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Evans v. Mendonsa

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 12, 2015

JOHN EVANS, Plaintiff,
ANTHONY MENDONSA et al., Defendants.


DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff John Evans ("Evans"), proceeding pro se, has filed this lawsuit seeking injunctive relief against Defendants Anthony Mendonsa ("Mendonsa"), Thomas Dickhaut ("Dickhaut"), Marlene Dodge ("Dodge"), Carmen Newly ("Newly"), Angela D'Antonio ("D'Antonio") and Charles King ("King") for an alleged violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. D. 26. Following the dismissal of the claims against Dodge, Newly and D'Antonio, D. 96, Mendonsa and Dickhaut renewed their previous motion for summary judgment, D. 105, and Evans has moved for default judgment against King, D. 110. For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS Mendonsa and Dickhaut's motion for summary judgment, D. 105, and DENIES Evans's motion for default judgment against King, D. 110.

II. Standard of Review

The Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A fact is material if it carries with it the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under applicable law." Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000); see Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets its burden, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations or denials in its pleadings, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but must come forward with specific admissible facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). The Court "view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable inferences in his favor." Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009). A pro se plaintiff such as Evans is entitled to a liberal reading of his allegations, even when such allegations are inartfully pled. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Rodi v. New Eng. Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 13 (1st Cir. 2004).

III. Factual Background

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are as stated in the Defendants' statement of facts, D. 107, and are undisputed by Evans.[1] Plaintiff Evans is currently incarcerated at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center ("SBCC"). D. 107 ¶¶ 1-2. Mendonsa was the Superintendent of SBCC but left the Department of Correction in 2012. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Defendant Thomas Dickhaut was also a former Superintendant of SBCC and is currently the Deputy Commissioner of the Prison Division of the Department of Corrections. Id. ¶¶ 3-4.

During the time relevant to Evans's claims, medical services were provided to DOC inmates by the DOC's contractual medical provider, the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health ("UMCH"). Id. ¶ 7. Pursuant to DOC/UMCH guidelines, referral to a podiatrist is made only in "those exceptional circumstances where fit [of shoes] has been determined problematic after multiple interventions or when there is a need for a custom orthotic." Id. ¶ 13. If shoes provided by the DOC, purchased by the inmate at the canteen or provided by UMCH continue to have "fit problems resulting in clinical signs, " a referral shall be made to a consultation and, if special purchase is required, "UMCH should purchase shoes." Id.

Evans has suffered from foot problems since at least 2000 when he was diagnosed with planovalgus. Id. ¶ 16. In 2000, Dr. John Harris, a physician at Shattuck Hospital, ordered Evans special orthotics and recommended that he be allowed "to order his own sneakers from outside [the] institution" to accommodate them. D. 26-1 at 1. The doctor's medical notes from subsequent years, 2001 and 2005, indicate that Dr. Harris ordered that Evans be allowed by the DOC to order his own sneakers to fit his orthotics and that DOC allowed Evans to do so. Id. at 3-4; D. 106-9.

On July 15, 2010, after his move to SBCC, Evans requested permission to order sneakers from outside the institution. D. 107 ¶ 21; D. 106-9. This time, the DOC denied this request. Id. ¶ 22; D. 106-10. The DOC response letter noted that inmates had previously been allowed to order sneakers from vendors other than the canteen only if a certain size or type of sneaker recommended by a doctor was not available from the canteen, but now the policy was that all footwear must be ordered through the canteen even if it must be done by special order. Id. The DOC further informed Evans that the only exception to this rule was when footwear was deemed "medically necessary" and, in that circumstance, "the footwear [would] be purchased and provided by [UMCH]." Id. In January 2011, Evans was evaluated by King, a podiatrist, who diagnosed him with pronation and plantar fasciitis. Id. ¶ 24; D. 106-8 at 8. Evans was seen on various dates by Dr. King between 2010 and 2012. Id. ¶ 18; D. 106-8 at 12. On January 25, 2011, SBCC's Deputy Superintendent informed Evans than UMCH had written a medical order and UMCH would purchase Evans special high top sneakers. Id. ¶¶ 25-26; D. 106-8 at 8.

Following subsequent correspondence from Evans, Mendonsa wrote to him on March 2, 2011 to explain that he had spoken with Health Service Administrator Marlene Dodge who had informed him that UMCH would pay for the "medically necessary footwear and that the order will be placed this week." Id. ¶ 29; D. 106-12. On April 14, 2011, Mendonsa wrote Evans again and stated that the specific sneaker he was requesting was no longer in stock, but that the medical department would order Converse sneakers as those sneakers would still meet Evans's needs. Id. ¶¶ 30-31; D. 106-13. The letter further provided that if the sneakers did not accommodate the orthotics, then UMCH would attempt to seek a suitable alternative. Id.

Defendants assert Evans "rejected" the Converse sneakers because the sneakers were not Adidas brand. Id. ¶ 33. Evans contends that the Converse footwear was "defective" and did not accommodate his orthotics. D. 106-8 at 9-10; D. 109-2 ¶ 6. On October 25, 2011, Evans saw Dr. King for another consultation and the podiatrist recommended Smooth-Walker sneakers and placed a medical order. D. 107 ¶ 34; D. 59-20 at 2; D. 59-21. Evans initiated this lawsuit the following month in November 2011. D. 1. Evans subsequently received the Smooth Walker sneakers, but Defendants contend that Evans "rejected" these sneakers as well, id. ¶ 35, while Evans argues they did not accommodate his orthotics. D. 109-2 ¶¶ 5-6. Evans has testified that he suffered pain when he did not have the appropriate footwear. D. 106-8 at 14.

Throughout the relevant period, when he was contacted by Evans about this matter, Mendonsa would either respond via letter or speak with Evans at inmate "Happy Hour." Id. ¶ 46. Evans dealt mainly with Mendonsa and could not remember how many times he wrote to Dickhaut, although he could not recall Dickhaut ever telling him that he would not provide therapeutic footwear. Id. ¶¶ 48-49; D. 106-8 at 14, 16. UMCH attempted to get several, different pairs of sneakers for Evans's needs. Id. ¶ 36; D. 106-8 at 10. Eventually, following the initiation of this lawsuit, Evans received a pair of Adidas sneakers that he requested, D. 59-26 (April 2, 2012 UMCH letter indicating that DOC will ...

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