Murphy v. Soltas et al

Filing 49

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Jarrod Hazel on 9/8/2017. (c/m 9/8/2017 tds, Deputy Clerk)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURif S FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND, :: Southern Division ,.,,.. T ! T r ~ '''1 -1\1'- lGIl SEP -8 EDDIE MURPHY, #306651 '.... T r- Z. 12 * el' Plaintiff, Me * Case No.: G,/H-16-3077 * NICOLAS SOLTAS, CO II, CO II CRAIG SAUTER, LT,BRADLEY WILT, CO II .IASON FRANTZ, CO II CHRISTOPHER ORTT, CO II RONALD SAVILLE, .IOHN PORTMESS, SGT. WILLIAM GILLUM, SGT. WALTER ISER, R.N. KRISSI CORTEZ, GREG FLURY, P.A. * * * * * Defendants. * * * * * * * * * MEMORANDUM 2.2016.""" On September Correctional Institution of NBCI employees. ("NBC]") se PlaintilTEddie in Cumberland. alleging violations * * * provided Maryland. of 42 U.S.c. at 3.' The Complaint eorreetional him with inadequate filed a Complaint Murphy the "Medical exposure to pepper spray. ttl. Ii.lrce and failure to protect raised against stalT Jason Frantz. William Gillum. Walter Iser. Christopher Defcndants")./d against a number ~ 19&3. ECF No. I. Specitically. medical treatment also ineludes claims of exeessive Craig Sauter. Ronald Saville. Nicholas * Murphy. then an inmate at North Branch alleges that DeICndants Greg Flury. I'.A .. and Kristi Cortez. R.N .. (collectively Dclcndants") * OPINION Orlt. John Portmess. Soltas. and Bradley Wilt (collecti\'e1y at 7. On August 8. 2017. Murphy requested the "State a sixty-day extension of time to I Pin cites to documents filed on the Court"s electronic filing system (CM/ECF) refer to the page !lumbers generated by Ihal system. rcspond to thc Statc Dcfendants' Motion to Dismiss Or. in thc Alternativc. Motion Itl!' Summary Judgment. ECI' No. 48. which shall be granted. Thus. Murphy's claims against thc Statc Defendants are not ready for adjudication and will be considered at a later time. On February 10.2017. the Mcdical Defendants tiled a Motion to Dismiss or. in thc Alternative. Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion It)r Attorney's Fees and Costs. ECF No. 20. Murphy liled a Response in opposition on March 13. 2017. which he supplemcnted a wcek later on March 20. 2017. ECF No. 29: ECF No. 30. On March 23. 2017. the Medical Defcndants liled a Reply. ECI' No. 31. Murphy's claims against the Medical Defendants arc ready Itl!'disposition. No hcaring is rcquired. See Local Rulc 105.6. For reasons sct forth below. the Court grants thc Medical Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or. in the Altcrnative. Motion Itlr Summary Judgment. ECI' No. 20. The Medical Defendants' Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs is denied without prejudice to the motion being re-tiled after the disposition of the State Defendants' claims .. I. BACKGROUND A. Procedural History On October 9. 2013. Murphy. who was then incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland. Maryland.2 liled a complaint in a separatc suit alleging the same violations as in the prescnt case. MII/I)l1y 1'. LI. Bradley Will. el. al .. Civil Action No. WDQ-13- 2975 (D. Md. 2014). In that case. Defendant Kristi Cortez tiled a Motion to Dismiss or. inthc Altcrnative. Motion It)r Summary Judgment on February 4. 2014. /iI. ECF No. 13. Greg Flury was not a defendant in the earlier case. On March 21. 2014. belt)re the Court ruled on Cortez's Motion. Murphy moved to withdraw thc Complaint without prejudice because he wanted to 'Murphy was released Irolll prison 011 July 31. 2017. ECF Nu. 48. 2 pursue his claims alier his release from incarceration. It!. ECr NO.2!. On March 24. 2014. the Court issued an Ordcr granting Murphy \cave to withdraw thc Complaint without prejudicc. and eautioncd him that ifhc wcre to commcncc another action based upon or including the same claim against Cortez. he could bc rcquired to pay the costs of the dismissed action in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(d). Murph)' \'. Will. el al.. Civil Action No. WDQ-13-2977. ECF No. 22. On September 2. 2016. Murphy filcd this Complaint. allcging that the Medical Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendmcnt by providing inadequate trcatment to him alicr he was exposed to pepper spray on Septcmbcr 25.2013. ECr No. I. B. Murphy's Allegations In the instant Complaint. Murphy claims that alicr correctional offiecrs peppcr sprayed him on September 25.2013. he was cscorted to the mcdical unit where Greg Flury. a physician's assistant. chceKcd his vital signs. ECr NO.1 at 3. ~ 5. Murphy alleges that although he was obviously suffering pain and burning. with discharge oftcars Irom the pepper spray. Flury I~liled to flush his eyes. Jd. Murphy aCKnowledges that Flury gave him ibuproleli for pain relief. Jd Murphy alleges that Flury should havc "communicated with Lt. Wilt that [Murphy]"" should "rcccive a proper decontamination showcr:' !d. at 3. '1 5. Murphy aCKnowledges that alier he leli thc medical unit. correctional ofticers in !