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Ortiz v. Solomon

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

March 18, 2019

ANTONIO MEDRANO ORTIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE T. SOLOMON, PAULA SMITH, MONICA BOND, CARLTON JOYNER, DONNIE RAYNOR, DR. METIKO, WILLIAM ELDERDICE, RODNIQUE RIVERS, MATTHEW BAUM, DR. McKENZIE, NURSE GODDARD, OFFICER OBI, and SGT. THAYER, Defendants.[1]

          ORDER

          Louise W. Flanagan United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on defendants' motions for summary judgment (DE 91, 98, 120), filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The motions were fully briefed and thus the issues raised are ripe for decision. For the reasons stated below, the court grants the motions.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On September 28, 2015, plaintiff, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging claims for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff also alleges defendants debited medical co-payments from his inmate trust account, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. As relief, plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction directing DPS to refund medical co-pay fees assessed to his inmate trust account and to remove any pending medical charges.

         On October 15, 2015, plaintiff filed motion to appoint counsel. On March 29, 2016, the court denied the motion to appoint counsel and conducted its frivolity review of plaintiff's complaint. The March 29, 2016, order directed plaintiff to file particularized complaint identifying the correct defendants and explaining how such defendants violated his rights. Plaintiff timely filed his particularized complaint on May 13, 2016. On August 4, 2016, the court conducted its frivolity review of plaintiff's particularized complaint, and directed plaintiff to file second amended particularized complaint (“SAC”). The August 4, 2016, frivolity order explained that any claims that accrued before December 28, 2012, were time barred, and thus directed plaintiff not to include such claims in the SAC.

         Plaintiff filed the SAC on September 2, 2016. On December 15, 2016, the court conducted its frivolity review of the SAC and allowed the matter to proceed as to the following defendants: George Solomon (“Solomon”), the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) Director of Prisons; Paula Smith (“Smith”), director of the Medical Utilization Review Board; Monica Bond (“Bond”), DPS chief disciplinary hearing officer; Carlton Joyner (“Joyner”), warden of Central Prison; Donnie Raynor (“Raynor”), DPS disciplinary hearing officer; Dr. Metiko (“Metiko”), DPS physician at Central Prison; William Elderdice (“Elderdice”), DPS corrections officer; Rodnique Rivers (“Rivers”), DPS corrections officer; Matthew Baum (“Baum”), DPS corrections officer; Dr. McKenzie (“McKenzie”), DPS contract physician; and Nurse Goddard (“Goddard”), DPS health services assistant. The court dismissed all claims asserted against the remaining defendants named in the SAC without prejudice.

         On March 6, 2017, plaintiff filed motion for reconsideration of the court's March 29, 2016, order denying his motion to appoint counsel. The court denied the motion for reconsideration on March 10, 2017.

         On March 31, 2017, defendants Reid and McKenzie filed answer and motion to dismiss. On April 7, 2017, defendant Metiko filed answer and motion for summary judgment limited to plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies, or in the alternative motion to dismiss. These motions were fully briefed. Plaintiff also filed second motion to appoint counsel on May 25, 2017. On January 22, 2018, the court entered order granting in part and denying in part defendants Reid, McKenzie and Metiko's motions, which dismissed plaintiff's official capacity claims for monetary damages against defendant Metiko and all claims against defendant Reid. The court also dismissed plaintiff's state-law claims for medical negligence. Plaintiff was allowed to proceed with his remaining claims. The court denied plaintiff's second motion to appoint counsel in that same order.

         In the interim, counsel for the DPS defendants filed notice of defendant Davis's death on April 11, 2017. The partes did not file motion for substitution of proper party within the time frame set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25, and thus the court dismissed plaintiff's claims against defendant Davis on July 17, 2017.

         On June 12, 2017, defendants Baum, Bond, Raynor, Elderdice, Goddard, Joyner, Rivers, Smith, and Solomon filed answer. On February 27, 2018, after resolution of the pending motions described above, the court entered case management order governing discovery and dispositive motions practice. On April 30, 2018, plaintiff filed motion to amend the SAC, which sought leave to add the following DPS corrections personnel as defendants: officer Obi (“Obi”), sergeant Thayer (“Thayer”), and officer Ebson (“Ebson”). On June 5, 2018, the court granted plaintiff leave to amend the SAC to add defendants Obi and Thayer, but denied the motion as to Ebson. The parties completed discovery on or about July 2, 2018.

