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Davis v. Corizon Medical Services

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 21, 2013

JAMES DAVIS. # 317-735, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON MEDICAL SERVICES, formerly known as Correctional Medical Services, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by James Davis ("Davis") against Corizon Medical Services, f/k/a Correctional Medical Services, Kathleen Green, Warden of Eastern Correctional Institution, P.A. Terry, P.A. Bruce, [1] Officer Fritz, Lieutenant Soukup, "John Doe, " and Lynn Coie, [2] alleging defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights.[3] Warden Green, by her counsel, has filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment with declarations and Davis's prison records. ECF No. 27.[4] Defendants Corizon, Inc., f/k/a Correctional Medical Services, Inc., Bruce Ford, P.A., Terri Pilcher, P.A and Lynne Cole, Regional Director of Corizon, Inc. (collectively referred to as "the Medical Defendants"), by counsel have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment with declarations and copies of Davis's medical records. ECF No. 14. Davis has filed oppositions with declarations.[5] ECF Nos. 26, 34 and 35. A reply to Davis's opposition was filed by the Medical Defendants. ECF No. 32. After reviewing the record, the court finds a hearing is unnecessary to resolve the issues. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011).[6] Defendants' motions, treated as motions for summary judgment, will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Davis, an inmate at Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI"), suffered a seizure in his sleep early in the morning of February 9, 2010, and fell "five feet" from his top bunk bed to the cell floor and lost consciousness. ECF No. 1 at 4-5. His cell mate alerted corrections staff and Davis was sent to the Peninsula Regional Medical Center emergency department for observation and treatment. Davis states that when he awoke in the hospital he was in "excruciating pain" in his "lower right side of back and head." ECF No. 1, p. 4. Several hours later, he was escorted to the ECI infirmary where he was placed on bed rest and for monitoring. Later that day, he was returned to his cell and, he claims, to his top bunk bed. Davis avers he then slept with his mattress on the floor for one week before prison and medical staff assigned him to a bottom bunk.

Davis, who entered ECI in 2008, claims he had a "permanent bottom bunk indefinite order in since 1.12.04" and faults defendants for failing to comply with this allegedly longstanding order. He has submitted a copy of a medical assignment form signed on July 28, 2005, which reads "bottom bunk indefinitely Seizure Disorder." ECF No. 26, Exhibit 13.[7] He claims he submitted a "request slip" and a sick call slip one week after he was first assigned to ECI to notify prison and medical personnel of his permanent top bunk designation. ECF No. 1, at 11. Davis avers he told Officer Fritz about the order and was instructed to tell Lieutenant Soukup. See id. at 5. According to Davis, Soukup informed him that several inmates were already waiting for a bottom bunk, and Davis would be assigned to one as soon as space became available. Davis claims Terri Pilcher, P.A., told him she would complete the paper work for his bottom bunk placement, but never did so. See id. Davis has not submitted a declaration attesting to the above allegations.

After his accident, Davis submitted several sick call slips before medical providers "followed up" on his injuries. See id. at 7. He contends "P.A. Bruce" examined him and "continued to string [him] along" in regard to ordering physical therapy and a steroid shot for pain relief. See id. Specifically, Davis submitted the sick call request forms on the following dates: 1) December 20, 2010, he asked to see a doctor about right hip pain;[8] 2) January 10, 2011, he complained of right hip complications and asked for a "full body physical" and a bone density test; 3) March 21, 2011, he complained of "unbearable" hip pain and mobility problems; 4) March 29, 2011, he complained of "tremendous" hip pain and stated "I'm still waiting for the steroid shot for my hip"; 5) July 10, 2011, he stated he was still having pain in his right hip. "I still need a full body physical and testing on everything."; 6) August 12, 2011, on a request form with the name "Lynn Cole" written at the top, Davis wrote: "Ive written to you about 2 months ago about problems I been [sic] having of not being seen or treated by two different nurses and told I would be put in to be seen by P.A..."; 7) September 20, 2011, Davis complained he had not received a steroid shot in his right hip for pain relief and complained this was the third time he was writing concerning this matter; 8) October 22, 2011, he complained of hip pain; and 9) November 2, 2011, he complained of hip pain. ECF No. 26, Attachments.

