DeBlois v. Corizon Health, Inc., Civil Action No. ELH-20-1816

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtEllen L. Hollander United States District Judge
Docket NumberCivil Action No. ELH-20-1816
PartiesRICHARD DEBLOIS, Plaintiff, v. CORIZON HEALTH, INC., et al., Defendant.
Decision Date30 November 2020

CORIZON HEALTH, INC., et al., Defendant.

Civil Action No. ELH-20-1816


November 30, 2020


Plaintiff Richard DeBlois is a Maryland prisoner. Through counsel, plaintiff filed suit against Corizon Health, Inc. ("Corizon") and Wexford Health Sources, Incorporated ("Wexford"). ECF 1 (the "Complaint"). The Complaint asserts a single claim of "negligence, medical malpractice." Id. ¶¶ 46-50.1 It concerns the provision of medical care to Mr. DeBlois during his incarceration at the Baltimore City Correctional Center and in Jessup, Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 1, 11.

Notably, Wexford provided health care to plaintiff from 2014 through 2018. Id. ¶ 13. Corizon "took over the provision of health care" in 2019. Id. ¶ 6; see id. ¶ 12.

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Mr. DeBlois contends that defendants breached the duty of care owed to plaintiff in failing properly to assess and treat plaintiff's "kidney stone and other internal conditions" and in failing to "provide proper follow-up care" after plaintiff underwent surgery to treat kidney stones and replace bilateral ureteral stents. Id. ¶ 48; see id. ¶¶ 1-7, 16-45. In particular, he alleges that for fifteen months, from 2015 to 2016, Wexford "ignored" and "apparently forgot[]" to ensure that plaintiff underwent surgery to remove his ureteral stents. Id. ¶ 24; see id. ¶¶ 19-23. According to plaintiff, this failure to act caused pain, suffering, and the formation of additional kidney stones, which in turn necessitated multiple procedures. See id. ¶¶ 26-27, 30-33. Further, DeBlois avers that Corizon "is liable" for "continued negligent treatment . . . as of January 1, 2019." Id. ¶ 38.

Two exhibits are appended to the Complaint. ECF 1-2; ECF 1-3. One of them is the "Certificate of Qualified Expert" of Jay Copeland, M.D., dated April 6, 2020. See ECF 1-3 (the "Copeland Certificate"). The Complaint relies on the Copeland Certificate. See ECF 1, ¶¶ 16-37.

Wexford answered the suit. ECF 8. Corizon moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (ECF 6), supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 6-1 (collectively, the "Motion" or "Motion to Dismiss"). Plaintiff opposes the Motion (ECF 20), supported by exhibits. ECF 20-1; ECF 20-2. Corizon replied. ECF 22.

No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion.

I. Background2

Mr. DeBlois has been a Maryland detainee or prisoner since 2014. Id. ¶¶ 13, 16. On November 12, 2014, while incarcerated at an unspecified institution, plaintiff "underwent a left

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percutaneous nephrostolithotomy and exchange of his existing right ureteral stent at the University of Maryland." Id. ¶ 16.3 Plaintiff was "scheduled to return for surgery" on "large renal calculi," i.e., kidney stones. Id. ¶ 17.4

On December 1, 2014, a doctor employed by Wexford wrote in Mr. DeBlois's medical record: "[I]nmates must not be informed of the date, time, and location of proposed treatment and possible hospitalization." Id. ¶ 18.

Mr. DeBlois underwent the scheduled surgery "at the University of Maryland" on December 4, 2014. Id. ¶ 19. In surgery on two consecutive days, plaintiff "had a right percutaneous nephrostolithotomy and replacement of his right ureteral stent" and "a left percutaneous nephrostolithotomy and replacement of his left ureteral stent." Id. ¶ 19.

Plaintiff was discharged on December 8, 2014. Id. ¶ 20. His "discharge summary indicated that he was to return to the urology clinic on or about January 8, 2015 for cystoscopy and removal of bilateral ureteral stents." Id. On January 7, 2015, plaintiff "had an x-ray that reported bilateral ureteral stents." Id. ¶ 21. However, the procedure to remove the stents, which was scheduled for the following day, did not occur. Id. ¶ 22.

