Hestdalen v. Corizon, LLC, Case No. 2:18-CV-00039-JAR

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
PartiesDANNY D. HESTDALEN, Plaintiff, v. CORIZON, LLC, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 2:18-CV-00039-JAR
Decision Date09 February 2021

CORIZON, LLC, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 2:18-CV-00039-JAR


February 9, 2021


This matter is before the Court on Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC"), Moberly Correctional Center ("MCC"), and Lisa Pogue (collectively, the "MDOC Defendants") (Doc. 194)1 and Defendants Corizon, LLC ("Corizon"), Mandip Bartels, Ruanne Stamps, Bonnie Boley, Geeneen Wilhite, Debbie Willis, Laurel Davison, Jewel Cofield, Thomas Bredeman, Milton Hammerly, Paul Jones, Charles Scott, and Alan Weaver (collectively, the "Corizon Defendants"). (Doc. 199). Both motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition.


Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at MCC and has been incarcerated at either South Central Correctional Center ("SCCC") or MCC at all times relevant to the Second Amended Complaint ("SAP"). (Doc. 196 at ¶ 1; Doc. 207 at ¶ 4).2 Plaintiff has an established history of bilateral

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sensorineural hearing loss and uses hearing aids for assistance. (Doc. 196 at ¶¶ 2-3). Throughout his time at MCC, Plaintiff has had numerous difficulties with his hearing and many appointments with specialists, physicians, and nurses, including most of the Corizon Defendants. (Doc. 196 at ¶ 4). Corizon is under contract with the State of Missouri to provide medical care and treatment to inmates within the MDOC, including those at MCC. (Doc. 207 at ¶ 2).

Plaintiff's SAP, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, broadly claims that the MDOC Defendants violated Plaintiff's statutory and constitutional rights in the course of treating (or allegedly failing to treat) his hearing issues. (Doc. 69 at ¶¶ 145-202). Plaintiff also argues that the Corizon Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in accordance with policies and procedures which resulted in the denial of necessary medical care. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-144). Plaintiff's primary allegations are that Defendants failed to adequately treat his Eustachian Tube Dysfunction ("ETD") or provide him with fully functioning hearing aids.

This Court recognizes its obligation to construe the pro se Plaintiff's partially handwritten SAP liberally. Estelle v Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). As evidenced by the docket, this case has an extensive procedural history involving various dismissals, amended filings, and other motions. Accordingly, in the interest of clarity and given Plaintiff's pro se status, this Court liberally interprets the SAP as making the following claims against the respective Defendants:

A. Corizon Defendants - Medical Claims: Plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against the following:

? Dr. Charles Scott (Doc. 69 at ¶¶ 61-70)
? Dr. Paul Jones (Id. at ¶¶ 49-60)

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? Licensed Nurse Practitioner Laurel Davison (n/k/a Raines) (Id. at ¶ 17)
? Dr. Alan Weaver (Id. at ¶¶ 29-31)
? Dr. Ruanne Stamps (Id. at ¶¶ 71-112)
? Dr. Milton Hammerly (Id. at ¶¶ 49-60)
? Utilization Management Medical Director ("UMMD") Dr. Mandip Bartels3 (Id. at ¶¶ 16-48)
? Defendants Wilhite, Boley, Cofield, Bredeman, and Willis ("Grievance Defendants") (Id. at ¶¶ 72-73)
? Corizon (Id. at ¶¶ 9-10)

B. Corizon Defendants - Miscellaneous Claims4

(1) Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Rehabilitation Act (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 12, 60): Plaintiff argues that the Corizon Defendants violated Title II of the ADA as well as § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

(2) Breach of Contract (Id. at ¶ 25): Plaintiff argues that Corizon violated its contract with MDOC by failing to provide adequate medical care.

C. MDOC Defendants

(1) Arbitrary and Vague Policies (Id. at ¶¶ 145-179): Plaintiff argues that MDOC policy contains a "loophole" by frequently using the word "should" instead of "shall" in reference to the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations. Plaintiff claims that this problematic policy caused the Corizon Defendants to deny him access to necessary medical care.

(2) Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs (Id. at ¶¶ 199-201): Plaintiff argues that, as a result of the arbitrary and vague policies, MDOC Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

(3) ADA and Rehabilitation Act (Id. at ¶¶ 202): Plaintiff argues that he was denied access to services and activities due to his disability. Defendant Lisa Pogue is the Deputy Warden at MCC and the ADA Site Coordinator. (Doc. 196 at ¶¶ 7-8).

