MICHAEL D. JACKSON, SR. Plaintiff
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION Defendant
to S.C. Reporter 12/17/19
DECISION OF THE MAGISTRATE
ANDERSON RENICK, MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff brought this action alleging negligence. At the
outset of the proceedings, the parties stipulated that
defendant breached a duty of care owed to plaintiff,
proximately causing some harm. The case proceeded to trial on
the issue of damages.
At all times relevant, plaintiff was an inmate in the custody
and control of defendant at the Lebanon Correctional
Institution (LCI). Plaintiff testified that on January 18,
2018, he was removed from his cell by Corrections Officers
(COs), who conducted a search of the cell which was located
on the third (top) range of the housing unit. During the
search, plaintiff was placed at a "kiosk" on the
first (lower) range, directly below his cell. Plaintiff
testified that he was waiting in the kiosk when he was struck
by a mattress that was thrown from the third range by a CO.
According to plaintiff, the mattress weighed at least ten
pounds and he became "dazed" when it landed on his
head with great force.
Plaintiff testified that he continued to feel dazed when he
returned to his cell after the incident and that the next
morning, he experienced a severe headache. Plaintiff related
that he submitted a written health services request and, when
he was not placed on "sick call," he informed the
institutional inspector, who took him to the Captain's
office before he was examined by medical staff. Plaintiff
testified that he was provided non-prescription pain
medication. Plaintiff returned to medical "a day or
two" later after he continued to experience headaches
and he received a prescription for a steroid (Prednisone).
Plaintiff stated that he filed a grievance against
defendant's medical staff because he did not believe his
complaints were being taken "seriously."
On February 1, 2018, plaintiff sustained injuries to his
head, including a fractured jaw, as a result of being
attacked by another inmate. Plaintiff was transported to the
Ohio State University hospital for surgery to treat the
fracture. He was then treated at the Franklin Medical Center
for several days before he returned to LCI. Plaintiff
testified that he was initially "heavily medicated"
following his surgery, but that he suffered severe pain and
headaches during his time in a segregation unit at LCI.
According to plaintiff, he was subsequently provided
Tylenol-3 for pain, which helped alleviate his headaches.
After spending approximately two days in segregation,
plaintiff was returned to a cell on the third range and he
continued to receive both pain medication and Prednisone to
treat headaches and an "aching" feeling in his
back. Plaintiff testified that he was unable to open his
mouth for approximately six weeks following his jaw surgery
and that after that time, his jaw felt "stiff" from
being unable to eat solid food and he experienced weakness
Plaintiff informed defendant's medical staff that he
continued to suffer from a "stiff neck," back pain,
and headaches even after his jaw injury had healed. Plaintiff
testified that he received a prescription for
"Flexeril" and was instructed to perform stretching
exercises to treat what may have been muscle spasms or
"agitated nerves." According to plaintiff, he
currently feels "pretty good" except for symptoms
of a stiff neck and "tingly numbness" in his thumb.
Plaintiff testified that, after his jaw healed, he continued
to perform the same duties as a porter until he was
transferred from LCI.
Sonya Peppers, M.D. testified that she treated plaintiff
three times between August 23, 2018 and October 16, 2018 for
complaints of chronic neck pain, and occasional shoulder pain
and numbness. Dr. Peppers considered plaintiff's history
of being struck by a mattress and the assault which resulted
in a fractured jaw, but she testified that she was unable to
determine the cause of the symptoms that he was experiencing.
According to Dr. Peppers, she reviewed plaintiffs medical
records and did not observe any objective signs of neck
problems when she performed her examinations.
