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Official defeats inadequate skin cancer care claim

Where a detainee received daily care for his skin cancer, a prison official prevailed on the inadequate medical care claim. Although the official confiscated the detainee’s bandages on one day, the detainee nevertheless received medical care that same day.


Jason Hatcher initiated this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Captain Townsend denied him constitutionally adequate medical care for skin cancer while he was housed at Meherrin River Regional Jail, or MRRJ. Townsend has filed a motion for summary judgment.


To state a claim under § 1983 for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, “a prisoner must show that he had a serious medical need, and that officials knowingly disregarded that need and the substantial risk it posed.” For purposes of this motion, the court assumes that plaintiff had a serious medical need, which means he must provide evidence that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference, i.e., that the defendant “had actual knowledge of [Hatcher’s] serious medical needs and the related risks, but nevertheless disregarded them.”

The MRRJ had a keep on person, or KOP, program for medications and medical supplies that allowed an inmate to keep medications or medical supplies on their person to facilitate the provision of medications and medical supplies within the institution by allowing inmates to be educated about the medications or medical supplies and then self-administer them. The KOP program at MRRJ required that the items had to be ordered by the “facility physician.”

Hatcher’s medical records indicate that an order was entered into the MRRJ medical units records on Feb. 23, 2022, at 7:36 p.m. indicating Hatcher was to be seen, daily, by medical to change his dressing. The records indicate that Hatcher was seen in medical and had his bandage changed on March 10-13, 2022, and that on March 15, 2022, the physician changed the order from daily to every other day.

Hatcher signed the KOP and in doing so acknowledged that he was not allowed to possess the bandages without a KOP. When Townsend confiscated the bandages on March 12, 2022, he was merely enforcing the jail policy, which has an obvious penological interest in keeping control of medications and medical supplies within the institution. Just as important, the undisputed record establishes that Hatcher was seen in the medical unit on March 12, 2022, and March 13, 2022, and had his dressing changed on each day.

On March 14, 2022, the records do not indicate the dressing was changed and it appears his original appointment for a dressing change was modified to allow for mental health counseling. On March 15, 2022, Hatcher’s dressing was changed and the doctor modified the treatment plan and changed the order from daily dressing changes to every other day.

In sum, the only date that Townsend interfered in any possible way was on March 12, 2022, when he confiscated the bandages from Hatcher; but the medical records indicate that Hatcher’s bandage was charged on March 12, 2022, as well as the next three days, and that after March 15, 2022, Hatcher’s bandage changes were switched by his doctor to every other day.

The record does not indicate or support any inference that Townsend was aware that confiscating the bandages on March 12, 2022, could create a substantial risk of serious harm to Hatcher, especially when medical staff were changing his dressing on a daily basis. Consequently, there was no basis for Townsend to have drawn the necessary inference that he created a substantial risk of serious harm to Hatcher.

To the contrary, the evidence establishes that Hatcher had virtually unlimited daily access to medical personnel during the month of March 2022, and that medical personnel routinely changed Hatcher’s dressing during that same time period. Therefore, the undisputed material facts show Hatcher cannot establish an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference.

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted.

Hatcher v. Townsend, Case No. 1:21-cv-1256, May 3, 2023. EDVA at Alexandria (Trenga). VLW 023-3-238. 9 pp.

VLW 023-3-238

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