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Robinson v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 12, 2019

TOMMY ROBINSON, #226-992 Plaintiff,



         I. Procedural History

         Self-represented Plaintiff Tommy Robinson, an inmate currently confined at Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”), asserts civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Nurse Practitioner Janette Clark, a prison health care provider employed by Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”)[3] and WCI Correctional Defendants, including Warden Richard Graham, Jr., former Assistant Warden Ronald S. Weber, Chief of Security Bradley O. Butler, Captain Marc V. Whiteside, Captain William F. Gordon, and Sergeant John R. Shaver. ECF No. 1; ECF No. 7.[4]

         By Order dated May 30, 2018, this case was opened after Mr. Robinson filed papers in a separate closed case, Robinson v. Martin, et al., Civil Action No. DKC-17-535 (D. Md.), requesting to be transported to an outside hospital and alleging the denial of medical treatment. See ECF No. 8. Mr. Robinson complied with a court order to supplement his complaint, and on March 30, 2018, filed a supplement to his complaint naming State Defendants Graham, Weber Butler, Whiteside, Gordon, and Shaver, as well as Medical Defendant Clark, “All Named Medical Staff, ” and “All Unknown Named DOC Officers.”[5] ECF No. 7.

         As delineated in the Order instituting this case, Mr. Robinson's allegations about a blocked colon and herniated discs were addressed in Robinson v. Martin, et al., Civil Action No. DKC-17-535 (D. Md.) (Mem. Op. and Order, ECF Nos. 63, 64) with summary judgment entered in favor of the Medical Defendants in that case on February 1, 2018. See Robinson v. Martin, et al., Civil Action No. DKC-18-295, ECF No. 8, p. 2, n.1. Mr. Robinson's orthopedic issues relating to his neck, hip, back, shoulder and arms, raised for the first time in his cross-motion for summary judgment in the older case, are to be addressed in the context of this case, as they were not timely raised in Robinson v. Martin, et al., Civil Action No. DKC-17-535 (D. Md.) (see ECF No. 63, p. 14). Thus, only orthopedic ailments relating to Mr. Robinson's neck, hip, back, shoulder and arm pain - and these ailments alone - are addressed here. To reiterate, although Mr. Robinson's complaint provides a chronology of events dating to the early 1990s and his initial arrest and detention and details a prior alleged assault by corrections staff at the Maryland Penitentiary in 1995, [6] this case is limited to reviewing his allegations concerning medical treatment for orthopedic issues relating to his neck, hip, back, shoulder and arms which were raised after the conclusion of Civil Action No. DKC-17-535.

         In response to the complaint, the Correctional and Medical Defendants have filed motions to dismiss or in the alternative, motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 18 and 30. Although advised of his right to respond and oppose the dispositive motions (ECF Nos. 19 and 31), Mr. Robinson has failed to do so in a timely manner.[7] The dispositive motions may be decided without a hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' dispositive motions, construed as motions for summary judgment, are GRANTED.

         II. The Parties' Allegations and Assertions

         A. Mr. Robinson

         Essentially, Mr. Robinson, an “injured and handicap[ped] wheelchair-bound” 68-year-old inmate (ECF No. 1 at 1), alleges in his unverified complaint that he is punished by the State of Maryland, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”), and Wexford employees due to his prior litigation against them. He claims that on the morning of December 21, 2017, pharmacy personnel[8] told him his medication was discontinued even though he had a current prescription that was not due to expire until January 15, 2018.[9] Id. at 2.

         Mr. Robinson attaches several Requests for Administrative Remedy Procedure (ARPs) as exhibits to his complaint. On November 8, 2016, he filed an ARP alleging that the medical department was discriminating against him by failing to provide him proper care and treatment. ECF No. 1-2 at 1.[10] On December 21, 2017, Mr. Robinson submitted an ARP complaining that his pain medication was stopped, effective that date. ECF No. 1-8. He later submitted ARP WCI-3267-17, on December 26, 2017, complaining that his pain medication was abruptly stopped even though the prescription had not expired. ECF No. 1-9.

         Mr. Robinson asserts that he filed sick-call requests on December 21, 2017, December 29, 2017, and January 1, 2018, to Defendant Clark “because the pain medication was taken out of the computer by someone.” ECF No. 1 at 5; ECF No. 1-12.[11] He opines that the attorneys representing Wexford instruct Wexford employees “not to do anything” for him (ECF No. 1 at 5) and asserts he will die soon because of the “evil treatment” he is receiving at WCI. ECF No. 1 at 6.

