Nolan v. Patterson et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER signed by Judge Claria Horn Boom on 7/14/21; denying 13 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. cc: Plaintiff(pro se), Counsel (DJT)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
DAWN PATTERSON et al.,
Civil Action No. 3:19-CV-P935-CHB
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND
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This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Dawn
Patterson (hereinafter “Defendant”). [R. 13] Plaintiff Timothy Nolan (hereinafter “Plaintiff”)
filed a Response [R. 21], and Defendant replied [R. 23]. The matter is now ripe for decision.
For the following reasons, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss will be denied.
This is a pro se prisoner civil-rights action. Plaintiff is incarcerated at Lee Adjustment
Center in Beattyville, Kentucky. [R. 3] Upon review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, the Court allowed an Eighth Amendment claim for denial of medical treatment to
proceed against Defendant in her individual capacity as a nurse employed by Wellpath at the
Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (“LLCC”). [R. 4] The Court also allowed Plaintiff to file
an amended complaint to provide additional detailed factual allegations regarding how any other
persons in their individual capacities allegedly denied Plaintiff medical treatment. [R. 4, p. 13].
Plaintiff filed his first Amended Complaint. [R. 12] Defendant now moves to dismiss the
Complaint and Amended Complaint against her. [R. 13]
Plaintiff alleges that he is 73 years old and “has a history of having a lot of medical
problems, including cancer, pituitary tumor, obesity, MI with stents, hypertension, tinnitus,
etc . . . .” [R. 1, p. 3 (ellipsis in original); accord R. 12, p. 3] He reports that he made requests
for various referrals and tests based on numerous medical conditions and that those requests have
been denied. [R. 1, p. 3; R. 12, p. 3] Specifically, he reports seeking referrals to an
endocrinologist, an orthopedic surgeon, a dermatologist, a cardiologist, and a urologist and
further reports requesting an MRI, screening for cancer, a colonoscopy, and a C-pap, and “those
requests were refused.” [R. 1, pp. 3–5; R. 12, pp. 3–4] For example, Plaintiff alleges that he
“requested to be seen by a cardiologist but was subsequently denied by Wellpath nurse, Dawn
Patterson, who stated the circulatory system and heart were two different matters. Dawn
Patterson then informed him he needed to pick which matter he wanted to be seen for.” [R. 12,
p. 3] He asserts that he informed her of his previous heart attack where he required two stents.
He further reports that he went to see “health administrator, [Defendant Nurse] Patterson,
four (4) times, which during the first three, she was on vacation, sick or off work. The fourth
time, she was in but stated that she did not want to discuss [his] problems.” [R. 1, p. 5] Plaintiff
reports filing a grievance, to which Defendant responded “that there was too many issues, this
will need to go back to the grievance office.” Id. Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint recites much of
the same allegations with respect to Defendant as his original Complaint. [R. 12]
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), to survive a motion to dismiss, “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[A] district court must (1) view the complaint in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett
v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The
complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations,” yet must provide “more than an
unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id.
In addition, “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
93 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). The duty to be less stringent
with pro se complainants, however, does not require the Court to “abrogate basic pleading
essentials,” Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), nor to create a claim for a pro se
plaintiff, Clark v. Nat’l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975).
Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint and amended complaint against her,
arguing that § 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a defendant denied an
administrative grievance or failed to act based upon information contained in a grievance. [R.
13, p. 4] Defendant contends that the entirety of Plaintiff’s allegations against her involve his
disagreement with her decision as Health Services Administrator to reject his healthcare
grievance requesting various referrals to outside providers. Id. Defendant maintains that there is
no allegation that Plaintiff was prevented from seeing healthcare providers at the prison; instead,
his requests to see “outside” providers were denied. Id. at 5. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s
Eighth Amendment claims should be against the subjects of his grievances, not those who
merely decided whether to grant or deny the grievances. Id. (citing Skinner v. Govorchin, 463
F.3d 518, 525 (6th Cir. 2006)). Accordingly, Defendant argues that because Plaintiff’s
allegations against her are based solely upon her involvement as Health Services Administrator
in the healthcare grievance process, her refusal to grant his healthcare grievance does not state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. [R. 13, p. 5] In her Reply, Defendant also states that as
the then-acting Health Services Administrator, she “neither took part in providing care to
Plaintiff nor directed the care provided by the providers.” 1 [R. 23, p. 2].
A. Grievance Claim
Upon review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court dismissed the
individual capacity claims against all Defendants regarding Plaintiff’s claims that numerous
Defendants denied or rejected his grievances and the appeals. [R. 4, pp. 11–12]. The Court
recognized then, as it does now, that “there is no inherent constitutional right to an effective
prison grievance procedure.” Argue v. Hofmeyer, 80 F. App’x 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing
cases). Having already dismissed Plaintiff’s grievance claim against Defendant, the motion to
dismiss on this ground is moot.
B. Deliberate Indifference to Medical Need
“The Eighth Amendment forbids prison officials from unnecessarily and wantonly
inflicting pain on an inmate by acting with deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s serious
medical needs.” Dudley v. Streeval, No. 20-5291, 2021 WL 1054390, at *3 (6th Cir. Feb. 8,
2021) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Blackmore v. Kalamazoo County, 390 F.3d
890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004)). “A claim for denial of adequate medical care has an objective and a
subjective component.” Id. To satisfy the objective element of a deliberate indifference claim, a
plaintiff must allege “a serious medical need, which is ‘one that has been diagnosed by a
Nothing in the Amended Complaint or the attached Exhibits to the Amended Complaint support this
factual statement by Defendant.
physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily
recognize the necessity for a doctor’s attention.’” Martin v. Warren County, 799 F. App’x 329,
338 (6th Cir. 2020) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Jones v. Muskegon County, 625
F.3d 935, 941 (6th Cir. 2010)). To satisfy the subjective component of the deliberate
indifference test, a plaintiff must allege “that the defendant possessed a sufficiently culpable state
of mind in denying medical care.” Winkler v. Madison County, 893 F.3d 877, 891 (6th Cir.
2018) (quoting Spears v. Ruth, 589 F.3d 249, 254 (6th Cir. 2009)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “A defendant has a sufficiently culpable state of mind if he ‘knows of and disregards
an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.’” Winkler, 893 F.3d at 891 (quoting Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)).
Here, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from several severe medical conditions, including a
severe heart condition, of which Defendant is aware. [R. 12, p. 2–3] He states that while
confined at LLCC, he repeatedly requested follow-up appointments with outside medical
specialists as directed by previous medical providers. Id. Plaintiff claims that, in disregard of
the instructions from his specialists, Defendant and others refused to provide access to the
medical care, and, as a result, his conditions are not being addressed and potentially worsening.
Id. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is Wellpath’s Health Services Administrator at
the LLCC. Id. at 4. As such, a reasonable inference can be drawn that she is in a position to
know about Plaintiff’s specific medical circumstances, including recommendations from
previous medical providers regarding necessary follow-up appointments and tests with outside
clinicians. Finally, contrary to Defendant’s argument, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant directly
participated in the acts or failures to act of which he complains and, thus, displayed a deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Id. at 3.
When taken as true, Plaintiff’s allegations regarding the denial of adequate medical care
are sufficient to support the plausibility standard of Twombly and Iqbal. While Plaintiff’s Eighth
Amendment claim may not ultimately survive summary judgment, Plaintiff’s complaint contains
sufficient allegations to survive Defendant’s current Motion to Dismiss.
For the reasons set forth above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion to
Dismiss [R. 13] is DENIED.
This the 14th day of July, 2021
Plaintiff, pro se
counsel of record
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