DeBlois v. Corizon Health, Inc., Civil Action ELH-20-1816

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Writing for the CourtEllen L. Hollander, United States District Judge
PartiesRICHARD DEBLOIS, Plaintiff, v. CORIZON HEALTH, INC., Defendant.
Docket NumberCivil Action ELH-20-1816
Decision Date23 July 2021



Civil Action No. ELH-20-1816

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 23, 2021


Ellen L. Hollander, United States District Judge

This case concerns alleged inadequate medical care provided to plaintiff Richard DeBlois, a Maryland prisoner, while incarcerated at institutions controlled by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”).

Mr. DeBlois, through counsel, filed an initial Complaint against Wexford Health Sources Incorporated (“Wexford”) and Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”), asserting a single negligence claim against both defendants. ECF 1 (the “Complaint”).[1] According to plaintiff, Wexford provided health care to plaintiff from 2014 through 2018, during which time it failed to ensure that plaintiff underwent surgery to remove ureteral stents. See Id. ¶¶ 6, 19-24. Then, Corizon “took over the provision of health care” in 2019. Id. ¶ 38.

Corizon moved to dismiss the suit, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF 6. By Memorandum (ECF 28) and Order (ECF 29) of November 20, 2020, I granted Corizon's motion, because the Complaint failed to allege facts concerning acts or omissions by Corizon that would render Corizon liable for negligence. However, the dismissal was without prejudice and with leave to amend.

Mr. DeBlois subsequently filed an Amended Complaint (ECF 32), supported by exhibits.[2]As with the original Complaint, the Amended Complaint asserts one claim for “Negligence, Medical Malpractice.” Id. at 17. But, the claim is lodged only against Corizon; Wexford is not named as a defendant in the Amended Complaint. One week after filing the Amended Complaint, plaintiff filed a stipulation of dismissal, with prejudice, as to “all claims” against Wexford. ECF 33.

Corizon has moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) (ECF 36), supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 36-1 (collectively, the “Motion”). This time, defendant does not take issue with the sufficiency of plaintiff's factual allegations. Rather, defendant attacks the sufficiency of the expert certificate appended to the Amended Complaint, which plaintiff also filed with a Maryland administrative entity before filing suit, as required by the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (“HCMCA”), codified in Md. Code (2020 Repl. Vol.), § 3-2A-01 et seq. of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (“C.J.”).

Plaintiff opposes the Motion. ECF 41. No reply has been filed, and the time to do so has expired.

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

I. Factual Background[3]

Mr. DeBlois has been a Maryland detainee or prisoner since 2014. See ECF 32, ¶¶ 9, 15. On November 12, 2014, while incarcerated at an unspecified institution, plaintiff “underwent a left percutaneous nephrostolithotomy and exchange of his existing right ureteral stent at the University of Maryland.” Id. ¶ 15.[4] The procedure was necessary to address plaintiff's “bilateral large renal calculi, ” i.e., kidney stones. Id. ¶ 16.[5] He was discharged on November 13, 2014, and “scheduled to return for surgery.” Id. ¶ 16. Accordingly, Dr. Liberatus DeRosa, “then an employee of Wexford, noted in Deblois' [sic] medical record that Deblois [sic] was to return to the University of Maryland in 3 days for further surgery.” Id. ¶ 17.

Plaintiff underwent the scheduled surgery “at the University of Maryland” on December 4, 2014. Id. ¶ 18. 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.

Plaintiff was discharged on December 8, 2014. Id. ¶ 19. 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. ¶ 20. However, the procedure to remove the stents, which was scheduled for the following day, did not occur. Id.

The stents were not removed until August 2017. Id. ¶ 31. According to the Amended Complaint, failure to remove the stents resulted in “voiding symptoms, flank pain, hematuria, and UTI.” Id. ¶ 21. In addition, “calcific debris was deposited on Plaintiff's stents, and, over time, became many large calculi within his kidneys and bladder.” Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff asserts his “medical issues and severe pain could have been addressed through a minor out-patient procedure that would have left Plaintiff free of kidney stones.” Id.

Mr. DeBlois alleges that he was “not . . . made aware that he had bilateral stents, or that the bilateral stents were the source of [his] ongoing pain and other medical issues.” Id. ¶ 22. However, he alleges the existence of medical records from 2015 and 2016 that document exchanges between plaintiff and Wexford personnel about the stents. See Id. ¶¶ 21(a)-(g). For example, on June 6, 2015, a note from Dr. Monica Stallworth stated: “[H]ematuria only occurs when he does abdominal crunches and he . . . states that he can feel his stents when he does this activity.” Id. ¶ 21(a).

According to Mr. DeBlois, on January 19, 2017, he was “finally made aware that his severe medical issues were being caused by renal stents, [and he] underwent a laser lithotripsy of bladder calculi.” Id. ¶ 26. Following this surgery, Mr. DeBlois “went into septic shock necessitating the placement of bilateral percutaneous nephrostomy tubes to drain the kidneys.” Id. ¶ 27. He also had a “second ureteral stent . . . placed on the left . . . .” Id. ¶ 27. Then, on February 22, 2017, “Plaintiff had his nephrostomy tubes exchanged for new tubes with attached stents that were in addition to the retained stents that could not be removed due to stones on, and within, them.” Id.

In April and June 2017, plaintiff underwent two additional procedures to remove kidney stones. Id. ¶¶ 28, 29. By August 2017, Mr. DeBlois “was finally free of [all] drainage tubes . . . .” Id. ¶ 31. But, the presence of the stents implanted in December 2014 caused a “massive [kidney] stone burden” that remains a problem. Id. ¶ 31.

Of import here, on January 1, 2019, Corizon “assumed responsibility for the medical care and treatment of all inmates housed by DPSCS, ” replacing Wexford. Id. ¶ 38. And, Corizon “retained the agents and/or employees previously employed by Wexford, ” who became Corizon's “agents and/or employees.” Id. ¶ 46. Plaintiff “continued to suffer from the severe, chronic kidney issues” that resulted from the failure to “remove [his] . . . stents.” Id. ¶ 35. And, he claims that he continued to receive deficient care after Corizon took over the reins. See Id. ¶¶ 51-55.

The Amended Complaint names four dates or approximate dates between January and September 2019, in which plaintiff had appointments with individual doctors or nurses employed by Corizon who failed adequately to treat or respond to plaintiff's condition. See Id. ¶¶ 55(a)-(d). Most, if not all, of the care providers who saw plaintiff on those occasions were aware of his medical history and his “chronic” condition. Id. ¶ 55(b); see Id. ¶¶ 55(a), (c), (d). And, plaintiff reported significant pain at each appointment. See Id. ¶¶ 55(a)-(d). According to plaintiff, he did not receive “adequate medical care . . . including, but not limited to, further surgeries for the formed calculi or treatment for the complications arising from the calculi.” Id. ¶ 55(a); see Id. ¶¶ 55(b)-(d). In addition, Mr. DeBlois alleges that he was “denied adequate medical care and treatment by numerous named and unnamed agents and/or employees of Defendant Corizon . . . .” Id. ¶ 54.

II. Legal Standards

A. Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006); see In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Services 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.” See Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997).

Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). See Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002). The 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) (citation omitted) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions' . . . .”); see also Fauconier v. Clarke, 996 F.3d 265, 276 (4th Cir. 2020); Paradise Wire & Cable Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. Weil, 918 F.3d 312, 317 (4th Cir. 2019); Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). To be sure, a...

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