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Holland v. Miller

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

March 26, 2015

ERNEST C. HOLLAND, JR., Plaintiff,
DR. D. MILLER, Defendant.

Ernest C. Holland, Jr., Pro Se Plaintiff.

Mary Foil Russell, Hale, Lyle & Russell, Bristol, Tennessee, for Defendant.


JAMES P. JONES, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Ernest C. Holland, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging inadequate medical treatment in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. By an earlier Opinion and Order, the court dismissed all of Holland's contentions except his § 1983 claim that "he suffered from a painful hernia condition, that his condition was in need of treatment, and that [prison physician Daniel] Miller, out of deliberate indifference, refused the treatment Holland needed." Holland v. Miller, No. 7:13CV00057, 2014 WL 1308811, at *4 (W.D. Va. Mar. 31, 2014) (Wilson, J.). Before me now is Dr. Miller's Motion for Summary Judgment and Supplement.[1] Holland has responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After review of the record, I find that the Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted.


Holland alleges a history of medical problems throughout his several years as an inmate in various prison facilities operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"). He claims in this action that while he was incarcerated at Keen Mountain Correctional Center ("Keen Mountain") in 2012, Dr. Miller examined him twice and both times, failed to provide medical treatment for his hernia.

Holland alleges that he was diagnosed with Bulging Disk Degenerative Disorder in 1996 and has experienced back pain ever since. In April 2006, he began experiencing numbness in his left foot, and in October 2010, a doctor allegedly told him that he needed corrective surgery for his left knee, but no surgery occurred.

On March 15, 2012, Dr. Ohai at Powhatan Correctional Center examined Holland and diagnosed a "reducible, nontender" inguinal hernia on the right groin, [2] assigned to Keen Mountain; a declaration from Eugene Whited, head nurse at Keen Mountain; and the VDOC Offender Health Care Plan (ECF Nos. 46 & 56). an enlarged prostate, difficulty in urination, and chronic constipation. (Gibson Certification Attachment B, Ex. B-3, ECF No. 46-8.) Dr. Ohai prescribed Flomax to improve urine flow and Cordura and Colace to relieve constipation. He also began the process for a "gen[eral] surgery consult for evaluation and possible surgical treatment of enlarging r[ight] inguinal hernia." ( Id. ) Dr. Ohai's note ended with: "Pt. understands that therapy for enlarged prostate and chronic constipation is needed prior to hernia repair in order to prevent surgical treatment failure."[3] ( Id. )

The next day, March 16, Holland was transferred to Keen Mountain, a maximum security prison, where officials placed him in the segregation unit. On March 17, Holland filed an emergency grievance, stating:

I have lost most of the control & feeling in my lower left leg & foot[.] [I]t is completely numb. I have fallen in my cell and hurt my lower back.... I have a very serious hernia and back problems. I have been scheduled for surgery.... I have received none of my meds that were prescribed for these problems [a]nd now I have injured myself more. I am in severe pain. I [need] medical attention immediately.

(Compl. Ex. K, ECF No. 1-3.) A nurse ruled his complaint a nonemergency, but noted that he had been seen by medical staff and should use sick call procedure. Holland allegedly filed a sick-call request on March 19, 2012, about these multiple complaints, but it is not in the record. On March 23, 2012, Holland filed an emergency grievance, stating that the hernia had popped out, causing pain, and he could not make it "retreat into his abdomen" (Compl. ¶ 41), but a nurse ruled the situation a nonemergency.

Dr. Miller states that he was asked to examine Holland on March 28, 2012, in the segregation unit on his complaints of pain in his back and left leg and worsening numbness in his foot. The doctor talked to Holland through the door and instructed him to walk around the cell holding onto the wall, as the doctor observed him through the cell door window.[4] According to Dr. Miller's notes, he told Holland that if his symptoms persisted after two weeks, he should put in for sick call to be reassessed. Dr. Miller allegedly said that he "would do nothing for [Holland] in the way of treatment, pain relief or otherwise, "[5] (Compl. ¶ 37), and that Holland would need to file another sick call request if he wanted the doctor to discuss or address his hernia problem.[6]

Dr. Miller was next asked to see Holland in segregation on April 4, 2012, concerning his complaint about a right inguinal hernia. Observing no signs of an emergency or acute distress, Dr. Miller asked Holland through the door if he was able to reduce the hernia. Holland allegedly told the doctor that he could push the hernia back into his abdomen, but that it was extremely painful and often popped out under any exertion. Dr. Miller noted Holland's stated belief that the hernia was a result of straining to urinate.

From Dr. Ohai's medical notes of the March 15 exam, Dr. Miller saw that Holland had shown symptoms of constipation and benign prostatic hyperplasia ("BHP"), which is a progressive enlargement of the prostate. Based on those notes, his interview with Holland, and his own observations, Dr. Miller prescribed Flomax for treatment of BHP, Metamucil for treatment of constipation, and a hernia belt for treatment of the hernia.[7] Dr. Miller ...

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