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Bruce Brown v. Celia Englander

June 1, 2012

BRUCE BROWN, PLAINTIFF
v.
CELIA ENGLANDER, M.D.; WILLIAM WRENN, COMMISSIONER, N.H. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS; RICHARD GERRY, WARDEN, N.H. STATE PRISON; AND ROBERT MCLEOD, DIRECTOR OF MEDICAL AND FORENSIC SERVICES, N.H. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge

Opinion No. 2012 DNH 095

ORDER

Bruce Brown, an inmate at the New Hampshire State prison, has served approximately 15 years of a 20-40 year sentence for sexual assault. About five years ago, he began experiencing intermittent back pain. Over time, that pain became worse and Brown says it is now severe (sometimes incapacitating) and can only be alleviated through surgery to fuse damaged lumbar discs. He claims prison officials are aware not only that he suffers from debilitating pain, but also that several consulting physicians have recommended surgery. And yet, says Brown, prison officials refuse to provide him with that medically necessary surgery.

Brown brings this action alleging that defendants have acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and, in so doing, violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. He also brings state law claims of medical malpractice and intentional infliction of emotional distress, over which he asks the court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). He seeks monetary damages for his suffering, and injunctive relief compelling defendants to provide him with the surgery he says he needs.*fn1

Defendants deny that they violated any of Brown's rights and, because they say there are no genuinely disputed material facts, defendants claim they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Brown objects.

For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted as to Brown's Eighth Amendment claim. As to Brown's state law claims for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, the court declines to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction and those claims are dismissed without prejudice.

Standard of Review

When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must "view the entire record in the light most hospitable to the party opposing summary judgment, indulging all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115 (1st Cir. 1990). Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals "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). In this context, "a fact is 'material' if it potentially affects the outcome of the suit and a dispute over it is 'genuine' if the parties' positions on the issue are supported by conflicting evidence." Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Winship Green Nursing Ctr., 103 F.3d 196, 199-200 (1st Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). Nevertheless, if the non-moving party's "evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative," no genuine dispute as to a material fact has been proved, and "summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986) (citations omitted).

The key, then, to defeating a properly supported motion for summary judgment is the non-movant's ability to support his or her claims concerning disputed material facts with admissible evidence that conflicts with that proffered by the moving party. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). It naturally follows that while a reviewing court must take into account all properly documented facts, it may ignore a party's bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, and mere speculation. See Serapion v. Martinez, 119 F.3d 982, 987 (1st Cir. 1997). See also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) ("When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.").

Background

Brown's factual allegations are discussed in the court's order dated November 24, 2010 (document no. 9), denying Brown's request for preliminary injunctive relief, but allowing him to proceed with some of his claims against Dr. Celia Englander (Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Corrections), Robert McLeod (former Administrative Director of Medical and Forensic Services to the Department of Corrections), Richard Gerry (Warden of the N.H. State Prison for Men), and William Wrenn (Commissioner of the N.H. Department of Corrections). Those allegations need not be recounted. It is sufficient to note that since the onset of his back pain, Brown has been seen by several medical professionals, he has been provided with a number of different pain-killers (both prescription and non-prescription), and he has received at least one round of cortisone injections. Nevertheless, Brown says his back pain remains and he believes surgery is the only appropriate treatment.

Discussion

I. Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs.

To prevail on his Eighth Amendment claim for medical mistreatment, Brown must show that prison officials demonstrated "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). That test has both an objective component and a ...


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