On February 28, 2010, Davis filed an Administrative Remedy Procedure request ("ARP"), complaining his fall on February 9, 2010, was a result of medical providers' "reckless disregard." ECF No. 1, Exhibit 1. On March 29, 2010, Warden Green responded:

Your request for administrative remedy has been investigated and is Meritorious in Part; you were not assigned to a bottom bunk on arrival, however, there are no sick-call slips present in your record to indicate that you requested or communicated to medical that you were on a top bunk. You have been since ordered a bottom bunk and proper paper work forwarded. You were seen appropriately following your discharge from the hospital. Providers are reminded that transfers to the facility with seizure disorder [sic] should have an order written for bottom bunk.

Id.

Davis faults Defendants for failing to assign him to a bottom bunk when he first entered ECI, and failing to administer proper follow-up medical care after he fell. He argues these actions constitute deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. As relief, he requests monetary damages, examination by a "qualified physician, " and physical therapy. Id. at 10.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), which provides "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." This does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion: "By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "The party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting then-Rule 56(e)). A court should "view the evidence in the light most favorable to....the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility." Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Medical Center, Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). A court must, however, also abide by the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).

DISCUSSION

The Eighth Amendment prohibits "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" by virtue of its guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976). To state an Eighth Amendment claim for denial of medical care, plaintiff must demonstrate the actions of defendants (or their failure to act) amounted to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Deliberate indifference to a serious medical need requires proof that, objectively, plaintiff was suffering from a serious medical need and that, subjectively, the prison staff was aware of the need for medical attention but failed to either provide it or ensure the needed care was available. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).

As noted above, the medical condition at issue must be serious. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (no expectation that prisoners will be provided with unqualified access to health care). Proof of an objectively serious medical condition, however, does not end the inquiry. The second component of proof requires "subjective recklessness" in the face of the serious medical condition. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 839-40. "True subjective recklessness requires knowledge both of the general risk, and also that the conduct is inappropriate in light of that risk." Rich v. Bruce, 129 F.3d 336, 340 n.2 (4th Cir. 1997). "Actual knowledge or awareness on the part of the alleged inflicter... becomes essential to proof of deliberate indifference because prison officials who lacked knowledge of a risk cannot be said to have inflicted punishment.'" Brice v. Virginia Beach Correctional Center, 58 F.3d 101, 105 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844). If the requisite subjective knowledge is established, an official may avoid liability "if [he] responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm was not ultimately averted." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844. Reasonableness of the actions taken must be judged in light of the risk the defendant actually knew at the time. See Brown v. Harris 240 F.3d 383 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Liebe v. Norton, 157 F.3d 574, 577 (8th Cir. 1998) (focus must be on precautions actually taken in light of suicide risk, not those that could have been taken)). Further, "[d]isagreements between an inmate and a physician over the inmate's proper care do not state a § 1983 claim unless exceptional circumstances are alleged." Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 849 (4th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted). Disagreement over the course of treatment does not provide the framework for a federal civil rights complaint, see Russell v. Sheffer, 528 F.2d 318 (4th Cir. 1975), and mere negligence or malpractice does not rise to a constitutional level, see id. at 319; Donlan v. Smith, 662 F.Supp. 352, 361 (D. Md. 1986).

A. Warden Green

Warden Green has submitted a declaration in which she attests she does not issue medical orders or interfere in medical treatment. ECF No. 27, Exhibit 7. She has also submitted the Declaration of Sergeant James Balderson, Litigation Coordinator at ECI, in which he attests he was unable to find any ARP or other request by Davis for a bottom bunk prior to his ARP dated February 28, 2010, which was submitted after Davis fell. Exhibit 4; Exhibit 5. Green asserts that immediately after the incident, medical staff issued a lower bunk order for Davis. Exhibit 4, ARP, ECF 14, Exhibit 3 at 20-22.[9] Medical providers ...


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