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Rivera v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 8, 2017

ANTONIO RIVERA, #352-432 Plaintiff
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC. PEGGY MAHLER, Nurse Practitioner[1]RICHARD GRAHAM, JR., Warden DAYENA CORCORAN, Commissioner of Correction All Defendants are Sued for Actions Under Color of Law in Their Individual and Official Capacities Defendants



         Antonio Rivera, a self-represented litigant incarcerated at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland (“WCI”), filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that he has been denied proper medical treatment for a meniscus tear of the left knee first diagnosed in late 2016. ECF No. 1, pp. 1-2.[2] Rivera states that the Commissioner of Correction Dayena Corcoran and WCI Warden Richard Graham, Jr. failed to intervene after he complained that employees of the prison health care provider, Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), including Nurse Practitioner Peggy Mahler, were ignoring his condition. Id., pp. 3-6. He seeks money damages and declaratory relief. Id., p. 19.

         Defendants Graham and Corcoran (the “Correctional Defendants”) and Defendants Wexford and Mahler (the “Medical Defendants”) have filed motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, motions for summary judgment (ECF No. 9 and ECF No. 22), which are opposed by Rivera. ECF No. 16 and ECF No. 26. The Medical Defendants have filed a reply to Rivera's opposition (ECF No. 27), prompting Rivera's Surreply (ECF No. 28), which the Medical Defendants seek to strike. ECF No. 29. After review of the papers filed, the court finds a hearing on the pending matters unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons outlined below, the motion filed by the Correctional Defendants will be granted. The motion filed by the Medical Defendants will be held in abeyance pending submission of a status report outlining additional medical services provided to Rivera subsequent to October, 2017.

         Standard of Review

         Because matters outside the pleadings are presented in Defendants' dispositive motions, they shall be considered motions for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Summary Judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), which provides that:

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 this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion:

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.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

         “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 witness' 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 defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).


         The parties do not dispute that Rivera has ongoing problems with knee pain that existed prior to his transfer to WCI. In April 2015, he complained of recurrent knee pain and was referred for a new knee brace. ECF No. 9-4, p. 32. An x-ray ordered in May, 2015 showed no evidence of acute fracture, dislocation or subluxation, so knee conditioning exercises were ordered. Id., pp. 33-36. At times, Rivera was provided a knee brace, sleeve, crutches, and cane. Id., pp. 32, 42. Because he suffers from elevated liver enzymes, his use of Tylenol for pain must remain below 4 grams. Id., p. 38.

         On April 25, 2016, Rivera was evaluated by WCI medical personnel following his transfer from Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI). Id., pp. 60-62. He requested a left knee brace. Id. An examination concerning his knee indicated no acute disease; nonetheless, an elastic knee brace was ordered, a Tylenol prescription was renewed, and a knee-conditioning sheet was given. Id. On May 4, 2016, Rivera was referred for physical therapy and his medication was changed. Id., pp. 63-65. On June 16, 2016, he was continued on medication, advised to avoid running or jumping exercises, and was referred for evaluation for steroid injection. A knee exercise sheet outlining the exercises was provided so he could exercise on his own. Id., pp. 66-67.

         During August and September, 2016, Rivera was referred for knee injection, provided with a knee sleeve, and approved for physical therapy. Id., pp. 68-77. On September 15, 2016, he received a physical therapy evaluation with goals to increase quad strength and to establish a self-management program. Id., p. 78. Rivera was recertified for continued physical therapy sessions through December, 2016. ...

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