         On August 2, 2018, defendant Metiko filed the instant motion for summary judgment, arguing the record evidence establishes he was not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs. In support of the motion, defendant Metiko filed memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and appendix. The appendix included defendant Metiko's affidavit, and numerous medical and disciplinary records. Plaintiff responded in opposition to defendant Metiko's motion on September 24, 2018. Plaintiff's response included statement of disputed material facts, plaintiff's affidavit, memorandum of law, and plaintiff's medical and disciplinary records. Defendant Metiko filed reply to plaintiff's response on October 1, 2018.

         Defendant McKenzie filed the instant motion for summary judgment on August 2, 2018, arguing the record evidence establishes she was not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs. In support of the motion, defendant McKenzie filed memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and appendix. The appendix included affidavits of defendant McKenzie and third-party Lyda Szczech, McKenzie and Szczech's curriculum vitae's, and plaintiff's medical records. Plaintiff responded in opposition to defendant McKenzie's motion on September 24, 2018. Plaintiff's response included statement of disputed material facts, plaintiff's affidavit, memorandum of law, and plaintiff's medical and disciplinary records.

         On October 16, 2018, plaintiff filed his third motion to appoint counsel. The court denied the motion on November 9, 2018.

         On November 5, 2018, the DPS defendants[2] filed the instant motion for summary judgment, arguing the record evidence establishes they did not violate plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In support of the motion, DPS defendants filed memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and appendix. The appendix included affidavits of defendants Elderdice, Rivers, Baum, Goddard, and third-party witness Michelle Hartley, pertinent DPS use of force policies, and plaintiff's medical and disciplinary records. Plaintiff responded in opposition on December 17, 2018. Plaintiff's response included memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and plaintiff's affidavit, plaintiff's medical and disciplinary records, a photograph of plaintiff's injuries, and pertinent DPS policies and procedures.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The court recounts the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. During the relevant time period, plaintiff was serving a state term of imprisonment at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. (SAC (DE 19) § V.7).[3]

         A. Medical Claims

         Plaintiff was diagnosed with renal failure in 2010.[4] (Id. § V.4). DPS transferred plaintiff to Central Prison in June 2014 to undergo dialysis treatment. (Id. § V.7). Plaintiff, however, repeatedly refused dialysis treatment after his transfer to Central Prison despite medical providers' warnings that such refusal could cause death. (Metiko Aff. (DE 94-1) ¶¶ 7-8; McKenzie Aff. (DE 103-1) ¶¶ 20-22).

         The SAC alleges defendants Metiko and McKenzie were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs. During the relevant time period, defendant Metiko was the medical director at Central Prison Healthcare Complex and the defendant McKenzie was a contract nephrologist who provided medical care for patients in DPS custody with kidney disease. (Metiko Aff. (DE 94-1) ¶ 7; McKenzie Aff. (DE 103-1) ¶ 3).

         Plaintiff's precise claims against defendants Metiko and McKenzie have been difficult to identify. In a November 27, 2015, grievance, plaintiff alleged that the light in his room at Central Prison was always on, which caused difficulty sleeping, his food was “not regular, ” the shower was too cold, his feet were numb due to lack of recreation time, and he was not given clean bedding or clothing. (Couch Aff., Ex. F (DE 52-1) at 26).[5] Plaintiff reported his complaints to defendant Metiko, who responded by stating “you [are] going to die in that room.” (SAC (DE 19) § V.12-.13; Pl.'s Aff. (DE 108) ¶ 13). Additionally, plaintiff generally alleges that he developed end-stage renal failure because DPS medical providers failed to treat his hypertension and kidney disease. (Id. § V.21).

