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Johnson v. Wexford Health Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 8, 2019

STEVEN M. JOHNSON, #155-865, Plaintiff,


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Steven M. Johnson, an inmate presently incarcerated at Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland, originally brought this action in the Baltimore City District Court against Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), Ava Joubert, M.D., Terri Davis, P.A., and Janette Clark, N.P (collectively, “Medical Defendants”). ECF No. 2. Johnson claimed that the Medical Defendants have conspired to deny him medication and medical treatment. Id. On April 16, 2018, the Medical Defendants removed the matter to this Court, where the Complaint was construed as alleging violations of Johnson's civil rights, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1.

         On May 17, 2018, the Medical Defendants moved to dismiss the claims or, alternatively for summary judgment in their favor. (ECF No. 33). In light of the Medical Defendants' dispositive motion, Johnson moved to amend his Complaint to add the Department of Corrections (“DPSCS”), former Commissioner of Corrections Dayena M. Corcoran, and DPSCS Medical Director Sharon Baucom (collectively, “Correctional Defendants”) as Defendants. ECF No. 49. The Court granted Johnson's motion (ECF No. 52), and the Correctional Defendants moved to dismiss or for summary judgment in their favor. ECF No. 74. Johnson has responded and submitted several supplements to those responses.[2] ECF Nos. 74, 76, 79, 82. After review of the record, exhibits, and applicable law, the Court deems a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). Defendants' motions shall be granted.

         I. Background

         Johnson originally brought this action on December 28, 2017, alleging that the Medical Defendants conspired to deny him medication and treatment. ECF No. 2.[3] Based on his numerous filings, it appears that Johnson's chief complaint is the delay and lapse in his receipt of the medication Neurontin.

         According to the Medical Defendants, Johnson, a 60-year-old inmate at WCI, suffers from significant and degenerative joint disease, temporomandibular joint disorder and shoulder arthropathy, idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, esophageal reflux, Diabetes Type II, rhinitis and hyperlipidemia, and a history for depressive disorder. ECF No. 33-5 at &4. While incarcerated, Johnson had been receiving Neurontin for diabetic neuropathy and neuropathic pain related to degenerative disc disease of the spine. ECF Nos. 33-4, 33-5. He also received steroid injections for his shoulder and joint disorder. Id.

         On August 29, 2017, Johnson saw Terri Davis, P.A. during a sick call visit for his chronic back pain. ECF No. 33-4 at 3-4. Johnson requested an increase in the dosage of Neurontin from his currently prescribed dosage of 800mg. Johnson also complained the that prescribed Tylenol gets stuck in his esophagus. Id. Davis changed his Tylenol prescription to smaller capsules to be taken twice daily and continued the Neurontin prescription with no change in dosage. Id.

         On September 19, 2017, Johnson saw Peggy Mahler, N.P. at chronic care clinic. Id. at 5-10. Mahler noted that Johnson's polyneuropathy[4] has been treated and controlled, as reported by Johnson, by 800mg twice daily Neurontin and Tylenol. Id. Mahler renewed those prescriptions. Id. On October 12, 2017, Johnson again saw Mahler during a sick call visit for complaints of pain in his feet due to diabetic neuropathy. Id. at 11-13. Mahler advised Johnson to continue his medications and to follow up if the condition worsens or if there is no improvement within a few days. Id. On November 14, 2017, Dr. Joubert ordered a chest x-ray for Johnson due to reports of a persistent cough. Id. at 14-15. An x-ray performed on November 21, 2017, revealed no acute cardiopulmonary disease. Id. at 16.

         On December 22, 2017, Defendant Clark saw Johnson at the chronic care clinic. Id. at 17-24. At that time, Clark noted that Johnson had cervical and lumbar disc degeneration, a history of a left zygomatic arch fracture with plating, left arm dyesthesia, moderate degenerative joint disease, and multilevel mild scoliosis. Id. Clark ordered a tapering dose of Neurontin and offered alternative medication, which Johnson refused. Id.

         Johnson initiated this lawsuit on December 28, 2017. On January 5, 2018, Johnson saw Krista Self, N.P. during a scheduled medical visit. Id. at 25-28. Self prescribed Tramadol 50mg twice daily for pain. Id. On January 7, 2018, Clark saw Johnson for his annual physical exam. Id. at 29-35. Johnson's exam was unremarkable except the nurse noted tenderness in the lumbar region of his spine. Id. Clark discontinued Johnson's prescription for Neurontin and prescribed Cymbalta[6] and Medrol[7] for pain. Id.

         On February 2, 2018, Clark saw Johnson during a sick call visit following Johnson's complaints of persistent lower back pain radiating to his thighs. Id. at 36-39. Johnson reported that Neurontin was the only medication that alleviated his pain. Id. Johnson also reported that Cymbalta caused nausea, chest pain, numbness, and drowsiness; Elavil made him too sleepy; Tegretol made him sick to his stomach and did not improve pain; Medrol did not help pain; Mobic and Motrin induced allergic reactions, chest pain, and bloody stool; Baclofen gave him chest pain; and Effexor gave him chest pain and made him disoriented. Id. Johnson asked for a referral to a physician and indicated that he had filed a lawsuit against Clark. Id. Clark renewed Johnson's prescription for Tramadol and submitted a referral to a physician via telemedicine. Id.

         On February 12, 2018, Mahler saw Johnson during a sick call visit following Johnson's complaints of back and shoulder pain. Id. at 41-42. Johnson stated that he was taking Tylenol 325mg and did not appear to be aware of his prescription for Tramadol. Id. Mahler advised Johnson to refrain from heavy lifting, to continue taking his medication, and to follow his exercise and stretching programs. Id.

         On March 7, 2018, Clark confronted Johnson about his supposedly walking away with medications that were to be taken in front of the nurse. Id. at 43. Clark warned Johnson that any future similar reports would result in the discontinuation of Johnson's medications. Id. On March 16, 2018, Clark saw Johnson for a sick call visit. Id. at 44-46. Johnson again complained that his medication regimen did not alleviate his pain. Id. Although Johnson could perform activities of daily living, he could not bend to pick up things at work and found it difficult to exercise. Id. Clark directed Johnson to continue his current medication. Id.

         On March 22, 2018, Asresahegn Getachew, M.D. conducted a chronic care telemedicine visit with Johnson. Id. at 47-52. Dr. Getachew noted Johnson's history of diabetes and chronic back pain, and that Johnson preferred Neurontin over Tramadol. Id. Dr. Getachew ordered a hip x-ray, approved a prescription for Neurontin for 120 days, and recommended tapering Tramadol over the course of one week. Id. A hip x-ray performed on ...

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