Neff v. State of Maryland et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard D. Bennett on 5/18/2017. (c/m 5/18/17)(kr2, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
FRANK M. NEFF
ECI-E PRISON WARDEN, et al.
Civil Action No. RDB-16-3144
Defendants Wexford Health Source, Inc., Ruth Pinkney, P.A., and Jason Clem, M.D.
(hereinafter Medical Defendants) filed a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment (ECF 37)
in respons~ to the above-entitled
civil rights complaint.
Defendants, Warden Kathleen Green, Secretary Stephen Moyer, and "the Commissioner
also filed a Motion to Dismiss or for
Summary Judgment in response to the claims asserted against them in the same complaint.
PlaintifT Frank Neff opposes the motions.
ECF 42, 45 & 47. For the reasons that follow,
the motions filed by Defendants shall be construed as Motions for Summary Judgment and shall
be granted without a hearing which this Court deems unnecessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D.
The complaint was originally filed in the United States District Court for the District of
Delaware and later transferred to this Court as all matters asserted concern events allegedly
occurring in Westover, Maryland at Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI), where Plaintiff Frank
Neff is incarcerated.
Neff states in the original complaint that this Court is biased against him
and states all of the cases he files in this Court are dismissed.
ECF 1. He claimed in his original
complaint that his rights were violated and he was directed to file an amended complaint.
In his amended complaint, Neff states that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights
ECF 4 at p. 2. He claims that on March 10,2015, Peter Stanford, a physician's
assistant at ECI, said that Neff needs a cane to help him walk and that he needs a hearing aid for
his right ear. Id. at p. 3. Neff further claims that he had been prescribed medications as "keep on
person" or KOP, but they were taken from him.
Id. He states that "Eel Medical Wexford"
denied the request for a cane and for a hearing aid, and also denied KOP medications.
claims that he is a fall risk and that he fell twelve times in the past ten months, hurting himself
"real bad" on four occasions. Id. at p. 4. Neff states that while medical staff claim he was selling
his medical supplies, the matter was investigated in February 2015 and no proof was found. Id.
Neff also claims there is no evidence that he presents a security threat to staff if he is given a
Medical Defendants explain that Neff is a 64 year old inmate whose notable medical
issues are epilepsy and spondylopathy.
Neff is prescribed Dilantin to reduce his risk of seizures;
however, Medical Defendants state that Neff has a long history of being non-compliant with
prescribed medications wherein he either refuses to take medication or threatens not to take it for
purposes of a secondary gain or sells supplies provided to him for incontinence.
See ECF 37 at
Ex. I, pp. 8 - 9 (admission of non-compliance with Dilantin medication), 10 - 12 (report from
RN he sold tape used with "pull-ups"),
20 (stated intent to refuse medication), 23 (refused
morning medication), 25 (refused to allow vital sign measurement),
34 (Dilantin level sub-
therapeutic due to non-compliance), 36 (refusing Dilantin), 38 (refusing all meds if not provided
Mylanta), 46--48 (refusal of medication).
aggressive with medical staff.
Additionally, Neff is known to be combative and
Id. at pp. I (threw briefs at staff because he wanted diapers
Spondylopathy is a general tenn that refers to any disease Of the vertebrae.
dictionary .therreed ictionary .com/spondylopathy.
with other medication
if not allowed
medications), 83 (refusing blood draw because "the PA and Nurse are liars").
Although Neff is
not provided with KOP medications due to his suspected history of selling his medications and
medical supplies as well as his confirmed non-compliance with prescribed medications, he is still
provided medication at the prison's dispensary. ECF 37 at Ex. 2.
With regard to use ofa cane, Neff was prescribed a quad cane on March 19,2015, when
it was noted that he had fallen, his right knee was swollen, and he was walking with a limp. ECF
39 at p. 3, see also p. 5 (confirming cane was ordered). On April 8, 2015, when the cane ordered
for Neff arrived at the institution, medical stalf was informed that the last time Neff was issued a
cane he assaulted staff with it. ld. at p. 7. Based on that security concern, the cane was not
provided to Neff and the matter was remanded to medical staff for further consideration.
The following day, a decision was made to issue a cane to Neff with restrictions.
ld. at p. 10.
The restrictions were that the cane could only be made of wood and it would only be used by
Neff when he was moving from his cell to the shower. ld. An additional accommodation was
made to transport Neff to his medical appointments via wheelchair. ld.
On May 15,2015,
it was reported to medical staff by custody staff that Neff had been
observed walking without assistance to his Native American meetings.
ld. at p. 15. Given this
information, coupled with his prior assault on staff with a previously issued cane, Neff was
transferred to Ward C for observation and further determination of whether he required assistive
ld. On May 17, 2015, Neff was observed in the ward walking without the need for
assistance; showering without assistance; and standing on his toes, reaching up to change the TV
channels. ld. at p. 25. On May 19, 20 IS, it was determined that Neff could be sent back to HU
8-0 where he would resume feed-in status alter he was regularly observed walking without
difficulty and with minimal limp. Id. at p. 30.
