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Johnson v. Corizon Health Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

March 27, 2018




         The pro se Plaintiff, Bobby Johnson a/k/a Bobbie Johnson, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 6, 2014, while he was an inmate at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, Tennessee. (ECF No. 1.)[1] He complains that the medical treatment he received at the NWCX was inadequate in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) On November 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed a first amendment to the complaint in which he named several additional Defendants.[2] (ECF No. 6.) On February 10, 2015, the Court issued an order dismissing the complaint and the first amendment for failure to state a claim but granted leave to file a second amended complaint. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff filed a timely second amended complaint on February 27, 2015. (ECF No. 11.) On April 16, 2015, Plaintiff notified the Court he had been released from prison and provided a new address. (ECF No. 17.)

         The Corizon Defendants, which are also named as parties in the second amended complaint, filed an answer (ECF No. 14) and a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 22).[3]Plaintiff did not respond, and Corizon's motion for summary judgment was granted. (ECF No. 24.)

         In the prior order of dismissal, the Court found that all of Plaintiff's claims arising before November 6, 2013 were time barred. (ECF No. 10 at 13-14.) The second amended complaint only concerns Plaintiff's medical treatment that occurred from January 14, 2014, through December 11, 2014. The second amended complaint again names as Defendants the TDOC; NWCX Chief Nursing Officer Amanda Collins; former TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield; former NWCX Warden Henry Steward; NWCX Deputy Warden Brad Poole; and NWCX Associate Warden Melvin Tirey. Additional Defendants named in the second amended complaint are Dr. First Name Unknown K, a physician at the NWCX; Tommie Hamilton, a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) at the NWCX; and Recie Yanders, a health administrator at the NWCX.

         Plaintiff does not expressly state in the second amended complaint whether the Defendants are sued in their individual capacities in addition to their official capacities. However, because he seeks compensatory and punitive damages (ECF No. 11 at 14), the Court will construe the complaint as asserting both official and individual capacity claims.

         Plaintiff's second amended complaint alleges that he received a sick-call pass to visit Defendant Collins on January 14, 2014. (Id. at 6-7, ¶ 14.) Collins allegedly asked Plaintiff whether he had been exercising and taking his medication, and Plaintiff replied that the blood pressure medication caused him to suffer severe chest and stomach pains and other unspecified adverse side effects. (Id.) However, Collins allegedly did not perform any tests or evaluation of Plaintiff's complaints, even though he explained that his symptoms included difficulty breathing and the inability to perform normal daily activities. (Id. at 7, ¶ 15.) Although Collins told Plaintiff she would refer him to see a doctor, he states he did not see a doctor until October 2, 2014. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges he was called to the clinic on January 17, 2014, and January 19, 2014, where his blood pressure was checked. (Id., ¶ 16.)

         Plaintiff states that he filed a grievance against Collins on April 17, 2014 for her failure to refer him to a doctor and her failure to properly evaluate his complaints or to order necessary tests. (Id. ¶ 17.) Defendant Yanders allegedly reviewed the grievance but ignored Plaintiff's requests for medical attention. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges he received a sick call pass to see Defendant Dr. K on October 2, 2014. (Id. at 7, ¶ 18.) Dr. K checked Plaintiff's blood pressure, listened to his heart and had him perform “recommended breathing evaluations.” (Id.) Dr. K allegedly reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and told him that when he got out of prison Plaintiff should look at the records before they were archived after thirty days. (Id.) However, Plaintiff alleges Dr. K did not do any other tests or evaluations even though Plaintiff explained to him about the pain in his chest and left shoulder and numbness in his fingertips and forearm. (Id. at 7-8, ¶ 18.)

         Plaintiff states he was called to the clinic on October 6, 2014 and November 6, 2014, where his blood pressure was checked. (Id. at 8, ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiff further alleges he received a sick call pass on December 11, 2014, and was seen by Defendant FNP Hamilton. (Id. ¶ 20.) Hamilton checked Plaintiff's blood pressure and asked another nurse to listen to his heart, and that nurse allegedly told Plaintiff his heart “has a single beat unlike what a regular normal heart has.” (Id.) Hamilton then allegedly told Plaintiff he had “a serious case of aorta regurgitation.” (Id.) However, Plaintiff states Hamilton performed no other tests or evaluations even after he explained his ongoing symptoms. (Id.)

         Plaintiff asserts that on June 7, 2014, he requested emergency medical treatment while the prison was on lockdown. (Id. at 11, ¶ 34.) Plaintiff was taken to the clinic in a wheelchair where he states that he described his symptoms to an unspecified nurse, including sharp chest and left side pain and numbness in the fingertips, left forearm and left shoulder. (Id.) The nurse allegedly performed an EKG and checked Plaintiff's blood pressure, which was 150/100; she gave Plaintiff an aspirin and a nitroglycerin pill. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, when the facility came off lockdown, Plaintiff alleges he approached Defendants Steward and Tirey during their daily inspections and had a conversation with Steward concerning the failure to treat his medical problems. (Id. ¶ 35.) However, Steward responded there was nothing he could do and Plaintiff should go to the nurses at the clinic. (Id. ¶ 36.)

         Plaintiff alleges the grievance he filed against Defendant Collins on April 17, 2014, was exhausted through the former Warden, Defendant Steward, and the former TDOC Commisioner, Defendant Schofield. (Id. at 11, ¶ 33.) Plaintiff further alleges the grievance put Defendants Steward, Tirey and Poole on notice of the inadequate medical care he was receiving. (Id. at 12, ¶ 37.) He asserts these Defendants had a “personal role in implementing or enforcing or ignoring” a “policy of providing only cursory medical treatment to inmates.” (Id.) Plaintiff further asserts Defendants Steward, Tirey and Poole each had the necessary “personal involvement in decisions that he otherwise authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced in unconstitutional conduct, given free reign to medical staff . . . indicating they failed their duty to oversee and correct the problems. . . .” (Id. ¶ 38.)

         In several respects, the second amended complaint suffers from the same deficiencies as the original and amended complaints.[4] As stated in the prior order, Plaintiff's claims against the TDOC and his official capacity claims against Defendants Schofield, Steward, Poole and Tirey are treated as claims against the State of Tennessee. As such, they are barred by the Eleventh Amendment's grant of sovereign immunity. Welch v. Tex. Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 483 U.S. ...

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