Foster v. S. Health Partners, CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:17-CV-835-WHA (WO)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
PartiesSHELTON FOSTER, #312239, Plaintiff, v. SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 2:17-CV-835-WHA (WO)
Decision Date05 March 2021

SHELTON FOSTER, #312239, Plaintiff,



March 5, 2021



This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is before the court on an amended complaint, Doc. 1-2, and amendment thereto, Doc. 4, filed by Shelton Foster, a pre-trial detainee confined in the Covington County Jail at the time relevant to the complaint. Foster initiated this case challenging the adequacy of medical treatment provided to him for numerous medical issues and various conditions he encountered during his confinement in the jail. Doc. 1-2 at 2-3. Foster names Southern Health Partners ("SHP"), the contract medical care provider for the Covington County Jail; Dr. Pamela Barber, Medical Director/Provider for the jail; Wanda Craft, a licensed practical nurse at the jail; and Alan Syler, the Jail Administrator, as defendants. Foster seeks a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and monetary damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Doc. 1-2 at 7.

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The defendants filed answers, special reports and supporting evidentiary materials, including affidavits and certified medical records, addressing Foster's inadequate medical treatment and conditions claims. In these documents, the defendants contend that Foster received appropriate treatment as determined by the jail's medical professionals and deny acting with deliberate indifference to Foster's medical needs. The defendants also maintain that the conditions of the jail about which Foster complains did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.2

The court directed Foster to file a response to the arguments set forth by the defendants in their special reports and advised him that his response should be supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other appropriate evidentiary materials. Doc. 27 at 3-4. The order specifically advised the parties that "unless within fifteen (15) days from the date of this order a party files a response in opposition which presents sufficient legal cause why such action should not be undertaken . . ., the court may at any time [after expiration of the time for the plaintiff to file a response to the order] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special reports and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment, whichever is proper, and (2) after considering any response as allowed by this order, rule on the motion in accordance with the law." Doc. 27 at 4 (emphasis in original) (footnote omitted). Foster filed a document on July 17, 2019, Doc. 62, which the court construed as his response to

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the defendants' reports and provided him an opportunity to file any additional response he deemed necessary. Doc. 64. The response filed by Foster on July 17, 2019 is unsworn.3

Pursuant to the order previously entered in this case, the court deems it appropriate to treat the defendants' reports as motions for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the defendants' motions for summary judgment, the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, and the sworn complaint, the court concludes that summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the defendants.


"Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted); Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. ("The court shall grant summary judgment if 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."). The party moving for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits or properly sworn statements], which it

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believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that moving party has initial burden of showing there is no genuine dispute of material fact for trial). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present appropriate evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24; Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir. 2011) (holding that moving party discharges his burden by showing the record lacks evidence to support the nonmoving party's case or the nonmoving party would be unable to prove his case at trial).

When the defendants meet their evidentiary burden, as they have in this case, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, with appropriate evidence, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Rule 56(e)(3), Fed.R.Civ.P. ("If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact [by citing to materials in the record including affidavits, sworn statements, relevant documents or other materials], the court may . . . grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials—including the facts considered undisputed—show that the movant is entitled to it[.]"); Jeffery, 64 F.3d at 593-94 (holding that, once a moving party meets its burden, "the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or statements made under penalty of perjury], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file," demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute of material fact). In civil actions filed by inmates, federal courts "must distinguish between evidence of

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disputed facts and disputed matters of professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord deference to the views of prison authorities. Unless a prisoner can point to sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage." Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530 (2006) (internal citation omitted). This court will also consider "specific facts" pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014); Barker v. Norman, 651 F.2d 1107, 1115 (5th Cir. Unit A 1981) (stating that a verified complaint serves the same purpose as an affidavit for purposes of summary judgment). However, "mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005).

A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor such that summary judgment is not warranted. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007). The evidence must be admissible at trial, and if the nonmoving party's evidence "is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative . . . summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986); see also Rule 56(e),R.Civ.P. 56(e). "A mere 'scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice[.]" Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Only disputes involving material facts are relevant and materiality is determined by the substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

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To demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact, the party opposing summary judgment "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine [dispute] for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. At the summary judgment stage, this court should accept as true "statements in [the plaintiff's] verified complaint, [any] sworn response to the [defendants'] motion for summary judgment, and sworn affidavit attached to that response[.]" Sears v. Roberts, 922 F.3d 1199, 1206 (11th Cir. 2019); United States v. Stein, 881 F.3d 853, 857 (11th Cir. 2018) (holding that a plaintiff's purely self-serving and uncorroborated statements "based on personal knowledge or observation" set forth in a verified complaint or affidavit may create an issue of material fact which precludes summary judgment); Feliciano v. City of Miami Beach, 707 F.3d 1244, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted) ("To be sure, [Plaintiff's] sworn statements are self-serving, but that alone does not permit [the court] to disregard them at the summary judgment stage . . . . Courts routinely and properly deny summary judgment on the basis of a party's sworn testimony even though it is self-serving."). Nevertheless, general, blatantly contradicted and merely "[c]onclusory, uncorroborated allegations by a plaintiff in [his verified complaint or] an affidavit . . . will not create an issue of fact for trial...

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