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Germain v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 22, 2018

JEAN B. GERMAIN, Plaintiff,


          THEODORE D. CHUANG, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jean Germain, currently incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Frank B. Bishop, Jr., Warden of NBCI; Bruce A. Liller, the NBCI Mental Health Program Manager; William Beeman, R.N., the NBCI Assistant Director of Nursing; Janette Clark, a Nurse Practitioner (“N.P. Clark”) at NBCI; Krista Bilak, a Registered Nurse Practitioner (“R.N.P. Bilak”) at NBCI; and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), NBCI's contracted medical services provider. Germain alleges that Defendants: (1) have exhibited deliberate indifference to both his medical and psychological needs; (2) have implemented a policy on handcuffing inmates that exacerbates his chronic shoulder condition; (3) have imposed sanctions against him without due process of law resulting in unconstitutional conditions of confinement; and (4) have retaliated against him for engaging in constitutionally protected activity by denying him access to medical care and depriving him of free multivitamins and skin lotion. Germain also alleges that he was assaulted by Correctional Officer (“C.O.”) Nicholas Soltas, who was not named as a defendant, and seeks to amend the Complaint to add claims and join defendants relating to that alleged assault.

         Presently pending before the Court are a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Wexford, Beeman, Clark, and Bilak (collectively, “the Medical Defendants”); a Motion to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Bishop and Liller (collectively, “the Correctional Defendants”); a Motion for an Order Compelling Discovery and Motion to Join Claims filed by Germain; the Medical Defendants' Motion to Strike various filings by Germain; and the Medical Defendants' Motions for Sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. No hearing is necessary to resolve these motions. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Medical Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part; the Correctional Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment will be granted; Germain's Motion to Compel and to Join Claims will be granted in part to the extent that Germain's proposed amended complaint will be construed as a new complaint and otherwise denied; the Medical Defendants' Motion to Strike will be granted; and the Medical Defendants' Motions for Sanctions will be denied.


         I. Conditions of Confinement

         On March 3, 2015, Germain refused to accept a cellmate into his cell and violated prison rules by placing his arm through the security slot in his cell and refusing to remove it when told to do so. The next day, March 4, 2015, Germain refused to be handcuffed by correctional officers through the security slot, grabbed the arm of one officer, and was then pepper-sprayed by the guards. When he refused to submit to handcuffing, correctional officers entered the cell and handcuffed him. Germain also alleges that Soltas and other correctional officers attacked him and pepper-sprayed his rectal area, in violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

         On March 10, 2015, Germain appeared at two formal prison hearings relating to rule violations arising from the March 3 and March 4 incidents. After Germain testified in his own defense before each panel, he was sentenced to 365 days of disciplinary segregation and an indefinite loss of visitation rights on the March 4, 2015 incident and 200 days of segregation on the March 3, 2015 incident. After these sentences were imposed, the NBCI Reduction in Violence Committee recommended that Germain receive an additional 90 days of cell restriction, concurrent to the other sentences. On April 2, 2015, the NBCI Chief of Security, on behalf of the Warden, accepted the Committee's recommendation. Germain filed an appeal, which was denied by the Chief of Security, again on behalf of the Warden, on April 6, 2015. The cell restriction began that same day.

         According to Germain, he was sentenced to 870 days of disciplinary segregation at NBCI, during which he was limited to two showers and five hours of exercise time per week. With the cell restriction in place, Germain was limited to only one hour of outdoor exercise per week.

         II. Mental Health Care

         According to Germain, he is currently being treated by the NBCI Psychology Department for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), chronic depression, and anxiety disorder. Following the March 3, 2015 and March 4, 2015 incidents, Germain conducted a hunger strike. During medical examinations on March 7, 2015 and March 11, 2015 in response to his hunger strike, doctors referred Germain for a mental health evaluation. Up to that point, Germain had been receiving some form of psychiatric medication. On March 13, 2015, he met with Norma Holwager, a member of the Psychology Department. Germain asserts that a correctional officer interrupted the meeting, and that Holwager did not return the following Monday as promised and did not respond to requests and letters he sent to her.

         Starting on March 16, 2015, Germain submitted a series of sick call requests in which he reported hearing voices, having anxiety attacks, and nightmares. According to Germain, he has been re-living the March 4, 2015 assault both while awake and in nightmares, he has had anxiety attacks as a result of that incident, and he “cannot quiet” voices he has been hearing. Comp. Ex. 1 at 5, ECF No. 1-1. On April 19, 2015, Germain began another hunger strike. When he was seen by Dr. Mahboob Ashraf on April 21, 2015 in response to the second hunger strike, Dr. Ashraf told Germain that he would request that Liller, the NBCI Mental Health Program Manager, arrange for Germain to receive mental health services. The following day, on April 22, 2015, Germain was seen by Psychology Associate Laura Beitzel, but she did not follow up with him after that visit. The record does not reflect that Germain received any other mental health care or treatment prior to the filing of his Complaint in this case in May 2015, other than preexisting orders for medication. By November 2015, however, he had been prescribed various psychiatric medications, including Doxepin, Vistaril, and Zoloft.

