United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
JOHN M. GARCIA, Plaintiff,
MANAGEMENT TEAM-UTMB, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. FANKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
John M. Garcia, a former Texas state prisoner in the custody
of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
("TDCJ"), filed a pro se civil rights
complaint while incarcerated (Dkt. 1). He is proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis (Dkt. 8). Garcia
proceeds under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and complains that he
received Constitutionally inadequate medical treatment at
TDCJ's Terrell Unit and at the University of Texas
Medical Branch at Galveston ("UTMB"). Garcia
alleges that medical providers at the Terrell Unit and UTMB
repeatedly ignored his complaints of severe abdominal pain
and refused to treat him. He has not sued any specific UTMB or
TDCJ personnel; his complaint only lists as defendants the
"Management Team-UTMB" and the "C.T. Terrell
UTMB Team" (Dkt. 1 at p. 3).
Court requested a Martinezreport from the Texas
Attorney General's office, which the Attorney
General's office provided (Dkt. 14). The Court construed
the Martinez report as a motion for summary judgment
and notified Garcia of that construction (Dkt. 15). Garcia
never responded and has presented no summary judgment
reviewing all of the evidence submitted, the parties'
briefing, and the applicable law, the Court concludes that
the defendants' motion for summary judgment must be
GRANTED for the reasons that follow.
complaint, Garcia alleges that the "Management
Team-UTMB" and the "C.T. Terrell UTMB Team"
repeatedly refused to treat a hernia from which he was
suffering, even after a doctor and a physician's
assistant (neither of whom Garcia has named as a defendant)
confirmed the hernia's existence (Dkt. 1 at pp. 3, 4, 6,
7). The Attorney General's Martinez report
contains over 1, 000 pages of medical records detailing the
extensive medical care that UTMB and TDCJ provided to Garcia
for a variety of conditions. The report also includes an
affidavit from Dr. Steven Bowers, the Legal Coordinator for
UTMB Correctional Managed Care, that specifically discusses
the treatment of Garcia's hernia (Dkt. 14-7).
was seen by Dr. Kwabena Owusu in the Terrell Unit medical
clinic for abdominal pain on April 24, 2013 (Dkt. 14-7 at p.
11). Garcia was not suffering from diarrhea or vomiting, and
he was not in acute distress (Dkt. 14-7 at p. 11). His
abdomen was soft with no rebound (Dkt. 14-7 at p. 11). Dr.
Owusu made an urgent referral for an abdominal CT scan, gave
Garcia medicine for his pain, and placed Garcia on
"medically unassigned" status for 30 days (Dkt.
14-7 at p. 12). Garcia was diagnosed with a ventral hernia
(Dkt. 14-7 at p. 20). On September 3, 2013, Dr. Owusu gave
Garcia a six-month pass for an abdominal binder, which Dr.
Bowers describes as "a wide compression belt that
encircles the abdomen and assists in alleviating pain"
(Dkt. 14-7 at pp. 3, 14, 15). At the September visit, Dr.
Owusu noted that Garcia had been "[s]een multiple
times" and that "[a]ll image studies" on
Garcia's abdomen were negative (Dkt. 14-7 at p. 14).
Evidently, the abdominal binder was effective: at a clinic
visit a month later, Dr. Marcus Hinkle and Nurse Deborah
Henneberg noted that the "[a]bdominal binder seem[ed] to
help with [Garcia's] ventral hernia discomfort (Dkt. 14-7
at pp. 20-21). Dr. Hinkle and Nurse Henneberg also examined
Garcia's abdomen, which was soft and had no masses (Dkt.
14-7 at p. 20). In his affidavit, Dr. Bowers also points out
that the chart from the October 2013 visit shows that
"[Garcia's] weight had remained stable over several
months and his lab was all essentially normal" (Dkt.
14-7 at p. 3).
THE PLRA AND SUMMARY JUDGMENTS
complaint in this case is governed by the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (the "PLRA"). Upon initial screening of
a prisoner civil rights complaint, the PLRA requires a
district court to scrutinize the claims and dismiss the
complaint, in whole or in part, if it determines that the
complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted;" or "seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief." 28 U.S.C. § l9l5A(b). A reviewing court
may dismiss a complaint for these same reasons "at any
time" where a party, like Garcia, proceeds in forma
pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (mandating
dismissal where the complaint is "frivolous or
malicious, " "fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief). The PLRA
also provides that the court "shall on its own motion or
on the motion of a party dismiss an action" if it is
satisfied that the complaint is "frivolous, malicious,
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief." 42 U.S.C. § l997e(c).
proceeds pro se in this case. Courts construe
pleadings filed by pro se litigants under a less
stringent standard of review. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519 (1972) (per curiam). Under this standard, "[a]
document filed pro se is 'to be liberally
construed, ' Estelle [v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976)], and 'a pro se complaint,
however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007). Nevertheless, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (observing that courts
"are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation"). The Supreme Court has
clarified that "a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
defendants have filed a Martinez report, which the
Court has construed as a motion for summary judgment. Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 mandates the entry of summary
judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing of the
existence of an element essential to the party's case and
on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must
determine whether the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at
summary judgment, the initial burden falls on the movant to
identify areas essential to the non-movant's claim in
which there is an absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co. v. Reyna,401 F.3d 347,
349 (5th Cir. 2005). The movant, however, need not negate the
elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v.
Swift Transp. Co.,402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005).
The movant may meet its burden by pointing out the absence ...