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Barnes v. Johnson

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

January 10, 2014

FAYE BARNES, Plaintiff,
GENE JOHNSON, ET AL., Defendants.


GLEN E. CONRAD, District Judge.

This case is presently before the court on the following motions: (1) the joint motion to dismiss the plaintiff's second amended complaint filed by defendants Johnson, Jabe, Hobbs, Ratliffe-Walker, Soukup, and Martin-Hancox; (2) plaintiff's motion to reconsider the ruling as to the dismissal of defendants Johnson, Hobbs, Ratliffe-Walker, and Soukup; (3) the motion to dismiss the plaintiff's third amended complaint filed by defendant Martin-Hancox; and (4) the joint motion for summary judgment filed by defendants MacDonald, Rosser, and Corizon. For the following reasons, the motions to dismiss will be granted, the motion to reconsider will be denied, and the motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

Factual Background

Barnes filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that each defendant violated her constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment by exhibiting deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs. She further claims that under Virginia common law, defendants MacDonald, Rosser, and Corizon's conduct delayed her spinal surgery, and amounted to negligence or gross negligence. Finally, the plaintiff, as a third-party beneficiary to the contract between Corizon and the DOC, claims that Corizon breached its contractual duty to provide adequate and necessary health care to Fluvanna inmates. The plaintiff sues defendants MacDonald, Rosser, and Corizon (hereinafter "medical defendants"), defendants Johnson, Hobbs, Jabe, Ratliffe-Walker, Martin-Hancox, and Soukup (hereinafter "correctional defendants"), and defendant Bland in their individual capacities. Barnes seeks damages in the amount of ten million dollars ($10, 000, 000.00).

The following facts, taken from the plaintiff's third amended complaint, are accepted as true for the purpose of the correctional defendants' motions to dismiss, and read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff for the purpose of the medical defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Shaw v. Stroud , 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994).

Between February 2009 and January 2011, the plaintiff, Faye Barnes, was an inmate housed at Fluvanna Correctional Facility for Women ("Fluvanna") in Fluvanna County, Virginia. Pl.'s Third Amended Compl. ¶ 1. Defendant Corizon Health, Inc. ("Corizon") was under contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections to provide all medical, dental, and mental health services to the inmates at Fluvanna. Id. at ¶ 14.

On September 30, 2010, Barnes "was removed from general population and placed into the Special Housing Unit." Id. at ¶ 38. "It is standard procedure [a]t Fluvanna for an inmate in [administrative segregation] to be handcuffed behind her back[] when being transferred from her cell[] for mealtimes, showers, or other excursions." Id. at ¶ 42. "DOC policy dictates that instruments of restraint should be used as a precaution against escape, transfer for medical reasons, or as a prevention against self-injury, injury to others[, ] or property damage." Id. at ¶ 43.

In preparation for moving the plaintiff to the Special Housing Unit on September 30, 2010, defendant Bland "forced [p]laintiff, who is 5'3" in height, and whose arms are quite short, to kneel on a chair and place her arms [] behind her back." Id. at ¶ 44. Bland "wrenched her arms behind her back to meet and then cuffed them together." Id . Barnes "told Bland that she felt nauseated, and like her left arm was breaking, because the cuffs were too tight, and her arms were too short, to be restrained" in that position. Id. at ¶ 45. While plaintiff was assigned to the Special Housing Unit during October 2010, defendant Martin-Hancox-who supervised the segregation unit-"repeatedly, personally handcuffed her in the same, improper[, ] and brutal manner, " and "ordered her subordinates to carry out her order to shackle/cuff [p]laintiff in this manner." Id. at ¶¶ 174, 175. Barnes was shackled in this manner on nine separate occasions: October 1, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 18, 20, and 22, 2010. Id. at ¶ 175.

The plaintiff alleges that shackling her "in this fashion caused herniated discs in her neck, " in addition to other "great and unnecessary pain." Id. at ¶ 177. On October 3, 2010, plaintiff requested a sick call and filed an emergency grievance complaining of "excruciating pain." Id. at ¶ 52. Nurse Robbins responded to the plaintiff's sick call, and noted the plaintiff's complaints of pain in her left arm, elbow, shoulder, neck, and head. Id. at ¶ 54. On October 6, 2010, the plaintiff submitted another sick call request due to sinus issues, and defendant Rosser, a nurse practitioner, examined Barnes. Id. at ¶¶ 57, 58. Barnes was also experiencing "unbearable left side pain" during that examination, but Rosser "refused to re-examine her left side" because it was not the stated reason for her sick call. Id. at ¶ 58. Barnes was "removed from the medical building with her wrists re-cuffed behind her back, which aggravated her pain." Id.

