United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Terry A. Riggleman, Plaintiff,
Harold Clarke and Mark Amonette, Defendants.
K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
putative class action, a Virginia inmate claims he has been
subjected to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment
through the Virginia Department of Corrections'
(“VDOC”) alleged refusal to treat his serious
medical affliction, namely, Hepatitis C (“Hep
C”). The defendants-VDOC's Director, Harold Clarke,
and its Chief Medical Director, Mark Amonette-have moved to
dismiss. They posit the complaint does not make out a claim
for direct and supervisory liability under the
Constitution's Eighth Amendment, and that they are
entitled to qualified immunity.
facts alleged, they are mistaken. The complaint contains
ample facts demonstrating both the direct involvement of
Defendants in the denial of medical treatment and Defendant
Clarke's potential supervisory liability. Moreover,
Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because no
reasonable prison official could have believed that the law
permits him to fail to afford medical treatment for a
prisoner's known, severe, and potentially
determine whether a Complaint states a legal claim, the Court
must accept as true all well-pled allegations, draw
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, disregard
the complaint's legal conclusions and arguments, and
ensure the plaintiff offers more than a formulaic recitation
of the elements. See generally Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007); Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).
Terry Riggleman (“Plaintiff”) has been a prisoner
at a VDOC facility since at least 2005. (Complaint
¶¶ 3, 41). He has Hepatitis C. (Id.).
is viral infection of the liver that impairs its ability to
assist with essential bodily functions and processes.
(Complaint ¶ 6). Hep C can be either acute or chronic,
but untreated acute Hep C often becomes chronic.
(Id. ¶ 7). Chronic Hep C is a serious,
long-term illness that causes liver cirrhosis and cancer; it
is the most common cause of liver transplants. (Id.
¶ 8). It can also result in death. (Id.).
Symptoms of Hep C-induced cirrhosis include swelling,
bruising, jaundice, nausea, and memory or concentration
difficulties. (Id. ¶ 9). “Every day
without treatment increases the likelihood” of
complications, ultimate liver failure, and death.
(Id. ¶ 11). And a liver transplant is a
painful, risky procedure that is rarely available to
prisoners. (Id. ¶ 12).
effective and safe Hep C treatment was difficult. (Complaint
¶ 16). In recent years, however, the Food and Drug
Administration has approved “direct-acting antiviral
drugs, ” or DAADs, that mark a significant improvement
in treatment. (Id. ¶ 17; see Id.
¶¶ 18- 20). For instance, in 2014 the FDA approved
Harvoni, a once-daily pill that eliminated the need for other
drugs, which “were largely responsible for the adverse
and difficult side-effects of treating Hepatitis C.”
(Id. ¶¶ 21-22). Harvoni and other recent
drugs have greater efficacy, reduced treatment time, and can
be administered orally rather than intravenously.
(Id. ¶ 23). Cure rates with these drugs exceed
90% over a three-to-six-months period. (Id. ¶
standard of care for Hep C is now well-established to include
the latest DAADs. (Complaint ¶ 25). For instance, the
CDC recommends them, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in
2014, adopted guidelines that incorporates their use.
(Id.). Prison systems in California, Illinois,
Washington, Wisconsin, Oregon, and New York have also begun
incorporating DAADs into their Hep C treatment regimens.
(Id. ¶ 26).
Harold Clarke is the Director of VDOC. (Complaint ¶ 4).
He thus oversees operation and administration of
Virginia's prisons, responsibilities which entail
formulating policies and ensuring the provision of
appropriate medical treatment to inmates. (Id.
¶ 4; see, e.g., Va. Code 53.1-10
(listing powers and duties of Director)). State law grants
the Director authority over health-related issues in
Virginia's prisons (such as promulgating rules to
preserve inmate health) and requires VDOC to provide medical
treatment and services to prisoners. (See Complaint
¶ 4; Va. Code §§ 53.1-10(7) (addressing
collection of data on health-related problems of the prison
Mark Amonette is VDOC's Chief Medical Director.
(Complaint ¶ 5). He serves under Director Clarke's
supervision. (Id.). He is responsible for knowledge
of the laws and ...