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Melton v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 27, 2017

RICHARD MELTON, Prisoner Identification No. 359324, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, MR. OMBUDSMAN, KIM CARTER, Health Service Administrator LASAHUN D. TEMESGEN, M.D., Regional Medical Director, ZOWIE BARNES, M.D., and LASHONDA GRIER, Health Service Administrator, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Richard Melton, currently incarcerated at Jessup Correctional Institution ("JCI") in Jessup, Maryland, has filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants Wexford Health Sources ("Wexford"), JCI's contracted medical services provider; Kim Carter, a Health Service Administrator; Dr. Kasahun D. Temesgen, Wexfordss Regional, Medical Director; Dr. Zowie Barnes; Lashauna Grier, a Health Services Administrator (collectively, the "Medical Defendants");[1] and "Mr. Ombudsman" were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs stemming from chronic foot pain, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Presently pending is the Medical Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 15, 2015, Melton complained of foot pain during a sick-call visit with Physician's Assistant ("P.A.") Romain. Melton informed P.A. Romain that he had had foot pain for the past six years, but that it had worsened in the last month. P.A. Romain noted that Melton's symptoms were consistent with plantar fasciitis, a condition that occurs when the flat band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes is strained, leading to pain in the bottom of the foot and heel. P.A. Romain placed an order for arch insoles for Melton. Melton received those insoles about three weeks later.

         On May 29, 2015, during a chronic-care visit for a different medical condition, Melton remarked to Defendant Dr. Barnes that his arch insoles did not fit properly. Dr. Barnes stated that she would investigate whether the insoles were the proper size and instructed Melton to check back in two weeks. On June 22, 2015, Melton again saw Dr. Barnes for a scheduled visit and was instructed in stretching exercises for his feet. On June 27, 2015, Melton was provided with a new pair of arch supports.

         On August 11, 2015, Melton had the opportunity to see a physician's assistant about his foot condition but declined. In a letter dated August 13, 2015, Melton wrote to Defendant Grier, a Health Services Administrator. Melton asserted that P.A. Romain diagnosed his condition as plantar fasciitis, and that neither the provided arch supports and foot exercises nor several visits to physician's assistants had resulted in relief. As a result, he declined the latest appointment with a physician's assistant because he believed that there was nothing else that they could do for his condition. He therefore asked Grier to arrange for a referral to a podiatrist. According to Melton, Grier never responded.

         On August 19, 2015, Melton was again seen by P.A. Romain for a sick-call visit. Melton complained that despite the insoles and an unspecified pain medication, he was not getting relief of his symptoms. P.A. Romain prescribed Neurontin for his pain and referred him to a prison doctor for evaluation for a possible referral to an orthopedist. On August 24, 2015, Melton sent a second letter to Grier that reiterated the chronology of his condition and related treatment, his continuing foot pain, and his request to see a podiatrist, to which she again allegedly did not respond.

         On September 10, 2015, Melton again reported foot pain at a sick-call visit with a nurse practitioner. After a physical examination, Melton was prescribed Indomethacin in addition to his other pain medication. On September 17, 2015, Melton was examined by Dr. Barnes, who again assigned stretching exercises, renewed his pain medication prescription,, and referred him to Defendant Dr. Temesgen, the Regional Medical Director. On October 9, 2015, during a visit for another condition, Dr. Barnes lowered Melton's Neurontin dose from 300 milligrams to 100 milligrams after determining that it was causing tremors.

         On November 18, 2015, Melton arrived late to his appointment with Dr. Temesgen and thus was not seen that day. However, prison medical staff still reviewed his file and ordered an ankle-brachial examination to screen Melton for possible peripheral vascular disease.

         On December 22, 2015, during a sick-call visit, Melton complained of foot pain radiating up to his back, coupled with numbness and swelling. Melton was instructed to stay on his previously prescribed pain medications and was given a muscle rub to further alleviate pain. On January 7, 2016, Melton was sent to Bon Secours Hospital for the ordered ankle-brachial testing. That examination revealed that Melton's circulation was normal. Melton returned to JCI the next day, where he was told to continue his pain medications and was given physical therapy instruction before returning to his cell.

         On January 15, 2016, during an appointment with Dr. Barnes, Melton informed her that one of the hospital technicians at Bon Secours had told him he needed an MRI to determine the source of his foot pain. Dr. Barnes informed Melton that she would not be ordering an MRI. She did, however, review with him other imaging of his foot from a bone scan that revealed mild degenerative changes. After a discussion with Melton, Dr. Barnes returned his Neurontin dose to 300 milligrams, with the understanding that the increase might again cause "jtttery feelings." Opp'n Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4, ECF No. 15-5. Melton also asked about another special insole that had been ordered and was told that once it arrived it would be provided at his next chronic-care visit.

         On February 12, 2016, during another sick-call visit, Melton complained about swelling in his legs and abdomen and numbness in his arm. Melton was ordered compression stockings and advised to continue his current medication regimen. In a letter dated February 14, 2016, Melton complained to Defendant "Mr. Ombudsman" that, although he had been suffering from foot problems since 2009, his symptoms had not yet been relieved, and complained in particular that Dr. Barnes had not ordered an MRI. He also reported that he had been denied special shoes to address his condition. Melton asserts that he never received a response to his letter.

         On February 22, 2016, Melton again saw Dr. Barnes and, among other medical issues, complained about his ongoing foot condition and requested a podiatry referral. Dr. Barnes asked Melton to demonstrate the exercises she had previously given him to do, but Melton was unable to do so. Dr. Barnes ordered a referral to Dr. Tefferra for a review of Melton's condition and assistance with symptom management. On February 26, 2006, Melton received his compression stockings.

         In a letter dated March 14, 2016, Melton wrote to Defendant Carter, a Health Services Administrator, to request that he no longer receive Neurontin because one of its uses is for treatment of epilepsy and because it had caused him addiction symptoms. Melton also complained that he had not received a referral to a podiatrist and demanded ...


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