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Bryant-El v. Corcoran

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 11, 2019

CORTNEY BRYANT-EL,
v.
DAYENA CORCORAN, JEFF NINES, OLIVIA RYAN, [1]RYAN BROWNING, DAWN SHOWALTER, JANE/JOHN DOE, Nursing Staff

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Cortney Bryant-El is suing defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly denying him adequate medical care at North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI). Defendants' former Commissioner Dayena Corcoran and Assistant Warden Jeff Nines (collectively, the "State Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Also pending is defendants Ryan Browning and Dawn Showalter's[2] (collectively, the "Medical Defendants") Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. The State and Medical Defendants have filed declarations and verified records in support of their dispositive motions. Plaintiff filed an opposition[3] to which the Medical Defendants filed a Reply.

         Having reviewed the pleadings, briefs, and exhibits, the court finds that a hearing is unnecessary at this time. See Local R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons set forth below, the State Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF 25) will be granted. The Medical Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF 27) will be granted in part and denied in part.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was transferred to NBCI on January 26, 2017, and claims that he was not provided medical care for asthma when he arrived and that, when he was prescribed various medications for asthma, allergies, and reflux, he was denied timely refills of the medications. ECF 1; ECF 15 at p. 9. In his complaint plaintiff sought emergency injunctive relief to require refills on his medication and sought "permission to pursue damages" after he received an answer to a "complaint lodged with [the] Commissioner of Correction."[4] ECF 1 at pp. 3, 7, 10.

         In light of plaintiffs alleged need for emergency injunctive relief, the court directed counsel for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) to file an expedited response addressing why injunctive relief (to provide his prescribed medications) should not be granted. ECF 8. Plaintiff then filed an Amended Complaint to add new claims and new defendants. ECF 9. After the matter was fully briefed, the court denied plaintiffs request for injunctive relief, permitted his claim that he was denied prescription medications prior to December 11, 2017 to proceed for service on defendants, and granted him additional time to supplement his claim. ECF 13 at pp. 3-5. Plaintiff was instructed to file a separate case if he wished to raise additional claims against new defendants.[5]

         On April 23, 2018, plaintiff filed a supplement to the Complaint to request compensatory and punitive damages. He claims the Medical Defendants have violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment, unlawfully retaliated against him, and violated Maryland Law, and claims the State Defendants have violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, "Maryland law, and Departmental regulations." ECF 15 at pp. 4-6, 12-13.[6]

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         I. The Medical Defendants

         On January 26, 2017, plaintiff was involved in a use of force incident at Western Correctional Institution (WCI) during which correctional officers used pepper spray. Following the incident, plaintiff was examined at 2:22 p.m. by Ryan Browning, LPN, who reported plaintiffs respiration was "even and nonlabored" and there were no signs or symptoms of distress. ECF 27-3 at p. 3; Browning Decl. ECF 27-5 at p. 2 ¶¶3-4. Plaintiff voiced no concerns of injury, denied any pain, had no difficulty breathing or seeing, and returned to his cell without difficulty. Id., After plaintiff was transferred to NBCI later that day, he was examined by Dawn Showalter, R.N. at 4:34 p.m. Showalter determined plaintiff s respiration was "even and unlabored," his lungs were clear, and he had no injuries or complaints. ECF 27-3 at p. 5; Showalter Decl. ECF 27-5 at p, 4 ¶¶3-4. After examination, plaintiff returned to his cell without difficulty. Id.

         Plaintiff provides a different account of his medical evaluations. He asserts the pepper spray made it difficult for him to breathe and caused burning in his eyes and over his body. Plaintiff states he informed Browning and Showalter that he has asthma. ECF 15 at pp. 2-3, 5; Civil Action 18-1519, Bryant-El Decl. ECF 17-3. Browning allegedly responded, "Well you have too much mace on you for me to do anything for you." ECF 15 at p. 2. Plaintiff claims Browning "purposely prevaricated" about his need for treatment by falsely claiming that plaintiff s breathing was even and nonlabored, and plaintiff reported "I'm good." Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff denies ever stating, "I'm good," and claims any assertion that his breathing was even and unlabored is "a lie." Civil Action 18-1519, Bryant-El Decl. ECF 17-3 at ¶¶6, 7.

