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Biggins v. Phelps

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 24, 2019

PERRY PHELPS, et al., Defendants.

          James Arthur Biggins, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.


          NOREIKA, U.S. District Judge


         Plaintiff James Arthur Biggins (“Plaintiff), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (“JTVCC”) in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. and the Rehabilitation Act (“Rehab Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 101. (D.I. 3). He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5). The Court proceeds to screen the Complaint (D.I. 3) and its amendment (D.I. 7), construed as the operative pleading, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b) and § 1915A(a).


         The Complaint contains two counts and names thirty defendants. Count I alleges cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Count II alleges unequal treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Plaintiff complains of the medication dispensing policy at the JTVCC and alleges that on four or five occasions he did not receive his prescribed morning medications. Plaintiff alleges the first incident occurred on May 25, 2019, when he awoke and prepared himself for the morning medical call “that is usual between 2:45 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.” (D.I. 3 ¶ 31). Plaintiff waited until after 4:00 a.m. and asked Defendant Sergeant Maeshack (“Maeshack”) if “they called medication yet.” (Id.). Maeshack told Plaintiff that meds had been called over an hour ago and Plaintiff replied that medication could not have been called because Plaintiff is housed in the first cell and he would have heard the call. (Id.). Plaintiff asked about getting his medication, but no one called the infirmary for him. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Nurse Amanda (“Amanda”) is the individual who failed to give him his morning medications. (Id. ¶ 47).

         Plaintiff alleges that on or about May 28, 2019, [1] he awoke and waited for the medication call, and he did not receive his medications. (Id. ¶ 32). At breakfast, Plaintiff spoke to Defendant C/O Alexander (“Alexander”) and asked her, “had they called meds yet?” (Id.). Alexander first answered yes, and then told Plaintiff to ask Maeshack who “handles all that stuff.” (Id.). Plaintiff alleges Alexander indicated she would call the infirmary after breakfast so that Plaintiff could receive his medication, and that he “never was called.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 2, 2019, he awoke and prepared himself for the medication call at 2:45 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. (Id. ¶ 33). Plaintiff saw Defendant C/O. Gomez (“Gomez”) and assumed medication had been called and returned to his cell to wait for the medication. (Id.). When Plaintiff had not received his medication, he asked Gomez about it and Gomez told Plaintiff he had “called meds about an hour ago.” (Id.). Plaintiff responded that he had been up quite early and had not heard anyone call medication. (Id.). Gomez then told Alexander and Defendants C/O Holcombe (“Holcombe”), C/O Ingram (“Ingram”), C/O Taylor (“Taylor”), and C/O Kobus (“Kobus”) that “he had an inmate . . . [who] was arguing with him about not getting his meds.” (Id. ¶ 35).

         Plaintiff had breakfast and sometime after 6:00 a.m. Gomez, Alexander and Defendant C/O Cumington “(Cumington”) came to Plaintiff and asked him if he wanted them to see if he could still get his morning medication. (Id. ¶¶ 36-39). Plaintiff replied “no, ” that it was too late now. (Id. ¶ 40). Plaintiff explained that he should have been sent to the infirmary early, that three hours had now passed, and knowing he had not received his morning medication correctional officers are supposed to automatically call the infirmary. (Id.). Plaintiff complained to Cumington that the procedures and policies to make sure an inmate receive his medication were not being followed. (Id. ¶ 45).

         Later that morning, Plaintiff spoke to Defendant Squeaz (“Squeaz”) about the morning's events and asked Squeaz to call the infirmary so that Plaintiff could receiving his morning medication with his mid-day medication, and Squeaz said he would. (Id. ¶ 46). Later Squeaz told Plaintiff he had made the call and spoke to Amanda who told Squeaz, “no.” (Id. ¶ 47). Plaintiff alleges that Squeaz did nothing to see that Plaintiff received his medication. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that policy and procedures required Squeaz to contact the shift commander and inform him of the refusal to dispense Plaintiff's medication. (Id. ¶ 48). In turn, the shift commander is supposed to contact the medical provider regional medical director. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Squeaz retaliated against him “for protecting the First Amendment rights.” (Id.).

         That evening, Plaintiff received his night medication from Amanda. (Id. ¶ 49). Plaintiff asked her why he could not receive his morning medication when she came to dispense the midday medication and Amanda explained that if an inmate does not receive his morning medication by 7:00 a.m., medical is prohibited by policy from distributing that medication. (Id. ¶ 50). Plaintiff does not believe this is the actual policy because not many nurses follow it. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that JTVCC and Delaware Department of Correction (“DOC”) policies mandate that correctional officers assigned to their buildings waste no time in calling the infirmary for inmates to get their medications. (D.I. 3 at 4, n.1).

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 12, 2019, he left the chow hall around 6:00 p.m. and noticed that the night nurse was also leaving but no one had called medication for the upstairs half of the building. (D.I. 7 ¶ 51). Plaintiff caught up with the nurse and she told Plaintiff that she was done dispensing the medication. (Id.). Plaintiff told the nurse that he had been eating and no one had notified him of the medication call. (Id. ¶ 52). The nurse dispensed Plaintiff's medication before she left. (Id. ¶¶ 52-57).

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 25, 2019, he awoke at 2:10 a.m. to prepare himself to get his morning medication. (Id. ¶ 58). Plaintiff alleges that a little after 4:00 a.m., he asked Ingram if he had called medication yet and Ingram indicated that he had. (Id. ¶ 58). Plaintiff explained that he had not heard anything. (Id.). Ingram replied, “well somebody else came off” and continued what he was doing. (Id.). Plaintiff later spoke to another inmate about the medication call and was told that it is hard to hear Ingram because “he never calls loud.” (Id. ¶ 59).

         Plaintiff alleges that the policy illustrates a complete denial to administer medication, results in Plaintiff having unnecessary pain and suffering, and does not serve a justifiable penological purpose. (D.I. 3 ¶ 50). Plaintiff alleges that the parties involved demonstrated that they are willfully acting with a sufficiently culpable state of mind in risking his daily health and safety and placing Plaintiff under imminent danger. (Id. ¶ 51).

         Plaintiff submitted two grievances on May 30, 2019. The first, sought an investigation of staff regarding the failure to distribute Plaintiff's medications. (D.I. 3-1 at 2-3). The grievance was returned as unprocessed by Defendant Informal Grievance Chair Matthew Dutton (“Dutton”). (Id. at 2). The returned grievance advised Plaintiff to write to his Unit Commander with his request for an investigation of the actions of staff personnel. (Id. at 5).

         The second, a medical grievance, complained that Plaintiff was not receiving his prescribed medication, inquired why Plaintiff was not called for morning medications, and complained that the policy as designed is useless. (D.I. 3-2 at 2, 3). The medical grievance was received by the medical unit on June 5, 2019. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff alleges that Amanda was aware of the grievance filed against her. (D.I. 3 at 7, n.4).

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (D.I. 3 ...

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