Seventh Circuit Affirms District Court Order Granting Summary Judgment In Eighth Amendment Medical Case
by Chad Marks
Jeremy Lockett, a prisoner at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), brought a lawsuit arguing that prison medical staff nurse practitioner (NP) Tanya Bonson and nurse Beth Edge were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.
Lockett has a significant medical history, having been diagnosed with sickle cell disease, a chronic disease that causes pain, sometimes acutely. The pain at times is so severe that it requires immediate emergency medical treatment. Over several months, Lockett sent numerous requests complaining that his routine pain medication, Tramadol, was not controlling his back pain. Medical staff sought to correct this problem by switching his medication, all to no avail.
On October 3, 2016, Lockett went into a sickle cell crisis and was transported to the hospital. There, he was given oxycodone, with a recommendation by the emergency room physician that he be given oxycodone to treat his pain.
NP Bonson, upon Lockett’s return to the prison, crossed out the recommendation on his medical chart, and instead noted his pain was successfully being managed with Tylenol 3.
Lockett filed a health-service request two days after his return from the outside hospital, stating he was in constant pain and not receiving the medication prescribed by the emergency room doctor. Nurse Edge responded to his request, noting that Lockett was receiving pain medication — the Tylenol 3.
On May 17, 2017, Lockett filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. SUB SEC 1983 against Bonson and Edge. He alleged both acted with deliberate indifference in treating his sickle cell disease, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
The defendants moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted in full. The court found that the evidence did not establish deliberate indifference on the part of either of the defendants. Lockett appealed the court’s decision.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and protects prisoners from prison conditions that cause the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, including grossly inadequate medical care. Pyles v. Fahim, 771 F.3d 403 (7th Cir. 2014). Lockett, however, also was required to show deliberate indifference. The Court said Lockett failed to meet his burden.
In its decision, the Court found that the district court correctly determined that sickle cell disease is a serious medical condition. However, for prison staff to be found liable under the Eighth Amendment, that prison official “must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). In Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722 (7th Cir. 2016), the Seventh Circuit commented, “[T]he Supreme Court has instructed us that a plaintiff must provide evidence that an official actually knew of and disregard a substantial risk of harm.”
The Seventh Circuit in this case concluded that the record demonstrated Bonson employed her professional judgment in her treatment of Lockett’s sickle cell disease as required by the WSPF protocol.
As to Edge, the district court found that Lockett had not exhausted his administrative remedies — and the Seventh Circuit concurred with that finding.
Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district courts order granting summary judgment. See: Lockett v. Bonson, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26066 (7th Cir. 2019).
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Related legal case
Lockett v. Bonson
|Cite||U.S. App. LEXIS 26066|
|Level||Court of Appeals|