Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Shover v. Chestnut

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

May 24, 2019

John Shover, Plaintiff,
Regina Chestnut, ET AL., Defendants.



         During the time period relevant to this case, Plaintiff John Shover was an inmate at Middle River Regional Jail (MRRJ). Defendants are Regina Chestnut, the medical administrator at MRRJ; Dr. Michael Moran, the jail physician; and Donna Reynolds, a nurse at MRRJ. In a suit brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Shover alleges that Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment by denying him a cane and a bottom-tier cell, resulting in an injury on the jail stairs. The Court previously denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment, which argued Shover had not exhausted his administrative remedies. (Dkts. 27, 28). Having completed discovery, Defendants now move for summary judgment again, contending that no reasonable jury could find that Shover had a serious medical need for a cane or bottom-tier housing, or that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference toward either alleged need. (Dkt. 67).

         Shover concedes that summary judgment should be granted as to Defendants Moran and Reynolds, and the Court will thus grant summary judgment in these defendants' favor.[1] The parties dispute whether Defendant Chestnut acted with deliberate indifference, but the Court finds that no reasonable jury could find that she did. Accordingly, the Court will also grant Chestnut's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Legal Standard

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) provides that a court should grant summary judgment if the movant shows “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ” and “[a] fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Variety Stores, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 888 F.3d 651, 659 (4th Cir. 2018). The nonmoving party must “show that there is a genuine dispute of material fact . . . by offering sufficient proof in the form of admissible evidence.” Id. (quoting Guessous v. Fairview Prop. Invs., LLC, 828 F.3d 208, 216 (4th Cir. 2016)). The district court must “view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party” and “refrain from weighing the evidence or making credibility determinations.” Id. “Although the court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, the nonmoving party must rely on more than conclusory allegations, mere speculation, the building of one inference upon another, or the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence.” Dash v. Mayweather, 731 F.3d 303, 311 (4th Cir. 2013).

         II. Facts[2]

         During the time period relevant to this case-July 25, 2016 through September 1, 2016- Plaintiff John Shover was an inmate at Middle River Regional Jail (MRRJ) in Staunton, Virginia. Shover maintains that he has “permanent nerve damage from [his] knees down to [his] feet” as a result of a back operation in 2014. (Dkt. 71-1 at 8 (“Shover Depo.”)). A letter dated April 19, 2016 from Shover's physician, Dr. Kimberly Dowdell of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System, states that Shover suffers from deep venous thrombosis, a herniated lumbar disc, hypertension, hip pain in his left hip, sleep apnea, and lumbar stenosis. (Dkt. 68-8). Before his incarceration in July 2016, Shover used “normal orthopedic canes” sold at his pharmacy and sometimes used two canes. (Shover Depo. at 11). Prior to July 2016, Shover navigated stairs in his home “[w]hen [he] had to, ” such as when he slept in his upstairs bedroom, and had “several falls” that did not require medical treatment. (Id. at 11-12, 17).

         At Shover's initial intake at MRRJ on July 25, 2016, MRRJ staff noted that Shover reported “nerve damage - from knees down” and previous “back surgeries.” (Dkt. 68-2 at 1). Shover avers that he had a cane with him when he arrived at MRRJ but that jail staff confiscated the cane. (Shover Depo. at 12). MRRJ's intake notes list “cane” by a physical assessment column entitled “[l]egs.” (Dkt. 68-2 at 1). Defendant Chestnut was not present for Shover's intake and avers that she did not review his intake form. (Dkt. 68-3 at 77-78 (“Chestnut Depo.”)). An e-mail sent by Chestnut on September 9, 2016-eight days after Shover's September 1 fall-reflects that MRRJ had “Shover's cane” in “personal property.” (Dkt. 71-8).

         Following his intake evaluation, Shover was assigned to a cell on the second tier of the jail, where he remained until his fall on September 1, 2016. Shover's placement on the second tier required him to traverse stairs on a daily basis for meals, to return meal trays, for pill calls, to make phone calls, and to utilize the jail's “day room.” (Shover Depo. at 14-15).

         Chestnut has served as medical administrator at MRRJ since 2014. In this position, Chestnut oversees the medical department, handles scheduling, sometimes answers inmate medical request forms, makes outside medical appointments for inmates, and “can see inmates if needed.” (Chestnut Depo. at 12). Chestnut did not review every medical request form or grievance submitted by an inmate, nor did she regularly review nursing staff's responses to medical request forms and grievances. (Id. at 33, 35). MRRJ also employed Dr. Michael Moran as a staff physician, (dkt. 68-5 at 11 (“Moran Depo.”), and Barry Munsey as a physician's assistant (“P.A. Munsey”). (Chestnut Depo. at 19).

