Valdez v. Quintana et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: It is ORDERED as follows: 1. Valdezs Eight Amendment claims are DISMISSED, with prejudice; 2. Valdezs state law medical malpractice claims are DISMISSED, without prejudice; 3. This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Courts docket; 4. A corresponding judgment will be entered this date. Signed by Judge Danny C. Reeves on 4/5/2017.(KM)cc: COR, Pla via US mail
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
FRANCISCO QUINTANA, Warden,
Civil Action No. 5: 16-195-DCR
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Inmate Hector Valdez is confined at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington,
Kentucky (FMC-Lexington). Proceeding without counsel, Valdez filed a civil rights action
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal
Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging that the defendants violated his
constitutional rights. [Record No. 1] Valdez is apparently suing the defendants in their
official and individual capacities. He claims that the defendants displayed deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution and also engaged in medical malpractice. [Record Nos. 1, 1-1] The matter is
before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2).
The Court will dismiss Valdez’s complaint. As an initial matter, Valdez’s claims
against the defendants in their official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity. Next,
Valdez’s Eighth Amendment claims against the defendants in their individual capacities
fail to state claims upon which relief may be granted. Finally, the Court will decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Valdez’s claims of medical malpractice.
Valdez alleges that he injured his foot at a previous institution and subsequently
sought help from the medical staff at FMC-Lexington. [Record No. 1 at 2-3] He claims
that he requested that the staff provide him with “special shoes” that would help him
stabilize his feet. However, Valdez contends that he was given the incorrect shoe size and,
as a result, suffered additional harm because his left foot shifted and slid when he walked.
Valdez alleges that “[t]he already damaged area was unable to heal” and, as a result, he
“was in constant pain.” [Record No. 1 at 2]
Valdez further alleges that he brought this issue to the defendants’ attention, but he
claims that “they ignored my request and stated I was just complaining and the treatment
they provided was adequate.” Valdez ultimately argues that “[t]he Warden allowed his
staff to provide inadequate medical care,” that “Mr. Banto and Mr. Armentano made
decisions that caused me to suffer and disregarded doing what was reasonable,” and that
“Ms. Baker failed to provide the treat[ment] I needed and did not report the injury
seriousness [sic] to the physical therapist; instead, she allowed me to suffer . . . .” [Record
No. 1 at 2]
After the alleged foregoing events, Valdez pursued administrative remedies in early
2015 through the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He attached to his complaint a number of
documents related to this administrative review process. [Record No. 1-1 at 1-10] During
that process, Warden Francisco Quintana responded to Valdez’s request for an
administrative remedy by summarizing the medical care that Valdez had allegedly
received. [Record No. 1-1 at 3-4] According to the Warden, physical therapists saw
Valdez multiple times regarding his foot, issued him a custom orthotic, and determined
that he demonstrated good ambulation with a cane. [Record No. 1-1 at 3] The Warden
also stated that Valdez’s feet were re-measured and, when it was determined that his
“current shoe was one-half size too large and a bit too wide,” new medical shoes were
ordered. [Record No. 1-1 at 3-4] The Warden further asserts that, among other things, the
prison’s nurse subsequently treated Valdez and determined that his wound seemed to be
improving. [Record No. 1-1 at 4]
Valdez pursued his administrative remedies through the appeals process after
receiving the Warden’s response. In doing so, he repeated the arguments that he was
provided inadequate medical care and that his medical needs were disregarded. [Record
No. 1-1 at 6, 7] However, Valdez also acknowledged that he had received at least some
medical care. Indeed, he wrote, “I made every effort to comply with the doctors [sic]
instructions, but his diagnosis was premature and I was not ready for a cane when
prescribed a cane.” [Record No. 1-1 at 6] Likewise, Valdez later wrote, “[t]he medical
care plan developed and implemented by primary care provider team was misdiagnosised
[sic] and the results were I was providing [sic] with shoes that caused greater damage to
my feet . . . .” [Record No. 1-1 at 7] Ultimately, Valdez's administrative appeals were
denied. [Record No. 1-1 at 5, 8-9]
Valdez then filed this lawsuit against four defendants: (1) FMC-Lexington Warden
Francisco Quintana; (2) “Officer Banta,” who apparently is a physical therapist at FMCLexington; (3) “Officer Armentano,” who also apparently works in the physical therapy
office at the prison; and (4) “Wound Care Nurse Baker,” who Valdez claims is now retired.
