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Cox v. Barrera

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 29, 2017

ROBUSTIANO BARRERA, et al., Defendants.


          GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Christopher Cox tiled this civil rights action against Defendants Dr. Barrera. R.N.P. Beverly McLaughlin, and R.N. Monica.[1] ECF No. 1. Defendant McLaughlin filed a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff opposes the Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 13. A hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth below, summary judgment shall be granted, in part, and denied, in part. Defendant McLaughlin has also moved to seal medical records submitted as an exhibit in support of the dispositive motion. ECF No. 10. and that motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff is an inmate committed to the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction and. at all times relevant to the Complaint, was confined at Western Correctional Institution (WCI) in Cumberland. Maryland.[3] Plaintiff alleges that he was seen by R.N.P. McLaughlin on October 23. 2015, and that she ordered his medical supplies and medicine. FXT No. 1 -2 at 4. During his appointment. Plaintiff asked McLaughlin for his diagnosis and did not receive a response. Id. On December2L 2015. Plaintiff saw McLaughlin again for a chronic care visit. Id. During that visit, he states that "all meds were renewed." Id. Plaintiff again asked for his diagnosis, and McLaughlin told him she would "have to look." Id.

         On December 23. 2015. Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Robustiano Barrera who did a strength test and. at Plaintiffs request, put in a referral for Plaintiff to receive physical therapy. Plaintiff asked Dr. Barrera ""the name of [his] diagnosis" and asked why he still required diapers and catheters. Dr. Barrera told him "I don't know." and then said it was due to Plaintiff's injury. ECF No. 1-2 at 4-5. Plaintiff explained that his injury was "new from the last time" and that Dr. Barrera ignored his assertion. Plaintiff asserts that McLaughlin and Dr. Barrera have refused to "research" whether his incontinence was healing or getting worse. Plaintiff also states that at the time he saw Dr. Barrera. he had an infection. ECF No. 1-2 at 5.

         Plaintiff states that he has filed between 30-50 administrative remedy procedure requests ('"ARPs") with respect to his medical and safety needs. ECF No. 13 at 1. On January 6. 2016. Plaintiff was interviewed by Monica Wilt. R.N.. in reference to an ARP he filed regarding his December 23. 201 5 appointment with Dr. Barrera. ECF No. 1-2 at 5. Plaintiff claims that Wilt was "very unprofessional" and that he tiled another ARP for ""disrespect, unprofessionalism. and neglect." ECF No. 1-2 at 5. On January 20, 2016. Plaintiff states that he received a notice signed by K. Martin. R.N.. and Dr. Barrera discontinuing an order for his use of a wheelchair. Id. The notice was allegedly dated January 7. 2016. Id. Plaintiff claims that his wheelchair was discontinued as retaliation for the ARPs he filed against the medical staff. ECF No. 1-2 at 5.

         In response to the Complaint. Defendant McLaughlin provides relevant medical records and an affidavit from Dr. Barrera concerning Plaintiffs medical condition. Plaintiff's medical history includes multiple gunshot wounds to his hack which occurred in 2014. and an injury to the T-10 vertebra in his back, resulting from a 2010 motor vehicle accident. ECF No. 9-5 at 2. Plaintiffs gunshot wounds required the removal of the lower lobe of his lung, open thoracic surgery, craniotomy, and a tracheostomy, as well confinement to an intensive care unit ECF No. 10-2 at 2, 13. The injury to Plaintiffs thoracic spine (T10) resulted in partial paralysis of his left leg (monoparalysis). Id. at 2. As a result of these injuries. Plaintiff is incontinent and is provided catheter supplies, biohazard bags, and adult diapers. ECF No. 9-5 at 3.

         Plaintiff is also given a cane to assist him with walking, but on October 23. 2015. when Plaintiff was seen by McLaughlin, he was allegedly not using the cane. ECF No. 10-2 at 2. Plaintiff was also being provided a wheelchair for longer distances, see Id. at 13. but Dr. Barrera reassessed Plaintiffs need for a wheelchair on December 23. 2015. ECF No. 9-5 at 3. This reassessment occurred after it was noted that Plaintiff walked independently with a cane on fiat surfaces. Id. While spasticity was noted in Plaintiffs right lower leg. it was also noted that Plaintiff had the ability to manipulate that leg and walk. Id., at 3-4. Dr. Barrera"s assessment was that Plaintiff was able to walk short distances, but that he would require a wheelchair for distances of more than fifty yards. Id. at 4. Despite this assessment. Plaintiffs chart was updated on January 7, 2016. by Kimberly Martin. R.N.. discontinuing his medical assignment for a wheelchair for long distances. Id. Dr. Barrera states in his affidavit that he did not discontinue the medical assignment for a wheelchair despite the appearance of his name on the notice, and that he was unaware of any ARPs filed by Plaintiff prior to this change in the assignment of a wheelchair, hi.

         On January 12. 2016. Plaintiff was transferred from WC! to North Branch Correctional Institution. ECF No. 9-5 at 4. Dr. Barrcra notes that Plaintiff was placed in segregated housing on February 18, 2016, making him ineligible for a medically-assigned wheelchair for distances. ECF No. 9-5 at 4-5. On May 16. 2016. Plaintiff was removed from segregated housing and placed into "Max II" security. Id. Dr. Barrera states that as a Max II inmate. Plaintiff is not allowed to leave his cell block, which also means he is ineligible to receive a medically assigned wheelchair for distances, Id. In addition. Dr. Barrera notes that Plaintiff has not raised any complaints regarding the discontinuation of his wheelchair in any sick call requests or administrative complaints, Id.

         Following the discontinuation of Plaintiffs wheelchair assignment, he has allegedly missed two physical therapy appointments (February 23 and 25, 2016) and one chronic care appointment (March 4. 2016). FCF No. 9-5 at 5. Plaintiff attended physical therapy appointments on February 9 and 20, 2016. and March 7 and 8. 2016. Id. During those appointments. Plaintiff was able to complete the exercises and there was no indication Plaintiff required a wheelchair, Id. Dr. Barrera's review of Plaintiffs medical records provided no indication that Plaintiff asked for a diagnosis. ECF No. 9-5 at 3. Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint against Defendants in this Court on January 28. 2016.


         Defendant McLaughlin has moved to dismiss or. in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF No. 9. A motion styled "in the alternative" implicates the court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol Fire Dept., inc. v. Montgomery County, 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011). If the Court considers matters outside the pleadings, "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). Here, the Court considers evidence outside the pleadings, namely Plaintiffs medical records and the Barrera affidavit, ECF No. 10; thus, it will treat Defendant's dispositive motion as one for summary judgment.

         Summary judgment is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). which provides in part: "[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." The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "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." Id. Thus. "[a] mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant's position will not defeat a motion for summary judgment.*" Deirick v. Panalpina. Inc.. 108 F.3d 529. 536 (4th Cir. 1997).

         "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 (Ink, Inc..346 F.3d 514, 522 (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). The Court must, however, also abide by the ""affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and ...

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