United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. Flanagan United States District Judge.
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.
OF THE CASE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 16, 2018, plaintiff filed his third motion to appoint
counsel. The court denied the motion on November 9, 2018.
November 5, 2018, the DPS defendants 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.
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) §
was diagnosed with renal failure in 2010. (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).
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)
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). 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).
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. (Id. ¶ 8).
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.
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).
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.)
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. ¶¶ 9-10 & Ex. A).
Plaintiff, however, testified defendant Goddard failed to