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Houck v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

November 8, 2016

JAMES E. HOUCK, #421-024 Plaintiff,
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al.. Defendants.



         James Houck is currently incarcerated at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. He is suing Defendants Wexford Health Sources, Inc., Robustiano J. Barrera, M.D., Psychiatric Services at WCI, and Psychiatric Services at JCI, [1]pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly providing him with inadequate medical care."[2] ECF No. 1; ECF No. 7.[3] Wexford Health Sources, Inc. and Dr. Barrera (hereinafter the "Medical Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment with declarations and verified exhibits, including Houck's medical records. ECF No. 31. As the contents of these medical records are of a sensitive and confidential nature, Defendants' Motion to Seal the exhibits. ECF No. 32. will be granted. Houck filed an opposition to Defendants* Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment and three Cross Motions for Summary Judgment, [4] the first of which he supplemented. ECF Nos. 35, 37, 42, 50, and 51. Defendants filed an opposition to Houck's first Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 35. Also pending is Houck"s self-styled, "Motion to Order the Medical Department or Mental Health Services to Treat Mr. Houck."[5] ECF No. 43.

         After considering the pleadings and exhibits, the Court concludes a hearing is unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons to follow, the Medical Defendants" Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 31, treated as a Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. The Medical Defendants* Motion to Seal, ECF No. 32, is GRANTED. Plaintiffs Cross Motions for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 37. 50. and 51 are DENIED. Plaintiffs ''Motion to Order the Medical Department or Mental Health Services to Treat Mr. Houck, " ECF No. 43, will be DENIED without prejudice.

         The Court will grant Houck twenty-eight days to provide additional information to obtain service on the individuals who prescribed the medication Risperdal, which he alleges has caused negative side effects. Failure to provide the supplemental information as directed herein will result in dismissal of this case.


         Houck was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this case. ECF No. 11. As such, this Court is required under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2) to review the complaint and dismiss any claim that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. To bring a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must (1) allege a violation of a constitutional right or federal law and (2) show that "'the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." Crosby v. City o/Gastonia, 635 F.3d 634, 639 (4th Cir. 2011) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)).

         Claims under § 1983 are directed at "'persons, " and Houck provides no evidence that Psychiatric Services at JCI and Psychiatric Services at WCI are "persons" or independent entities amenable to suit under § 1983. See Harden v. Green. 27 F.App'x. 173. 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973) (New Jersey Prison Medical Department not a person for § 1983 suit purposes)). However, where a self-represented litigant alleges a cause of action which may be meritorious against persons unknown, the district court should afford him a reasonable opportunity to determine the correct person or persons against whom the claim is asserted, advise him how to proceed, and direct or permit amendment of the pleadings to bring that person or persons before the court. Harden. 27 F. App"x. at 178 (citing Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1152-53 (4th Cir. 1978): Coleman v. Peyton, 340 F.2d 603, 604 (4th Cir. 1965)). Accordingly, Houck will be granted additional time to provide the names of the individuals who prescribed Risperdal for him, whether he brought his concerns about the side effects he alleges to their attention, the dates and circumstances of the notification, and the response he received. Houck is reminded that failure to provide this information within the requisite time period may result in dismissal of this claim without prejudice and without further notice from the Court.

         The Medical Defendants' 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 j udgment under Rule 56, "' and "[a]U 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. Washington 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 § 1366, 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 de Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Indust., 637 F.3d 435. 448-49 (4th Cir. 2011). 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 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 [his] 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). Because Houck is self-represented, his filings are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (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 (internal citations omitted).

         11. DISCUSSION

         A. Houck's Allegations

         Houck faults Defendants for failing to monitor his high blood pressure on a daily basis. Additionally, he alleges he was prescribed Risperdal[6] which caused him gynecomastia (enlargement of male breasts), nausea, fatigue, increased appetite, constipation, abdominal discomfort, anxiety, and Parkinson's disease.[7] Houck asserts he complained of these concerns to Dr. Barrera and requested to be taken off the medication. ECF No. 8 at 2; ECF No. 14 at 1. Houck claims that he will need breast reduction after he is released from incarceration, and seeks $10 million to pay for his hospital expenses. Id.

         B. Dr. ...

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