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Monday, September 12, 2011

Ind. Decisions - One Indiana decision today from 7th Circuit

In Arnett v. Webster (SD Ind., Lawrence), A 36-page opinion, Judge Tinder writes:

Kevin Arnett, a former prisoner at the Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, brought this Bivens action, see Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment against a number of prison officials for violations he alleged occurred during his ten month stay there. When Arnett arrived at the Terre Haute facility in November 2006, he was seen by Thomas Webster, M.D., prison clinical director. Arnett informed Dr. Webster that he had rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a severe and debilitating form of arthritis which is progressive and causes painful inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues, and asked for Enbrel (etanercept), a medication Arnett had been taking before arriving at the prison that had been successful in controlling his condition.

Because Enbrel wasn’t on the prison’s approved formulary, prison medical personnel had to seek prior approval to prescribe the medication by submitting a nonformulary drug authorization request to the Central Office of the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C. (BOP) Dr. Webster submitted a request for Arnett to receive Gabapentin, used to treat nerve pain, but not Enbrel, and also submitted approval for a consultation with an outside rheumatologist. W. Eric Wilson, M.D., staff physician at Terre Haute, became Arnett’s primary care physician on December 28, 2006. An outside rheumatologist examined Arnett in February 2007, and it can be inferred that he directed Dr. Wilson to place Arnett back on Enbrel. Despite the rheumatologist’s instruction and Arnett’s repeated pleas for the medication and complaints of continued pain and swelling, he didn’t receive Enbrel until October 5, 2007, eleven days before he was transferred from the facility to a halfway house. Arnett was told by the defendants during the more than ten months he waited for the drug that the non-formulary request had been submitted, they were waiting for a response from the BOP, and were otherwise “working on it.” In the meantime, Arnett was prescribed pain medicine, but nothing to treat the inflammation and deterioration of his joints.

Because Arnett sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the district court screened his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), and in so doing, dismissed all the defendants, except Dr. Webster, on the basis that Arnett failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Shortly after screening, Arnett’s case was transferred from Judge Richard L. Young to Judge William T. Lawrence.) Dr. Webster then filed a summary judgment motion and the district court granted that motion. The district court entered judgment, directing that plaintiff take nothing by his complaint. Arnett appeals both rulings and we affirm in part and reverse in part. We affirm dismissal of the non-medical defendants on the pleadings, but find that Arnett properly stated a claim against the medical defendants. We, however, affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Dr. Webster because Arnett failed to meet his burden to submit evidence upon which a reasonable jury could find that Dr. Webster acted with deliberate indifference.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 12, 2011 12:47 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions