United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
LARRY D. RAPER, Plaintiff,
JOSEPH V. COTRONEO, Defendants.
L. Maloney United States District Judge
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave
to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison
Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321
(1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action
brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune
from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A;
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read
Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently,
see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and
accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are
clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these
standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint
for failure to state a claim against Defendants Michigan
Department of Corrections and Cotroneo. The Court will serve
the complaint against Defendants Larson and Whiteman.
I. Factual allegations Plaintiff Larry D. Raper
presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at the Boyer Road Correctional Facility in
Carson City, Michigan, which has been consolidated with the
Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF) and is now referred
to as DRF-West. The actions about which he complains also
occurred while he was housed at the Duane Waters Hospital
(DWH), operated by the MDOC. He sues the following
Defendants: the MDOC; Dr. Joseph V. Cotroneo, who is a
surgeon at the McLaren Hospital of Greater Lansing; DWH
Doctors Lynn M. Larson and Terence Whiteman; and other
unknown medical staff at DWH (Unknown Part(y)(ies)).
complains that, for over 15 years, doctors within the MDOC
had been aware of his problems with the circulation in his
legs. He broadly alleges that unnamed persons disregarded the
problems for years.
April 27, 2015, Dr. Cotroneo performed surgery at McLaren
Hospital, placing a graft in Plaintiff's right groin to
improve blood flow to Plaintiff's legs. The surgery had a
number of complications, including a blood clot that moved
toward Plaintiff's heart and ultimately caused a heart
attack. Plaintiff alleges that the blood clot undoubtedly was
the result of medications that he had been prescribed for
years, of which Dr. Cotroneo should have known.
was transferred to DWH on May 4, 2015, where he was placed
under the care of Dr. Rashed Bashir, who is not a Defendant
in the action. Plaintiff was discharged from DWH and returned
to DRF-West on May 13 or 14, 2015. Over the next two weeks,
Plaintiff contracted MRSA, either in his cell or in the
health care center at DWH-W est. Plaintiff was readmitted at
McLaren Hospital on May 31, 2015, and again placed under the
care of Defendant Dr. Cotroneo. On June 2, 2015, Dr. Cotroneo
operated to clean out the infected area. Dr. Cotroneo
debrided the wound abcess and excised parts of the muscle
areas to remove the pus and necrotic tissue. Dr. Cotroneo,
however, did not remove the graft that was placed in April.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Cotroneo should have known
that the graft needed to be removed at that time.
was transferred to DWH and placed under the care of Defendant
Dr. Larson from about June 15, 2015 to approximately August 3
or 4, 2015. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Larson visited him only
10 to 18 times during this period. He also alleges that, in
an attempt to save money, Defendant Larson used a different
kind of dressing and packed the wound, rather than using the
type of dressing ordered by Dr. Cotroneo. Plaintiff began to
bleed from his wound at about 8:30 p.m. on Augu st 3 or 4,
2015. After he was cleaned up, the nurses were instructed to
check on Plaintiff every hour, to ensure that he had not
started to bleed again. Plaintiff alleges that he did not
receive the necessary care and that Defendant Larson ignored
signs of infection. Plaintiff was scheduled to be discharged
from DWH on August 6, 2015.
August 6, 2015, Plaintiff suddenly began to bleed profusely
from a ruptured artery. He was rushed by ambulance to the
Allegiance Health emergency room. Defendant Dr. Whiteman
directed care during the transfer, and he had to place 80
pounds of weight on Plaintiff's groin area to control the
bleeding. At Allegiance Health, Plaintiff was placed in the
care of Dr. Praveen Balraj (not a Defendant), who performed
surgery to remove the graft and the infection growing under
the skin. However, because of the absence of sufficient blood
flow, Dr. Balraj was forced to amputate Plaintiff's right
leg below the knee.
the amputation, Plaintiff continues to experience problems.
Unspecified persons have not adequately provided assistance
with his prosthetic device and have denied pain relief. In
addition, since arriving back at DRF-West, Dr. Scott Holmes
(not a Defendant) has denied him an air mattress, despite the
fact that Plaintiff was prescribed an air mattress at DWH.
Plaintiff also is being denied a pillow to place under his
stub and between his legs during sleep.
argues that Defendant Cotroneo should have removed the graft
during the June 2, 2015, surgery and that Cotroneo therefore
is responsible for Plaintiff's ultimate loss of his leg.
He also asserts that the DWH and DRF-West Defendants should
have known of his infection sooner, before it caused him to
lose his right lower leg. Plaintiff further argues that
Defendants DWH and DRF-West do not adequately clean their
facilities and do not use bleach in those cleanings, leading
to Plaintiff becoming infected with the MRSA virus. In
addition, he contends that Defendant Larson caused his
infection by not checking on him more frequently and by using
an improper form of dressing.
relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages in the amount of
$750, 000.00 and punitive damages of $850, 000.00 from the
individual Defendants and $5 million from the MDOC.
Failure to state a claim
complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it
fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations
must include more than labels and conclusions.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The
court must determine whether the complaint contains
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. “A claim has facial plausibility when t he
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent
to a “‘probability requirement, ' . . . it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here
the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed . R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)); see also
Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010)
(holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility
standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial
review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and
Sovereign Immunity Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983
action against the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Regardless of the form of relief requested, the states and
their departments are immune under the Eleventh Amendment
from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived
immunity or Congress has expressly abrogated Eleventh
Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst State Sch.
& Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984);
Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978);
O'Hara v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir.
1993). Congress has not ex pressl y abrogated Eleventh
Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440
U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and the State of Michigan has not
consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick
v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986). In
numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth Circuit has
specifically held that the MDOC is absolutely immune from
suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See,
e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App'x
646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No.
00-1182, 2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In
addition, the State of Michigan (acting through the Michigan