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Flores v. Prison Health Services

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 6, 2018

ELIOT FLORES, Plaintiff,
v.
PRISON HEALTH SERVICES et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          JANET T. NEFF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), 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 against Defendants Prison Health Services, Lafler, Miles, and Smith for failure to state a claim. The Court will order service of the complaint on Defendants Corizon Health, Papendick, and Gerlach.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF) in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility and at the Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF) in Carson City, Montcalm County, Michigan, and the Duane Waters Hospital (DWH) in Jackson, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Prison Health Services and Corizon Health, Inc. (Corizon); Corizon's Medical Director for Outpatient Utilization Management Dr. Keith Papendick; DRF Warden Blaine C. Lafler; DRF Doctor Richard A. Miles; ICF Doctor Roger Gerlach; and ICF Warden Willie O. Smith.

         Plaintiff alleges that, on July 6, 2015, while he was housed at DRF, he injured his left knee while playing basketball. Because he was unable to walk, Plaintiff was transported to health care in a wheelchair. Unnamed health care personnel informed Plaintiff that his knee was just bruised and probably strained. Plaintiff was given an authorization for an ice bag, an ace bandage, and crutches, as well as Motrin for pain.

         Approximately one week later, Plaintiff met with the DRF physician's assistant. Plaintiff expressed his opinion that something was seriously wrong. The physician's assistant ordered x-rays of the knee. Once the x-ray results came back, Plaintiff was informed by unnamed medical staff that the results were negative. Plaintiff complained that he knew that something was wrong with his knee and requested an MRI. The unnamed physician's assistant refused to order an MRI, indicating that the Corizon Health Care contract did not permit him to order an MRI under the circumstances. Sometime thereafter, unnamed health care personnel took away Plaintiff's crutches and ice pack.

         On October 8, 2015, Plaintiff was sent to DWH for physical therapy. During Plaintiff's therapy sessions, a physical therapist expressed the opinion that Plaintiff had something wrong with his meniscus. Plaintiff asked if a meniscus problem could be seen on an x-ray, and the therapist indicated that it could only be seen on an MRI.

         Plaintiff does not indicate how long he remained at DWH, but he apparently was returned to DRF by February 16, 2016, at the latest. On that date, Plaintiff was transferred from DRF to ICF. He claims that, during the entire period from July 2015 to February 2016, he suffered from daily pain and severe swelling of the knee.

         Once Plaintiff arrived at ICF, Plaintiff was again prescribed Motrin for his pain. Plaintiff subsequently was seen by Defendant Dr. Gerlach. Defendant Gerlach began treatment that included draining fluids from the knee and cortisone injections into the knee. Gerlach also prescribed naproxen for pain and inflammation. Plaintiff contends that none of the treatments were successful. At some point, Defendant Gerlach informed Plaintiff that he was not authorized to provide any additional modes of treatment. Defendant Gerlach advised Plaintiff to continue to take the naproxen.

         Plaintiff complains that he continued to take the medication for over a year, but he regularly filed medical requests about his continuing and increasing pain and swelling. On May 7, 2017, health care personnel took more x-rays of Plaintiff's knee. These x-rays showed that Plaintiff had developed arthritis in his knee and that he had an injury in or around the meniscus. With these new x-rays before him, Defendant Gerlach ordered an MRI, which was conducted on May 22, 2017. Plaintiff was seen by a surgeon, Dr. Cole, on June 26, 2017, and Cole recommended surgery. Dr. Cole informed Plaintiff that the longer it took to receive surgery on a torn meniscus, the more serious the injury becomes.

         On June 27, 2017, Dr. Gerlach submitted a request to Corizon to authorize surgery. On July 12, 2017, Dr. Gerlach informed Plaintiff that Corizon (apparently through Defendant Papendick) had denied the request for surgery. Defendant Gerlach told Plaintiff, however, that he intended to appeal the denial of surgery. In early August 2017, Gerlach informed Plaintiff that the second request for surgery had been authorized.

         On August 16, 2017, Dr. Cole performed the knee surgery and ordered prescription pain medication. When Plaintiff arrived back at ICF, however, Dr. Gerlach immediately changed the type of pain medication ordered for Plaintiff, which Plaintiff complains caused him additional suffering.

         Plaintiff complains that he suffered pain and disability for over two years before being authorized for needed surgery. Plaintiff contends that Corizon and/or Prison Health Services, Inc., together with Defendant Dr. Papendick, violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by adopting policies that proscribe medically necessary tests and treatment and/or by refusing to authorize necessary treatment for Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that ICF Defendants Dr. Gerlach and Warden Smith violated his Eighth Amendment rights by not ensuring that he received medically necessary health care and by delaying his necessary surgery. Further, Plaintiff alleges that DRF Defendants Blaine Lafler and Doctor Miles, ...


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