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The stents were not removed until August 2017. Id. ¶ 33. According to plaintiff, the failure to remove the stents for such an extended period caused him pain and gave rise to serious medical complications. See, e.g., id. ¶¶ 22, 26, 27. For instance, plaintiff "developed voiding symptoms, flank pain, hematuria," and urinary tract infections. Id. ¶ 22. In addition, "calcific debris was deposited on DeBlois' stents, and over time, became many large calculi within his kidneys and bladder." Id. ¶ 26. These calculi "grew on the internal and external portions of the stents that were within the ureters." Id. ¶ 27. They caused additional pain, as well as "infection, renal obstruction and the possibility of severe renal damage." Id.

Mr. DeBlois alleges that he was "not made aware that he had bilateral stents and that they were the source of his ongoing pain and other issues reported to" his prison health care providers. Id. ¶ 24. However, the Complaint alleges the existence of medical records from 2015 and 2016 that document exchanges between plaintiff and Wexford personnel about the stents. In particular, plaintiff alleges that a "note" from June 6, 2015, stated: "'[H]ematuria occurs only when he does abdominal crunches and he . . . states that he can feel his stents when he does this activity.'" Id. ¶ 22(a). And, a "note" from February 5, 2016 stated: "'[P]atient states stents are still in place and movement causes pain.'" Id. ¶ 22(b).

On April 12, 2016, Dr. Dolph Druckman, a Wexford "employee and/or agent," noted "Mr. DeBlois's "history of stones, multiple UTI's, and no obvious follow up at the University of Maryland." Id. ¶ 22(c). Plaintiff underwent X-rays, which showed "bilateral renal calculi and stents." Id. Thereafter, a "CT scan" revealed bilateral stents with renal, ureteral, and bladder calculi." Id. ¶ 22(e). In late October 2016, "a consult was placed for the patient to have surgery to address the stents." Id. ¶ 22(g).

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Mr. DeBlois "underwent a laser lithotripsy of bladder calculi" on January 19, 2017. Id. ¶ 28. After the surgery, plaintiff "went into septic shock necessitating the placement of bilateral percutaneous nephrostomy tubes to drain the kidneys." Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff also received a "second ureteral stent . . . on the left." Id. On February 22, 2017, plaintiff "had his nephrostomy tubes exchanged for new tubes with attached stents. . . . He was discharged with a PICC line to deliver an antibiotic for 6 weeks due to the sepsis." Id.

In April and June 2017, plaintiff underwent two procedures to remove kidney stones. Id. ¶¶ 30, 32. In July 2017, he received "a bilateral ureteroscopy with laser lithotripsy." Id. ¶ 32. By August 2017, "DeBlois was finally free of drainage tubes, either ureteral stent or nephrostomy." Id. ¶ 33. However, "not all of the renal calculus that formed on the stents could be removed," which "may lead to the formation of larger calculi." Id. ¶ 37.

According to Mr. DeBlois, Wexford is responsible for the "failure to remove [plaintiff's] bilateral ureteral stents on January 8, 2015, or soon thereafter." Id. ¶ 35; see id. ¶ 36. That failure constituted a "breach of the applicable standard of care" and was "the direct and proximate cause" of pain, suffering, and extensive medical intervention that plaintiff had to undergo. Id. ¶ 36.

As mentioned, Corizon "took over the provision of health care" in 2019. Id. ¶ 6; see id. ¶ 12. As to Corizon, Mr. DeBlois claims: "The occurrences complained of herein have resulted in ongoing and chronic kidney stone and kidney related health issues, which continue today and remain untreated, for which continued negligent treatment health care provider Corizon is liable as of January 1, 2019." Id. ¶ 38. And, plaintiff adds: "Wexford's and Corizon's conduct through its agents, servants, and employees is continuous and ongoing." Id. ¶ 43.

Mr. DeBlois filed a medical malpractice claim with the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office ("HCADRO"). ECF 1-2. Suit was filed after Mr. DeBlois "elected a Waiver

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of Arbitration," pursuant to Maryland Code (2013 Repl. Vol., 2019 Supp.), § 3-2A-06B of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article. See ECF 1-2.

II. Legal Standard

A defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Paradise Wire & Cable Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. Weil, 918 F.3d 312, 317 (4th Cir. 2019); In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom., McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendants with "fair notice" of the claims and the "grounds" for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

To survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ." (citation omitted)); see also Paradise Wire & Cable, 918 F.3d at 317; Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). Of course, a plaintiff need not include "detailed factual allegations" in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules "do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal

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theory supporting the claim...

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