United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge.
Dewayne Smith, a Virginia prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a
verified complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff names as defendants the Blue Ridge Regional Jail
Authority-Lynchburg ("Authority"); Timothy Trent,
Administrator of the Blue Ridge Regional Jail
("Jail"), Nurse Jones, and Correctional Officers
Newland and Gaddy. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of
the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, to which
Plaintiff responded, making this matter ripe for
disposition. After reviewing the record, the court
grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
February 22, 2016, Newland was driving the Jail's inmate
transport van while Gaddy, Plaintiff, and other inmates were
passengers. Somewhere between the local courthouse and the
Jail, the transport van accidentally struck another
vehicle. Newland exited the transport van,
inspected it for damage, and spoke with the inmates inside.
Plaintiff complained of back pain because his body hit part
of the steel cage inside the van upon impact, and Newland
drove the transport van back to the Jail approximately five
minutes away. Upon arriving, Newland and Gaddy asked the
inmates if they needed medical attention at the Jail, and1
they declined. Plaintiff said he had been "joking"
about being hurt. Consequently, Plaintiff was returned to his
next day, medical staff received Plaintiffs written request
complaining that his back was tight. Nurse Jones examined
Smith the same day. She noted in the medical record that
Plaintiff showed no acute distress and entered the medical
department without mobility issues. Plaintiff presented only
with verbal complaints of lower back pain, and his lower back
showed no signs of bruising, redness, swelling, or deformity.
On palpitations to the lower back area, Plaintiff responded,
"That hurts." Plaintiff demanded to be taken to a
hospital for X rays. Although the injuries appeared minor to
Nurse Jones, she decided to keep Plaintiff housed in the more
supportive beds in the medical department until the facility
doctor could examine Plaintiff.Nurse Jones contacted the doctor,
who ordered Tylenol and Flexeril, a muscle relaxer.
days after the accident, the facility doctor examined
Plaintiff and diagnosed the complaint as lumbar strain. The
doctor ordered Tylenol for five more days, Flexeril for ten
more days, and for Plaintiff to remain in the medical
department for monitoring.
remained in the medical department until March 4. During that
time, nurses checked on Plaintiff daily, and he did not
complain of pain except about mild soreness on February 27.
Nonetheless, Plaintiff did not exhibit suffering pain on
other days. For example, on February 24, Plaintiff was
conversing with other inmates while on his bed with both legs
pulled up and bent knees. On February 28, Plaintiff was
moving in the cell without complaint. On March 4, Plaintiff
told medical staff he was "good" to be released
back to general population.
April 1, 2016, a Jail administrator told Nurse Jones to add
Plaintiff to the medical appointment list because Plaintiff
filed a form complaining about back pain related to the
accident in February. Nurse Jones scheduled the appointment
for April 4, 2016. Plaintiff came to medical to be seen but
refused to pay the medical fee, stating, "I'm not
paying for this. You all aren't doing anything."
Plaintiff was transferred away from the Jail on April 4,
faults Defendants for "fail[ing] to respond
reasonably" to his complaint of back pain because he did
not receive X rays, an MRI, or a CT scan. Plaintiff concludes
that Nurse Jones', Newland's, and Gaddy's acts
and omissions constitute the imposition of cruel and unusual
punishment. Plaintiff also concludes that Defendants
"retaliated" against him for filing administrative
filed a motion to dismiss that presents information outside
the pleadings that the court will not exclude. Consequently,
the court treats the motion to dismiss as a motion for
summary judgment. A party is entitled to summary judgment if
the pleadings, the disclosed materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those
necessary to establish the elements of a party's cause of
action. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
if, in viewing the record and all reasonable inferences drawn
therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party,
a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the
non-movant. Id. The moving party has the burden of
showing - "that is, pointing out to the district court -
that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant satisfies this
burden, then the non-movant must set forth specific facts
that demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of fact
for trial. Id. at 322-24. "Mere
unsupported speculation... is not enough to defeat a summary
judgment motion." Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of
Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir.
1995). A party is entitled to summary judgment if the record
as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in
favor of the non-movant. Williams v. Griffin, 952
F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991). A plaintiff cannot use a
response to a motion for summary judgment to amend or correct
a complaint challenged by the motion for summary judgment.
Cloaninger v. McDevitt, 555 F.3d 324, 336 (4th Cir.
government official sued under § 1983 may invoke
qualified immunity. Cooper v. Sheehan, 735 F.3d 153,
158 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472
U.S. 511, 526 (1985)). "The doctrine of qualified
immunity 'balances two important interests-the need to
hold public officials accountable when they exercise power
irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from
harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform
their duties reasonably.'" Smith v. Ray,
781 F.3d 95, 100 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). The "qualified
immunity analysis typically involves two inquiries: (1)
whether the plaintiff has established the violation of a
constitutional right, and (2) whether that right was clearly
established at the time of the alleged violation."
Raub v. Campbell, 785 F.3d 876, 881 (4th Cir. 2015);
see In re Allen, 106 F.3d 582, 593 (4th Cir. 1997)
("[A]n official may claim qualified immunity as long as
his actions are not clearly established to be beyond the
boundaries of his discretionary authority."). A
"court may address these two questions in the order ...
that will best facilitate the fair and efficient disposition
of each case." Estate of Armstrong v. Vill. of
Pinehurst. 810 F.3d 892, 898 (4th Cir. 2016)
(internal quotation marks omitted). A plaintiffs claim
"survives summary judgment, however, only if [the court]
answer[s] both questions in the affirmative."