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Dixon v. Wexford Health Sources

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 17, 2016

WILLIE DIXON
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES

MEMORANDUM

Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge

This matter is before the court on Willie Dixon’s (“Dixon”) complaint for injunctive relief and damages, ECF No. 1; Dixon’s motions for preliminary and emergency injunctions, ECF Nos. 27 & 30; a second “renewed” motion for summary judgment and an opposition to the motions for preliminary and emergency injunctions filed by Wexford Health Sources (“Wexford”), ECF No. 31; Dixon’s opposition response, ECF No. 35; Wexford’s reply, ECF No. 36; and Wexford’s supplement to its renewed motion, ECF No. 39, to which Dixon has filed a reply, ECF No. 42. For the reasons outlined below, emergency injunctive relief will be denied and the defendant’s motion for summary judgment will be granted.[1]

BACKGROUND

Dixon, a self-represented Maryland inmate, filed a complaint in August 2014 for injunctive relief and unspecified damages alleging the following: On November 5, 2013, he was taken to the University of Maryland Hospital’s (“UMH”) emergency room for treatment to his left eye related to uveitis. The UMH physician recommended that Dixon see a rheumatologist and return in two weeks. Compl. at p. 3. Dixon claims that Wexford failed to make the appointments. Dixon further states that on April 29, 2014, he went to Keran [sic] Hospital[2] for an inflammation examination by a rheumatologist, who recommended that an x-ray and bloodwork be conducted; Dixon be seen by a UMH uveitis specialist within two weeks; and Dixon return to see the rheumatologist in four weeks. Id. at p. 4. Dixon states that these appointments were not made.

Dixon further claims he went to the Cumberland Valley Retina Consultants (“CVRC”) on May 20, 2014, to get steroidal injections in his right eye.[3] There, he was informed by Dr. Hu that he had developed cataracts in his left eye from the steroid injections. He alleges that Dr. Hu prescribed him an oral medication that was later denied by the “Medical Director.” Dixon asserts that he was not seen by a physician or physician’s assistant (“PA”), and none of the rheumatologist’s recommendations were discussed. Id. at p. 5. He asserts that he has developed additional eye problems, including partial loss of sight, severe headaches, eye pain, and cataracts.[4] Id.

Dixon’s correspondence to the court in September 2014 stated that he was experiencing eye swelling and Dr. Hu had sent a facsimile to Wexford for Dixon to see a uveitis specialist at UMH to obtain inflammation suppressants. ECF No. 6. He later indicated that, in October of 2014, he was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Wilmer Eye Clinic (“Wilmer”), but they had no records and were not aware of why he was there. ECF No. 10. He claimed that he was to return to Wilmer in December of 2014. Id. In another letter, Dixon notes that he was informed that he would not have cataract surgery until after he saw a rheumatologist. ECF No. 13. He additionally claims he was seen by a Wilmer uveitis specialist on December 11, 2014, and x-rays or scans revealed swelling in both eyes. ECF No. 14. Dixon states he was given steroid injections in both eyes, but his lab work and x-rays were not released to the specialist. Id. Finally, Dixon alleges that he saw the “Kernan Hospital” rheumatologist in December of 2014, but it was only to sign a consent form. He complains that Wexford is drawing out and delaying his treatment. ECF No. 15.

On January 15, 2015, Wexford filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment accompanied by a memorandum, medical records, and the affidavit of Dr. Colin Ottey, Wexford’s Medical Director of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) for the Western Maryland prison system. ECF No. 16. On July 1, 2015, the motion was dismissed as moot in light of Dixon’s additional allegations, and Wexford was directed to respond to the amended claims. ECF No. 26.

On July 15, 2015, Dixon filed a motion for a preliminary injunction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. ECF No. 27. He claimed that, following his diagnosis of Behcet’s disease, physicians at Wilmer ordered him to receive a particular medication, CellCept.[5] Dixon complains that the medication was changed to the “less effective and less costly medication” of Humira, which has caused him physical side effects. He seeks injunctive relief “as to why [Wexford] will not provide [him] with the medication that was ordered by the Wilmer Eye Clinic at [JHH] that would have been more effective in treating my condition.”[6] Id. He subsequently filed a second motion for a preliminary injunction alleging that Humira was “destroying him” and again asked to be placed on CellCept. ECF No. 30. On July 28, 2015, the court directed Wexford to respond to Dixon’s amended allegations and request for emergency relief. ECF No. 29. On August 13, 2015, Wexford filed its second motion for summary judgment and opposition to the motions for an injunction. ECF No. 31. Dixon has responded. ECF No. 35. The issues now before the court concern whether Dixon has been denied necessary medical care for his conditions and whether he is entitled to emergency injunctive relief.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Summary judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), which provides in part:

The 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.

The Supreme Court has clarified that 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) (emphasis in original). In analyzing a summary judgment motion, the court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witnesses’ credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

“A 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 Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Because Dixon is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). But, the court also must 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 (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).

With regard to the claims raised against Wexford, 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). “Scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment is not limited to those punishments authorized by statute and imposed by a criminal judgment.” De’Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991)). In order to state an Eighth Amendment claim for denial of medical care, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the acts or omissions of the defendants ...


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