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Wilkerson v. Ali

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 12, 2014

STEVEN RAY WILKERSON Plaintiff
v.
DR. ALI, et al. Defendants

MEMORANDUM

J. FREDERICK MOTZ, District Judge.

The above-captioned civil rights complaint concerns plaintiff's medical care during his incarceration at the Metropolitan Transition Center (MTC) and Jessup Pre-Release Unit (JPRU).[1] Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief ordering defendants to provide plaintiff with treatment for his pain as well as monetary damages. See ECF 1, 10, and 14. This court ordered counsel for the Division of Correction to respond to plaintiff's initial request for preliminary injunction, in light of plaintiff's assertions he was receiving no treatment for serious symptoms of back pain. ECF 4 and 6. Preliminary injunctive relief was denied on November 12, 2013. ECF 8.

Medical staff and the corporate contractors who are named as defendants filed motions to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF 19 and 23. Plaintiff was advised of his right to file an opposition response to the dispositive motions (ECF 20 and 24), but has opposed neither motion. The court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).

In his complaint plaintiff states he had neck surgery on June 21, 2013, which involved fusion of his cervical spine extending from level C3 to level C7.[2] ECF 1 at p.4. Plaintiff states the surgery involved use of screws, rods, and plates to align his cervical spine. Id. The surgery was performed at the Peninsula Regional Medical Center (PRMC) by Dr. Jarek M. Malik. Id.

Plaintiff claims that on September 12, 2013, two weeks prior to the filing of this lawsuit, something popped in his neck and he was seen by medical staff at the Baltimore Correctional Center (BCCC). At that time, plaintiff states he could not walk and had no feeling in his left leg and arm. Plaintiff was transferred to MTC and was confined to the infirmary. He states he was carried up one flight of steps by another inmate and was dropped twice while being carried, but was not seen until the following day by defendant Dr. Ali. Plaintiff alleges that Ali was skeptical of plaintiff's injuries and suggested he was "pill seeking" when plaintiff asked for additional pain medication. Plaintiff states he received two 5 mg tablets of Percocet after telling Ali his pain level was an eight on a scale of 1 to 10, but the medication was ineffective. ECF 1 at p.5. Plaintiff was sent to Bon Secours Hospital ("Bon Secours") emergency room after telling Ali that he could not bear weight on his left leg and had no feeling in his left leg and arm. Id. at p. 6.

Plaintiff states he was given a CT scan of his neck at the emergency room and the doctor told him "everything looked okay" with plaintiff's neck. He recommended that plaintiff follow up with a neurosurgeon. Plaintiff was discharged from the emergency room to MTC where he was seen the following day by Dr. Ali. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Ali asked him for the paperwork from Bon Secours and when plaintiff told him that it was given to the escorting security officer, Ali became angry. Plaintiff alleges Dr. Ali asked, "why the hell didn't you tell them about your back?" ECF 1 at p. 7. Plaintiff assured Dr. Ali he had told the doctor about his back and that the doctor at the hospital had recommended an MRI in addition to the tests already performed. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Ali continued to accuse him of "pill seeking" and decreased his pain medication to the same dosage, but to be taken every eight hours instead of every four hours. ECF 1 at p. 7. On September 20, 2013, plaintiff claims that Ali came into the room where plaintiff was confined and insisted that he attempt to bear weight on his left leg and walk, but plaintiff fell to the ground when he tried to do so. Id. Plaintiff asserts he needs surgery on his lumbar spine. Id. at p. 8. As relief, plaintiff seeks an injunction preventing Dr. Ali to continue any medical care for him and one-million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. Id.

In opposition to the response to show cause filed by Division of Correction counsel, plaintiff adds that on October 12, 2013, he was instructed to wear a back brace due to a fracture to his spine and associated pain. Plaintiff claimed he was prescribed the brace by physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) where he was treated from October 9, 2013 through October 12, 2013. As of November 6, 2013, plaintiff claimed he had not received the back brace. In addition, plaintiff disputes the allegations made by Dr. Ali that plaintiff was malingering and that he was caught "conspiring with" another inmate while confined to the infirmary. Plaintiff also alleged he was not provided physical therapy beyond the initial three sessions he received prior to being transferred out of the medical department. ECF 10.

Plaintiff filed a "motion for not receiving adequate medical care" on January 9, 2014, asserting that a CT scan of his cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine performed at UMMC, as ordered by attending physicians Ibrahimi and Hayman, demonstrated an L5-S1 Pars defect as well as degenerative changes to his spine. ECF 14 at p. 1 and Ex. A, p. 2. Plaintiff further states that attending physicians informed Drs. Ali and Luka that plaintiff would need long term pain management. Despite these reports and recommendations by UMMC physicians, plaintiff asserts that his efforts to be seen in the chronic care clinic at Western Correctional Institution (WCI) were futile and he had not been seen by Dr. Ottey[3] even though he had been told since December 10, 2013, he would be seen. Plaintiff further alleged that the pain medication he was provided, Tramadol (200 mg), Tylenol #3 with Codeine, and Bactrim, did not work for his pain. ECF 14 at p. 2.