(let gave him a shower. Id. '16. Murphy maintains the showcr was " about two seconds" and did not rclievc the efleets ofthc peppcr spray. It!. Murphy claims that hc told Lt. Wilt that the shower was inadcquatc. but Wilt refused to allow him a longer decontamination shower. It!. 3 Murphy was thcn placed in an isolation. or "strip:' ccll for seven days. It!. at 4. 'i 9. Murphy eomplaincd of pain to Nursc Krissi Cortez when she conductcd medical rounds on the .l Murphy's claims against Lt. Bradley Wilt arc not ripe for disposition. See supra pp. 1-1. , j segregation housing unit. but he claims "nothing was done:' It!. at ~i As relief: he seeks 7.~ compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $500.000 against each defendant. jointly and severally. It!. at 8. C. Medical Defendants' Response Attached to their Motion to Dismiss. the Medical Defendants provided verified copies of Murphy's medical records; and atlidavits executed by Defendant Kristi Cortez" and Robustiano Barrera. M.D .. Regional Medical Director of NBC I. ECF No. 20-0: ECF No. 20-7: lOCI'No. 22. According to Murphy's medical records. on September 25. 2013. Murphy was scen by Flury liJr exposure to pepper spray. and reported a burning sensation Irom the pepper spray. ECF No. 22 at 9-11. Flury observed that Murphy's eycs were tearing. a common side effcct of pcp per spray. but he was otherwise not in distress. 1</.: ECF No. 20-6 ~ 9. Flury obscrved Murphy had no nasal deformity and that his mucous membranes. tongue and throat were normal. Murphy's lungs were clear and his respiration was normal. He had a regular heartbeat. no skin lesions werc observed. and his cxtremities were normal. !d Flury gave Murphy Ibuprofen. Murphy raised no complaints of scalp pain. discomfort. peeling. or bleeding. !d Pepper spray is derived from hot cayenne peppers and is designed to be an intlammatory irritant when in contact with the skin. eyes. nasal passages and mouth. It!. ~ 18. Generally. no lasting physical damage occurs when someone receives a dose of pepper spray and symptoms begin to remedy themselves in about filieen to fllrty-five minutes. !d According to Dr. Barrcra. a medical evaluation alier pepper spray exposure is common in a correctional setting. !d. For a small number of individuals. pepper spray ean trigger respiratory distress or respiratory failure: .• In the Complaint filed in Civil Action No WDQ-I3-1975, Murphy also alleged that he complained to Nurse Cortez that his scalp was peeling and bleeding due to the pepper spray. lei. ECF No. I at 3. ~ 8. 5 Murphy's health records are under seal. ECF No. 11. (, The Cortez declaration is identical to the one she filed in ,\lurl'l1y \'. Lt. Bradley Wilt. e1. al .. Civil Action No. WDQ-13-2975. ECF No. 13-5. -l to prevent this. medical stall' pcrform a respiratory assessment aner an inmate is administered pepper spray. !d ~ 18. Typically. removing the clothing that has come in contact with the pepper spray and rinsing the body with water provides adequate decontamination. It is the practice and custom that once an inmate has been medically cleared f(lllowing pepper spray exposure. the inmate is provided the opportunity to shower. Itl. ~ 19. The Medical Defendants state there is no record that Murphy was seen by Cortez on September 25. 2013. or that he submitted any sick call slips rclated to pepper spray exposure during the relevant time frame. !d ~ 17: see 1Iiso ECF No. 20-7 '111. C0I1ez states that she examined Murphy on September II. 2013. and October 2. 2013. ECF No. 20-7 'i'i 5. 7. Murphy did not complain of scalp pain. discomfort. peeling or bleeding during either visit. ECF No. 20-7 ~~9-10. II. STANDARD OF REVIEW The Medical Detendants' motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss. or in the Alternative. for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 20 at I. If the Court considers materials outside the pleadings. as the Court does here. the Court must treat a motion to dismiss as one tllr summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. 1'. 12(d). When the Court treats a motion to dismiss as a motion tllr summary judgment. "[a]1I parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion'" Id: sec 1Iiso LlIughiin 253.260-61 1". Melropo/illin /Vash. Ai"p0,.,s AUlh .. 149 F.3d (4th Cir. 1998). Furthermore. the Court may grant a motion tlJr summary judgment before the commencement of discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (stating that the court "shall grant summary judgment irthe movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material tact" without distinguishing pre-or post-discovery). 5 Summary judgment is appropriate if"materials in the record. including depositions. documents. electronically stored information. aflidavits or declarations. stipulations .... admissions. interrogatory answers. or other materials:' Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). show 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): see also Celo/ex Corp. ". Ca/re/I. 477 U.S. 317. 322 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists as to material facts. Pul/iallllm'. Co. \'. Call1eo Props .. 810 F.2d 1282. 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). II'the moving pat1y demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. the burden shins to the nonmoving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celo/ex. 477 U.S. at 322-23. A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law'" Spriggs 1'. Diall10nd Au/o Glass. 