PATRICK M. McGRATH, JUDGE
Plaintiff Martin Holloman brought this action for negligence
against defendant Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction (ODRC) after he fell and suffered injuries at
Pickaway Correctional Institution (PCI). Prior to trial, the
parties stipulated that ODRC breached a duty of care owed to
plaintiff and proximately caused plaintiff some harm. The
case went to trial before the magistrate on the issue of
damages. Following the trial, the magistrate issued a
decision recommending the court render judgment in favor of
plaintiff in the amount of $10, 025.00. ODRC timely filed
objections. Plaintiff filed a motion for an extension of time
to respond, but ultimately filed a response within ten days
of ODRC's filing of objections. Therefore, plaintiffs
motion for an extension of time is DENIED as moot. ODRC's
objections and plaintiffs response are now before the court
for consideration. For the reasons set forth below, the court
overrules ODRC's objections and adopts the
magistrate's decision as its own.
Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody and control of ODRC.
He was incarcerated at PCI from approximately July 2016 to
October 2016. About two years prior to his incarceration,
plaintiff was in a car accident in Georgia. He sustained a
back injury and was suffering from chronic back problems when
he arrived at PCI. Upon his arrival, plaintiff was examined
by Dr. Sonya Peppers, a physician administrator at PCI. Dr.
Peppers noted that plaintiff had a preexisting back injury
and suffered pain and some diminished movement in his left
leg. She determined that plaintiff suffered from back pain
(lumbago) and sciatic nerve impingement (sciatica). Dr.
Peppers prescribed plaintiff a cane and placed him on a
bottom range and bottom bunk restriction.
Plaintiffs original housing assignment at PCI was in B1, a
first-floor dormitory. Despite the bottom range housing
restriction put in place by Dr. Peppers, plaintiff was later
reassigned to A2, a second-floor dormitory. Plaintiff
transferred to A2 on August 4, 2016. During the transfer, PCI
staff ordered plaintiff to carry his metal locker box up a
staircase. The locker box held plaintiffs personal
possessions, and plaintiff estimates it weighed 25 to 30
pounds. As plaintiff was climbing the stairs, his leg gave
out, and he fell down the staircase. Plaintiffs locker box
landed on top of him. He was taken to the PCI infirmary on a
Dr. Peppers examined and treated plaintiff in the infirmary.
Medical examination notes indicate plaintiff had bruising and
swelling on the back of his head and complained of pain in
his back and pain, numbness, and tingling in his left leg.
Dr. Peppers ordered X-rays of plaintiffs back and chest,
which did not show any fractures. She determined that the
fall exacerbated plaintiffs preexisting sciatica and treated
plaintiff with ice, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory
medications, and pain medications. She prescribed plaintiff a
rollator and various medications. Some of the medications
were treated as controlled substances by PCI, and plaintiff
was required to go to the medical bay to receive them. Other
medications were treated as "carry" medications
that plaintiff could keep with him.
Plaintiff testified that he experienced severe pain and
stiffness in his back for two to three days after the fall
and rarely left his dormitory during that time. He admitted
that he visited PCI's second-floor law library the day
after his fall, but stated another inmate helped him by
pushing him to the staircase while he sat on the seat of his
rollator and helping him climb the staircase. Plaintiff
missed follow-up appointments at the infirmary on August 6,
8, and 10, 2016. He stated he did not go to the infirmary
because he did not have anyone to help physically escort him.
Plaintiff did go to the infirmary on August 12, 2016, where
he was examined and treated by Dr. Sharrie Ray. Dr. Ray
observed improvement of plaintiffs head injury and a
reduction of swelling but noted that plaintiff had pain and
numbness in his left leg and tenderness in his lower back.
She also noted that some of the medications prescribed to
plaintiff upset his stomach. Dr. Ray prescribed him some
PCI medical administration records indicate plaintiff took
only some of the controlled medication that Dr. Peppers and
Dr. Ray prescribed. Plaintiff stated that he did not always
take his controlled medication because he had to walk to wait
in line at the infirmary and did not always have another
inmate available to assist him. Dr. Peppers testified that
PCI medical staff does not assign other inmates to assist
inmate patients with rollators. Medical evaluation notes also
indicate that plaintiff visited the infirmary three more
times between August 12, 2016 and his release in October
2016. All three visits were unrelated to plaintiffs back
injury and plaintiff apparently did not mention back pain
during those visits. Plaintiff testified that he did not
believe he would receive any additional treatment beyond the
rollator and the medication already prescribed. Dr. Peppers
testified that plaintiff could have received additional shots
or medication to relax the muscles and treat pain.
Plaintiff testified that he continues to experience stiffness
and pain in his back. He his physically disabled and no
longer able to work. He continues to receive medical
treatment, physical therapy, and aqua therapy for his back
issues. Plaintiff did not present any expert testimony
concerning the cause of his current back ailments.
The magistrate found that plaintiffs fall at PCI caused
severe pain and stiffness in plaintiffs back and exacerbated
his preexisting sciatica. The magistrate determined that the
pain associated with the fall likely diminished by the time
of plaintiffs release in October 2016. Furthermore, the
magistrate found that plaintiff did not establish that his
current back pain and disability are causally related to the
fall. Ultimately, the magistrate recommended plaintiff
receive $10, 000 in damages to compensate for past pain and
suffering and an additional $25 to compensate for the filing
fee in this case. Defendant objects that the recommended
damages are excessive.
Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(i) provides, "A party may file
written objections to a magistrate's decision within
fourteen days of the filing of the decision, whether or not
the court has adopted the decision during that fourteen-day
period as permitted by Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(e)(i)."
"Whether or not objections are timely filed, a court may
adopt or reject a magistrate's decision in whole or in
part, with or without modification." Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(b).
Objections "shall be specific and state with
particularity all grounds for objection." Civ.R.
53(D)(3)(b)(ii). They must be supported "by a transcript
of all the evidence submitted to the magistrate relevant to
that finding or an affidavit of that evidence if the
transcript is not available." Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(iii).
The court granted plaintiff leave to support his objections
with an affidavit of evidence instead of the transcript.
(Entry, February 4, 2019.)
The court "shall undertake an independent review as to
the objected matters to ascertain that the magistrate has
properly determined the factual issues, and appropriately
applied the law." Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(d). In reviewing the
objections, the court does not act as an appellate court but
rather conducts "a de novo review of the facts and
conclusions in the magistrate's decision."