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Taylor v. Wexford Medical

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 30, 2017




         Plaintiff Christopher Taylor, currently confined at Maryland Correctional Training Center ("MCTC",, is bilaterally hearing impaired, with profound hearing loss in his left ear and severe hearing loss in his right ear. Taylor has filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 9 1983 ("9 1983") against MCTC; Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford",, the health services provider for MCTC; and individual Wexford medical staff asserting that they violated his constitutional rights by failing adequately to treat his hearing loss, at times by failing to provide him with any hearing aids, and at other times by failing to provide him with hearing aids for both ears. MCTC has filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Wexford and the individual medical staff defendants (collectively, "the Wexford Defendants") have also filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Those motions are now ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6 (2016). For the reasons set forth below, MCTC's Motion is granted, and the Wexford Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         In June 2010, Taylor informed the MCTC medical provider, at that time a company other than Wexford, that he was essentially deaf in his left ear and hearing impaired in his right ear. He asked to be provided with hearing aids. In July 2010, Taylor was referred to an audiologist. Seven months later, in March 2011, he was fitted with a hearing aid for his right ear. In October 2011, Taylor was transferred from MCTC to Patuxent Institution ("Patuxent"). In approximately February 2012, Patuxent medical staff inadvertently broke Taylor's hearing aid while trying to clean it. Taylor made multiple unsuccessful requests to have the hearing aid replaced. Throughout this time period, Taylor also repeatedly requested a second hearing aid, for his left ear.

         On May 22, 2012, after having no working hearing aid for at least three months, Taylor was transferred back to MCTC. Although his MCTC medical intake paperwork stated that he was hearing impaired and needed hearing aids, Taylor did not receive hearing aids upon his return. Taylor then began to make repeated requests for a replacement for his broken right hearing aid, explaining that he could not hear announcements by correctional officers and was missing meals because he could not hear meal calls.

         On July 1, 2012, Wexford became the MCTC medical services provider. On July 12, 2012, Taylor was seen by Wexford staff, who ordered a referral for an audiology consultation. On July 18, 2012, Defendant Dr. Contah Nimely examined Taylor and concluded that he had a bilateral hearing impairment, with the hearing loss more severe in his left ear than in his right. Taylor told Dr. Nimely that he had had no working hearing aid for several months and that he had difficulty communicating without hearing aids.

         On October 3, 2012, Dr. Ross Cushing, an audiologist, examined Taylor. Dr. Cushing determined that Taylor's right hearing aid was damaged beyond repair and recommended authorization for a new one. On November 2, 2012, Taylor asked Defendant Janine Griffith, P.A. about the status of his hearing aids. On November 30, 2012, Dr. Nimely approved the issuance of one hearing aid to Taylor. He received that hearing aid on December 17, 2012. At Taylor's request, Dr. Cushing fitted the hearing aid for his left ear.

         Beginning in February 2013, Taylor again began to ask about receiving a second hearing aid, based in part on his belief that the audiologist would be repairing and returning the damaged right hearing aid. On February 18, 2013, after Taylor asked Griffith about the second hearing aid, she consulted with "central consult coordinators"" who informed her that Taylor would receive only one hearing aid. Wexford Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1 ("Wexford R.") at 21, ECF No. 27-1. On June 17, 2013, Taylor told Defendant Richard Sampong, P.A., during an examination, that he wanted his right hearing aid back and that he had difficulty hearing without the second aid. On August 21, 203,, medical personnel decided to consult with an audiologist to address the issue of Taylor's right hearing aid.

         On December 11, 2013, Taylor was again seen by Dr. Cushing. When Taylor expressed his frustrations about not having two hearing aids, Dr. Cushing informed Taylor that only one hearing aid had been authorized. Nevertheless, Dr. Cushing recommended, "Consider giving inmate second hearing aid." Wexford R. at 30. On December 16, however, an update to Taylor's medical records instructed medical staff to "clarify" with Taylor that the Department of Corrections "only provides one aid." Id. at 31.

