United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
O. GRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Daniel Grove, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se
("Grove" or "plaintiff), has filed a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that he suffered deliberate indifference to his serious
medical needs in two respects at the Riverside Regional Jail
("RRJ"). The matter is presently before the Court
on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed jointly by defendants
Pamela Hicks-van Haren, Imhotep Carter, M.D., Stephen
Lemmons, R.N., and Patricia Rodgers, D.O. Plaintiff has
filed objections, and the movants have filed a reply. After
careful consideration, for the reasons which follow, the
Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
commenced this lawsuit in April, 2018, alleging that
defendants at RRJ were deliberately indifferent to (1) a
spinal condition and (2) a fractured nose. In the amended
complaint, which is the operative complaint in the lawsuit,
he contends that he had been pleading for months that he was
experiencing severe pain in his lower back and hip and a
burning down his legs when Dr. Rodgers ordered x-rays in
February, 2017. [Dkt. No. 3 at 5] The x-rays showed that
Grove had a degenerative disc and a one-centimeter slippage
of his L-4 vertebra. Id. According to Grove, Dr.
Rodgers told him he would have to learn to live with his
condition. Id. Grove states that Dr. Rodgers denied
him pain medication because he admittedly had used cocaine in
the past and as a result she told him that "nothing will
work for your pain." Id. Grove further alleges
that he was denied a bottom bunk profile. Id.
November, 2017, Grove was seen by the "head
doctor," Dr. Carter, who sent him to a location in
Colonial Heights for physical therapy. The therapist told
Grove that therapy would not help him because "it was
be[y]ond that." Id.
February, 2018, a new doctor, Dr. Banks, saw Grove and
"took [him] serious." Id. at 6. On March
19, 2018, Grove was transported to Colonial Orthopedics,
where new x-rays revealed that the disc between his L-4 and
L-5 vertebrae was "completely gone" and "it
was bone on bone," with the result that "the nerve
damage was now likely permanent." Id. The
orthopedist said Grove needed an MRI to assess the damage to
his soft tissue. Id. Grove reiterated his request
for a bottom bunk, and on April 23, 2018 Ms. Hicks van-Haren
responded that the doctor has not ordered a bottom bunk for
you at this time. Id.
April 17, 2018, Grove suffered a broken nose. Id. at
8. He sought care the next day for additional complaints but
Charge Nurse Lemmons said "I just saw you
yesterday" and told Grove that it didn't matter how
badly the nose was broken, "we will take care of
it." Id. at 9.On April 25, 2018, Grove was
called to the medical department and spoke to Ms. Hicks-van
Haren, who introduced herself as the Medical Administrator of
RRJ and told Grove that "things take time even on the
street." Id. at 10. Grove responded that his
nose was disfigured and "should have been attended to
when it happened." Id. Ms. Hicks-van Haren told
Grove he would be seen by an ear, nose and throat doctor.
Id. at 11.
alleges in this action pursuant to § 1983 that the
defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious
medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. He seeks
monetary damages as well as injunctive relief in the form of
an order directing that he receive proper treatment for his
spine and to have his nose "fixed." Id. at
11. Defendants Dr. Rodgers, Ms. Hicks-van Haren, Dr. Carter
and Nurse Lemmons jointly filed the Motion for Summary
Judgment under consideration along with a supporting
memorandum of law and exhibits, and supplied Grove with the
notice required by Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d
309 (4th Cir. 1975) and Local Civ. R. 7(J). [Dkt. No. 33-35]
Grove has filed an opposition [Dkt. No. 37], and defendants
have submitted a reply. [Dkt. No. 42] Accordingly, this
matter is now ripe for disposition.
Standard of Review
judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of
showing that there are no genuine, material factual disputes
and that it is entitled to judgment based on those facts. See
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once the movant has met its initial burden, the burden shifts
to the non-moving party to point out the specific facts which
create disputed issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby.
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita
Electrical Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate only
where no material facts are genuinely disputed and the
evidence as a whole could not lead a rational factfinder to
rule for the non-moving party. Matsushita. 475 U.S.
Undisputed Material Facts
following material facts are undisputed.
Grove's Grievance Records
During the time period relevant to this lawsuit, RRJ's
medical department had in effect a formal grievance
procedure, which is a mechanism for inmates to grieve issues
relating to jail policy, procedures, and treatment, including
health complaints. [Dkt. No. 34, Ex. B, Hicks-van Haren Aff.
an RRJ inmate files a grievance regarding his medical care it
is forwarded to Pamela Hicks-van Haren, the Health Services
Administrator at RRJ. Id. ¶¶ 2, 10. Ms.
Hicks-van Haren, the Director of Nursing, or a designee will
investigate the complaint and provide the inmate with a
written grievance response within seven (7) business days.
Id. ¶ 11. If the inmate is dissatisfied he may
appeal the response to his grievance, and the grievance
process is not complete unless he does so. Id.
April 18, 2018, Grove filed a grievance with respect to his
broken nose. Id. ¶ 23. Hicks-van Haren
responded on April 25, 2018 that she had met with Grove and
he had been referred to an ENT specialist, but the process of
scheduling outside medical appointments took time.
May 2, 2018, Grove appealed the response to his grievance. He
received a response to his grievance appeal on May 17, 2018,
"thereby exhausting the grievance process."
Id. ¶ 23.
Grove's Medical Records
September 7, 2016, Grove was seen by a nurse practitioner for
complaints of chronic back pain and requests for Gabapentin
(a medication used to treat nerve pain), a two-piece jumper,
and a bottom bunk profile. [Dkt. No. 34, Ex. A, Carter Aff.
¶ 6] Upon examination, Grove appeared to have full range
of motion with no deformity, spasms or edema, he ambulated
well without assistance, and he manipulated the examination
table well. The nurse practitioner determined that Grove did
not require the requested items, and Grove became upset and
stated that he would write grievances until he got what he
October 4, 2016, Dr. Carter saw Grove for complaints of back,
hip and leg pain which Grove stated had been going on for
several years. Id. ¶ 7. Dr. Carter noted no
abnormalities in Grove's extremities, gait or posture,
and observed that he could climb onto the examination table
without difficulty. To Dr. Carter, "Mr. Grove's
presentation indicated that his reported pain did not
significantly impair his activities of daily living."
Id. Because Grove's clinical presentation ruled
out significant back abnormalities, Dr. Carter determined
that his pain could be managed conservatively and order a
short course of Gabapentin. Id. In addition, a
two-piece jumpsuit is indicated only where there is
significant orthopedic or neurological impairment, and Dr.
Carter determined that Grove was not qualified to receive
that accommodation. Id.
Based upon Grove's subjective complaints and clinical
presentation, Dr. Carter believed that he had degenerative
disc disease ("DDD"), the most frequent cause of
lower back pain. Id. ¶ 8. DDD is a common
disorder that occurs when the rubbery discs lose integrity as
a normal process of aging, and while disc degeneration is
likely to progress over time, the pain from DDD does not get
worse and in fact usually improves as the vertebral segments
stabilize overtime. It cannot be cured. Id.
control for DDD and similar conditions must be balanced with
the patient's need to function in life and to minimize
the risk of prescription drug abuse. Id. ¶ 9.
While excessive medication may ease or resolve a
patient's pain, it also will threaten the patient's
health and undermine his quality of life. Pain treatment thus