United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
JOI ELIZABETH PEAKE, Magistrate Judge.
This civil rights action comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #20] filed by Defendant Supervisor of Albemarle Correctional Medical Services, the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #28] filed by Defendant Director of Carolinas Medical Center, its Staff and Medical Service Providers, the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #31] filed by Defendant Jon Barry; and the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #34] filed by Defendant Dr. Hassan. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has been advised of his right to respond to each of these motions. (Notice of Right to Respond [Doc. #26, #30, #33, #36].) Plaintiff responded only by filing a Motion to Appoint Counsel [Doc. #37] which the Court denied. For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that Defendants' Motions to Dismiss be granted, and that this action be dismissed.
I. FACTS, CLAIMS, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Count One of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. #6] is captioned "Negligence, Malpractice, and Deliberate Indifference to Plaintiff's Rights of Bodily Integrity, Medical Competency and Safety, Reasonable Quality of Medical Care." (Id. at 4.) He alleges that on June 26, 2011, he reported to Albemarle Correctional Medical Services seeking treatment for abdominal pain, stiff neck, dark urine, chest pains, lower back pain, general weakness, difficulty sitting up and walking, difficulty using the toilet, and rectal bleeding. Dr. Hassan examined him and prescribed use of a wheelchair and placed Plaintiff on a regimen of antibiotics. Plaintiff saw Dr. Hassan "a number of times subsequently." Dr. Hassan took a stool specimen and advised Plaintiff that he was suffering from hemorrhoids. At an unspecified time thereafter, Plaintiff was sent to Albemarle Hospital but was transferred back to prison within two hours.
Plaintiff further alleges that on or about July 18, 2011, he was admitted to Carolinas Medical Center where he remained through August 2011 undergoing treatment. While there, he had surgery to drain fluid accumulating around his heart and received kidney dialysis five different times. Plaintiff complains that on the last dialysis session, the machine malfunctioned and he began to bleed uncontrollably, required immediate surgery, received blood transfusions, and was placed in intensive care until his condition improved. He was discharged after three to four weeks in the hospital and returned to the prison. Within the next ten days Plaintiff was hospitalized for different ailments at Catawba Valley Medical Center and Albemarle Community Hospital. Plaintiff also alleges that he is HIV positive and that Dr. Hassan and the medical service's supervisor knew this.
Plaintiff's second count is for "Violation of contractual obligations, Libel of plaintiff's good name and reputation, Medicaid and fiduciary irregularities and deliberate indifference and violation of plaintiff's liberty interest and rights established by state statute and regulation." (Am. Compl. [Doc. #6] at 7.) He alleges that when he was admitted to Carolinas Medical Center, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Albemarle Correctional Medical Services Supervisor "had entered into a binding contractual arrangement for plaintiff's treatment." (Id.) Plaintiff contends that "Carolinas, its Director, staff and service providers" understood that the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Albemarle Medical Services "was the party responsible for plaintiff's medical bills." Plaintiff further claims that he was indigent when admitted to Carolinas and "desirous of coverage under the Medicaid program." (Id. at 8-9.) He says that records from Carolinas show his "status as a Medicaid patient." (Id. at 9.) He claims that Carolinas "accepted Medicaid assignment for plaintiff's treatment" and also billed him for the services provided.
When he did not pay his medical bills, Plaintiff says that they were turned over to a collection agency, Paragon Revenue Group ("Paragon"). Paragon reported his alleged failure to pay to "all three national credit reporting agencies" and threatened Plaintiff with legal action, according to Plaintiff. Plaintiff states that he advised the Defendants of this "erroneous billing" and his belief that the North Carolina Department of Public Safety bore responsibility for his unpaid balances. He says that he received no response from Defendants. Plaintiff also alleges that Carolinas billed him "above and beyond the amount that Medicaid authorized for plaintiff's course of treatment and services rendered." (Id. at 10.)
Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief as relief.
A. Dr. Hassan
Defendant Dr. Hassan is the only Defendant who, by Plaintiff's allegations, treated him for any of his alleged medical problems in the prison setting. Although not clearly alleged, Dr. Hassan was apparently the unit physician at Albemarle Correctional Center where Plaintiff was housed. Dr. Hassan moves to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Br. [Doc. #35].)
A plaintiff fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) when the complaint does not "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, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Under § 1983, a prisoner's claim of inadequate medical care implicates Eighth Amendment concerns. Iko v. Shreve , 535 F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008). To show a violation of the right, Plaintiff must establish that the defendant acted with "deliberate indifference" to his "serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). The "serious medical need" component is objective and is a medical condition that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or one that is so obvious that even a non-physician would recognize the need for a doctor's attention. Iko , 535 F.3d at 241. The deliberate indifference component is judged subjectively, meaning that the defendant knew of and disregarded the risk posed by the serious medical need. Id . This showing is a "particularly high bar to recovery, " and a showing of mere negligence will not meet it. Id . To have been deliberately indifferent, the defendant must actually know of the risk of harm to the inmate, and must also have known that his actions were insufficient to mitigate the risk of harm to the plaintiff from his serious medical need. Id.
Under these standards, it is clear that Defendant Hassan's motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against him should be granted. Plaintiff's allegations show that Dr. Hassan began treating Plaintiff around June 26, 2011. Dr. Hassan prescribed medication and a wheelchair for Plaintiff. Plaintiff saw Dr. Hassan "a number of times" subsequently, and Dr. Hassan took a stool specimen at some point. Plaintiff was then hospitalized at Albemarle Hospital, and quickly released back to the prison. Plaintiff does not allege that the hospital made any different diagnosis than did Dr. Hassan or recommended treatment not provided by Dr. Hassan. On July 18, 2011, Plaintiff was ...