Helton v. Whitson, Civil Action 22-CV-112-CHB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Kentucky
Writing for the CourtCLARIA HORN BOOM JUDGE
PartiesTHOMAS HELTON, Plaintiff, v. KRISTEN WHITSON, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action 22-CV-112-CHB
Decision Date24 February 2023


KRISTEN WHITSON, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 22-CV-112-CHB

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

February 24, 2023



Plaintiff Thomas Helton is a former federal inmate now residing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Helton has filed a pro se complaint asserting civil rights claims against federal officials pursuant to the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). [R. 1.] The Court has granted his motion to proceed in forma pauperis by prior Order. [R. 5.] This matter is before the Court to conduct the preliminary screening required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir. 2012).

When testing the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint, the Court affords it a forgiving construction, accepting as true all non-conclusory factual allegations and liberally construing its legal claims in the plaintiff's favor. Id. A district court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010).

In his Complaint, Helton indicates that in June 2018, while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland, Kentucky, he told Health Services Administrator Brian Baier that he had recently observed that his urine was deep red with blood. [R. 1, p. 2.] Helton complains that, although his bloody urine was “a tell-tale sign of kidney cancer,” Baier did not take the matter


seriously or direct that he receive urgent medical care. [Id.] In attachments to his Complaint, Helton alleges that over the next year his condition was not adequately treated, resulting in cancer spreading to nearby organs. [See R. 1-2.] He further contends that in the next 18 months nurse Kristen Whitson failed to ensure that proper tests were conducted or to coordinate his medical care with other prison healthcare providers or with outside contract specialists. [R. 1, p. 4.] Helton also alleges that Mrs. Roane, the prison's head medical secretary, failed to heed directions from an outside urologist that Helton needed emergency care. [Id.] He includes an unidentified “transportation supervisor” as a defendant, alleging that he or she failed to ensure adequate staffing to transport inmates to medical appointments. [Id. at 3.] Finally, Helton names the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a defendant, assertedly because it employed the other defendants and is “responsible for their actions.” [Id.] Helton indicates that surgery was performed in March 2020 to remove cancerous cells. [Id. at 21.] Helton thus states that the events giving rise to his claims “happened between June 7, 2018 through March 3, 2020.” [Id. at 2-4, 10-31.] Helton claims that the defendants' conduct amounted to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. [Id. at 5.] Helton does not specify any particular form of relief, but he does requests a jury trial. [Id. at 9].

Helton attaches approximately 80 pages of documents to his complaint. [See R. 1-2.] Many of these are medical records. However, they also include one inmate grievance Helton filed in October 2019 complaining that he had not been taken to an outside medical appointment. [Id. at 55.] The warden rejected his grievance on numerous grounds, including that it was untimely, in November 2019. [Id. at 59.] Helton sent a letter back complaining that the rejection was improper, but there is no indication that he appealed the rejection to the appropriate regional and


national offices or otherwise pursued the matter further to exhaust his administrative remedies. [See id. at 55-59, 76.]

On December 21, 2021, Helton filed a Form SF-95, Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death, with the BOP regarding his medical care. [See id. at 79.] The Form SF-95 is a document sent to the appropriate federal agency to request administrative settlement of a tort claim arising from the conduct of the agency's employees pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq. Helton also sent the BOP several additional letters and “supplements” to his original request. [See R. 1-2, pp. 42, 50-54, 60-65, 69-72, 79-81.] In his SF-95 and subsequent correspondence, Helton complained of repeated delays in the diagnosis and treatment for his condition and challenged the appropriateness and efficacy of the means chosen to effectuate both. In a letter sent shortly after he filed his SF-95, Helton clarified that, “although I am in fact at FMC Lexington now, my claim is for a personal injury suffered at FCI Ashland and staff members there, not FMC Lexington. My claim should clearly show that.” [Id. at 81.]

The BOP assigned Administrative Tort Claim No. TRT-MXR-2022-01773 to Helton's settlement request and denied it on June 22, 2022. [Id. at 79.] The BOP noted that on October 23, 2019, Helton was transferred from FCI Ashland to FMC Lexington. Given Helton's repeated indication that his complaints were directed solely at medical staff at FCI Ashland, the BOP concluded that his December 2021 request for settlement was filed two months beyond the two-year limitations period established in 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b). The BOP therefore denied his request for administrative settlement as untimely. [R. 1-2, p. 79.] It further advised Helton that he must file any suit within six months if he wished to challenge that determination and pursue a claim under the FTCA. [Id.]


Helton filed suit in this Court in November 2022. See Helton v. Whitson, No. 0:22-103-WOB (E.D. Ky. 2022). But Helton...

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