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Bowles v. Wells

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

March 26, 2019

LESTER EUGENE BOWLES, Plaintiff,
v.
D. WELLS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge

         Lester Eugene Bowles, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Nurse Wells, the former Director of Medical Services at River North Correctional Center (“RNCC”). Plaintiff's only remaining claim alleges that Defendant and/or her policies violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff responded, making this matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I will grant the motion for summary judgment.

         I.

         In Plaintiff's complaint, he asserts that Defendant was deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need when she violated the orientation manual policy by having nurses administer him insulin after instead of before the morning meal. In his response to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff realleged claims that had already been dismissed and generally argued - that Defendant was negligent, that he had to “fight to get my insulin, ” and that not having insulin for thirteen hours a day is “against the law for diabetics.” Resp. to the Mot. for Summ. J. 1-3, ECF No. 29; see Order, ECF No. 20.

         Defendant alleges the following. Defendant was the Director of Medical Services from May 2015 until May 2017 at RNCC. As Director, she coordinated administration of insulin to diabetic inmates, including Plaintiff. No. policy or procedure required diabetic inmates to receive insulin prior to meals. Defendant states that it was impossible to administer all medicines before breakfast because the night-nurse performed such duties, and RNCC only staffed one night-nurse at that time.

         Nursing staff policy was to monitor diabetic inmates' blood sugar levels and administer appropriate therapeutics, e.g., insulin, to maintain control of their blood sugar levels. Policy did not require insulin administration prior to meals to provide effective clinical blood sugar control. Instead, it was acceptable to administer insulin before or after meals.

         Defendant admits that the inmate orientation manual mentioned sugar checks occurring before meals: “Diabetic offenders that require fasting blood sugar checks will be seen in the housing units between 4:00 and 5:00 am by the night shift nurse.” River North Corr. Ctr. Orientation Handbook, at 17, ECF No. 25-2. However, the handbook also noted there was no requirement that insulin be administered before meals: “All times listed in this manual are approximate and subject to change at Security's discretion.” Id. at 1.

         Defendant alleges that the medical staff tried administering the insulin before Plaintiff's meals on multiple occasions, but that Plaintiff frequently refused to wake up. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff outright refused insulin other times, including on days when the nursing staff attempted to administer insulin before the morning meal. Wells Aff. ¶ 11, ECF No. 25-1; Exh. C, ECF No. 25-3 (excerpt from Plaintiff's medical record detailing Plaintiff's many refusals of insulin). Defendant also states that Plaintiff refused to allow nurses to check his blood pressure on multiple occasions and was often non-compliant with his diet in addition to refusing insulin. Wells Aff. ¶ 12. Defendant postulates that “his periodic refusals to comply with his dietary restrictions and his refusing his medications” caused “some variation in his blood sugar readings.” Id. at ¶ 13.

         Defendant asserts that the medical staff, including the nurses she supervised, monitored Plaintiff's blood sugar levels, diet, insulin administration, and his objective laboratory results, and the records show that Plaintiff's diabetes was not only under control, but showed “marked improvement in 2016.” Id. at ¶ 15; Exh. E, ECF No. 25-5. Specifically, Plaintiff's Hemoglobin A1C[1] levels showed improvement in 2016, which was around the same time that Plaintiff complains about post-meal insulin administration.

         Lastly, Plaintiff was never referred to a specialist because his sugar levels were stable. Wells Aff. ¶ 17. Referrals are only clinically indicated when blood sugar levels cannot be adequately controlled. Id. Plaintiff's medical record demonstrates that his A1C level declined while at RNCC, which indicated that his diabetes was controlled and improving. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 18. Defendant further asserts that during her time as supervisor, no clinical evidence shows that post-meal, as opposed to pre-meal, insulin administration harmed Plaintiff in any manner. To any extent Plaintiff claims dizziness, agitation, and nausea, Defendant blames Plaintiff's repeated refusals of insulin and noncompliance with his diet. Id. at ¶ 19.

         II.

         A.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a court should grant summary judgment “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.” “As to materiality . . . [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In order to preclude summary judgment, the dispute about a material fact must be “‘genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. However, if the evidence of a genuine issue of material fact “is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Id. at 250. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986); Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994).

         A court must grant a motion for summary judgment if, after adequate time for discovery, the nonmoving party fails to make a showing “sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. The nonmoving party cannot defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment with mere conjecture and speculation. Glover v. Oppleman, 178 F.Supp.2d 622, 631 (W.D. Va. 2001). The trial judge has an “affirmative ...


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