On November 5, 2010, Barnes filed an emergency grievance "describing her pain as a 10 on a 10/10 scale." Id. at ¶ 59. When defendant Rosser examined the plaintiff that same day, Barnes "told her how she had been handcuffed, " and "described her shoulder, left arm, and elbow pain as at a level of 10." Id. at ¶ 60. Defendant Rosser prescribed medication and ordered an x-ray of the plaintiff's left shoulder and arm. Id . She did not enter any medical order providing for modified cuffing.

On November 10, 2010, the plaintiff filed an informal complaint and submitted an inmate request form to defendant MacDonald, complaining of improper care for her chronic sinusitis, reporting left arm pain, and informing prison officials that she had been left off the sick call list. Id. at ¶¶ 62, 64. Defendant MacDonald responded to the plaintiff's complaint without addressing her left arm pain. Id. at ¶ 63.

On November 15, 2010, the plaintiff submitted another sick call request. Id. at ¶ 65. Nurse Reynolds prescribed a course of treatment and medication, and referred Barnes to a physician. Id . On November 20, 2010, the plaintiff submitted another sick call request. Nurse Reynolds examined the plaintiff, and re-prescribed a course of treatment and medication for her left side pain. Id. at ¶ 67. The plaintiff filed an emergency grievance on November 22, 2010, describing her "constant, " "radiating, " and "pulsating" left side pain. Id. at ¶ 68. On this date, she also submitted an informal complaint to defendant MacDonald, expressing her dissatisfaction with the treatment being provided. Defendant MacDonald replied to the plaintiff's complaint:

I have reviewed your record many times. Most recently, I made sure you had an appointment, after a family/friend called stating you did not think you would live thru (sic) Thanksgiving. You have been evaluated on many occasions, and the care is appropriate. It is unfortunate that you have ongoing pain. You do not have swollen lymph nodes. Sick Call requests are the procedure to making appointments.

Id. at ¶ 72. At defendant MacDonald's direction, Barnes submitted another sick call request.

On November 24, 2010, the plaintiff was examined by a physician, Dr. Remaly. Id. at ¶ 74. Dr. Remaly diagnosed her with cervical radiculopathy and prescribed a cervical x-ray, ordered a sling and cervical collar, and instructed that the plaintiff not be cuffed behind her back. Id . The plaintiff continued to file sick call requests and grievance forms, complaining of her left side pain. On December 7, 2010, defendant Soukup rejected one of the plaintiff's grievances because it addressed more than one issue." Id. at ¶ 80. On December 30, 2010, defendant Soukup rejected another of the plaintiff's grievances because it "contain[ed] information that occurred after the Informal Complaint submission." Id. at ¶ 89.

On January 19, 2011, Barnes was released from Fluvanna. Id. at ¶ 92. In April 2011, the plaintiff received an MRI on her left shoulder, which revealed a torn tendon, and raised concerns of compression or nerve impingement. Id. at ¶ 94. Barnes began a course of physical and occupational therapy. Id. at ¶ 95. In July 2011, the plaintiff sought treatment for her continuing neck pain, and the plaintiff was referred for a neurological consultation. Id. at ¶ 97. In February 2012, the plaintiff consulted with Dr. Graham, a neurologist, and the neurologist diagnosed Barnes with "ongoing left upper extremity radiculopathy." Id. at ¶ 100. On March 7, 2012, Dr. Graham performed "a C6-7 anterior cervical disectomy and fusion." Id. at ¶ 101.

Procedural History

Barnes filed the instant action on September 28, 2012, but amended her complaint on October 11, 2012, prior to serving the defendants. Defendant Bland, who was served with the amended complaint on January 10, 2013, failed to file an answer, and the Clerk entered that defendant's default on August 21, 2013. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff sought leave of court and was granted the opportunity to file a second amended complaint. The correctional defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's second amended complaint on October 4, 2013, to which the plaintiff responded on October 25, 2013.

On November 19, 2013, the court heard oral argument on the correctional defendants' motion to dismiss the second amended complaint for failure to state a claim. The court orally granted the plaintiff leave to amend her complaint as against defendant Martin-Hancox and indicated that the remaining correctional defendants would be dismissed unless any new allegations in the amended complaint stated viable causes of action. On December 2, 2013, the plaintiff filed her third amended complaint. On December 4, 2013, Barnes filed a motion asking this court to reconsider the earlier oral ruling as to defendants Johnson, Hobbs, Ratliffe-Walker, and Soukup, to which the defendants have responded. Defendant Martin-Hancox filed a motion to dismiss the third amended complaint for failure to state a claim, to which the plaintiff has responded.

On December 13, 2013, the medical defendants moved for summary judgment. The plaintiff filed a response, asking the court to deny the motion, to which the defendants have replied. The court heard oral argument on these pending motions ...

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