United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
SHALAMAR D. FITZGERALD, Plaintiff,
CHANDRAKANT PATEL, M.D., Defendant.
ELIZABETH K. DILLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
D. Fitzgerald, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se,
filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that the defendant, Dr. Chandrakant Patel,
denied him mental health treatment. Dr. Patel filed a motion
to dismiss, and Fitzgerald responded, making this matter ripe
for disposition. Having considered the record, the court will
grant defendant's motion.
15, 2015, while housed at Green Rock Correctional Center,
Fitzgerald went to the treatment building to meet with Dr.
Patel to discuss his “possible needs to start or
continue psychiatric medication” and to “discuss
how such medication might effect” him. The medical
records that Fitzgerald attached to his complaint show that
he was previously diagnosed with “depressive disorder
unspecified, ” and at the time of the appointment he
was already taking citalopram. At the appointment, Dr. Patel
continued Fitzgerald on citalopram and also prescribed
trazodone,  and Fitzgerald consented to treatment with
these medications. Fitzgerald alleges, however, that Dr.
Patel failed to check the Federal Drug Administration's
(FDA) “safety information alert” which indicated
that the two medications had “a reaction to each
other.” On May 16, 2015, Dr. Patel noted in the medical
records that he had received a pharmacy alert regarding
cardiac induction on a combination of citalopram and
trazodone. He also noted that he would discontinue citalopram
“in favor of” trazodone and would “review
choices” with Fitzgerald in about one month. Fitzgerald
did not take the combination of medications before the
citalopram was discontinued. (Compl. 4-5, Dkt. No. 1; Compl.
Fitzgerald went to his appointment with Dr. Patel on June 13,
2015, he was “worked up and a little angry about the
FDA alert.” Dr. Patel offered him alternative
medications to replace the citalopram. Dr. Patel's notes
in the medical records attached to the complaint indicate
that Fitzgerald agreed to take Prozac, “but [he] wanted
to know ‘everything' about it.” Although
Fitzgerald signed the consent form for receiving Prozac with
the trazodone, he wrote on the form that he “was not
given a chance to decide what's best for [him and he] was
told [to] pick something because [he had] to go.” Dr.
Patel noted that he took Fitzgerald's comments to mean
that Fitzgerald was “effectively rescinding [his]
consent.” Accordingly, Dr. Patel did not prescribe the
Prozac, and Fitzgerald continued on the trazodone until his
next appointment. (Id.)
requested a mental health assessment and was evaluated by a
psychology associate on July 14, 2015. During the assessment,
the psychology associate informed Fitzgerald that a screening
he had undergone two weeks prior suggested that he had
“mild depression.” The plan indicated that mental
health services would be provided as needed. (Id.)
17, 2015, at his monthly appointment with Dr. Patel,
Fitzgerald and Dr. Patel discussed the “effects”
that Fitzgerald had been experiencing and the
“changes” he had been going through since his
citalopram had been discontinued. Ultimately, they agreed
that Fitzgerald should take Prozac with the trazodone, and
Fitzgerald consented to treatment with those medications.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint to
determine whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim;
“it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts,
the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin,
980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In considering a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all factual allegations
in the complaint as true and must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Legal conclusions in the
guise of factual allegations, however, are not entitled to a
presumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
a complaint “does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause
of action's elements will not do.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations
and quotations omitted). “Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, ” id., with all the allegations in the
complaint taken as true and all reasonable inferences drawn
in the plaintiff's favor, Chao v. Rivendell Woods,
Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2005). Rule 12(b)(6)
does “not require heightened fact pleading of
specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570. Consequently, “only a complaint that
states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to
dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A claim is plausible if
the complaint contains “factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged, ” and if there is
“more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678.
order to allow for the development of a potentially
meritorious claim, federal courts have an obligation to
construe pro se pleadings liberally. See, e.g.,
Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (citation
omitted). Moreover, “[l]iberal construction of the
pleadings is particularly appropriate where . . . there is a
pro se complaint raising civil rights issues.”
Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th
Cir. 1978)). Nevertheless, “[p]rinciples requiring
generous construction of pro se complaints are not .
. . without limits.” Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). “A
pro se plaintiff still must allege facts that state
a cause of action.” Bracey v. Buchanan, 55
F.Supp.2d 416, 421 (E.D. Va. 1999) (quoting Sado v.
Leland Mem'l Hospital, 933 F.Supp. 490, 493 (D. Md.
Denial of medical care
alleges that Dr. Patel was deliberately indifferent to his
serious mental health needs and that Dr. Patel violated
Fitzgerald's constitutional rights by prescribing the two
medications without first reviewing the FDA alert and by
denying him medication for two months. The court finds that
Fitzgerald's allegations are insufficient to rise to ...