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Roper v. Wexford Health Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 2, 2019

DARRELL WAYNE ROPER, 345-773, SID # 394-5640, Plaintiff


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Darrell Wayne Roper, an inmate currently confined at Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”), filed suit against Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”), asserting that he received constitutionally inadequate medical care in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. ECF No. 1, pp. 1, 4-6. Roper also brings common law medical malpractice claims. Id., p. 4. Wexford now moves for dismissal or alternatively summary judgment in its favor. The Court has reviewed all pleadings and finds a hearing unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants Wexford's motion.

         I. Background

         The parties have attached records which this Court considers in the light most favorable to Roper. It is undisputed that Roper, age 51, suffers from hepatitis C, hypertension, backache, high cholesterol and esophageal reflux. ECF No. 10-4; ECF No. 10-5, ¶ 4. Consequently, Roper is considered a chronic care patient who is seen, at a minimum, every 90 days in the facility's chronic care clinic, and more frequently if medically necessary. ECF No. 10-5, ¶ 5.

         Although Wexford maintains that the clinic attempts to see inmates within 30 days of arrival to a new facility, ECF No. 10-5 ¶ 5, Roper avers that as of January 1, 2019, he had not yet been seen in the chronic care clinic since his transfer to ECI on October 31, 2018. ECF No. 1, pp. 4-5. The medical record reveals that on October 26, 2018, Roper had been seen in the clinic while housed at Dorsey Run Correctional Facility, and was provided with 33 tablets of Elavil (amitriptyline)[1] 50 mg and 21 Baclofen[2] tablets, 20 mg. ECF No. 10-4, p. 2. During his intersystem transfer, Wexford personnel examined Roper again on October 29, 2018 while he was at Central Maryland Correctional Facility. Id., p. 3. At that examination, Roper was given 50 mg. amitriptyline, 50 mg. of Atenolol, [3] 600 mg. of Gemfibrozil, [4] 20 mg. of Omeprazole[5] twice a day, as well as 20 mg. of Baclofen and 25 mg. of hydrochlorothiazide.[6] Id.

         Roper arrived at ECI on October 31, 2018 and was assessed that same day by Wexford medical personnel. At that intake evaluation, Roper voiced no complaints and was continued on all six medications until December 9, 2018. ECF No.10-4, pp. 4-5.

         After his transfer to ECI, Wexford medical personnel treated Roper on November 8, 2018, for complaints of headaches; at that time Roper expressed his concern that he had not yet been seen in the chronic care clinic because his medications were due for renewal. ECF No. 10-4, p. 7. Roper again complained, via sick call slips on November 11, 13, and 15, 2018, that he had not yet been seen in the chronic care clinic and that he had run out of blood pressure medication. Id., pp. 8-9.

         On December 5, 2018, Roper was seen in the chronic care clinic for the first time since moving to ECI 35 days before. ECF No. 10-5, ¶ 8; ECF No. 10-4, pp. 11-16. During that visit, Roper reported that he had been taking his medications as prescribed, but that he was experiencing headaches and had not yet received eyeglasses prescribed to him before transfer. Id., p. 11. At the visit, Roper was screened for prostate disease, his medications were renewed and modified to address his symptoms, his bottom-bunk orders were renewed, and he was scheduled for follow up clinical appointments to assess his cardiovascular and hepatitis C status, as well as to address pain management to be scheduled in three months. Id., pp. 11-13. Shortly after the December 5 visit, Roper filed suit.

         II. Standard of Review

         Wexford moves to dismiss the Complaint or alternatively for summary judgment in its favor. A motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules if Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the Complaint. When reviewing such a motion, the Court all well-pleaded Complaint allegations as true and most favorably to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005), citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997). To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not ‘show[n]' -- ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         However, the parties have also submitted evidence that go beyond the facts averred in the Complaint.[7] Accordingly, the Court may construe the motion as one for summary judgment brought pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Summary judgment is proper where no genuine issue as to any material fact entitles the moving party to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating no genuine issue of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Pulliam, 810 F.2d at 1286 (citing Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414 (4th Cir. 1979)). “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). When assessing the propriety of summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all inferences in his favor. Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002).

         III. Analysis

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” through the guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976). “Scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment is not limited to those punishments authorized by statute and imposed by a criminal judgment, ” De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003), and may include claims premised on denial of medical care. To sustain this claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that defendants' acts or omissions amounted to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).

         “Deliberate indifference is a very high standard - a showing of mere negligence will not meet it. . . . [T]he Constitution is designed to deal with deprivations of rights, not errors in judgments, even though such errors may have unfortunate consequences.” Grayson v. Peed, 195 F.3d 692, 695-96 (4th Cir. 1999). To demonstrate a defendant's deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, the plaintiff must show that, objectively, he was suffering from a serious medical need and that, subjectively, the prison staff were aware of the need for medical care but failed to provide it or assure that necessary care was available. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Objectively, the medical condition at issue must be serious. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). A medical condition is serious when it is “one that ...

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