242 F.3d 179. 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson \'. Liher/y LoMy. In<".. 77 U.S. 242. 248 4 (1986)). A dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if suflicient evidence IllVoring the nonmoving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson. 477 U.S. at 248. However. the nonmoving party "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another'" Neale ". l1ar«". 769 F.2d 213. 214 (4th Cir. 1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment ... [t Ihe evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed. and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his Illvor'" Anderson. 477 U.S. at 255. Murphy was provided notice of the Medical Defendants' tiling of exhihits and affidavits to support the Motion for Summary Judgment. and submittcd a copy of the "Inmate Orientation Guidc" as an exhibit to his Opposition. ECF No. 29-2. 6 III. DISCUSSION In order to state an Eighth Amcndmcnt constitutional claim for dcnial of mcdical care. a prisoner must dcmonstrate that the defendant's acts or omissions amounted to "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medicalnceds:' Estelle \', Gail/hie. 429 U.S. 97.106 (1976). In csscnce. thc treatmcnt rcndered must be "so grossly incompetent. inadcquate. or excessivc as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to fundamental I;\irncss:' MillieI' \'. lJeol'll. S96 F.2d 848.851 (4th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted) m-erruled on olher groul1ll.,'. "Deliberate indilference may be demonstratcd by either actual intcnt or reckless disregard:' MillieI'. 896 F.2d at S5 I, Reckless disregard occurs when a defendant "knOll'S of and disregards an excessive risk to inmatc health or salety: thc [defendant] must both be aware of facts from which thc inlercnce could bc drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm cxists and hc must also draw thc inference:' Farll/er \" Brenllall. 51 I U. S. 825. 837 (1994). An Ei!.!l1th Amendmcnt violation on Iv ~ . occurs where there is objective evidence of a "scrious mcdical and emotional detcrioration:' Slrickler \', lValers. 989 F.2d 1375. 1379-80 (4th Cir. 1993). Thus. a health carc providcr must have actual knowledgc of a serious condition. not just knowledge of the symptoms. Johllsoll \" Quillolles. 145 F.3d 164. 16S (4th Cir. 1998). Mcrc negligencc or malpractice docs not amount to a constitutional violation. Russell \'. Shetter. 528 F.2d 318. 319 (4th Cir. 1975): DOIIIlllI \', SII/ilil. 662 F. Supp, 352. 361 (D. Md. 1986). Prison oflicials who are charged with dcliberatc indifference to a serious medical need must "know of and disregard the objectively serious condition. medical need. or risk of harm:' Shakka \', SII/ith. 71 F.3d 162. 166 (4th Cir. 1995), Murphy acknowledges that he was medically assessed by Flury on September 25. 2013. for pepper spray exposure. ECl' No. I at 3. ~ 5, Murphy also indicates that after leaving the mcdiealunit. he was able to remove the clothing he was wearing when he was pepper sprayed. 7 Id. ~ 6. After he was medically cleared. hc was providcd a showcr by corrcctional oflicers. ld '1 6. Viewing the facts in thc light must favorablc to Murphy. there is no evidencc that thc Medical Defendants actcd with deliberate indifferencc to his serious medical needs. Murphy. by his own account. was examined by Flury. provided mcdieation lor pain relief. and mcdically clearcd after exposure to pepper spray. Murphy was then returned to the custody of corrcctional ofticers and received a shower. There is no cvidence that Murphy was seen by Cortez or submitted any sick call clips regarding pain arising Irom his September 25.2013. exposurc during the relcvant time period. Lastly. to the extent Murphy may disagree with Flury's medical assessment. his claims. even if truc. are insuflicient to amount to a constitutional claim of inadequate medical care. See .lackson \'. Li~hlsey. 775 F.3d 170. that allegations. which may support a mcdicalmalpractice In (4th Cir. 2014) (reasoning claim. which amount to a disagreemcnt with the doctor do not support a deliberatc indifference claim): W,.i~hl \'. Collins. 766 F.2d 841. 849 (4th Cir. 1985). In the absence of a genuine dispute as to any material lilCt.the Medical Defendants arc cntitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. IV. CONCLUSION For these reasons. the Court grants the Medical Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 20. The Court denics Medical Dcfcndants' Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs. Eel' No. 20. without prejudice to the motion being re-liled upon disposition of the State Defendants' claims. Murphy's request for a sixty-day extension to respond to the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Or. in the Alternative. Motion for Summary Judgment is grunted. A separate Order f()lIows this Memorandum Opinion. 8 Dated: Septemberf d/!- .2017 GEORGE.I. IIi\ZEL United States District .ludgc 9

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