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Ridgley v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 13, 2019

DAVID J. RIDGLEY, SR., Plaintiff


          Paula Xinis, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff David Ridgley, an inmate confined at the Western Correctional Institution, filed a civil rights complaint, contending that the named defendants failed to provide adequate medical treatment and in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Defendants Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford"), Mahboob Ashraf, M.D., Fatima Hussein, M.D., Asresahegn Getachew, M.D., Ava Joubert-Curtis, M.D., Robustiano Barrera, M.D., Janette Clark, N.P., Holly Pierce, N.P., Stephen D. Ryan, Beverly McLaughlin, N.P., Krista Self, N.P., Michael Klepitch, R.N., Terri Davis, P.A., Marion Diaz, R.N., Dennis Martin, R.N., Ashley Chucci, R.N., Linda Stair, R.N., Jami Wratchford, R.N., and Jennifer Decker, R.N., (collectively the "Medical Defendants”) (ECF Nos. 21 & 46) along with Correctional Defendant Warden Richard J. Graham (ECF No. 34) filed Motions to Dismiss or in the alternative for Summary Judgment. The Court notified Ridgley that failure to oppose the motions may result in the Court ruling in Defendants' favor without the benefit of his response. ECF Nos. 22, 35, 47. The Court also gave Ridgley additional time to respond (ECF Nos. 50, 51), but he did not do so. After reviewing the pleadings, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions, construed as Motions for Summary Judgment, are GRANTED.

         I. Background

         A. Procedural History

         On August 9, 2018, Ridgley initiated suit in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was denied constitutionally adequate medical care regarding his long term knee pain and an array of skin infections. ECF No. 1 at pp. 2-3. The Court required Ridgley to amend the Complaint. ECF No. 3. In response, Ridgley reasserted the same claims and named the individual Defendants. ECF No. 6. Ridgley next filed a “Motion to Amend/Correct” the Complaint to include claims arising in November of 2018 during which time he developed a “staf bump” on his stomach. ECF No. 24. In that same motion, Ridgley also supplemented the facts on which he based his original claims arising from the alleged lack of care for his knee. Id. at p. 2.

         Reviewing the above-described pleadings collectively, Ridgley brings three primary claims. First, with regard to his knee, Ridgley contends that Defendants delayed or denied him constitutionally adequate medical care. Specifically, Ridgley contends that he began seeking medical care for his knee in June or July of 2017. ECF No. 1, p. 2. The analgesic medication provided, however, did not alleviate his pain, which prompted him to request a series of sick calls through May of 2018. Id., p. 3. Ridgley also alleges an array of medical deficiencies, including failure to timely provide diagnostic and medical treatment, causing his condition to worsen. ECF No. 24, p. 2.

         Ridgley separately raises that Defendants failed to treat his staph infections. Ridgley particularly contends that in June of 2018, he developed an infection on the back of his right upper leg that “ate all the way to the muscle.” ECF No. 24, p. 3. Ridgley also complains of the inadequate care surrounding a staph “bump” on his stomach that he developed in November 2018. ECF No. 24, p. 1. Although he was seen by medical providers, Ridgley avers that they failed to culture the infections or provide constitutionally adequate medical treatment, causing him to suffer four staph infections and one case of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) since January 2018. ECF No. 1, p. 3.

         Thirdly, Ridgley contends that Defendant Clark ordered his assignment to a bottom tier and bottom bunk and light work duty in retaliation for his having initiated suit. He argues that Clark knew her order would cause him to lose his prison job and be moved off the preferred housing tier, and nonetheless proceeded in retaliation for Ridgley asserting his claims. Id. Ridgley asserts separate retaliation claims against Dr. Getachew for how he administered Ridgely's antibiotics.

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment and included as evidence Ridgley's verified medical record (ECF No. 21-4; ECF No. 46-4) and declarations of Dr. Getachew (ECF No. 21-5; ECF No. 46-5), Warden Richard J. Graham, Jr., (ECF No. 34-2), and Alicia A. Cartwright, Correctional Officer II (ECF No. 34-3). Ridgley was therefore on notice that the Court construe the motions as ones for summary judgment. Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998). The Court proceeds accordingly.

         B. Ridgley's Medical History

         i. Knee Pain

         On May 26, 2017, Ridgley first complained of pain in both knees to Defendant McLaughlin, a nurse practitioner. ECF No. 21-4, p. 2. Ridgley did not report any injuries and he had no bruising, decreased mobility, instability, limping, or swelling. Id. McLaughlin ordered x-rays of the knees, prescribed Tylenol, and encouraged Ridgley to perform exercises to stretch and strengthen his quadriceps and hamstrings. Id. The x-rays, taken on June 1, 2017, revealed no abnormalities. Id., p. 55.

