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Goodman v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

March 23, 2015

Keith D. Goodman, Plaintiff,
Gene M. Johnson, et al., Defendants.


GERALD BRUCE LEE, District Judge.

This Matter comes before the Court on cross motions for Summary Judgment. Keith D. Goodman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendants showed deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by refusing to prescribe him contact lenses, rather than eyeglasses. Defendant Dr. Elton Brown filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on April 4, 2014, as well as a supporting memorandum and the notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and Roseboro v. Garrison , 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975). Dkt. 92, 93. Plaintiff filed a response on May 27, 2014. Dkt. 116. Defendant Dr. David Spruill filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on January 7, 2015, as well as a supporting memorandum and the notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and Roseboro. Dkt. 125, 126.[1] Plaintiff filed a response on February 27, 2015. Dkt. 146. Plaintiff also filed his own Motion for Summary Judgment on February 24, 2015. Dkt. 143. Defendant Spruill filed a reply to plaintiff's response. Dkt. 145. Both defendants filed responses to plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. 147, 148. For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motions will be granted and plaintiff's Motion will be denied.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his initial complaint on January 24, 2011, naming eighteen defendants, including supervisory officials at the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"); officials at Green Rock Correctional Center ("Green Rock"), Brunswick Correctional Center ("Brunswick"), and Greensville Correctional Center ("Greensville"); and Prison Health Services. See, e.g., Compl. [Dkt. 1], at 7-8. He stated that, for more than twenty years, he has been wearing contact lenses to correct his nearsightedness. Id. at 8 ¶ 28. Plaintiff relies on contact lenses, rather than eyeglasses, to correct his vision, as he experiences "regular headaches that occur solely as a result of using eyeglasses." Id. at 8 ¶ 31. Prior to 2009, VDOC doctors prescribed plaintiff contact lenses, rather than eyeglasses. See id. at 9 ¶ 34; Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Mem.") [Dkt. 37], Exs. 8-12 (showing receipt of contact lenses through the medical prosthesis process at previous facilities). However, starting in 2009, defendant Brown, an optometrist at Brunswick, defendant Krym, an optometrist at Green Rock, and defendant Spruill, an optometrist at Greensville, refused to prescribe contact lenses to plaintiff and only prescribed him eyeglasses, despite his complaints of headaches. See Compl. at 9-10 ¶ 36. Plaintiff asserts that this decision was motivated entirely by an erroneous reading of VDOC policy mandating that contact lenses "will be supplied when medically indicated." See id. at 11 ¶ 41-12 ¶ 46. He originally asserted that these actions violated his rights under the Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").

As directed by the Court, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against the same defendants on April 26, 2011. Dkt. 7. On May 24, 2011, the Court dismissed plaintiff's ADA claim, as well as several defendants, including the three individual doctors named above, for failure to state a claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The Court found that plaintiff had not stated a claim for deliberate indifference against the doctors, as "[the defendants] all based their refusal to prescribe contact lenses [on] VDOC policy, which indicates that they were receptive to Goodman's complaints and were trying to treat his vision and headaches within the constraints of their working environments." Order (May 24, 2011) [Dkt. 8], at 6.

The Court granted the remaining defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment on October 19, 2012. Dkt. 52, 53. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the Court's dismissal of defendants Brown, Krym, and Spruill. The court held:

Here, [plaintiff] complains that each of his doctors has refused to adequately address his complaints that his eyeglasses cause him headaches, ostensibly due to their reliance on [VDOC policy] and the direction of their superiors. Because we find no support for the district court's conclusion that such reliance, if true, insulates Goodman's doctors from liability, we vacate the portion of the district court's order dismissing [plaintiff's] claims against Dr. Krym, Dr. Brown, and Dr. Spruill.FN
FN By this disposition we make no determination regarding the underlying merit of [plaintiff's] claims. We simply conclude that Goodman's complaint raised allegations against his various doctors sufficient to survive preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

Goodman v. Johnson et al., No. 12-7990, slip op., at 5-6 (4th Cir. May 3, 2013). Dkt. 59. After entry of this Order, the Court reinstated defendants Brown, Spruill, and Krym.[2] Brown and Spruill have now filed Motions for Summary Judgment, arguing that they did not show deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs.

