United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY
E. HUDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
James Brown, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and
in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983
action. Brown's claims flow from the alleged
unconstitutional treatment Brown received from Lt. A. Banks
and Dr. Inder Gujral in the aftermath of Brown's hernia
surgery. Brown contends that:
Claim 1 (a) Defendant Banks violated Brown's rights under
the Eighth Amendment when, on February 10, 2015, he ordered
Brown to move some heavy boxes and refused to allow anyone to
assist Brown in moving the boxes. (Compl. 6-7, ECF No. 1
.)(b) Defendant Banks violated Brown's
rights under the Eighth Amendment when he falsely charged
Brown with disobeying a direct order and had Brown locked in
segregation for thirty-six (36) days. (Id. at 6.)
Claim 2 Defendant Gujral failed to provide Brown with
adequate medical care following Brown's injury on
February 10, 2015. (Id. at 4.)
By a separate Memorandum Opinion, the Court dismissed Claims
1(a) and 1(b) against Defendant Banks. The matter is before
the Court on the Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Brown
(ECF Nos. 30, 48) and Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Dr. Gujral (ECF No. 43). For the reasons set for below, Dr.
Gujral's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted and
Brown's Motions for Summary Judgment will be denied.
turning to the facts established for purposes of summary
judgment, it is appropriate to trace the evolution of
Brown's claims against Dr. Gujral. In his Complaint,
Brown asserted that following his reinjury of his hernia on
February 10, 2015, until the end of November of 2015,
"Doctor Gujral has not done anything to help me, or send
me to any specialist to find out what damages was done on
2-10-15." (Compl. 4.) As reflected below, the evidence
shows that is simply not true. On April 16, 2015, Dr. Gujral
sent Brown to Dr. Diep at Southampton Surgical Associates for
continuing pain related to his hernia. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ.
J. Ex. 1, Ex. A "Medical Records" 31.) Dr. Diep
concluded there was "no recurrent hernia at this
time" and "his chronic pain will likely improve
over the next few months." (Id. at 32.) When
Brown continued to complain of pain, Dr. Gujral ordered
multiple kidney, ureter, and bladder x- rays, ordered
multiple abdominal and pelvic CT scans, prescribed pain
medication, and secured an additional surgical consultation.
the lack of merit of his initial claim, Brown's claim has
now evolved to where he insists that Dr. Gujral violated his
rights under the Eighth Amendment because he failed to
provide Brown with adequate pain medication and inordinately
delayed in requesting a follow-up examination with
Brown's surgeon. Accordingly, the Court deems Brown to
raise the following claims:
Claim 2 Defendant Gujral failed to provide Brown with
adequate medical care following Brown's injury on
February 10, 2015 by: (a) failing to send Brown to a
specialist; (b) failing to promptly arrange a follow-up
appointment with the surgical group that performed
Brown's hernia surgery (PL's Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J.
2-3, ECF No. 49); and, (c) failing to provide adequate pain
medication (see, e.g., id.)
STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
judgment must be rendered "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). It is the responsibility of the party
seeking summary judgment to inform the court of the basis for
the motion, and to identify the parts of the record which
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary
judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on
the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file." Id. at 324 (internal
quotation marks omitted). When the motion is properly
supported, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings
and, by citing affidavits or '"depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate
'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial."' Id. (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c) and 56(e) (1986)). In reviewing a summary judgment
motion, the Court "must draw all justifiable inferences
in favor of the nonmoving party." United States v.
Carolina Transformer Co., 978 F.2d 832, 835 (4th Cir.
1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, a mere
"'scintilla of evidence'" will not
preclude summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251
(quoting Improvement Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. (14
Wall.) 442, 448 (1872)).
support of his Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant Gujral
submitted his own declaration (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1
("Gujral Decl., " ECF No. 44-1), and a copy of
Brown's medical records (Gujral Aff. Ex. A ("Medical
Records"). Brown responded to the Motion for Summary
Judgment. In considering the propriety of summary judgment,
the Court will consider the sworn statements Brown tendered
in support of his Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 30-2,
"Brown Aff."; ECF No. 46, "Brown Decl.").
Of course, the facts offered by affidavit or sworn
declaration must also be in the form of admissible evidence.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4). In this regard, the
statement in the affidavit or sworn declaration "must be
made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be
admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or
declarant is competent to testify on the matters
stated." Id. Therefore, "summary judgment
affidavits cannot be conclusory or based upon hearsay."
Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d
954, 962 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted).
has submitted a number of conclusory statements that run
afoul of this prohibition. For example, in his Affidavit,
Brown swears that:
Between February 11, 2015, and October 26, 2015 . . ., I
repeatedly informed Dr. Gujral and his staff that I was
experiencing extreme pain in the area of my surgery-----I
requested pain-relieving medication to relieve my pain and
suffering. Throughout that entire period of time, Defendant
Dr. Gujral and his staff disregarded all of my pleas and
requests for treatment.
