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Saunders v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 11, 2019

ROBERT SAUNDERS a/k/a Shamsidin Ali, Plaintiff,

          Robert Saunders a/k/a Shamsidin Ali, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Joseph Clement Handlon, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.



         On December 21, 2015, Plaintiff Robert Saunders a/k/a Shanisidin Ali ("Plaintiff), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131. (D.I. 3). He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 6). Defendant Dr. Vincent Carr ("Dr. Carr") filed a crossclaim for contribution and indemnification against the medical co-defendants on September 9, 2016.[2](D.I. 21). Pending before the Court are the motion of Dr. Carr and the Delaware Department of Corrections ("DOC") (collectively, "Defendants") for summary judgment (D.I. 54) and Plaintiffs motion for sanctions. (D.I. 106). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will (1) grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment, (2) dismiss Dr. Carr's crossclaim as moot, and (3) deny Plaintiffs motion for sanctions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Complaint raises an Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") claim against Defendant Delaware Department of Correction ("DOC") and a medical needs claim against Dr. Carr. (D.I. 3). All other defendants and claims have been dismissed. (See D.I. 10; D.I. 116).

         The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffers from several medical conditions.[3] On November 4, 2015, Plaintiff was advised by consultant nephrologist that his medical records indicated a stage three kidney disorder with thirty-five percent kidney function loss. (D.I. 3 at ¶ 18). Medications prescribed for Plaintiff were discontinued since, when taken in conjunction with blood pressure medication, they were "very detrimental." (Id.). The Complaint alleges that two nephrologists wrote numerous consults for him to see a urologist or endocrinologist. (Id. at ¶ 19). Plaintiff alleges that he was told because he also suffers from hypertension, kidney damage may occur more quickly due to the combination of diabetes and hypertension. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Carr, along with the dismissed medical defendants, ignored the requests for consults. (Id.).

         Plaintiff also alleges that Dr. Carr, along with the dismissed medical defendants, refused to approve medically needed spinal surgery due to cost considerations. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-20). Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Carr, along with the dismissed medical defendants, opted to provide Plaintiff with physical therapy despite a medical recommendation to the contrary. (Id. at ¶ 20). In addition, Plaintiff alleges that he was denied surgery based upon his age and life without parole sentence. (Id. at ¶ 22).

         Plaintiff further alleges that he has been in constant/severe pain since November 2014 and that he has been provided a wheelchair for traveling long distances and a walker for use as needed. (Id.). He alleges that two buildings he uses, the B-building library and the L-building (law library/computer), have areas that are not handicap accessible and do not have handicap accessible toilets. (Id. at ¶ 23). Plaintiff alleges Defendants are aware of this problem via the grievance process and letters.

         Plaintiffs medical records indicate that he was taken to Bayhealth Medical Center on October 7, 2014, because of massive rectal bleeding. (D.I. 5 at 7). A colonoscopy performed on October 9, 2014, revealed severe diverticulosis. (Id. at 9).

         A cervical spine MRI performed on Plaintiff on August 26, 2014, revealed severe C3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7 stenosis, compression greater at ¶ 3-4 with cord signal changes. (Id. at 10-11). Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Dunbar Alcindor ("Dr. Alcindor") on October 6, 2014 and November 7, 2014 for cervical stenosis with upper extremity weakness and parenthesis conditions. (Id. at 6). At the October 6, 2014 visit, Plaintiff indicated that he was not interested in any surgical procedure and opted to undergo conservative treatment. (Id.). Dr. Alcindor prescribed medication and physical therapy. (Id.). When Plaintiff returned on November 7, 2014, Dr. Alcindor recommended C3-4, C4-5, C5-6, C6-7 anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. (Id. at 5). Dr. Alcindor noted that, because Plaintiff is incarcerated, he is unable to tolerate the usual course of conservative treatment secondary to his status and prior unacceptable side effects from some of the medications Dr] Alcindor would like to prescribe. (Id.). Plaintiff was advised to consider his options and notify Dr. Alcindor's office. (Id.).

         Dr. Carr's declaration states that he is the Medical Director of the Bureau of Correctional Health Services of the Delaware DOC. (D.I. 36-1 at ¶ 1). He did not work for the DOC prior to October 2012. (Id.). As Medical Director, Dr. Carr does not perform patient care for DOC inmates. (Id. at ¶ 2). According to Dr. Carr, he made no decisions regarding Plaintiff's healthcare and has not prevented any medical procedures, including surgery. (Id.). Dr. Carr does not participate in any clinical decisions, approval, or authorization processes. (Id.). He was not involved in Plaintiffs care for back pain and has not interfered with any decision that Plaintiff receive back surgery. (Id. at ¶ 5). Nor do Plaintiff s records indicate interference with a referral for a kidney evaluation or recommendation for spinal surgery. (Id.). According to Dr. Carr, a neuro-surgeon had been waiting for Plaintiffs decision concerning an anterior cervical discectomny and fusion procedure. (Id. at ¶ 10). Dr. Carr states that he has not interfered with referrals to outside consultants. (Id. at ¶ 3). On one occasion in 2016, Dr. Carr upheld a medical grievance submitted by Plaintiff when he claimed there were "obstacles" in seeing his nephrologist. (D.I. 36-1 at ¶ 4, 8-12).

         Dr. Carr reviewed Plaintiffs electronic health record and it indicates that: (1) with regard to Plaintiffs kidney condition, the records do not raise a concern that an outside consultation was required (D.I. 36-1 at ¶ 4); (2) Plaintiff was scheduled to see a urologist in January 2017 (id.); (3) the medical records do not support Plaintiffs position regarding his back condition, Plaintiff had indecision about receiving back surgery, numerous tests were performed, and Plaintiff had a neurosurgical consultation on December 8, 2016 that indicated Plaintiffs overall strength and condition were stable (id. at ¶¶ 5, 10); (4) Plaintiff receives treatment and medication for his diabetes, kidney insufficiency, and blood pressure (id. at ¶¶ 6, 7); (5) Plaintiff was seen by an on-site nephrologist in November 2015 (id. at ¶ 6); (6) he was seen by a podiatrist in February 2016 (id. at ¶ 7); (7) the records do not indicate a reoccurrence of diverticulitis for which he was treated in October 2014 (id. at ¶ 8); and (8) the soy diet provided to Plaintiff is recommended for individuals who have diabetes with kidney disease (id. at ¶ 9).

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Dr. Carr lacks the requisite personal involvement to impose liability; (2) the record demonstrates that Plaintiff receives extensive medical treatment; (3) Dr. Carr is entitled to qualified immunity; (4) there is no evidence of record to support Plaintiff s claim that the DOC is in violation of the ADA; and (5) Plaintiff did not exhaust the ADA claim.

         II. ...

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