         In his supplemental complaint, Mr. Robinson states that his walking cane was taken from him on March 9, 2018, and his feed-in status was terminated on March 26, 2018. ECF No. 7.[12]

         Mr. Robinson claims that “some unknown named medical workers” and Captain Morgan retaliated against him by having Captain Gordon send an e-mail on March 9, 2018, to Sgt. Shaver, who then ordered Officers Lindberg and Patterson to enter his cell when he was not present and remove his cane. ECF No. 7 at 2. His requests to have his cane returned have been ignored and as a result, he cannot walk, has fallen in his cell, and his legs have become swollen and painful due to inactivity. ECF No. 7 at 2. He claims that he was placed on feed-in status on December 23, 2017, and remained on that status until Monday, March 26, 2018, at 4:45 p.m., at which time officers told him feed-up status had been discontinued and would not allow a feed-up worker to deliver his meal. ECF No. 7 at 3. He claims that his request to speak with a supervisor was ignored, and he missed the meal. Id. Mr. Robinson claims that his feed-in status order does not expire until December 23, 2019. Id.

         Mr. Robinson claims that he is being harassed, that “they” are planning to make any excuse to kill him, and that the medical department, the Security Chief, and the Warden will “cover it up.” As a result, he fears for his life. ECF No. 7 at 3. He states that he has not done anything to anyone, and claims that he is a victim of racism and discrimination for “no reason” and claims that he is not receiving any medical treatment or proper medical care. ECF No. 7 at 3.[13]

         Mr. Robinson seeks injunctive relief, to include a referral to an outside orthopedic surgeon and an MRI to address his orthopedic pain; a TENS unit;[14] replacement of his cane; and placement on feed-in status. ECF No. 1; ECF No. 7 at 6. Essentially, he contends that his suffering has increased because of the Medical and Correctional Defendants' ongoing violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         B. The Medical Defendant

         The sole Medical Defendant, Nurse Practitioner Janette Clark, does not dispute that Mr. Robinson is a 68-year-old prisoner with a medical history of allergic rhinitis, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, sleep apnea, obesity, diabetes mellitus, benign prostatic hyperplastia, hearing loss, COPD, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and chronic neck, back and hip pain. He uses a cane, is provided a wheelchair for long distances, and suffers diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and incontinence due to IBS. Affidavit of Asresahegn Getachew, M.D., ECF No. 18-5, ¶ 4; see also medical records in DKC-17-535, ECF No. 19-4. Ms. Clark argues that record evidence demonstrates that Mr. Robinson has failed to state a constitutional claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because he has received constitutionally adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment.

         Medical personnel do not dispute that Mr. Robinson suffers chronic pain syndrome. ECF No. 18-4 at 5. Mr. Robinson's pain medication was changed in the fall of 2017, when Tramadol[15]was substituted for Tylenol # 3.[16] Mr. Robinson reported during an October 9, 2017 chronic care clinic visit that the new medication provided some relief for his generalized neck and back pain. ECF No. 18-4 at 6.

         Relevant here, Mr. Robinson complained of worsening hip, neck, and lower back pain during a scheduled medical visit on October 24, 2017. ECF No. 18-4 at 7. Review of prior x-rays showed mild degenerative disc disease. Id. Although unclear from the record, Mr. Robinson had been medically assigned to use a wheelchair with an inmate “pusher” as well as a cane and walker, and to receive his meals in his cell. On December 23, 2017, this medical assignment was renewed. ECF No. 18-4 at 8. Mr. Robinson alleges that Nurse Clark discontinued his pain medication on December 21, 2017, and thereafter ignored his December 29, 2017, and January 1, 2018, sick call complaints of pain. He also alleges that his cane was taken on March 9, 2018, while he was away from his cell, and his feed-in status terminated on March 26, 2018, causing him to miss a meal. These allegations form the impetus for his injunctive relief requests noted above.

         Nurse Clark asserts that these allegations are not supported by the uncontroverted medical record, which demonstrates her limited role in Mr. Robinson's treatment regarding his orthopedic complaints and steps taken by other health care providers to address his complaints. Mr. Robinson was given a 90-day prescription for Tramadol on September 15, 2017. ECF No. 18-4 at 10. On December 21, 2017, the prescription was inexplicably stopped by pharmacy personnel who do not work for Nurse Clark or other Wexford personnel, and none of whom are named in this lawsuit. ECF No. 18-5, Affidavit of Asresahegn Getachew, M.D. at ¶ 9.

         Mr. Robinson claims that his sick call requests of December 29, 2017, and January 1, 2018, were ignored. However, on January 5, 2018, Nurse Clark corrected the delivery problem and Mr. Robinson's Tramadol prescription was again provided. ECF No. 18-4 at 9.

         Medical records further note that following a January 23, 2018 telemedicine conference concerning an unrelated urology problem, Mr. Robinson's complaint of back pain was addressed. ECF No. 18-4 at 22. A notation in Mr. Robinson's chart states that he was receiving Tramadol twice daily as of January 12, 2018, and that the medication would be continued until April 12, 2018. ECF No. 18-4 at 24. An earlier x-ray of the lumbar spine had revealed grade anterolisthesis[17] of L5 and S1, with no acute abnormality, leading to a diagnosis of mild degenerative disease of the spine. ECF No. 18-4 at 22, 67. Dr. Getachew avers that the January 23 conference related to the need for cardiac clearance to provide Mr. Robinson a prostate biopsy, and ...

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