Carolyn Reif, a certified nurse practitioner, testified that
she treated plaintiff twice in January 2018 for complaints of
a stiff neck, pain, headaches, and muscle spasms which he
attributed to being injured by a mattress that was dropped
from the third range. Sherri Curtis, who is also a nurse
practitioner, testified that she treated plaintiff in January
2019 for complaints of chronic neck stiffness. Reif testified
that she did not see any objective cause of pain or stiffness
and she recommended over the counter pain medication to treat
plaintiffs symptoms. Reif stated that she had the opportunity
to observe plaintiff perform his duties as a porter in the
medical unit and she explained that he did not appear to have
any functional limitations.
"In order to sustain an action for negligence, a
plaintiff must show the existence of a duty owing from the
defendant to the plaintiff or injured party, a breach of that
duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of
resulting damages." Sparre v. Ohio Dept. of
Transp., 10th Dist. Franklin No. 12AP-381,
2013-Ohio-4153, ¶ 9. "'It is axiomatic that
every plaintiff bears the burden of proving the nature and
extent of his damages in order to be entitled to
compensation.'" Jayashree Restaurants, LLC v.
DDR PTC Outparcel LLC, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 16AP-186,
2016-Ohio-5498, ¶ 13, quoting Akro-Plastics v. Drake
Indus., 115 Ohio App.3d 221, 226 (11th Dist.1996).
"As a general rule, the appropriate measure of damages
in a tort action is the amount which will compensate and make
the plaintiff whole." N. Coast Premier Soccer, LLC
v. Ohio Dept. of Transp., 10th Dist. Franklin No.
12AP-589, 2013-Ohio-1677, ¶ 17. "[D]amages must be
shown with reasonable certainty and may not be based upon
mere speculation or conjecture * * *." Rakich v.
Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 172 Ohio App.3d
523, 2007-Ohio-3739, ¶ 20 (10th Dist.).
"Although a claimant may establish proximate cause
through circumstantial evidence, 'there must be evidence
of circumstances which will establish with some degree of
certainty that the alleged negligent acts caused the
injury.'" Mills v. Best W. Springdale, 10th
Dist. Franklin No. 08AP-1022, 2009-Ohio-2901, ¶ 20,
quoting Woodworth v. New York Cent. RR. Co., 149
Ohio St. 543, 549 (1948). "It is well-established that
when only speculation and conjecture is presented to
establish proximate causation, the negligence claim has
failed as a matter of law." Harris v. Ohio Dept. of
Rehab. & Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin No. 13AP-466,
2013-Ohio-5714, ¶ 15. "Generally, where an issue
involves a question of scientific inquiry that is not within
the knowledge of a layperson, expert testimony is
required." Id. at ¶ 16, citing Stacey
v. Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corp., 156 Ohio St. 205
(1951). "Where complicated medical problems are at
issue, testimony from a qualified expert is necessary to
establish a proximate causal relationship between the
incident and the injury." Tunks v. Chrysler Group
LLC, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-12-1297, 2013-Ohio-5183,
Plaintiff did not present any expert testimony establishing
the cause of his alleged long-term soft-tissue injury or pain
that he experienced. The court finds that plaintiff failed to
prove that that the subjective long-term injuries he
described were proximately caused by being struck by a
mattress. See Argie v. Three Little Pigs, Ltd., 10th
Dist. Franklin No. 11AP-437, 2012-Ohio-667, 2012 Ohio App.
Lexis 570, ¶ 15 (Subjective, soft-tissue injuries, being
internal and elusive and not observable, require expert
testimony to establish causation).
The court concludes that plaintiff suffered some soft-tissue
injuries when he was struck by the mattress. However, the
court further finds that plaintiffs symptoms of neck pain and
stiffness which he experienced after February 1, 2018 were
also attributable to the attack that fractured his jaw. The
court finds that plaintiffs injuries from being struck by the
mattress were temporary in nature and resolved over a period
of months. Plaintiff failed to establish the proximate cause
of any long-term injuries that he claims to be experiencing.
Based upon the foregoing, the court finds that plaintiff is
entitled to recover $6, 025 which represents $6, 000 in
damages, plus the $25 filing fee. Accordingly, it is