         When plaintiff explained to Showalter his need for an asthma inhaler because he was unable to breathe without "strenuous labor due to the effects of the chemical compound still adhering to [his] hair and skin on [his] respiratory condition," Showalter allegedly replied, "[o]fficers protect us and we look out for them." ECF 15 at p. 4. Plaintiff claims Browning and Showalter's demeanors were hostile and they failed to respond to his requests for medical care in retaliation for the incident involving correctional staff. ECF 15 at p. 3; Civil Action 18-1519, ECF 17-3 ¶¶4, 9. He faults them for failing to provide him with his inhaler or instructing custody staff to do so. ECF 15 at p. 3-4. Plaintiff accuses Showalter of "lying" on his medical report by stating that he was in no distress, when in fact, he was. Id. at p. 5; Civil Action 18-1519, ECF 17-3 ¶7. He faults Browning and Showalter for failing to follow protocols outlined in the DPSCS Chronic Disease Management Manual which states asthma inhalers are "Keep On Person" medications. ECF 15-1 at p. 1. He claims Browning and Showalter allowed their loyalty to prison guards to "impact their medical judgment." ECF 15 at p. 9.

         Browning and Showalter dispute these assertions in their declarations. They state the information in the medical reports is accurate. Browning Decl. ECF 27-5 at p. 2 ¶5; Showalter Decl. ECF .27-5 at pp. 4-5 ¶5. Further, they deny any aspect of the care they provided to plaintiff was motivated by retribution or malicious intent. Browning Decl. ECF 27-5 at p. 3 ¶6; Showalter Decl. ECF 27-5 at p. 5 ¶6.

         Plaintiff alleges that for twelve days after the January 26, 2017, incident, he was denied the use of his prescribed Albuterol inhaler. ECF 15 at p. 2. On February 7, 2017, custody staff gave him his personal property, which included his inhaler. By February 21, 2017, the medicine in the inhaler had run out, and he had no access to an inhaler until he purchased one from another inmate on March 11, 2017. ECF 15 at p. 6.

         Plaintiff submitted a sick call slip on February 17 and February 21, 2017, asking for something to wash pepper spray residue from his hair. ECF 27-4 at pp. 5-6. The medical record indicates that he refused to attend the February 23, 2017 appointment scheduled for him. ECF 27-3 at p. 9; ECF 27-4 at p. 6. He filed an additional sick call slip on March 24, 2017 for shampoo to remove the pepper spray, and on March 28, 2017, was seen by a medical provider who gave him Turns for indigestion at night when he is lies down, tar shampoo for his hair, and suggested exercises to alleviate his back pain. Plaintiff expressed no other concerns to the medical provider. ECF 27-4 at pp. 8, 11; ECF 27-3 at p. 10.

         In response to his March 30, 2017 sick call slip, asking for milk of magnesia, plaintiff was seen by a nurse on April 4, 2017, for complaints of stomach discomfort when lying down and after eating. He was provided Omeprazole (Prilosec). ECF 27-3 at p. 12; ECF 27-4 at p. 12.

         On April 21, 2017, plaintiff filed a sick call slip seeking care for his allergies to pollen, grass, and dust, and was seen by a provider two days later. Plaintiff stated that he gets "allergies each year and usually gets multiple respiratory medications to help him." ECF 27-3 at p. 14; ECF 27-4 at pp. 15-16. It was noted that he has been provided an inhaler in the past. Plaintiff was in no acute distress and was referred to see a physician. Id.

         On April 26, 2017, plaintiff was seen by Dr. Mahboob Ashraf for allergies. ECF 27-3 at p. 16-17. Ashraf ordered guaifenesin, turns, omeprazole, Nasacort AQ, T-gel, chlortrimeton (chlorphenirame maleate), and Ventolin HFA (albuterol sulfate).[7] Id. Plaintiff states these medications were to treat his asthma, reflux, allergies and the "harmful impact of the chemical compound having been left so long in my hair and on my scalp." ECF 1 at p. 3; ECF 15 at p. 6 ¶6. Plaintiff states he received the medications "once without undue delay." ECF 15 at p. 6 ¶6.

         Plaintiff asserts that when his supply of these medications ran out, the refills were not provided despite his filing "a multitude of sick call requests and medication re-fill requests." ECF 1 at p. 4; ECF 15 at p. 7; ECF 27-4 at pp. 17-18, 20-22, 24-27, 29-30, 33-34. Plaintiff claims he was "forced to purchase asthma inhalers" from other inmates because his prescription was not refilled. ECF 1 at p. 4; ECF 15 at p. 7. He claims that for "a nine month period [he] did not receive ...


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