II. Factual Background

At this stage of the litigation, the sole remaining defendants are Brown, who treated plaintiff at Brunswick between December 2008 and September 2009, and Spruill, who treated plaintiff at Greensville starting in March 2010.[3] See Dr. Brown's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Brown's Mem.") [Dkt. 93], Att. 1 (Brown Decl.) ¶¶ 2-9; David Spruill's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Spruill's Mem.") [Dkt. 126], Att. 5 (Spruill Decl.) ¶¶ 2-5; see also Plaintiff's Response to Defendant Brown's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Brown Resp.") [Dkt. 116], Ex. 25 (indicating a meeting between Brown and plaintiff as early as December 2008). It is undisputed that both Brown and Spruill individually diagnosed plaintiff "with myopia (Nearsightedness) in both eyes with good visual correction with eyeglasses." Spruill's Mem., at 1; see also Brown's Mem., at 2. Neither doctor saw any medical reason why plaintiff required contact lenses, and neither doctor knew of any reason why plaintiff's eyeglasses would cause him headaches. See Brown's Mem., Att. 1 ¶ 2; Spruill's Mem., Att. 5 ¶¶ 2, 8.

On January 29, 2009, plaintiff told Brown his eyeglasses caused him headaches. Plaintiff states that his headaches are "substantial, " cause dizziness and blurry vision, and interfere with his daily activities. Am. Compl., at 8 ¶ 27. Brown informed plaintiff that he could not prescribe plaintiff contact lenses, due to the existence of a VDOC policy permitting the prescription of contact lenses only when medically necessary. See Brown's Mem., Att. 1, Ex. A, at unnumbered page 2 (entry of Feb. 5, 2009). On February 5, 2009, medical staff noted plaintiff's complaint about Brown's statement in his medical chart, and indicated that "there is no documentation in record of a medical need for contacts." Id. at unnumbered page 3. The nurse documenting this entry stated that plaintiff did not meet the criteria to be prescribed contact lenses pursuant to VDOC policy, and would be issued eyeglasses instead. Id. On February 13, 2009, medical staff received a request from plaintiff indicating that his eyeglasses caused him headaches. Id. (entry of Feb. 13, 2009). This request was referred to Brown, who followed up with plaintiff on February 27, 2009. See id. at unnumbered pages 3-4. Brown again informed plaintiff that he saw no medical need for contact lenses, and directed that eyeglasses be ordered for plaintiff. Brown's Mem., Att. 1 ¶ 4.

On April 3, 2009, plaintiff met with Brown, and informed him that he was suffering from headaches. See id. ¶ 6. Brown informed plaintiff that "[he] had excellent vision in both eyes with the correction of his eyeglasses, and there was no medical reason for his level of myopia, with only a minimal difference between the two eyes, to cause headaches with his prescribed eyeglasses." Id. Brown referred plaintiff's complaints of headaches to the head nurse at Brunswick. Id. On September 17, 2009, plaintiff was scheduled to see an ophthalmologist at Southampton Memorial Hospital "to diagnose his headaches and determine if there is a medical reason for contacts vs. eyeglasses as well as the cause for his headaches." Brown's Mem., Att. 1, Ex. A., at unnumbered page 6 (entry of Sept. 17, 2009). Due to his transfer to Greensville, plaintiff never attended this appointment. See Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment ("Summ. J. Mem.") [Dkt. 27], Ex. 4 (Schilling Aff.) ¶ 6. It appears that plaintiff visited an ophthalmologist, Dr. Gupta, in July of 2011. See Plaintiff's Affidavit ("Pl.'s Aff.") [Dkt. 35, 38] ¶ 15. The result of this appointment is unclear from the record. See Pl.'s Mem., at 9 ¶ 14 (explaining only that Dr. Gupta asked questions about plaintiff's headaches).

Plaintiff's medical records from Brunswick show that, in December 2008, Brown discussed plaintiff's request for contact lenses with Kim Runion, the Warden of Brunswick. On December 5, 2008, Brown indicated that he "[would] discuss inmate's request for [illegible] of contact lenses with Ms. Runion." Pl.'s Brown Resp., Ex. 25. On December 19, 2008, Brown noted that he "discuss[ed] contact issue with Ms. Runion." However, nothing in the record indicates the ...

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