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Carver v. Valliere

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

December 4, 2019

TOMMY CARVER, Plaintiff,
v.
JOESPH VALLIERE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Joe L. Webster, United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Joseph Valliere, Catherine Brown, Mike Williams, Susan Glover, Kimberly Click, and Deana Loflin's (hereinafter collectively “Movant Defendants”) motion for summary judgment. (Docket Entry 40.) Plaintiff Tommy Carver has filed a response. (Docket Entry 47.) For the reasons stated herein, the Court will recommend that Movant Defendants' motion for summary judgement be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Parties

         Plaintiff is a pro se prisoner of the State of North Carolina. (Amended Complaint ¶¶ III-IV, Docket Entry 24.) While Plaintiff has been incarcerated in Harnett Correctional Institute since December 2017, the facts here arise from a prior period of incarceration in Piedmont Correctional Institute (hereinafter “Piedmont”), a facility of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (hereinafter “NCDPS”). (Am. Compl. ¶ IV.)

         Defendant Valliere is the Correctional Facility Administrator of Piedmont. (Affidavit of Joseph Valliere ¶¶ 3-4, Docket Entry 41-1.) Defendant Brown is currently an Assistant Superintendent IV at Piedmont, and during all relevant times served in that capacity or as a Correctional Captain. (Affidavit od Catherine Brown ¶¶ 3-4, Docket Entry 41-2.) Defendant Williams is an Assistant Superintendent of Programs II at Piedmont. (Affidavit of Mike Williams ¶¶ 3-4, Docket Entry 41-3.) Defendant Glover is a Nurse Clinician I at Piedmont. (Affidavit of Susan Glover ¶¶ 3-4, Docket Entry 41-4.) Defendant Click began working at Piedmont in March 2014 as a contract nurse, but later was hired full-time and became a Lead Nurse. (Affidavit of Kimberly Click ¶¶ 3-4, Docket Entry 41-5.) Defendant Loflin is a Nurse Supervisor at Piedmont. (Affidavit of Donna Loflin ¶¶ 3-4, Docket Entry 41-6.)

         B. Facts

         The following facts arise from the parties' affidavits and exhibits.

         Plaintiff suffers from a number of ailments, including bilateral knee arthritis, lumbar degenerative disk disease, cirrhosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Affidavit of Tommy Carver ¶ 3, Docket Entry 48.) He has received several surgeries, including cervical fusion and rotator cuff repair. (Id.) He suffers from chronic severe pain in his back, shoulders, and feet. (Id.)

         The issue at the core of Plaintiff's claims is whether Movant Defendants improperly withheld or failed to renew methadone prescriptions that he had used to treat his chronic pain.[1] Beginning in 2010, Plaintiff was prescribed and received methadone to treat his pain. (Carver Aff. ¶ 13.) However, on September 26, 2014, NCDPS issued a policy, effective October 6, 2014, requiring all provision of methadone to outpatients to be approved by the Utilization Review Board (hereinafter “URB”). (Ex. September 26, 2014 Urgent Memo at 1, Docket Entry 41-13.) Plaintiff appears to have continued to receive methadone after the commencement of that policy, though the URB twice failed in 2017 to approve requests for renewal from one of Plaintiff's providers. (See Ex. January 23, 2017 UR Review at 2, Docket Entry 41-28; Ex. February 13, 2017 UR Review at 2, Docket Entry 41-32.) Plaintiff thereafter was weaned off of methadone and received other pain medication that he states was not effective. (Ex. March 24, 2017 UR Review at 2, Docket Entry 41-33; Carter Aff. ¶¶ 29-30.)

         Plaintiff commenced the instant action on October 27, 2017 by filing a complaint. (Docket Entry 2.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 16, 2019 against Movant Defendants as well as several others who have not received service of process. (See Am. Compl. ¶ I(B); Docket Entries 32, 33.) On May 30, 2019, Movant Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry 40) as well as an accompanying memorandum (Docket Entry 41). Plaintiff filed a response on September 11, 2019. (Docket Entry 47.) Movant Defendants did not file a reply. The matter is now ripe for disposition.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Zahodnick v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp., 135 F.3d 911, 913 (4th Cir. 1997). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of coming forward and demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Temkin v. Frederick County Comm'rs, 945 F.2d 716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must then affirmatively demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a fact finder to return a verdict for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert County, Md., 48 F.3d 810, 817 (4th Cir. 1995). Thus, the moving party can bear his burden either by presenting affirmative evidence or by demonstrating that the non-moving party's evidence is insufficient to establish his claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331 (Brennan, J., dissenting).

         When making the summary judgment determination, the Court must view the evidence, and all justifiable inferences from the evidence, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Zahodnick, 135 F.3d at 913; Halperin v. Abacus Tech. Corp., 128 F.3d 191, 196 (4th Cir. 1997). However, the party opposing summary judgment may not rest on mere allegations or denials, and the court need not consider “unsupported assertions” or “self-serving opinions without objective ...


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