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Bryant v. Patterson

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Wichita Falls Division

July 16, 2019

JAMES DYLAN BRYANT, TDCJ No. 2237271, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN LISA PATTERSON, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          HAL R. RAY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court are the Motion for Default Judgment/Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39) filed on March 21, 2019 by Plaintiff James Dylan Bryant (“Bryant”); Response to the Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 41) filed on March 29, 2019 by Defendants Josephine A. Colunga, Dr. Branden Ohman, Captain Lisa Patterson, and Corporal Debra White (“the Defendants”); Bryant's Reply in Support of Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 43) filed on April 10, 2019; Defendants' Response to Bryant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 44) and Brief in Support (ECF No. 45) filed on April 11, 2019; and Bryant's Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 46) filed on April 25, 2019. Also pending is Bryant's Motion for Injunctive Relief (ECF No. 18) filed on October 29, 2018.

         After reviewing the pleadings and applicable legal authorities, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Chief United States District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn DENY Bryant's Motion for Default Judgment/Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39) and Motion for Injunctive Relief (ECF No. 18).

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Bryant, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this case on September 12, 2018, alleging that Defendants violated his civil rights by denying him medical treatment for a hand injury sustained during his arrest. (ECF No. 1). On September 27, 2018, Bryant filed an amended complaint. (ECF No. 5). The following alleged facts are taken from his amended complaint and response (ECF No. 20) to the Court's questionnaire (ECF No. 19).

         On August 9, 2018, Bryant was arrested and taken to the Wichita County Jail Annex. (ECF No. 5 at 4). He arrived at the jail with a broken hand and was refused medical attention. (Id.). Nurse Colunga “[r]ushed [him] through [b]ook-in; and [d]enied [his] need for emergency medical attention.” (Id. at 3). (See also ECF No. 20 at 6, 9). Dr. Ohman examined Bryant twenty-four days after he entered the jail. (ECF No. 5 at 4, 6). This delay violated the jail's protocol. (Id. at 6).

         Bryant filed numerous grievances and requested “sick calls” to have the jail's administrators investigate his hand injury. (Id.). Corporal White “[f]ailed to [p]roperly look into [his] grievances, furthering the wait time it took for [him] to receive proper medical care, ” and Captain Patterson “[f]ailed to realize [he] was denied [his] right for medical care upon [b]ook-in.” (Id. at 3). Corporal White and Captain Patterson denied his grievances because they incorrectly presumed that he was complaining of a previous hand injury sustained in June 2017. (Id. at 6). One of his treating physicians, Dr. Dan Babbel, told him that his current hand injury “was not an old injury, and . . . compared . . . two [x]-[r]ay[s], ” showing him the differences between his old and current injuries. (Id.). (See also ECF No. 20 at 4). Dr. Babbel informed him that because he “was not given immediate medical attention, [his current hand injury] . . . healed wrong, ” and that “the disfigurement [could] not be fixed by surgery due to the amount of calcification.” (ECF No. 5 at 6). On the same day he saw Dr. Babbel, his hand was put in a cast and was still in a cast on September 27, 2018, the day he filed his amended complaint. (Id.). Dr. Ohman “overlooked the fact that [he] had a broken hand & [d]enied [his] need for medical care.” (Id. at 3).

         In his response to the Court's questionnaire, Bryant clarified that his right hand was injured during his arrest because law enforcement “rough handl[ed]” him and “stepp[ed] on [his] hand while [he] was laying facedown.” (ECF No. 20 at 2-3). When Bryant arrived at the jail, his right hand was “in pain [and] swol[l]en, ” his “[b]one was sticking out . . . in a disfigured manner, ” and he “was unable to . . . close [his right] hand all the way.” (Id. at 4). “Even a layperson could see [his right] hand was broken [and] [n]eeded immediate medical attention.” (Id.). Dr. Jason Holinbeck confirmed that Bryant's right hand was broken when he saw him six weeks after he was booked into the jail. (Id.). The injury to his right hand constituted a serious medical condition because he was given a referral to an orthopedic doctor. (Id.).

         After Bryant filed his amended complaint and response to the Court's questionnaire, the Court ordered the Defendants to answer or file a responsive pleading. (See ECF No. 26). Thereafter, Corporal White and Captain Patterson filed a Motion for Continuance (ECF No. 30) to extend their answer date. The Court granted the Motion on February 7, 2019 and extended their answer deadline until Saturday, March 9, 2019. (See ECF No. 31). Corporal White and Captain Patterson filed their answer on March 11, 2019, the next day following March 9 that was not a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday, as provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a)(1)(C). (ECF No. 36).

         On February 28, 2019 and March 5, 2019, respectively, Dr. Ohman and Nurse Colunga were properly served with process. (See ECF Nos. 37-38). They filed their joint answer to Bryant's amended complaint on March 22, 2019. (ECF No. 40). Before they filed their answer, Bryant filed the instant Motion for Default Judgment/Motion for Summary Judgment on March 21, 2019 in which he alleges that the Defendants failed to answer his amended complaint and requests entry of default judgment. (ECF No. 39 at 1-2). He further alleges that he is entitled to summary judgment because he provided the Court with supplementary evidence and a founded grievance from the Wichita County Jail Annex, demonstrating that he suffered a constitutional violation when he was denied medical attention for his hand injury. (Id. at 3). The parties have briefed Bryant's Motion (ECF No. 39), and it is ripe for adjudication.

         In his Motion for Injunctive Relief (ECF No. 18) filed on October 29, 2018, Bryant alleges that he had not received physical therapy twice per week for six weeks as was prescribed for his hand injury. (Id. at 1). He also requested that the Court release him on an “[a]ppearance [b]ond” while awaiting trial and sentencing on his state charges, making physical therapy more accessible. (Id.).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion for Default Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) requires the clerk, upon proper proof, to enter a default against a defendant who “has failed to plead or otherwise defend.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). “Appearance” for purposes of Rule 55 is not “confined to physical appearances in court or the actual filing of a document in the record.” Sun Bank of Ocala v. Pelican Homestead & Sav. Ass'n, 874 F.2d 274, 276 (5th Cir. 1989). Instead, an appearance is any act, including informal acts, on a defendant's part that are responsive to plaintiff's ...


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