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Gardner v. Rajan

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

January 31, 2018

Joseph Lee Gardner, Plaintiff,
Dr. Natarajan Rajan, et al., Defendants.


          Robert T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Joseph Lee Gardner (“Gardner”), a former state inmate[1] proceeding pro se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (D.E. 1). This matter is now before the court for the screening required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). For the following reasons, it is recommended that the district court dismiss all of Gardner's claims except for his claims against Drs. Rajan and Land in their individual capacities related to the management of his pain after surgery. Gardner is permitted to proceed with his remaining claims

         Also before the court are Gardner's motion to appoint counsel and motion for discovery (D.E. 3, 4). For the reasons set out below, these motions are denied.

         I. Overview

         Gardner has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Compl. at 5, D.E. 1. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) contracted with Defendant Dr. Natarajan Rajan, a urologist, to treat this condition. Id. Rajan performed a radiation seed implantation procedure. Id. at 5-6. After this procedure, Gardner experienced severe pain. Id. at 6. Gardner sought treatment for this pain, and DPS again referred him to Rajan. Id. Rajan examined Gardner and prescribed Flomax, [2]but did not prescribe any pain medication. Id. In addition, Gardner contends that neither Rajan nor Land, the prison doctor, explained the potential side-effects of Flomax before prescribing it to him. Id. Gardner suffered severe pain for several more weeks. Id.

         Thereafter, Gardner was symptom free for about six months. Id. At that point, Gardner began experiencing various kinds of erectile and sexual dysfunction Id. at 7. Gardner reported these symptoms to Rajan. Id. Rajan informed Gardner that these symptoms were likely side-effects of Flomax, and indicated that Gardner's symptoms would subside after he stopped taking the medication. Id. Rajan treated Gardner with Flomax for approximately another six months and then discontinued the medication. Id.

         Gardner contends that his symptoms did not improve, but worsened, after he stopped taking Flomax. Id. at 7-8. He opines that he would not have suffered these side-effects if Rajan had prescribed Cardura[3] instead of Flomax. Id. at 7. Gardner reported his worsened symptoms to Rajan at his next examination. Id. at 8. Rajan opined that these symptoms were likely permanent, attributing them to an interaction between Flomax and Gardner's diabetes. Id. According to Gardner, Rajan was aware that Gardner's potentially permanent sexual dysfunction was treatable, and refused to take any further action. Id. at 8-9.

         II. Motion to Appoint Counsel

         There is no constitutional right to counsel in civil cases, and courts should exercise their discretion to appoint counsel for pro se civil litigants “only in exceptional cases.” Cook v. Bounds, 518 F.2d 779, 780 (4th Cir. 1975). The existence of exceptional circumstances justifying appointment of counsel depends upon “the type and complexity of the case, and the abilities of the individuals bringing it.” Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court for the S. Dist. of Iowa, 490 U.S. 296 (1989) (quoting Branch v. Cole, 686 F.2d 264 (5th Cir. 1982)); see also Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1153 (4th Cir. 1978) (“If it is apparent . . . that a pro se litigant has a colorable claim but lacks capacity to present it, the district court should appoint counsel to assist him.”). Gardner's action is not complex, and he has shown through the detail of his filings that he is capable of proceeding pro se. See Evans v. Kuplinski, No. 16-6136, 2017 WL 5513206, at *3 (4th Cir. Nov. 17, 2017) (finding a case presented exceptional circumstances when it implicated a legally complex tolling argument and when plaintiff was severely mentally ill). Thus, Gardner's motion for the appointment of counsel (D.E. 3) is DENIED.

         III. Motion for Discovery

         Gardner seeks an order compelling defendants to provide of Defendant Eurgia Land's home address to effect service, and a copy of his trust fund account to supplement his motion to proceed without the prepayment of fees (D.E. 4). However, the United States Marshal will be directed to make service on behalf of plaintiff. Moreover, the court has already been provided with a copy of Gardner's trust fund information, and his motion to proceed without the prepayment of fees was allowed (D.E. 8, 9). Accordingly, this motion is DENIED as moot.

         IV. PLRA Screening

         The PLRA requires courts to review, before docketing, actions filed by prisoners against governmental entities or officials. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The purpose of this review is to eliminate those claims that unnecessarily impede judicial efficiency and the administration of justice. The court must examine the pleadings, identify cognizable claims, and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915A(b).

         A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Supreme Court has explained that “[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.” Id. Gardner's status as a pro se party relaxes, but does not eliminate, the requirement that her complaint contain facially plausible claims. The court must liberally construe a pro se ...

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