Gray v. United States

Decision Date23 August 2021
Docket Number2:17-cv-02346-TLP-tmp
Citation556 F.Supp.3d 832
Parties DeAndrea GRAY, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee

DeAndrea Gray, Forrest City, AR, Pro Se.

Audrey M. Calkins, Reagan Fondren, United States Attorney's Office, Memphis, TN, for Defendants United States of America, Edna Prince, F. Cabanero, Sharonda Dobbins-Branch, Dustin Bowden, Frank Hargrove, Sheena Bailey.

Audrey M. Calkins, U.S. Attorney's Office, Memphis, TN, for Defendant Cynthia Gaia.



Plaintiff DeAndrea Gray brings Bivens and Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") claims against Defendants United States of America, Edna Prince, F. Cabanero, Sharonda Dobbins-Branch, Dustin Bowden, Frank Hargrove, Sheena Bailey, and Cynthia Gaia.1 For the second time, Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 77.) Plaintiff responded in opposition and Defendants replied. (ECF Nos. 78 & 80.) For the reasons explained below, the Court now GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART DefendantsMotion for Summary Judgment.

I. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff's suit arises out of the allegedly insufficient medical care he received while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee ("FCI Memphis"). In particular, Plaintiff asserts in his Amended Complaint that Defendants denied him adequate medical care after he suffered a stroke in April 2012. (ECF No. 29-1 at PageID 185.) Plaintiff claims that he had slurred speech, he was experiencing numbness and tingling throughout his body, and he felt disoriented during this time. (Id. ) Plaintiff's unit officer, Mr. Miller, observed Plaintiff's condition and immediately took him to the medical department. (Id. ) There, Defendant Dobbins-Branch examined Plaintiff by taking his blood pressure. (Id. ) She allegedly told him that he was not suffering a stroke or a heart attack and that she would order an x-ray of his hands and spine to determine the cause of his sensations. (Id. ) Plaintiff then went back to his unit. (Id. )

But Plaintiff's condition did not improve. He alleges that the facility staff denied him medical care throughout his time at FCI Memphis. (Id. at PageID 186.) He also claims, however, that Defendants Prince, Dobbins-Branch, and Gaia evaluated him medically during this time. (Id. ) In any event, Plaintiff claims Defendants denied him additional testing and pain medication to deal with his "constant" and "severe pain" that prevented him from sleeping. (Id. )

Around seven weeks after Plaintiff allegedly suffered the stroke, an optometrist evaluated Plaintiff as part of his routine clinical treatment for hypertension. (Id. ) The optometrist allegedly informed Plaintiff that "she (the optometrist) discovered symptoms indicating that he was suffering from serious medical conditions." (Id. ) During his follow-up appointment with Defendant Prince, Plaintiff allegedly learned that the optometrist had observed signs of carotid artery disease and that she recommended a Doppler ultrasound exam for Plaintiff. (Id. ) Even so, Defendant Prince allegedly refused to run tests to determine whether he had suffered a stroke although he was still experiencing numbness and tingling. (Id. ) What is more, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Prince did not give him any medication and failed to include the optometrist's full report in his medical file. (Id. )

Over the months that followed, Plaintiff continued to experience symptoms such as weakness, atrophy in his left side, and severe chest pain. (Id. at PageID 187.) Defendants Prince, Cabanero, and Gaia all examined Plaintiff during this time, but none provided any medication. (Id. )

A cardiothoracic surgeon then examined Plaintiff and performed an arteriogram to check for stenosis of Plaintiff's blood vessels. (Id. ) Despite the cardiothoracic surgeon allegedly finding evidence of significant carotid artery stenosis, Defendant Prince told Plaintiff that he was physically fit with no sign of atrophy or deficits. (Id. ) And according to Plaintiff, Defendants knew of the severity of his medical conditions and deliberately failed to tell Plaintiff about his diagnoses. (Id. at PageID 194.)

