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Fleming v. Clarke

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

January 30, 2018

HAROLD W. CLARKE, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Jackson L. Kiser, Senior United States District Judge.

         Joseph Fleming, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 12132. Plaintiff names as defendants the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"), five staff of the VDOC (the "VDOC defendants"), and two nurses[1] (the "medical defendants") at River North Correctional Center ("RNCC"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were negligent and deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and discriminated against him on account of a disability, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Virginia law. All but one defendant filed motions for summary judgment, to which Plaintiff responded, making the motions ripe for disposition.[2] After reviewing the record, I grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motions for summary judgment, and several claims remain against Nurse Parks and Correctional Officers ("C/O") Lundy and Dean.


         Plaintiff is not able to support his body weight and allegedly is unable to walk unassisted because of a "slipped spine" and pinched nerve. Plaintiff is able to stand with assistance albeit with "extreme pain, " and he cannot maintain his balance unless he has assistance or something to . grab. Consequently, Plaintiff considers himself confined to a wheelchair.

         Plaintiff arrived at RNCC in a wheelchair on November 16, 2015. Nobody specifically explained to Plaintiff upon his arrival that metal detectors were used there and that inmates must walk through them. Plaintiff also was not specifically advised that he could seek a medical waiver of that requirement.

         During the intake process, defendant Nurse Parks met Plaintiff, who said that he could ambulate short distances with a cane. Nurse Parks told him that he could opt for either a wheelchair or a cane for assistance moving, and Plaintiff opted for a wheelchair. Plaintiff never asked for a medical waiver about the metal detectors.

         On November 28, 2015, C/O Lundy ordered Plaintiff to pass through the metal detector before he could continue in his wheelchair to the chow hall. Plaintiff objected, explaining that he had a spinal injury, he could not walk without assistance, and feels pain when walking with assistance. C/O Lundy replied that Plaintiff would not be allowed to exit the building for any reason unless he first walked through the metal detector. Inmate Bolen, who was assigned to help move Plaintiff in the wheelchair, moved the wheelchair to the exit side of the metal detector while Plaintiff held onto the upright edge of the metal detector. With Bolen's help, Plaintiff stumbled, shook, and grunted in pain as he shuffled through the metal detector and back into the wheelchair.

         On November 29, 2015, C/O Lundy again ordered Plaintiff to pass through the metal detector before going to the chow hall. Plaintiff again attempted to hold onto the side of the detector while Bolen moved the wheelchair, but Plaintiff fell to the floor once his legs gave out. Plaintiffs right knee struck the floor and became bruised, swollen, inflamed, and painful.

         Plaintiff immediately told C/O Lundy that he needed to go to the medical department because of pain in his knee and lower back. C/O Lundy refused to contact the medical department and told Plaintiff to continue to the dining hall. Upon returning from the dining hall, Plaintiff again asked C/O Lundy for medical assistance because the pain had worsened, but C/O Lundy refused and told Plaintiff to return to his cell.

         About an hour after returning to his cell, Plaintiff told a nurse doing "rounds" in the pod that he needed medical attention. The nurse told Plaintiff to file an emergency grievance so medical staff could call him to the medical building.

         At around lunch on November 29, 2015, Plaintiff allegedly gave defendant C/O Dean an emergency grievance seeking medical care for his pain. Per policy, the receiving officer should pass the emergency grievance to appropriate staff who should answer it within eight hours.

         Around dinner time that same day, Plaintiff asked a nurse whether the medical department had received the emergency grievance, and the nurse said no. The nurse examined Plaintiffs knee and noted it was slightly swollen but was without a bruise or abrasion. The nurse also noted that Plaintiff was able to stand with assistance. Per Plaintiffs request, the nurse noted that the doctor should review Plaintiffs eligibility for a waiver for the metal detectors. The swelling was reduced with icing.

         Plaintiff had a brief appointment four days later on December 3, 2015. Defendant Nurse Crawford measured Plaintiffs vital signs, the doctor issued the waiver, and Nurse Crawford noted the waiver on Plaintiffs medical record.

         Plaintiff faults C/O Lundy for making him walk through the metal detectors and faults C/O Dean for not processing the emergency grievance. Plaintiff faults Clarke, who is the Director of the VDOC; Walrath, who is the Warden of RNCC; and McBride, who is a Unit Manager at RNCC, for promulgating policies requiring Plaintiff to travel through a metal detector. Plaintiff further faults Walrath and McBride for not advising Plaintiff to seek a waiver to bypass the metal detectors. Plaintiff complains that each defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need and committed willful, wanton, simple, reckless and gross negligence. Plaintiff also complains that each defendant violated the ADA. For example, C/O Lundy is liable under the ADA because he purportedly "conditioned [the] ability to use the dining hall and to eat meals based upon ... clearing the metal detector, which [Plaintiff] was unable to do because of [his] disability."

         Plaintiff seeks damages and an injunction. Plaintiff alleges that, for several months after the fall, he needed medication to reduce knee pain. Plaintiff also alleges he experienced emotional trauma from fearing if the fall aggravated his spinal injury. He seeks an order requiring every warden and head nurse to meet with him upon arrival at any VDOC facility, to exempt him from "any security measure[] or other circumstance[] at the institution [that] may pose a risk of substantial harm to [him] due to his disabilities, " and either to exempt him from that circumstance or to transfer him to an "appropriate facility."


         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, the disclosed materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those necessary to establish the elements of a party's cause of action. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists if, in viewing admissible evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. The moving party has the burden of showing - "that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant satisfies this burden, then the non-movant must set forth specific facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of fact for trial. Id. at 322-24. A party is entitled to summary judgment if the admissible evidence as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the non-movant. Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991). "Mere unsupported speculation ... is not enough to defeat a summary judgment ...

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