         On June 14, 2017, Ridgley returned for a sick call visit, complaining that Ibuprofen and Tylenol did not relieve his knee pain. ECF No. 21-4, p. 5. The nurse on duty referred Ridgley for a medical provider visit. Id., p. 6. Ridgley was seen three days later by Defendant Terri Davis, a physician assistant. Id., p. 7. Again, Ridgley reported pain in both knees and Davis discussed with him that he should take any prescribed pain relievers with food. Id.

         A month later, on July 13, 2017, Defendant Nurse Klepitch saw Ridgley during a sick call visit where he complained that he was still having pain in both knees. ECF No. 21-4, p 8. Klepitch referred Ridgley for a medical provider visit, and on July 23, 2016, Defendant Holly Pierce, a nurse practitioner saw him. Id., p. 11. Pierce examined Ridgley and noted that neither knee appeared swollen or was warm to the touch and Ridgley had full range of motion. Id. Pierce added capsaicin for Ridgley to use topically. Id. Pierce also continued Ridgley on Ibuprofen, Glucosamine Chondroitin, and Extra Strength Tylenol. Id., p. 12.

         Ridgley continued to complain of knee and leg pain. On September 8, 2017, Nurse Diaz evaluated him. ECF No. 21-4, p. 14. During the visit, Ridgley reported that the medications “took some of the pain off but not enough.” Id. He described the “pain as needles and pins to lateral side of right knee down leg.” Id. Diaz noted that Ridgley had full range of motion and his knees were not swollen. Id. Diaz referred Ridgley for a medical provider visit. Id., p. 15.

         Within two weeks, Defendant Klepitch evaluated Ridgley again. ECF No. 21-4, p. 16. During that visit, Ridgley complained of worsening pain in his left knee and that it “went out on him a few days ago.” Id. Ridgley also shared that the knee had been “scoped a few years ago” and that the pain was near the scope area and “feels like broken glass.” Id. Klepitch documented minor swelling and decreased range of motion in Ridgley's left knee. Again, Ridgley was referred for a medical provider visit. Id., p. 17.

         Ridgley submitted a sick call slip on March 3, 2018, complaining of knee pain. ECF No. 21-4, p. 82. Defendant, Nurse Dennis Martin, examined Ridgley on March 6, 2018. Id., p. 27. Martin's notes reflect that Ridgley had last received care for his knees in September of 2017. Id. Ridgley reported during this visit that Ibuprofen was not effective but he did not want to be given Naprosyn or Tylenol. Id. Nurse Martin examined Ridgley and documented that he had good range of motion, was able to bear full weight, but that he had moderate swelling. Id. Martin encouraged Ridgley to continue stretching exercises and made another referral for a medical provider visit. Id., pp. 27-28.

         In response to another sick call slip submitted on March 14, 2018 for knee pain (ECF No. 21-4, p. 83), Defendant Clark evaluated Ridgley on March 17, 2018. Id., p. 29. Again Ridgley complained of intermittent and worsening of pain in his left knee as well as instability, stiffness, tenderness and weakness. Id. Ridgley also reported difficulty climbing stairs, exercising, kneeling and performing unspecified activities of daily living. Id. Clark noted that Ridgley's left knee was tender with mildly reduced range of motion. Id., p. 30. Clark renewed the prescriptions for Glucosamine Chondroitin and Capsaicin and referred Ridgley to physical therapy. Id., p. 33.

         On March 29, 2018, Plaintiff was evaluated by Physical Therapist Stephen Ryan. ECF No. 21-4, p. 34. Upon examination, Ryan set as one goal to increase Ridgley's quadricep. Ryan also intended to establish with Ridgley self-management program. Id. Ridgley returned for physical therapy on April 8, 2018. Id., p. 35.

         On April 9, 2018, Ridgley inquired, via sick call slip, about the status of his physical therapy and knee sleeve. ECF No. 21-4, p. 84. He was seen on April 12, 2018, by Nurse Diaz. Id., p. 36. Diaz noted Plaintiff started physical therapy on April 9, 2018 and advised Plaintiff that she would look into the status of his knee brace. Id., pp. 37, 84.

         Plaintiff failed to appear for physical therapy on April 16, 2018. ECF No. 21-4, p. 38. During physical therapy on April 18, 2018, Plaintiff reported that his knee popped out while doing sit-ups, and although he experienced some swelling, he did not complain of pain and nothing was altered in his treatment plan. Id., p. 39. However, at physical therapy two days later, Plaintiff reported pain measuring nine of ten in severity. Id., p. 40.

         On April 23, 2018, Ridgley complained that the physical therapy exercises increases his pain and causes his knee to “pop.” Id., p. 41. The physical therapy assistant noted that he would discuss Ridgley's care with the physical therapist prior to his next visit. On May 3, 2018, Ridgley was reevaluated by physical therapist Ryan. Ridgley reported that physical therapy had not helped, his left knee still gave out, and he experienced some numbness on the back thigh. Id., ...

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