Plaintiff's condition allegedly continued to deteriorate. He asserts that he suffered from neurological and skeletal conditions that Defendants failed to treat even though he made repeated requests for assistance. (See id. at PageID 189–90.) And in December 2014, Plaintiff "took a turn for the worse" and collapsed to the floor, unable to move or walk from severe back pain. (Id. at PageID 190.) But Defendant Prince refused to send him to the hospital. (Id. at PageID 191.)

Then Plaintiff collapsed again in May 2015. At that time, Defendants transferred him to Delta Medical Center. (Id. at PageID 192.) An MRI revealed damage to his spine, leading Plaintiff to have surgery. (Id. at PageID 193.) And after the hospital released him, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants placed him in the Special Housing Unit and denied him the medical necessities he needed to recover. (Id. )

II. DefendantsFirst Motion to Dismiss and the Sixth Circuit's Opinion

Plaintiff then sued Defendants for negligence and violations of his constitutional rights. (Id. at PageID 217.) But Defendants moved to dismiss his complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 55.) This Court, construing it as a motion for summary judgment, granted the Motion after finding that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (ECF No. 66.)

Next Plaintiff appealed the Court's Order. (ECF No. 69.) The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. (ECF No. 74.) It found that Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies on his FTCA claims and that there was a genuine dispute about whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies on his Bivens claims. (Id. at PageID 459.)

The Sixth Circuit noted that Defendants did not present enough evidence to show that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his Bivens claims. Instead, Defendants attached only a "conclusory declaration" and a SENTRY report that "contain[ed] insufficient information to show whether Gray exhausted his administrative remedies." (Id. at PageID 459–60.) The SENTRY report "merely lists a series of numbers, dates, and abbreviations" that failed to show clearly which submissions Plaintiff failed to exhaust. (Id. ) In short, the Sixth Circuit found that "defendants failed to meet their initial burden to show that Gray failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his Bivens claims, and a genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether he did." (Id. at PageID 461.)

Defendants now claim that their new Motion addresses "the Sixth Circuit's evidence-related concerns" and presents "non-conclusory, detailed evidence and argument showing that the Court should dismiss" Plaintiff's claims. (ECF No. 77 at PageID 467.) And so, they move to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims. (Id. at PageID 466.)

I. Converting a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to a Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. (ECF No. 77.) Defendants have attached affidavits and exhibits to the Motion that are outside the scope of the pleadings. (See, e.g. , ECF Nos. 77-5, 77-6, 77-7, 77-8, 77-9, & 77-10.) "If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d) ; see also Wysocki v. Int'l Bus. Mach. Corp. , 607 F.3d 1102, 1104–05 (6th Cir. 2010). Additional notice is not required when the non-moving party has (1) notice that the Court may convert a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment and (2) enough time to produce evidence to refute the moving party's evidence. See Wysocki , 607 F.3d at 1105.

Plaintiff here had notice that the Court might convert this Motion into a motion for summary judgment. First, Defendants state in their Motion that they are moving to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 77 at PageID 466 (emphasis added).) Their Motion also summarizes the legal standard for summary judgment. (Id. at PageID 469.) Plus this Court converted Plaintiff's first Motion into a motion for summary judgment because, there too, Defendants attached affidavits outside the scope of the pleadings. As a result, Plaintiff should not be surprised that the Court is treating this motion the same way. Finally, Plaintiff too had a reasonable chance to present materials outside the pleadings.2 (See ECF No. 78.) So the Court converts Defendants’ Motion into a motion for summary judgment.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

One is entitled to 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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "A fact is ‘material’ for purposes of summary judgment if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action or defense." Bruederle v. Louisville Metro Gov't , 687 F.3d 771, 776 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Kendall v. Hoover Co. , 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984) ).

"In considering a motion for summary judgment, [the] court construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Robertson v. Lucas , 753 F.3d 606, 614 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v....

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