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Watson v. Smith

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

April 1, 2019

PAULA SMITH, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Frank E. Rinaldo, Jr., (Doc. No. 23), and Melissa Quinn, (Doc. No. 34), as well as Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint, (Doc No. 50).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff has filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 addressing events that allegedly occurred at the Catawba Valley Medical Center (“CVMC”), Alexander C.I., Central Prison, and Albemarle C.I. The Complaint passed initial review against Defendants including Frank E. Rinaldo, Jr., and “FNU Quinn” whom NCDPS identified as Melissa Quinn. (Doc. Nos. 8, 16). Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Rinaldo and Quinn, and a Motion to Amend with an attached proposed Amended Complaint are presenting before the Court for review.

         (1) Complaint [1]

         Construing the Complaint liberally and accepting the allegations as true, NCDPS correctional officers transported Plaintiff to CVMC on September 23, 2015, for scheduled back surgery. CVMC nurses looked at Plaintiff's tattoo during preoperative procedures and, before surgery, gave Plaintiff medication ordered by CVMC doctor McFarland. Plaintiff was then pushed into what appeared to be a laundry room while the NCDPS officers were led away, leaving Plaintiff unattended by prison staff. Defendant Rinaldo, a CVMC anesthesiologist, and McFarland then allegedly beat and sexually assaulted Plaintiff because they apparently believed that Plaintiff's tattoo was a memorial to the women he had raped. Plaintiff was unable to defend himself because of the medication he had been given. This allegedly happened within the presence of at least one CVMC nurse. The attack caused Plaintiff excruciating pain and left him impotent, incontinent, and with painful injuries to his leg, foot, back, chest, and neck.

         (2) Defendant Rinaldo's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 23)

         Defendant Rinaldo argues that the alleged facts do not show that Rinaldo was acting under color of law, and therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under § 1983. The § 1983 claims, and the related North Carolina claims, should be dismissed with prejudice.

         Plaintiff alleges that Rinaldo was employed as an anesthesiologist at CVMC at the relevant times, and Plaintiff does not allege that Rinaldo was a state-employed medical provider or state correctional officer. Although Rinaldo might be seen as acting under state law while medically treating Plaintiff and could be liable for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. However, Plaintiff's excessive force claim is separate from any medical treatment and was outside the scope of any duty delegated by the State. The State delegated, at most, its duty to provide medical care, so Rinaldo was not acting under color of state law when he allegedly assaulted Plaintiff. Rinaldo argues that this analysis also applies to McFarland and Nurse Jane Doe 2 because they are private medical employees of medical providers, not the state Department of Corrections.

         (3) Plaintiff's Responses & Motion to Amend (Doc. Nos. 49, 50, 51)

         Plaintiff was informed of his right to respond to the Motion to Dismiss and cautioned him that the failure to respond might result in Defendant being granted the relief he seeks. (Doc. No. 25). Plaintiff filed a Response which repeats the factual allegations set forth in the Complaint and argues that he has raised a genuine issue of material fact that support judgment in his favor. Plaintiff further argues that McFarland and Rinaldo were under contract to provide medical services to NCDPS and that he should be allowed to amend his Complaint and that his claims against Rinaldo and McFarland should be allowed to proceed under a deliberate indifference theory and that the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his North Carolina claims.

         Plaintiff further argues that he should be permitted to amend his Complaint as a matter of course.

         (4) Defendant Rinaldo's Reply (Doc. No. 57)

         Defendant Rinaldo argues that a privately employed individual is only a state actor if he is acting for the state for an explicit purpose. Plaintiff fails to show how a private medical care provider is a state actor on an excessive force claim. The state does not delegate to a private medical care provider all of its duties when it delegates the duty to provide adequate medical care. Plaintiff's new claim in the Amended Complaint does not add any factual allegations in response to the Motion to Dismiss or in his Motion to Amend; he conclusively states that the alleged assault constitutes deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. This does not satisfy the well-pleaded complaint requirements. The allegations meet the frivolity standard for assault and excessive force, not deliberate indifference. ...

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