         On March 30, 2014, Taylor reported problems with his single hearing aid. On April 5, 2014, Taylor told Griffith that the left hearing aid was not working even after a battery change. At a May 28, 2014 sick-call visit, Taylor informed medical staff that his left hearing aid was still not working and complained that he had not been allowed to use amplification devices that his family had sent because he had not had a working hearing aid for a long period of time. The following day, Defendant Lora Cole, R.N. cleaned the hearing aid and replaced the battery, but the aid still would not work. Cole told Taylor that an audiology consultation had been requested.

         On June 5, 2014, Taylor attended a patient care conference with Cole, another medical staff member, the MCTC warden, and another prison representative. At that meeting, the Warden approved Taylor's use of the amplification devices sent by his family until Taylor's hearing aid was repaired, and the parties discussed the possibility of an expedited audiologist consultation. On June 18, 2014, Dr. Cushing met with Taylor and repaired his left hearing aid. Based on that same examination, Dr. Cushing stated in his report, "I recommend a second hearing aid for his right ear." Am. Compl. Ex. 1 at 2, ECF No. 4-1. Dr. Cushing also recommended that, although the devices provided to Taylor by his family did not provide adequate amplification, Taylor should be allowed to keep and use one of those devices. Dr. Cushing's June 2014 report, however, did not result in Taylor receiving a second hearing aid.

         On March 26, 2015, when Taylor again began to report problems with his left hearing aid, Defendant Rebecca Barnhart, R.N. requested an audiology referral. On April 7, 2015, Defendant Kelly Murray, P.A. again ordered an audiology referral for Taylor. On May 8, 2015, Taylor again saw Barnhart to ask about the status of his audiology referral. Barnhart put in another request for a consultation. Finally, on July 2, 2015, Dr. Cushing saw Taylor and concluded that the left hearing aid was in complete disrepair and had to be replaced. On July 9, 2015, Taylor saw Defendant Matthew Carpenter, P.A. to ask about the status of his replacement hearing aid. In response, Carpenter requested another audiology consultation.

         On August 7, 2015, Taylor filed his original Complaint in this case. A few days later, on August 13, 2015, Taylor received his replacement left hearing aid from Dr. Cushing. On September 3, 2015, Taylor reported to medical staff that his hearing aid was not functioning properly at work, where he is in close proximity to heavy machinery. On September 14, 2015, based on Taylor's report that he needed the settings on his hearing aid adjusted, Murray requested an audiology consultation. On December 9, 2015, Taylor was seen by Dr. Cushing, who adjusted the device. At that session, Taylor again requested a second hearing aid.

         On March 3, 2016, Taylor reported that his hearing aid had again stopped working, and an audiology consultation was ordered. On April 26, 2016, Wexford was served with Taylor's Amended Complaint in this case. On May 19, 2016, Dr. Dolph Druckman, on behalf of Wexford, conducted a review of Taylor's file to "facilitate ongoing care for claim of hearing loss." Wexford R. at 65. After noting that Taylor had a February 2011 audiogram showing profound hearing loss in his left ear and severe hearing loss in his right ear, and that Taylor had repeatedly requested a working hearing aid as well as a second hearing aid, Dr. Druckman recommended that a new audiogram be conducted. He recommended against authorizing a second hearing aid "[u]nless there is a current Audiological opinion (objectively based) that a second aid is necessary." Id.

         The following day, on May 20, 2016, Dr. Cushing saw Taylor again and repaired the left hearing aid. In his report, Dr. Cushing noted that in addition to the February 2011 audiogram which had prompted the original issuance of a hearing aid, he had also performed an audiogram on Taylor in December 2012, when he had first fitted Taylor for a hearing aid, which revealed that Taylor's hearing loss was "more symmetrical." Wexford R. at 66. As part of his May 20, 2016 examination, Dr. Cushing performed a third audiogram, which showed "severe bilateral mixed hearing loss, " results that were "consistent" with the 2012 test results. Id. Based on these test results, Dr. ...

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