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Hall v. Raja

March 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David M. Lawson United States District Judge

Honorable David M. Lawson

Magistrate Judge Mark A. Randon


The plaintiff, Tommy Hall, is a Michigan prisoner who brought this civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several prison healthcare officials. He alleges that he suffers from a congenital birth defect that causes constant pain. He had two back surgeries before he was imprisoned, and he alleges that the defendants are denying him proper follow-up care including pain medication and physical therapy, which amounts to deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Mark A. Randon to conduct all pretrial proceedings. Hall filed a motion for immediate injunctive relief against the defendants and "the current contractual medical services provider to the Michigan Department of Corrections," requesting that the Court order the defendants to provide acceptable medical care, permanently monitor his health management, and appoint counsel for him. The magistrate judge recommended that the Court deny this motion, and the plaintiff has filed objections. Defendants Jany Sharpley and Dean Johnson (the RN Defendants) filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies. The magistrate judge recommended that the Court deny the motion to dismiss as to Ms. Sharpley and grant the motion as to Mr. Johnson. The defendants objected to that report. The Court finds that the magistrate judge's conclusion is correct. Therefore, the Court will overrule the objections, adopt the report and recommendation, grant defendant Johnson's motion to dismiss, deny defendant Sharpley's motion to dismiss, and deny the plaintiff's motion for immediate injunctive relief.


Plaintiff Tommy Hall is a thirty-six-year-old man who was incarcerated by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at its Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson, Michigan before being transferred to the Parnall Correctional Facility (SMT) on September 11, 2008. He alleges that he has a congenital birth defect that results in his spinal cord narrowing and that he has had two surgeries to relieve nerve compression: one in April 2000 while he was previously incarcerated, and the second was a spinal-fusion surgery on April 23, 2008, which was performed by Dr. T. Spencer outside of prison. The plaintiff alleges that he had four screws and four plates inserted during the second back surgery. The plaintiff states that when he returned to prison on August 14, 2008, he repeatedly requested follow-up medical care including pain medication and physical therapy, but these requests continually were denied beginning on August 28, 2008. The plaintiff further alleges that he was prescribed Neurotin and Salicylate (aspirin) for pain, even though that was against protocol; however, the medications were not effective, and his pain worsened. The plaintiff contends that the medications also caused nausea and stomach discomfort because he has acid reflux disease.

The plaintiff filed a grievance under MDOC policy. The magistrate judge set forth both the text of the grievance and the policy in his report, and they need not be repeated here. At the time the grievance was filed, Parnall Corrections Facility's Health Services department employed Jany Sharpley and Dean Johnson in their medical facility. The plaintiff states that he and his wife complained to Ms. Sharpley (a registered nurse), but she did nothing to relieve his pain. The plaintiff alleges that Dr. Raja, his primary caregiver, would not schedule diagnostic testing, a specialist consultation, or treatment, and Dr. Rawal, the Correctional Medical Services (CMS) specialist, believed Mr. Hall's condition was not "serious enough" and refused to examine him until December 12, 2008, which was four months after the plaintiff's first request. In his motion to dismiss, Dr. "Raja" alleges that the plaintiff incorrectly calls Dr. Vishnampet Thyagarajan by the name Dr. "Raja" in his complaint.

According to the plaintiff, Dr. Spencer, the civilian doctor who performed his second surgery, recommended that he receive physical therapy, but Dean Johnson, the CMS Coordinator, denied the plaintiff's physical-therapy request. Johnson is also a registered nurse. The plaintiff alleges that the CMS pain-management clinic denied his request for pain medication, and the medications that were later prescribed were ineffective. The plaintiff also alleges that the clinic's employees removed him from medications without "ample reason" and fabricated statements that suggested that he did not take his medication or show up for appointments. The plaintiff states that his condition has worsened because he has not had treatment, and he now has progressive nerve damage that causes bladder-control problems and a loss of sensation in his penis, which prevents him from obtaining an erection.

The plaintiff's grievance proceeded through all three steps of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) grievance procedure. The grievance was addressed on the merits, and it was denied at all three stages because the prison officials believed the plaintiff was receiving adequate care -- they did not reject the grievance on the basis that the plaintiff used the term "medical staff" without providing the names of all of the CMS personnel involved.

The plaintiff's complaint was filed on March 12, 2009. Dr. Raja moved to dismiss the case on April 16, but the Court denied the motion that same day because the defendant's filing did not comply with the local rule requiring the defendant to seek concurrence. On May 15, 2009, Jany Sharpley and Dean Johnson filed their motion to dismiss. Judge Randon filed his report and recommendation on August 28, 2009.

The magistrate judge recommended that Sharpley's motion to dismiss be denied because the plaintiff's grievance identified her sufficiently by naming the MDOC "medical staff," Sharpley reviewed and responded to the grievance, and the MDOC addressed the merits without objecting to any lack of clarity or identification of defendant Sharpley. Judge Randon reached a different conclusion as to defendant Johnson because Johnson could not have been involved in any conduct discussed in the plaintiff's grievance, since Johnson's denial of the plaintiff's October 8, 2008 request for physical therapy occurred six days after the grievance was filed on October 2, 2008. Judge Randon also noted that the complaint "does not plead any facts which show that Johnson had a 'sufficiently culpable state of mind.'" Rep. & Rec. at 10.

The magistrate judge also recommended that the plaintiff's request for immediate injunctive relief be denied because the plaintiff did not show a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits, and the plaintiff failed to demonstrate irreparable injury as he was not completely denied pain medication.

The plaintiff submitted five objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. The first one simply objects to the injunction being denied, and the second indicates that the plaintiff pleaded facts tending to show that he was being denied medication and consultations with a specialist. In the third objection, the plaintiff alleges that the denial of care constitutes deliberate indifference and cruel and inhuman treatment, which increases the plaintiff's suffering and the defendants' potential damages. The fourth and fifth objections state that the plaintiff was representing himself and could not afford medical records to show irreparable injury, but now he has an attorney who has ordered records. He requests time to provide documentation to support his request for an injunction.

The defendants object to the magistrate judge's denial of Sharpley's request for dismissal, arguing that the magistrate judge incorrectly relied on the fact that Ms. Sharpley reviewed and signed the grievance. The defendants quibble with the district court authority the magistrate judge cited, attempting to factually distinguish the present case. Finally, the defendants argue that even if the term "medical staff" sufficiently notified the prison of who was being grieved, the plaintiff still failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to Ms. Sharpley. They say that Sharpley would not have had contact with the plaintiff before he was transferred to SMT, where Sharpley was the Health Unit Manager (HUM). The only contact with an RN after the transfer on September 11, 2008 and ...

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