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Grove v. Rogers

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

April 29, 2019

Irvin Daniel Grove, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. Rodgers, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LIAM O. GRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Irvin 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.[1] 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.

         I. Background

         Grove 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.

         In 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.

         In 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.

         On 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.[2]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.

         Grove 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.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary 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. at 587.

         III. Undisputed Material Facts

         The following material facts are undisputed.

         A. Grove's Grievance Records

         1. 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. ¶ 8]

         9. When 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. ¶¶ 5-6.

         10. On 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.

         11. On 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.

         B. Grove's Medical Records

         1. On 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 wanted. Id.

         2. On 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.

         3. 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.

         4. Pain 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. ΒΆ 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 ...


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