         Defendant Metiko testified that he was not plaintiff's primary medical provider because he was the medical director at Central Prison. (Metiko Aff. (DE 94-1) ¶ 7). Defendant Metiko, however, met with plaintiff on several occasions to encourage him to undergo dialysis treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 10, 49). Defendant Metiko also requested a psychological evaluation to determine whether plaintiff was competent to refuse treatment.[6] (Id. ¶ 8).

         On or about December 3, 2015, defendant Metiko and other DPS officials met with plaintiff about the allegations raised in his November 27, 2015, grievance, and attempted to resolve the issues concerning recreation time, food quality, clothing, shower temperature, and any other complaints. (Id. ¶¶ 46-49). As to the recreation time, defendant Metiko explained that plaintiff could not participate because he was at risk of experiencing a medical emergency during recreation. (Id. ¶ 46). To address the numbness in his feet, defendant Metiko ordered that plaintiff be permitted to ambulate on the unit. (Id.) Defendant Metiko also consulted with DPS officials about the light in plaintiff's room and the cleanliness of plaintiff's clothing and bedding. The night light in plaintiff's room could not be turned off pursuant to DPS policy, and plaintiff was informed of such. (Id. ¶ 48). DPS officials also confirmed that they were providing plaintiff with regular changes of clothes and clean bedding upon request. (Id. ¶ 47). Defendant Metiko explained that plaintiff needed to address his clothing/bedding issues with DPS custody officials and plaintiff verbalized understanding. (Id.) With respect to plaintiff's complaints about his food, defendant Metiko explained that plaintiff could return to a regular diet he would start dialysis treatment. (Id. ¶ 49).

         Defendant McKenzie is a DPS contract physician who specializes in nephrology, and she treated plaintiff for his renal failure beginning in February 2012. (McKenzie Aff. (DE 103-1) ¶¶ 2-4). In June 2014, plaintiff allegedly informed defendant McKenzie about his hypertension, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, swollen legs, and chest pains. (SAC (DE 19) § V.7). Defendant McKenzie attempted to treat plaintiff's symptoms, but the treatment was unsuccessful, and she eventually referred plaintiff to a cardiologist. (Id.) In June 2015, plaintiff was having similar symptoms, and also began experiencing pain in his dialysis arm. (Id. § V.9). Plaintiff informed defendant McKenzie about these symptoms as well, but she would only prescribe Ibuprofen for the pain. (Id.) In his affidavit, plaintiff similarly testified that defendant McKenzie failed to treat his chronic pain issues “for over a year” but eventually prescribed him Ibuprofen. (Pl's Aff. (DE 111) ¶¶ 13-14). The Ibuprofen, however, caused plaintiff to have bloody stools. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 21-24). Plaintiff also alleges defendant McKenzie should not have prescribed Ibuprofen due to plaintiff's numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, blood clots, renal failure, and hypertension. (Id. ¶¶ 16-20, 54).

         Defendant McKenzie testified that during the time she treated plaintiff he repeatedly refused treatment for his chronic kidney disease, including dialysis, and medications for his hypertension. (McKenzie Aff. (DE 103-1) ¶¶ 5, 7-8, 12, 16-18). Plaintiff also continued to take Ibuprofen despite contraindication for patients with severe kidney disease and instruction from defendant McKenzie that he should not take the medication. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 6). In 2013, defendant McKenzie saw plaintiff approximately monthly, and attempted each time to convince plaintiff to comply with his treatment regimen. (Id. ¶ 18). Plaintiff finally consented to dialysis treatment in August, 2014. (Id. ¶ 19). Although plaintiff continues to refuse treatment at times, his hypertension is controlled if he complies with dialysis. (Id. ¶ 20). Defendant McKenzie also prescribed Ibuprofen for plaintiff after he started dialysis, because Ibuprofen is safe if the patient is on dialysis. (Id.)

         Plaintiff also alleges defendant Goddard was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Defendant Goddard is a correctional health assistant employed at Central Prison. (Goddard Aff. (DE 125-11) ¶ 3). In July 2016, she was responsible for administering medications to plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 6). Defendant Goddard testified she always administered the medications exactly as they were prescribed, and attached medical records documenting each administration. (Id. ΒΆΒΆ 9-10 & Ex. A). Plaintiff, however, testified defendant Goddard failed to ...


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