Medical Defendants do not address the allegation that Neff requires a hearing aid and
there is no mention of a hearing loss in any of the records submitted in support of their motion.
Neff appears to abandon this claim as it is not raised in his opposition response.
Correctional Defendants join in the motion filed by Medical Defendants and also assert
that to the extent he asserts a cognizable claim against them, Neff has failed to exhaust
administrative remedies. ECF 51.
Summary Judgment is governed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) which provides that:
The court shall grant summary judgment 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.
The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will
defeat the motion:
By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an
otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U. S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).
"A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment
'may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather must 'set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. '" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e».
The court should "view the evidence in the light most favorable to ... the nonmovant, and draw
all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility."
Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. C1r., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). The court
must, however, also abide by the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually
unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial."
Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal
quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewill v. Prall, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and
citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrell, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986»).
The Eighth Amendment prohibits "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" by virtue
of its guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.
Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173
(1976). "Scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment is not limited to those punishments authorized
by statute and imposed by a criminal judgment."
De 'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th
Cir. 2003) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991)).
In order to state an Eighth
Amendment claim for denial of medical care, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the actions of the
defendants or their failure to aet amounted to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.
See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). "Deliberate indifference is a very high standard
- a showing of mere negligence will not meet it ...
[T]he Constitution is designed to deal with
deprivations of rights, not errors in judgments, even though such errors may have unfortunate
To lower this threshold would thrust federal courts into the daily practices of
local police departments."
Grayson v. Peed, 195 F.3d 692, 695- 96 (4th Cir. 1999).
Deliberate indifference to a serious medical need requires proof that, objectively, the
prisoner plaintiff was suffering from a serious medical need and that, subjectively, the prison
staff were aware of the need for medieal attention but failed to either provide it or ensure the
needed care was available. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Objectively, the
medical condition at issue must be serious.
See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992)
(there is no expectation that prisoners will be provided with unqualified access to health care).
Proof of an objectively serious medical condition, however, does not end the inquiry.
The subjective component requires "subjective recklessness" in the face of the serious
See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 839-40.
"True subjective recklessness requires
knowledge both of the general risk, and also that the conduct is inappropriate in light of that
risk." Rich v. Bruce, 129 F.3d 336, 340 n.2 (4th Cir. 1997). "Actual knowledge or awareness on
the part of the alleged inflicter ... becomes essential to proof of deliberate indifference 'because
prison officials who lacked knowledge of a risk cannot be said to have inflicted punishment.'''
Brice v. Va. Beach Carr. Center, 58 F.3d 101, 105 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at
844). If the requisite subjective knowledge is established, an official may avoid liability "if[he]
responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm was not ultimately averted." See Farmer, 511
U.S. at 844.
of the actions taken must be judged in light of the risk the
defendant actually knew at the time. See Brown v. Harris, 240 F.3d 383, 390 (4th Cir. 2000)
(citing Liebe v. Norton, 157 F.3d 574, 577 (8th Cir. 1998)) (focus must be on precautions
actually taken in light of suicide risk, not those that could have been taken).
With respect to security staff, the Fourth Circuit has identified two slightly different
aspects of a correctional official's state of mind that must be shown in order to satisfy the
subjective component in the context of medical care. First, actual knowledge of the risk of harm
to the inmate is required.
Young v. Mt. Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 575-76 (4th Cir. 2001); see also
Parrish ex rei. Lee v. Cleveland, 372 F.3d 294, 303 (4th Cir. 2004) ("It is not enough that the
should have recognized it."). Beyond such knowledge, however, the officer must also
have "recognized that his actions were insufficient" to mitigate the risk of harm to the inmate
arising from his medical needs. Parrish, 372 F.3d at 303 (emphasis added); /ko v. Shreve, 535
F3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008).
NeWs claim regarding the decision to deny him access to his medication as "keep on
person" is without merit.
There is no evidence that he has been harmed in any way by this
decision as he has not been denied the medication; rather, the manner of its delivery has been
claim regarding provision of a cane is also without merit.
There is ample
evidence that the reversal of the decision to provide him with a cane was based on his past
assault of correctional staff and, more importantly, daily observation of his abilities to walk and
perform activities of daily life without a cane or a wheelchair.
There is no evidence that Neff
was denied a cane without due consideration of his actual needs and his current medical issues.
The complaint fails to state a claim of an Eighth Amendment violation.
Because the actions taken with regard to Neff's
medical care do not violate his
constitutional rights, all of the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment in their favor and
the need for analysis of the defenses raised regarding qualified immunity and exhaustion of
administrative remedies is obviated. A separate Order entering judgment in favor of Defendants
(f'r,4'1 J.p, :«(')//
RICHARD D. BENNETT
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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