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Corwin v. City of Independence, MO

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 18, 2016

Randall Ray Corwin Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
City of Independence, MO.; Ray County, MO.; Aleisa Moeller; Margaret Farnan Defendants-Appellees

          Submitted: November 17, 2015

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before COLLOTON, GRUENDER, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

         Randall Ray Corwin appeals the district court's[1] grant of summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. We affirm.

         On October 30, 2012, during an altercation with his nephew, Corwin injured his hand. The nephew called police, and officers with the Independence, Missouri Police Department arrested Corwin and transported him to the Independence Detention Unit. During transport and upon arrival at the Detention Unit, Corwin claims he complained about his hand, but his complaints were ignored. The next day, Corwin was transferred to the Ray County Correctional Facility. The City of Independence had a contract with Ray County for use of its detention facility for Independence's detainees.

         On Thursday, November 1, Corwin submitted an inmate request form stating he needed assistance for a "broke hand." On that day, Corwin saw jail nurse Aleisa Moeller who examined Corwin's hand. Corwin alleges that Moeller advised that she would have him transported to an emergency room upon approval from the City of Independence. Corwin claims the City of Independence directed Moeller to have Corwin see the doctor used by the Ray County Correctional Facility instead of transporting him to the emergency room. Moeller provided Corwin a prescription for Ibuprofen and applied an ACE wrap to his wrist. She also placed Corwin on the list of inmates to be transported to the doctor when transportation and an appointment were available. Moeller did this by placing Corwin's request form in a certain folder established for inmates needing to see the contract jail doctor. The record contains no evidence as to what steps were taken after November 1 to obtain a doctor's appointment and transport for Corwin. Corwin was released from the Ray County Correctional Facility on Tuesday, November 6, before he was able to be transported to the contract doctor for treatment.

         Corwin obtained treatment from the Centerpointe Medical Center after his release. He asserts the fracture in his wrist had begun setting improperly and as a result he had to undergo surgery and extensive physical therapy, although his counsel conceded at oral argument that there is no medical evidence in the summary judgment record to support the assertion that the delay in treatment worsened his condition. Despite the surgery and therapy, Corwin maintains that his hand does not function properly, he continues to suffer pain, and he is unable to work.

         Corwin brought this section 1983 action against jail nurse Moeller and jail administrator Margaret Farnan. He also named the City of Independence and Ray County as defendants. The district court granted summary judgment to Moeller and Farnan and judgment on the pleadings to the City of Independence and Ray County.

         II.

         Our review of the district court's grant of summary judgment to Moeller and Farnan is de novo, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Corwin. See Meuir v. Greene Cnty. Jail Emps., 487 F.3d 1115, 1118 (8th Cir. 2007). Entry of summary judgment is proper when "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).

         A.

         Corwin asserts that Moeller acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in two ways (1) by failing to properly care for his broken hand and (2) by not taking "affirmative, deliberate steps" to secure additional medical care for him beyond placing him on the list of prisoners to be seen by the doctor. Prisoners and pretrial detainees are protected under the Constitution from a state actor's deliberate indifference towards the inmate's serious medical needs. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Davis v. Oregon Cnty., Mo., 607 F.3d 543, 548 (8th Cir. 2010). "Deliberate indifference has both an objective and a subjective component." Butler v. Fletcher, 465 F.3d 340, 345 (8th Cir. 2006). The objective component requires a plaintiff to demonstrate an objectively serious medical need. Grayson v. Ross, 454 F.3d 802, 808-09 (8th Cir. 2006); Moore v. Jackson, 123 F.3d 1082, 1086 (8th Cir. 1997). The subjective component requires a plaintiff to show that the defendant actually knew of, but deliberately disregarded, such need. Grayson, 454 F.3d at 808; Moore, 123 F.3d at 1086. The parties do not dispute that Corwin's fractured hand was an objectively serious medical need.

         In response to Corwin's complaint, Moeller examined his hand, prescribed over-the-counter pain medication, and applied an ACE bandage wrap to his hand. Moeller also placed Corwin's complaint form in a certain folder that had the effect of placing him on the list of prisoners to be transported to see the detention facility's contract doctor. Corwin claims that this was inadequate care at the time of treatment. Corwin claims that Moeller should have provided more aggressive treatment for his injured hand, but this asserts only a claim of negligence which is insufficient to maintain a section 1983 claim. See Popoalii v. Corr. Med. Servs., 512 F.3d 488, 499 (8th Cir. 2008) (deliberate indifference requires more than gross negligence or disagreement with treatment decisions; "[d]eliberate indifference is akin to criminal recklessness"); see also Langford v. Norris, 614 F.3d 445, 460 (8th Cir. 2010) (inmate must prove defendants knew of, but deliberately disregarded, objectively serious medical need); Moore v. Duffy, 255 F.3d 543, 545 (8th Cir. 2001) (mere negligence does not support constitutional violation).

         Corwin also claims that Moeller caused a delay in his receiving treatment for his injured hand because she failed to obtain more timely medical care from a doctor, either through a visit to the emergency room or by securing a more timely appointment for him with the detention facility's contract doctor. Corwin alleges that after he was released from the detention facility he sought medical care from a doctor. He claims that doctor told Corwin the fracture had begun to heal improperly and as a result Corwin would have to undergo surgery to repair the fracture. At argument, Corwin's attorney conceded that no medical evidence existed in the record to support the claim that the five-day delay in medical care caused Corwin to suffer a detrimental effect. Therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment to Moeller on this claim. See Laughlin v. Schriro, 430 F.3d 927, 929 (8th Cir. 2005) (affirming grant of summary judgment where inmate based claim on treatment delays but did not "place verifying medical evidence in the record to establish the detrimental effect of delay in medical treatment" (quoting Crowley v. Hedgepeth, 109 F.3d 500, 502 (8th Cir. ...


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