Plaintiff states that on December 11, 2013, he was sent to the emergency room for chest pains which he relates to the neck and back pain he suffers. He claims the hospital doctors again told the prison medical staff at WCI that he requires pain management, but that Wexford refuses to allow chronic pain management. Additionally, plaintiff asserts that despite a recommendation that nerve conduction studies of his lower extremities be performed, those studies were not done. ECF 14 at p. 3.

Defendants Sadik Ali, M.D. and Getnet Luka, M.D. assert that plaintiff has a significant history for neck and back pain accompanied by numbness and weakness in his extremities; hypertension with mild cardiac artery disease; and mental illness which includes bipolar disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They further claim plaintiff is non-compliant with medical orders and has a history of abusive and threatening behavior toward medical staff which includes manipulative as well as narcotic-seeking behavior. Specifically, plaintiff has regularly threatened use of the judicial system against medical staff when he does not receive prescription narcotics of his choice upon request. ECF 19 at Ex. 2 (affidavit of Dr. Sadik Ali).

Plaintiff entered the Division of Correction's Maryland Reception Diagnostic Classification Center (MRDCC) as an inmate on April 24, 2013, where he self-reported taking the following drugs, Tramadol, Tylenol, Neurontin, Zantac, and Linsopril. He claimed to have sustained a head injury after falling during a high wire act with Wringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus and that he had fractured his back and neck during a 2011 incarceration. ECF 19 at Ex. 1, pp. 1-7. He reported experiencing chronic pain as the result of his back and neck injury and that he has been provided with a bottom bunk assignment to help address that issue. Plaintiff also claimed he was allergic to NSAIDs, penicillin, acetaminophen, pseudoephedrine, chlorpheniramine, ibuprofen, Naproxen, caffeine, and aspirin. In addition to his neck and back pain, Plaintiff reported having hypertension, hyperlipidemia, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Id. Plaintiff was prescribed medication to address the hypertension and Tramadol to address his pain. Plaintiff was also put on the chronic care clinic list for his hypertension. Id.

On May 2, 2013, plaintiff was seen by JoAnne Hartung, R.N., for his complaint that he had upper chest pain that radiated down his right arm.[4] Although Hartung explained to plaintiff that the prescribed Tramadol had not yet arrived, and that due to plaintiff's many allergies nothing else could be prescribed. Plaintiff indicated he understood, but filed a sick call slip later the same day complaining he had not received his pain medication. ECF 19 at Ex. 1, pp. 17-18, and 788.

On May 14, 2013, plaintiff was examined for his complaints of back and neck pain by Dr. Chhunchha. Plaintiff told the doctor he had been slammed into a wall while in jail and that he had undergone physical therapy before his incarceration. At the time of the exam, plaintiff was able to put weight on both legs and he reported that pain radiated to his left leg. Plaintiff also reported that his left arm felt weaker than his right. Dr. Chhunchha found no abnormalities, but noted plaintiff's back and spine was tender and ordered follow-up visits every two weeks to assess his back and neck issues. Plaintiff told the doctor he had not received his Neurontin, but said nothing else about other medications. Dr. Luka approved plaintiff for Neurontin the same day he was seen by Dr. Chhunchha. ECF 19 at Ex. 1, pp. 19-24.

On May 17, 2013, plaintiff was transferred to Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) and he was seen by Dr. Jason Clem on May 22, 2013. Dr. Clem informed plaintiff he could not take Tramadol while at ECI Annex and told him it should not be used long-term. Given plaintiff's numerous allergies, Dr. Clem noted there were limited pain medication to offer plaintiff and recommended alternatives such as meditation or tai chi. Dr. Clem made plans to discuss a transfer of plaintiff to another facility where his medical needs could be better addressed. ECF 19 at Ex. 1, pp. 30-31.

ON May 29, 2013, plaintiff was sent to Peninsula Regional Medical Center (PRMC) by ambulance after he reported chest pain and an EKG showed a non-specific abnormality. Id. at pp. 32-34. While at PRMC plaintiff was seen by Dr. Carmen Massey. The EKG performed at the hospital rendered findings within normal limits. A chest x-ray, however, showed mild degenerative changes to plaintiff's thoracic spine and plaintiff was admitted to the hospital based on his chronic neck and lower back pain. Dr. Vohra of PRMC admitted plaintiff for further evaluations and plaintiff was later discharged on May 31, 2013. ECF 19 at Ex. 1, pp. 808-827.

Upon his return to ECI plaintiff was admitted to the infirmary so he could be monitored more closely. He displayed no apparent distress and was discharged the following day. At that time plaintiff was walking without assistance. Id. at pp. 35-39. On June 12, 2013, plaintiff again experienced chest pain on deep breathing. At this time he complained to Dr. Matera about receiving 325 mg of aspirin a day and requested instead 81 mg of aspirin, which he had taken for years with no ...


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