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Wright v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 6, 2016

VERNON WRIGHT, #424-994, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge

Vernon Wright, a self-represented prisoner housed at the Man land Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, Maryland ("MCTC"). sought money damages and alleged that Kelly Murray ("Murray"), a Physician's Assistant ("PA") employed by Wexford Health Sources. Inc. ("Wexford"), failed to properly treat a growth on his fingers and left hand and did not provide additional diagnostic tests. See ECF No. 1 at 2-3.[1] Initial examination of his Complaint led to dismissal of Wright's state tort claim and a determination that his civil rights claim under the Eighth Amendment could proceed solely against Murray. ECF No. 3. Presently pending before the Court is Murray's unopposed Motion to Dismiss or. in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment.[2] ECF No. 7. No hearing is necessary for resolution of this Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, the motion shall be granted.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Murray's motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) or. in the alternative, for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Ordinarily, a court "is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss." Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442. 450 (4th Cir. 2007). If the court does so. "the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56." and "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). When the movant expressly captions its motion "in the alternative" as one for summary judgment and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration. however, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur: the court "does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious." Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253. 261 (4th Cir. 1998).

A district judge has "complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it. thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it." 5C Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller. Federal Practice and Procedure § 1 366. at 159 (3d ed. 2004. 2011 Supp.). This discretion "should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties' procedural rights." Id. at 149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material "is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action." and "whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure" is necessary. Id., at 165. 167.

Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate "where the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery." E.I. du Pont, supra, 637 F.3d at 448-49. However, "the party opposing summary judgment 'cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party has made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery."" Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names. 302 F.3d 214. 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954. 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). To adequately raise the issue that discovery is needed, the non-movant typically must file an affidavit or declaration pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(1)). explaining why. "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition." without needed discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d); see Harrods. 302 F.3d at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule 56(f)). Notably. '"Rule 56(d) affidavits cannot simply demand discovery for the sake of discovery."' Hamilton v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 342 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Young v. UPS, No. DKC-08-2586. 2011 WL 665321. at *20, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14266. at *62 (D. Md. Feb. 14. 2011)). "Rather, to justify a denial of summary judgment on the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be 'essential to [the] opposition.'"" Scott v. Nuvell Fin. Servs., LLC. 789 F.Supp.2d 637, 641 (D. Md. 2011) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). A non-moving party's Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery is properly denied "where the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment." Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943. 954 (4th Cir. 1995): see also Amirmokri v. Abraham, 437 F.Supp.2d 414. 420 (D. Md. 2006). qff'd, 266 Fed.Appx. 274 (4th Cir. 2008).

If a non-moving party believes that further discovery is necessary before consideration of summary judgment, the party that fails to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit does so at his peril, because ""the failure to file an affidavit... is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate."" Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (citations omitted). But. the non-moving party's failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit cannot obligate a court to issue a summary judgment ruling that is obviously premature. According to the Fourth Circuit, failure to file an affidavit may be excused "if the nonmoving party has adequately informed the district court that the motion is premature and that more discovery is necessary" and the "nonmoving party's objections before the district court served as the functional equivalent of an affidavit." Id. at 244-45 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

Here. Wright, who has received copies of the exhibits that accompany the dispositive motion, has not requested additional material needed to defend Murray's motion, nor has he filed an affidavit under Rule 56(d). suggesting that additional discovery is needed. The Court is satisfied that it is appropriate to address Murray's motion as one for summary judgment, Summary judgment is governed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). which provides, in relevant 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 Rule 56(a)"s standard does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion. Rather, 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 Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The 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 witnesses" credibility." Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Cir., Inc., 290 F.3d 639. 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). Because Wright is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197 (2007). But the Court must also abide by its "'affirmative obligation ... to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.""' Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiffs Allegations

Wright alleges in his Complaint that he was treated by Murray for a wart on his fingers on the left hand, resulting in pigmentation and "deformation, pain, and an inability to fully use" his left hand. ECF No. 1 at 1. Wright indicates that the injuries will impair his job performance upon release because he works as a professional cook. ECF No. 1 al 2. Wright also alleges that Murray refused "to provide a CT/PET scan'" and that she informed Wright that "the side effects, the pain, and pigmentation was all normal to a 'wart' removal." Id. at 3.

B. Murray's Response

On April 28, 2014, Wright received a prison medical intake screening during which he made no mention of pain or irritation related to warts on his hands. ECF No. 8-1 at 1-5.[3] His first examination by Murray occurred on May 1. 2014. During this encounter. Wright revealed the presence of two warts on the left hand that had been present for five years. Id.at 6. Murray diagnosed the warts, one on the left middle finger and a smaller one on the left index ...


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