(Brown Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No. 30-2.) Vague statements of this
ilk fail to create material disputes of fact. See United
States v. Roane, 378 F.3d 382, 400-01 (4th Cir. 2004)
(observing that "[a]iry generalities" and
"conclusory assertions" cannot "stave off
summary judgment") (alteration in original) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted).
light of the foregoing submissions and principles, the facts
set forth in the next section are established for purposes of
Dr. Gujral's Motion for Summary Judgment.
FACTS PERTINENT TO SUMMARY JUDGMENT
January of 2015, Brown was confined in Sussex II State Prison
("SUSP"). (Brown Decl. ¶ 5.) On January 27,
2015, Brown underwent surgery for a right inguinal hernia.
(Gujral Decl. ¶5.) The surgery was conducted at
Southampton Memorial Hospital. (Id.) The surgeon
repaired the hernia with "plug and mesh."
(Id.) The surgical consultation report recommended
that Brown not perform any heavy lifting or strenuous
activity for three weeks. (Id. ¶ 6.) The
consultation report further recommended a follow-up
appointment in the surgical clinic in three weeks. (Medical
February 5, 2015, Dr. Gujral examined Brown in a follow-up
appointment in light of Brown's hernia repair surgery.
(Gujral Decl. ¶ 7.) Dr. Gujral noted that Brown's
"wound was healing well, there was no redness and no
drainage found. [Dr. Gujral] found that [Brown] had good
bowel sounds present." (Id.) Dr. Gujral
informed Brown that he could be discharged from the
infirmary. (Id.) Dr. Gujral ordered that Brown not
"engage in any heavy lifting, sports, or strenuous
activity for three weeks, and that he be given a bottom bunk
for six weeks. [Dr. Gujral] requested that [Brown] be seen in
follow[-]up in the Surgery Clinic in three weeks."
February 10, 2015, despite Brown's protestations that it
was against his surgeon's orders, Defendant Banks
demanded that Brown lift several heavy boxes. (Brown Decl.
¶ 7.) On February 11, 2015, the nursing staff examined
Brown in the segregation unit and noted that his vital signs
were stable and Brown did not have any signs of physical
injury and voiced no complaints. (Gujral Decl. ¶ 8.) The
nursing staff recommended, and Dr. Gujral "signed off on
the recommendation, that [Brown's] lifting restrictions
be extended for two additional weeks and that [Brown] should
apply a warm compress to the wound site for fifteen minutes
two times a day." (Id.)
February 19, 2015, Brown had a follow-up visit with respect
to his surgery, but it is unclear from the record who
examined Brown or where he was examined. (Medical Records 25;
Gujral Decl. ¶ 9.)
February 24, 2015, the nursing staff examined Brown for his
complaints of possible hernia re-injury a week prior. (Gujral
Decl. ¶ 10.) In the history section of the sick-call
note, Brown stated he may have reinjured himself by lifting
his mattress. (Id.)
examination, the nurse found that [Brown] was alert, there
were no signs of distress noted, there was tenderness found
at the surgical incision site, but there was no drainage
found. The nurse recommended that [Brown] be placed on the
physician's list to be evaluated." (Id.)
March 5, 2015, Dr. Gujral evaluated Brown for his complaints
of reinjuring his hernia and constipation. (Id.
¶ 13.) During that visit, Brown "claimed to have
linear discomfort in his right groin area after picking up an
object. [Dr. Gujral] noted that [Brown] was otherwise doing
well [and] found that [Brown] was healing well with respect
to his hernia repair...." (Id.) Dr. Gujral told
Brown to "refrain from lifting greater than ten pounds
for twelve weeks." (Id.) Dr. Gujral's
abdominal examination of Brown was "negative."
(Id.) Dr. Gujral ordered Colace for Brown's
complaints of constipation. (Id.) Dr. Gujral did not
prescribe any pain medication. (Brown Decl. 12.)
April 7, 2015, the nursing staff at SUSP examined Brown for
his complaint of right side pain for which Brown requested
x-rays. (Gujral Decl. ¶ 14.) The nursing staff noted
that Brown "complained of shooting pain down his right
side and had a history of hernia repair." (Id.)
The nursing staff further noted that Brown was alert,
oriented and not in distress. (Id.) Additionally,
Brown "demonstrated a good range of motion, " but
"his abdomen was lightly rigid on the right side. The
nurse recommended that [Brown] be referred to the physician
for evaluation." (Id.)
April 13, 2015, Dr. Gujral evaluated Brown "in
follow[-]up for his hernia repair surgery and his complaints
of right sided pain." (Id. ¶ 15.) Dr.
Gujral noted that Brown "continued to complain of pain
on the right side of his abdomen, and the pain radiated to
the right subcostal region." (Id.) Upon
examination, Dr. Gujral found that Brown's
wound was healed and there was no drainage or swelling
present. [Brown's] abdomen was soft, non-tender and bowel
sounds were present. [Dr. Gujral] explained to [Brown] that
there was no acute problem or abnormal findings present.
[Brown] stated that he wanted to go and see the
physician who performed the surgery (Dr. Yancey). As such, a