[Record No. 1 at 1-2]. While it is not clear from the complaint whether Valdez is suing the
defendants in their official or individual capacities [Record No. 1], he stated during the
administrative appeals process that agents of the United States “should . . . be held
responsible in their individual capacities as well as their official capacities.” [Record No.
1-1 at 7]. Ultimately, Valdez claims that the defendants displayed deliberate indifference
to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and also engaged in medical malpractice. [Record No. 1 at 2, 4] Valdez is
seeking $250,000 in monetary damages. [Record No. 1 at 8]
Valdez’s claims against the defendants in their official capacities are barred by
sovereign immunity. This is because the United States as a sovereign is generally immune
from suit. United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941). This immunity extends
to claims against government agents acting in their official capacities. Blakely v. United
States, 276 F.3d 853, 870 (6th Cir. 2002). While the United States can expressly waive its
immunity, it has not done so in Bivens actions. Nuclear Transport & Storage, Inc. v. United
States, 890 F.2d 1348, 1351-52 (6th Cir. 1989). Therefore, Valdez’s claims against the
defendants in their official capacities are barred.
Valdez’s Eighth Amendment claims against the defendants in their individual
capacities fail to state claims upon which relief may be granted.
circumstances, a prisoner can establish an Eighth Amendment violation if he or she is
provided inadequate medical care. However, the plaintiff must show that the defendant
acted with deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s serious medical needs. See Blackmore
v. Kalamazoo County, 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). Here, even when the complaint is construed in the light most
favorable to Valdez, the plaintiff cannot establish a cause of action under the Eighth
Even if the Court assumes that Valdez’s medical needs are serious, the statements
he made while pursuing his administrative remedies and now incorporates into his
complaint, establish that the defendants did not act with deliberate indifference to those
needs. Valdez tacitly acknowledged on multiple occasions that he received medical
treatment and simply disagreed with the diagnoses he was given. He stated, for example,
that he “made every effort to comply with the doctors [sic] instructions, but his diagnosis
was premature and [he] was not ready for a cane when prescribed a cane.” [Record No. 11 at 6] Likewise, he later wrote that, “[t]he medical care plan developed and implemented
by primary care provider team was misdiagnosised [sic] and the results were I was
providing [sic] with shoes that caused greater damage to my feet . . . .” [Record No. 1-1 at
7] The Sixth Circuit has recognized that, in this situation, “[w]here a prisoner has received
some medical attention and the dispute is over the adequacy of the treatment, federal courts
are generally reluctant to second guess medical judgments and to constitutionalize claims
that sound in state tort law.” Graham ex rel. Estate of Graham v. County of Washtenaw,
358 F.3d 377, 385 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 n.5 (6th
Cir. 1976)). Similarly, the court has repeatedly recognized that a mere disagreement over
medical treatment does not give rise to a constitutional claim of deliberate indifference.
See, e.g., Wright v. Sapp, 59 F. App’x 799, 801 (6th Cir. 2003); Simpson v. Ameji, 57 F.
App’x 238, 239 (6th Cir. 2003).
Since Valdez’s own statements indicate that he has been examined and treated by
medical staff at FMC-Lexington and that he simply disagrees with the adequacy of that
treatment and the diagnoses he was given, he has failed to state viable Eighth Amendment
While Valdez has not stated viable claims under the Eighth Amendment, the Court
reaches no conclusion as to his medical malpractice claims. Instead, the Court simply
declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these claims. This is because the Court
has already dismissed Valdez’s Eighth Amendment claims, and it further concludes that
the balance of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity all point toward
declining jurisdiction over those state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Carnegie–
Mellon University v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343 (1988); Musson Theatrical, Inc. v. Federal Exp.
Corp., 89 F.3d 1244, 1255 (6th Cir. 1996) (noting that “[a]fter a 12(b)(6) dismissal, there
is a strong presumption in favor of dismissing supplemental claims”).
In summary, the Court will dismiss Valdez’s complaint. Valdez’s claims against
the defendants in their official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity. Further, his
Eighth Amendment claims asserted against the defendants in their individual capacities fail
to state claims upon which relief may be granted. Finally, the Court will decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Valdez’s medical malpractice claims. Accordingly, it is
ORDERED as follows:
Valdez’s Eight Amendment claims are DISMISSED, with prejudice.
Valdez’s state law medical malpractice claims are DISMISSED, without
This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Court’s docket.
A corresponding judgment will be entered this date.
This 5th day of April, 2017.
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