         During the relevant time period, inmates at MRRJ filled out medical request forms for non-emergency medical issues and provided those forms to jail officers, who then delivered the forms to the medical department. (Id. at 17-18). Any available member of the nursing staff could answer these request forms, and all requests were supposed to be answered within 7 days. (Id.). In addition to medical request forms, inmates could submit “inmate request forms” directly to security officers. (Shover Depo. at 20, 22; see, e.g., dkt. 71-1 at 8, 10). Inmates could also submit formal grievances within 30 days of the incident complained of; prison officials were to respond to grievances within 9 days. (Dkt. 12-1 at 7).

         If an inmate met certain criteria, nurses could unilaterally have the inmate moved to a bottom-tier cell[3] by sending an e-mail “that they would need to be bottom bunk / bottom tier” to the “security officer.” (Chestnut Depo. at 20-21, 76; see also dkt. 71-2 at 6 (“Kane Depo.”)). Nurses could also effectuate moves by issuing medical orders or consulting with a physician or physician's assistant. (Chestnut Depo. at 52). However, nurses did not unilaterally order canes or walkers for inmates; rather, the jail doctor or physician's assistant ordered such equipment upon a finding of medical necessity. (Id. at 22-23, 60-62, 69-70, 78; Dkt. 68-4 at 18-19, 31 (“Reynolds Depo.”); Moran Depo. at 40-41; dkt. 68-1 ¶ 6 (“Chestnut Decl.”)).

         Chestnut had six identifiable encounters with Shover prior to his fall on September 1, 2016. On August 18, 2016, Chestnut reviewed and responded to a medical request form in which Shover asked whether he could continue to take lyrica and oxycodone prescribed to him by an outside physician for pain related to “nerve [and] leg damage caused by a recent back surgery.” (Dkt. 71-1 at 73; see also Chestnut Depo. at 38, 96; Chestnut Decl. ¶ 9). This request form did not include any request for a cane or a bottom-tier cell. (Id.; see also Shover Depo. at 18). Chestnut responded: “We will see you and discuss options for you.” (Dkt. 71-1 at 73). Chestnut then placed Shover on a list to see the doctor. (Chestnut Decl. ¶ 9).

         On August 24, 2016, Chestnut responded to a second medical request form Shover submitted on August 23, 2016. (Chestnut Depo. at 39-40, 97). Shover stated that he was “following up on [his] request last week . . . to see the medical staff concerning [his] Rx meds, ” noting that he had “since fallen in the pod and hurt [his] knee” and had “great difficulties walking due to the permanent nerve damage to [his] legs.” (Dkt. 71-1 at 74). Chestnut responded: “Mr. Shover, you are on the list to be seen today.” (Id.). This request form did not include any request for a cane or a bottom-tier cell. (Id.; Shover Depo. at 19).

         Later that day, Shover saw P.A. Munsey, who diagnosed Shover with lower back pain and hypertension but did not note any request for a cane or bottom-tier housing or order either. (Chestnut Depo. at 73-74; Chestnut Decl. ¶ 11). Chestnut was not present at this appointment. (Id.). Shover remembers meeting with P.A. Munsey on at least one occasion prior to August 28, 2016. (Shover Depo. at 20-21). Shover recalls asking P.A. Munsey specifically for a cane, and states that Munsey replied that “he could not give [Shover] a cane or issue [him] a cane . . . because it would be considered a weapon and it was against . . . [jail] policy.” (Id. at 20).

         On August 26, 2016, Chestnut responded to a grievance Shover submitted on August 25, 2016. In this request, Shover asked either for a cane or to be moved to the medical infirmary “where I do not have to try and walk unassi[s]ted.” (Dkt. 68-7 at 1). Shover stated that P.A. Munsey “reaffirmed that canes are not allowed” at their appointment on August 24, 2016. (Id.). Shover noted that he had “been prescribed a walking cane by” his outside physician, Dr. Dowdell, but that MRRJ “would not let [him] bring [his] cane” into the jail at intake. (Id.). Shover stated that he had already fallen “several times” on the stairs “in the pod.” (Id.). Chestnut responded: “Mr. Shover, will get you moved to bottom tier so you don't have to go up and down stairs.” (Id.). Chestnut avers that this grievance marked her first awareness that Shover was housed on the second tier or that he had requested a cane. (Chestnut Decl. ¶ 12). Chestnut “determined that [Shover] met the criteria which allowed [her] to request that he be moved to [the] bottom tier” because of his “report that he had fallen” but that she “did not have authority to issue him a cane and Mr. Munsey had not ordered one.” (Id.).

         Later that day, Chestnut emailed David Kane, a classification officer at MRRJ, stating the following: “Can we move John Shover to a bottom tier? He states he has fallen several times on the steps. Not sure, but I guess we better be safe. Thanks[.] How is your Grandfather?” (Chestnut Depo. at 48, 100). Kane responded to Chestnut's question about his grandfather but did not respond to her request to move Shover to the bottom tier. (Id. at 50-51, 100). Chestnut responded about Kane's grandfather but did not follow up on her request that Shover be moved to the bottom tier. (Id. at 51, 100). Chestnut avers that “[a]s far as [she] knew, Mr. Shover ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.