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Collins v. Ferrell

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division

July 24, 2019

JAMAL E. COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS FERRELL; and ELIZABETH MARTYN, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Ware State Prison in Waycross, Georgia, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint to contest allegedly deficient medical treatment he received at that facility. Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint and a Motion for Default Judgment. Docs. 8, 21. The Court now conducts the statutorily required screening of Plaintiff's Complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the following reasons, I find that Plaintiff states non-frivolous deliberate indifference claims against Defendants Ferrell and Martyn and DIRECT the United States Marshal to serve a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint and this Order on Defendants. I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's monetary damages claims against Defendants in their official capacities, DENY Plaintiff's Motion for a preliminary injunction, and DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal as to any dismissed claims. I also DENY Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, which the Court construes as a motion under Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and DENY Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgement.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court, alleging that he received deficient medical care following a surgery on his left leg. Doc. 1. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, on June 6, 2017, Dr. Mark Winchell performed surgery on Plaintiff's left patella at Georgia State Prison. Id at 7. Following the surgery, Dr. Winchell prescribed Plaintiff Tylenol #3 for pain management. Id. On June 8, 2017, Plaintiff returned to Ware State Prison, where he was normally housed. Id. Approximately one month later, Defendant Ferrell lowered the dosage of Plaintiff's Tylenol prescription, and Plaintiff then experienced pain. Id. at 7. When Plaintiff asked Defendant Ferrell to return him to his normal dosage, Defendant refused. Id.

         Defendant Ferrell then sent Plaintiff to Augusta State Medical Prison to receive pain management treatment, and Dr. Martin prescribed Plaintiff a topical cream and continued Plaintiff's prescription of Tylenol #3 before Plaintiff returned to Ware State Prison. Id. at 9. On July 27, 2017, 17 days after Plaintiff's Tylenol #3 prescription was continued, Defendant Ferrell discontinued Plaintiff's access to that medication. Id. Five days later, Plaintiff returned to Georgia State Prison to see Dr. Winchell, who prescribed him Tylenol #3 and naproxen. Id. When Plaintiff returned to Ware State Prison, Defendant Ferrell ordered only naproxen for Plaintiff and intentionally did not order Tylenol #3. Id. at 9-10.

         On August 7, 2017, Defendant Ferrell called Plaintiff into his office and said he “was tired of hearing about all of this pain nonsense.” Id. at 9. Defendant Ferrell then confiscated Plaintiff's cane. Id. at 10. That same day, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the confiscation of his cane. Id. at 11. Defendant Ferrell learned of Plaintiff's grievance and then confiscated Plaintiff's wheelchair, after which Plaintiff filed another grievance. Id. Because Plaintiff had no wheelchair or cane, he “felt great pains and noticed that blood was trapped within the incision of his left knee.” Id.

         Plaintiff continued to experience pain until November 14, 2017, when Defendant Ferrell sent Plaintiff to see Dr. Winchell, who gave Plaintiff an injection for his pain. Id. at 12. Dr. Winchell also continued Plaintiff's prescription of Tylenol #3 and naproxen, and Defendant Ferrell again ordered only naproxen for Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff then filed another grievance, and on February 13, 2018, received another injection from Dr. Winchell for pain management. Id.

         Dr. Winchell subsequently ordered an MRI on Plaintiff's knee, which revealed a tear in the surgical graft. Id. at 13. Plaintiff then had his second knee surgery on July 31, 2018, after which Dr. Winchell ordered that Plaintiff's stitches be removed in 10 days and Plaintiff be given Tylenol #3. Id. On August 8, 2018, six days after Plaintiff returned to Ware State Prison, Defendant Ferrell discontinued Plaintiff's pain medication. Id. One week later, Plaintiff asked Defendant Martyn, a nurse practitioner, to remove Plaintiff's stitches. Id. Defendant Martyn declined to do so, stating that Dr. Winchell liked to remove his own stitches. Id.

         Roughly two weeks after his visit with Defendant Martyn, Plaintiff returned to see Dr. Winchell. Id. Dr. Winchell was “outraged” that Plaintiff's stitches had not been removed and had a nurse remove Plaintiff's stitches. Id. at 15. By this point, Plaintiff's stitches were “buried beneath layers of old hard scabs.” Id. Dr. Winchell also prescribed Tylenol #3 to Plaintiff, but Plaintiff had not received that medication as of the day that he filed his Complaint. Id.

         Plaintiff wishes to assert Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims against Defendants Ferrell and Martyn, claiming their actions caused him “pain, suffering, physical injury and emotional distress.” Id. at 17. Plaintiff requests declaratory and injunctive relief ordering Dr. Ferrell to provide him his prescribed medication, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 17-18.

         Subsequent to filing his Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Complaint. Doc. 8. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Default Judgment. Doc. 21.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff brings this action in forma pauperis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys. . . .”) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Official ...


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