         During March and April 2015, Germain wrote to Liller to request that his mental health needs be addressed and that he be transferred to the Special Needs Unit (“SNU”). Liller did not respond to Germain. Liller oversees psychological and psychiatric treatment for inmates, including the provision of psychiatric medications. Inmates with serious mental illnesses are housed in the SNU. According to the SNU Program Manual, inmates referred and admitted to the SNU have a “severe” mental health diagnosis pursuant to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (“DSM IV”), such that their “ability to function is so impaired” that they “cannot be placed in General Population without special consideration.” SNU Manual at 7, Correctional Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4, ECF No. 70-5. The manual further provides that:

         Impairment to functioning in General Population includes but is not limited to the following criteria:

(a) Inability to understand a direct order;
(b) Responding to internal stimulation (hallucinations). These hallucinations either distract the inmate from following orders or are commanding the inmate to do something contrary to security procedures;
(c) Inability to maintain personal hygiene and or clean his cell;
(d) Vulnerable by nature of their mental illness;
(e) Disruptive behavior (banging door, yelling, etc.);
(f) Any aggressive behavior as a response to the mental illness;
(g) Disrespectful for threatening verbalizations; (h) Severe vulnerability to other inmates; and
(i) Diminished capacity through cognitive deficit or misinterpretation of stimuli.

Id., According to Liller, Germain does not exhibit any of the above symptoms and therefore has not been referred to the SNU.

         III. Medical Care

         Germain has suffered from a variety of physical ailments, including athlete's foot, dry skin, and vitamin deficiency associated with his periodic hunger strikes. As early as January 2014, Germain received “Lubri-skin” lotion as part of his medical treatment for dry skin. Med. Records at 6, Med. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 35-4. He also began receiving multivitamins on March 9, 2015 following a hunger strike in protest of the March 3 and 4, 2015 incidents in his cell. However, N.P. Clark discontinued these prescriptions on April 8, 2015 when she determined that they were no longer necessary.

         Germain also suffers from chronic shoulder pain caused by degenerative spondylosis that affects his cervical spine. Germain has received pain medication for this condition including, at various times, Mobic, Neurontin, and Tramadol. On October 19, 2016, Dr. Ashraf prescribed to Germain a 90-day supply of Tramadol for his shoulder pain. This prescription was renewed on December 14, 2016 by R.N.P. Bilak, who extended the prescription to April 14, 2017. At the same time, Dr. Ashraf entered a duplicate prescription to expire on February 14, 2017. Then, on February 13, 2017, Germain was given a four-day Tramadol prescription to accommodate him during a temporary transfer to another institution for a medical consultation. When he returned, his long term prescription was inadvertently superseded by the four-day prescription, such that his prescription stopped as of February 18, 2017. According to Germain, he began to experience symptoms consistent with opiate withdrawal. After submitting sick call requests, Germain was seen by a nurse on February 28, 2017, who observed that Germain had “no real issues at time of sick call” but referred him for pain management. Med. Records at 113. On March 8, 2017, a pharmacist reviewed his case and recommended that his Tramadol prescription be re-started. Germain refused to attend medical visits on March 8, 2017 and April 22, 2017, at which the renewal could have taken place.

         Overall, Germain's medical records show that he was seen by medical personnel over 50 times from August 10, 2013 to March 8, 2017. These visits have included receiving pain medication, undergoing diagnostic scans, and traveling to another facility for examination by a neurosurgeon.

         IV. Handcuffing

         According to Germain, because of his chronic shoulder pain, he received an order from NBCI medical staff requiring that he “be cuffed using a special pair of handcuffs with a longer chain to alleviate his shoulder pain.” Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1. No copy of this order is in the record, and it is not clear when it was issued. In Fall 2013, the Warden of NBCI issued an order that gave authority to determine handcuffing procedures to correctional officers, not medical staff. No copy of this policy is in the record.

         According to Germain, he was originally granted “front cuffing status” by medical personnel, which was later modified, at the request of NBCI correctional officers, to handcuffing behind his back using a longer-than-usual chain. Mot. Amend. ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 20. This order was subsequently rescinded “at the request of custody staffs claiming security reasons, ” but without providing a specific security justification. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. Soon after, Germain began to experience significant pain throughout his body, beginning in his neck but spreading throughout his body. Germain was examined by NBCI medical personnel and eventually underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) and consultation with a neurosurgeon, who recommended that Germain continue to receive physical therapy and pain medication.

         On May 26, 2015, Germain told the correctional officers assigned to escort him to another facility, Officers Dorcon and Gilpin, that he had a medical order stating that he had “doublecuff only status.” Supp. Compl.¶ 3 at 4, ECF No. 7. The officers ignored his claim and sought to handcuff him behind the back using a standard length chain. One of the officers cursed at Germain.

         V. ...

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