(4) Missouri State Law Claims (Doc. 69 at ¶¶ 182-184, 197): Plaintiff argues that the MDOC's offender grievance procedures and other policies do not abide by the requirements of Missouri law.

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Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, a movant is entitled to summary judgment if they can "show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and they are "entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Osborn v. E.F. Hutton & Co., Inc., 853 F.2d 616, 619 (8th Cir. 1988). The burden of proof is on the moving party and a court should not grant summary judgment unless it is convinced that there is no evidence to sustain a recovery under any circumstances. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). The nonmovant, however, "'must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,' and must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp, 475 U.S. 574, 587-87 (1986)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).


A. Corizon Defendants - Medical Claims

Plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference by numerous Corizon Defendants across many medical encounters. Deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Nelson v. Corr. Med. Servs., 583 F.3d 522, 531-32 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. 97). To make such a claim, a plaintiff must "make two showings - one objective and one subjective." Kulkay v. Roy, 847 F.3d 637, 642 (8th Cir. 2017). First, the plaintiff "must prove an objectively serious medical need and that prison officials knew of the need but deliberately disregarded it." Nelson, 583 F.3d at 531-32 (emphasis added). Second, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was "more than negligent, or even

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grossly negligent." Scott v. Morgan, No. 4:14-CV-01853 JAR, 2016 WL 3971394, at *4 (E.D. Mo. July 25, 2016) (quoting Allard v. Baldwin, 779 F.3d 768, 771-72 (8th Cir. 2015)). The required state of mind for culpability "approach[es] actual intent." Choate v. Lockhart, 7 F.3d 1370, 1374 (8th Cir. 1993). "Merely demonstrating that a prison doctor committed medical malpractice is insufficient to establish deliberate indifference." Jackson v. Buckman, 756 F.3d 1060, 1065-66 (8th Cir. 2014) (citing Fourte v. Faulkner Cty., 746 F.3d 384, 387 (8th Cir. 2014)).

Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference against the Corizon Defendants can generally be broken into three categories, and the treatment provided by each Corizon Defendant is best understood in the context of these categories. For the reasons described below, a reasonable factfinder could not conclude that any Corizon Defendant was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs.

Refusal to Provide Second Hearing Aid

Plaintiff alleges that the denial of a replacement hearing aid for his left ear constitutes deliberate indifference. The second hearing aid difficulties began on March 2016, when Plaintiff reported to Dr. Jones that his hearing aids were not working well, and Dr. Jones acknowledged that Plaintiff had a hard time understanding him. (Doc. 201 at ¶ 26). On May 20, 2016, Dr. Jones prescribed Plaintiff nasal spray for seasonal allergies and montelukast. (Id. at ¶ 27). On May 25, 2016, Dr. Jones placed a referral request that Plaintiff's right hearing aid be replaced and noted that the left hearing aid had broken. (Id. at ¶ 28). Regional Medical Director Dr. Hammerly, however, did not approve Plaintiff's request for a left hearing aid "because the audiologist documented that the hearing loss was greater in the right ear and did not validate Plaintiff's claim that the left hearing aid needed to be replaced." (Id. at ¶ 31). Dr. Hammerly claims he "determined, based upon the documentation and information available to [him] at the time and [his] medical

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judgment, that a replacement hearing aid for Plaintiff's left ear was not medically necessary." (Doc. 205-2 at ¶ 11).

Plaintiff subsequently filed an Informal Resolution Request asking for the left hearing aid to be replaced. (Doc. 201 at ¶ 34). Defendant Wilhite, Director of Nursing, denied the request and noted that it "was Corizon policy to only provide one hearing aid." (Id. at ¶ 35). In an affidavit before this Court, Defendant Wilhite has clarified that the statement as to Corizon policy was "inaccurate" and "[a]s an exception to MDOC Policy D5-5.1, an offender can be provided with a hearing aid for each ear when it is deemed that the use of a second hearing aid would be beneficial at that time." (Doc. 208-1 at ¶¶ 11-12). While there are potential issues with the MDOC policy, as discussed further below, Dr. Hammerly's statements demonstrate that Corizon Defendants relied on their medical judgment in denying Plaintiff's request for a second hearing aid. A reasonable factfinder could also not conclude that Corizon as an entity was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs...

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