields again examined Plaintiff on July 11, 2013. (Doc. No.
68-1 at 226:1-16, Ex. 22; Doc. No. 68-5: Stroupe Aff.).
Fields declined to resume Plaintiff's Neurontin after
Plaintiff admitted to hiding the medication on two occasions,
as Fields believed he “could not be trusted” due
to his disciplinary history. (Doc. No. 68-1, Ex. 22; Doc. No.
68-5, Ex. A). Fields elected to continue the treatment of
Plaintiff's back pain with ibuprofen. (Id.).
Fields again examined Plaintiff on August 6, 2013. (Doc. No.
68-1 at 228:14-25, Ex. 24; Doc. No. 68-5, Ex. A). Fields
reiterated her concerns that Plaintiff posed a “safety
risk, ” due to his hoarding of the Neurontin, but
ultimately elected to resume the Neurontin due to
Plaintiff's complaints of back pain. (Id.).
Conduct and Participation by Defendants Ray and
only remaining Defendants as to Plaintiff's deliberate
indifference claim are Defendants Ray and Salyers. At all
relevant times, Defendant Ray was a private individual
employed by TransformHealthRX to provide services via a
contractual agreement with the Buncombe County Detention
Facility. (Doc. No. 66-2 at ¶ 3: Ray Aff.). Defendant
Ray has been a licensed practical nurse since 2004.
(Id. at ¶¶ 1, 14-15). At all relevant
times, she was a medication nurse, and it was her
responsibility to provide prescribed pain medication as
ordered to inmates and dispense over-the-counter medication
as allowed. Defendant Ray was not allowed to prescribe
medications to inmates. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, 8).
As the medication nurse, Defendant Ray did not have any
responsibility for placing or prioritizing patients on the
sick call list. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7). Ray
states that at no time did she ever tell Plaintiff he could
not be seen by a medical provider. (Id. at ¶
medical records show that Defendant Ray had two documented
encounters with Plaintiff. The first encounter occurred on
February 19, 2013, where Defendant Ray documented “sick
call for back pain ‘from lying on floor in
booking'; inmate already on pain meds for this.”
(Doc. No. 6-1 at p. 10). On July 4, 2013, Defendant Ray
documented Plaintiff “has put in another sick call for
back pain and to see the provider, has been caught hiding
meds have put him on providers list.” (Id. at
p. 8). There are no other documented encounters between
Defendant Ray and Plaintiff.
Parsons is a licensed medical doctor, and he has submitted an
affidavit in support of Defendants Ray's summary judgment
motion. Parsons reviewed Plaintiff's inmate medical and
mental health records, including Ray's notes (Doc. No.
6-1), Plaintiff's Complaint with attachments, (Doc. No.
1), other medical records filed by Plaintiff, (Doc. No. 6-1
& 11-1), and Ray's affidavit. (Doc. No. 66-4 at
¶ 4: Parsons Aff.). After Dr. Parsons' review, he
concluded that Ray met the standard of care. (Id. at
Salyers was at all relevant times employed as a Captain of
the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department. He has no
medical licensure and is not a medical doctor. (Doc. No. 68-4
at ¶ 8). Salyers thus does not decide whether an inmate
is examined by the Provider (in this case, Fields) or the
proper course of treatment; he, instead, relies on the
medical expertise of the Provider and others employed by
Transform Health. (Id. at ¶¶ 11, 12).
Salyers was not involved in Fields' decision to
discontinue the Neurontin. (Id. at ¶ 15).
The Parties' Evidence Related to Plaintiff's
Remaining Claims (the Shower Claim, the
Bible Claim, and the Correspondence Claim)
Plaintiff's Disciplinary Problems While at the Detention
his confinement at the Detention Center, Plaintiff committed
numerous disciplinary violations ranging from relatively
minor offenses to significant offenses such as attempted
escape. (Doc. No. 68-2 at ¶ 5: Bishop Aff.). As a result
of these violations, Plaintiff received “a lot”
of disciplinary sanctions during his confinement. (Doc. No.
68-1 at 96:21-97:2).
Plaintiff's First Escape Attempt
February 9, 2013, just over three months into his stay,
Plaintiff attempted to escape the detention center by cutting
out the bar in his cell window. (Doc. No. 68-1 at
142:10-143:1). Plaintiff was fully aware that cutting the bar
of his cell window was a detention center violation.
(Id. at 144:21-25). The detention center charged
Plaintiff with “Escape Attempt” and “Threat
to Safety/Security of Facility.” (Doc. No. 68-2 at
¶ 6; Doc. No. 68-1 at 143:15-18). After Plaintiff
surrendered the tool used in his escape attempt, Lieutenant
Gould reduced Plaintiff's ...