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Brown v. Clem

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 30, 2018

IAN BROWN, Plaintiff
DR. JASON CLEM, et al., Defendants


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Jason Clem, M.D. (“Dr. Clem”) and Angela Frey, R.N.'s (“Nurse Frey”) (collectively, the “Medical Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17).[1]Also pending before the Court is Defendants Captain Shytina Drummond and CO II Daniel Price's (collectively, the “State Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 31).[2] The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant both Motions.

         I. BACKGROUND[3]

         Plaintiff Ian Brown is a state inmate currently confined at the Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) in Westover, Maryland. (Compl. at 1, ECF No. 1). On March 28, 2016, Brown reported to the medical department complaining he had been vomiting continuously for the previous two days. (Id. at 5; Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4 at 2-3, ECF No. 17-4). The nurse instructed Brown to avoid eating until he had stopped vomiting for twenty-four hours, drink small sips of water, and remain on bed rest for three days. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4 at 3). She advised Brown to return to the medical department if he did not improve after three days. (Id.).

         Brown filed a “Sick Call Request/Encounter Form” on April 10, 2016, explaining he had recently recovered from a “virus” but was sick again. (Defs.' Reply Opp. Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1 at 30). On April 13, 2016, a nurse practitioner diagnosed Brown with “acute pancreatitis” and admitted him to the prison infirmary. (Compl. at 5; Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4 at 5-7). While in the infirmary, Nurse Frey administered Brown an IV for dehydration and medicine to treat his nausea. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4 at 8). Dr. Clem examined Brown in the infirmary on April 14, 2016. (Id. at 18-19). The following day, Dr. Clem re-examined Brown and scheduled him for a CT scan at Peninsula Regional Medical Center (“PRMC”). (Id. at 24-25). Brown was admitted to PRMC later that day. (Id. at 26-29).

         While at PRMC, Brown was diagnosed with a large cystic lesion within the pancreatic head, chronic gastritis, and Hepatitis C. (Id.). Brown underwent a surgical procedure to treat his pancreatic condition. (Id. at 29). He was discharged from PRMC on April 27, 2016, at which time he was prescribed medicine for pain relief. (Id.). Upon his release from PRMC, Brown returned to the ECI infirmary. (Id. at 30-31). During his stay in the infirmary, Brown received instructions for his post-surgery recovery and was prescribed medicine for pain relief as necessary. (Id. at 32, 38-51, 53-57). Dr. Clem evaluated Brown again on April 29, 2016, at which time he extended Brown's prescription for pain medicine to May 4, 2016, and prescribed Brown 600 mg of Ibuprofen. (Id. at 36-37). Brown returned to the medical department on May 2, 2016, in an attempt to obtain some type of pain medication for the “severe pain he was experiencing.” (Compl. at 5). Dr. Clem evaluated brown in the infirmary at this time, and concluded that Brown “was in stable condition and ready to be returned to his housing without any conditions.” (Clem Aff. ¶ 11, ECF No. 17-5). On May 25, 2016, after being seen at the Chronic Care Clinic at ECI, Brown's pancreatitis was deemed resolved. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 4 at 62-65).

         Over the next several months, Brown complained at times of abdominal pain and vomiting. (Id. at 66-105). At other times, Brown described himself as having a good appetite, with no complaints of nausea or vomiting. (Id. at 71-74, 76). Brown's medical providers prescribed him various analgesic pain relievers and pancreatic enzymes to reduce stomach gasses. (Id. at 66-105). Brown was ultimately referred to a gastroenterologist for treatment. (Id. at 98-105).

         Brown believes he was only prescribed “placebos” instead of pain medication. (Brown Aff. ¶ 9, ECF No. 24-1). As a result, Brown repeatedly requested to be prescribed Tramadol. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1 at 71, 80-82). Brown's medical providers declined to prescribe him Tramadol, however, because of Brown's history of drug abuse, Tramadol's addictive nature, and the concern over the variety and unverified nature of Brown's symptoms. (Id. at 72; Clem Aff. ¶ 13, 18).

         Plaintiff filed ARP ECI-2477-16 on November 16, 2016, alleging that Dr. Clem failed to refer him to a specialist for post-operative complications and asserting that Clem's conduct constituted deliberate indifference to his medical needs. (Shumaker Decl. at 21, ECF No. 31-5). Plaintiff withdrew the grievance on December 7, 2016. (Id. at 22).

         Plaintiff filed ARP ECI-221-17 on January 25, 2017, alleging Nurse Practitioner Kerpelman saw him on December 21, 2016 and advised he needed a special diet that was not available to ECI; that Dr. Clem would not provide him pain medication; and voiced other complaints about the provision of health care. (Id. at 23-24). After investigation, the grievance was dismissed on February 22, 2107, as Plaintiff's medical records reflected he received appropriate medical care. (Id. at 29-37). On November 18, 2016, Brown filed the instant complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018), naming as defendants “Dr. Jason Clem, RN Angela Frey, Captain Drummond, RN Vickie, and C/O II Price.” (ECF No. 1).[4]


         A. Standard of Review

         1. Motion to Dismiss

         “The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint, ” not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999)). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 F.App'x 165 (4th Cir. 2013).

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Brown filed his Amended Complaint pro se. Pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). Pro se complaints are entitled to special care to determine whether any possible set of facts would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). But even a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for relief.” Forquer v. Schlee, No. RDB-12-969, 2012 WL 6087491, at *3 (D.Md. Dec. 4, 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         2.Conversion to a Motion for Summary Judgment

         In this case, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 28). A motion styled as a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). This Rule provides that when “matters outside the pleadings are ...

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