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Thompson v. Clarke

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

March 29, 2018

PAUL C. THOMPSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
H. W. CLARKE, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Paul C. Thompson, Jr., an inmate proceeding pro se, filed this action under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging among other things, retaliation for prior lawsuits and prison grievances through deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.[1] The defendants to the medical claims-a doctor and four nurses (“the medical defendants”) have filed motions to dismiss. For the reasons stated, I conclude that these motions must be granted.[2]

         I.

         The medical defendants encountered Thompson while he was confined at River North Correctional Center (“River North”), operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”). He alleges, generally, that they provided inadequate treatment for his blood pressure and knee problems as a means of retaliating against him for filing prisoner civil rights lawsuits and administrative remedy forms. His claims are based on the following alleged incidents at River North.[3]

         On November 17, 2014, Thompson suffered injuries when he fell out of his seat in a medical transport van because of an officer's unsafe driving. After this incident, Thompson “made numerous requests to have access to the medical records involving this incident and they have [been] denied and/or not responded to by Defendants D. Wells, RN, and C. Hall, RNCB, ” medical supervisors at River North. Compl. ¶ 131, Docket No. 1.

         On December 22, 2014, Dr. Potter saw Thompson for his complaints of low blood pressure (“BP”) “most likely caused by over medication of his BP.” Id. at ¶ 152. When getting up from a prone position, Thompson would feel like he was about to black out. Dr. Potter wrote an order that the medical staff should check Thompson's BP every day. Nurses L. Tolbert and Shaffer often “allocated Thompson's medication” while he was confined “in (A-2) pod.”[4] Id. at ¶¶ 26, 34.

         On December 28, 2014, Thompson filed an informal complaint that nurses were checking his BP immediately after giving him his BP medication. According to Thompson, “[t]he medication had no time to get in [his] system, so the BP's taken were meaningless to the issue they were ordered.” Pl.'s Ex., at 15, Docket No. 130. Nurse Wells responded that the doctor had ordered the daily BP checks until January 4, 2015, when the doctor would review his BP history. Nevertheless, Thompson filed several grievances about the timing of his daily blood pressure checks being ineffective monitoring of his condition. The grievances were rejected because he did not state how he had been harmed. The grievance coordinator noted in the margin, “Per Medical your blood pressures were taken per Doctor's order.” Id., at 17. Without access to his medical records, Thompson was unable to verify this explanation. Over the next weeks, he refused to take several doses of his blood pressure medication.

         On January 20, 2015, while Thompson was on suicide precautions, he blacked out and fell, hitting one side of his face on the concrete floor of his cell, which caused bruising. When he complained about the fall and blamed it on low blood pressure, he was scheduled to see the doctor for reevaluation. Id., at 47. In early February, Dr. Potter discontinued his blood pressure medication. Id., at 35. At that time, the medical staff reported that according to Thompson's medical records, he had been only fifteen percent compliant with the doctor's ordered medication schedule.

         In January 2015, Thompson complained that the nurses had begun crushing and mixing his medications. This practice prevented him from knowing what medications or dosages he was receiving and from refusing a particular medication or dose. Nurse Hall responded that Thompson's medications were all placed in one envelope and then labeled with his name, inmate number, and housing unit for safety and security. Id., at 28. Thompson was also informed that he could refuse a particular medication by submitting a request to the medical unit in advance.

         On January 23, 2015, Nurse Tolbert brought Thompson his medication and offered him two of his blood pressure pills, although his prescribed dosage was one pill.[5] Thompson refused to ingest the pills and gave them to an officer.

         On January 14, 2015, Dr. Potter examined Thompson for complaints of knee pain and ordered that his left knee should be “aspirated in one-two weeks.” Walls Aff. Attach., at 24, Docket No. 48-1. On March 8, 2015, Thompson filed an informal complaint, stating that he had filed multiple requests for this treatment for his knee, only to be told each time that he was “scheduled.” Id. On March 16, Nurse Hall informed Thompson that that he was scheduled to come to medical that same week. She explained that his previous appointment had been cancelled “due to [him] being on special precautions (SP).” Id. Thompson filed a regular grievance on March 19, claiming that the delay in having his knee aspirated “caused [him] pain and discomfort as evidenced by his [sic] withdrawing (12) of the measurement of the aspiration needle.” Id., at 25.

         Thompson filed his § 1983 complaint on January 3, 2017. See Lewis v. Richmond City Police Dep't, 947 F.2d 733, 735-36 (4th Cir. 1991) (finding inmate's § 1983 action commenced for statute of limitations purposes when he delivers complaint to prison authorities for mailing to court). His pleading sets out five “counts”: (1) retaliation for his past lawsuits and grievances against prison officials, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) deliberate indifference to hazardous conditions or serious medical needs and excessive force, in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (3) denial of substantive and procedural due process and equal protection, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) state law claims of assault; and (5) violations of Article 1, Sections 9, 11, and 12, of the Virginia Constitution. Thompson names all of the medical defendants in Counts (1), (2), (3), and (5), but does not name any of them in Count (4). Accordingly, Counts (1), (2), (3), and (5) will be addressed below.

         These defendants have filed motions to dismiss (Docket Nos. 44, 62, and 66), and Thompson has filed multiple responses to them (Docket Nos. 100-3, 100-4, 123, 126, and 127). Thus, I conclude that these motions are ripe for decision.

         II.

         A. ...


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