Mathis v. Hague, Civil Action No. ELH-19-1643

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-19-1643
Decision Date09 January 2020


Civil Action No. ELH-19-1643


January 9, 2020


The self-represented plaintiff, Raymond W. Mathis, an inmate currently incarcerated at the Roxbury Correctional Institution ("RCI") in Hagerstown, Maryland, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Lt. Richard D. Hague; Mary Ellen Bryan, R.N.; Maksed Choudry, M.D.; and Corizon Health, Inc. ("Corizon").1 ECF 1. Mathis claims that defendants were negligent in misplacing his medical records and denying his medical needs, causing his injured hand to heal improperly. Id. at 4.

Lt. Hague has moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b) and 56. ECF 9. The motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 9-1) (collectively, "Lt. Hague's Motion") and several exhibits. Similarly, Nurse Bryan, Dr. Choudry, and Corizon (collectively, the "Medical Defendants") filed a dispositive motion. ECF 19. The Medical Defendants' motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 19-1) (collectively, the "Medical Defendants' Motion") and several exhibits. The exhibits include

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extensive medical records for plaintiff, maintained by the Maryland Division of Correction ("DOC"). ECF 19-4 at 1-119.

Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court informed Mathis that the failure to file a response in opposition to the defendants' motions could result in dismissal of his Complaint or a judgment against him. ECF 10; ECF 20. Mathis did not respond to either motion.

The matter is now ripe for disposition. Because Mathis is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(f) ("All pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice"); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (stating that claims of self-represented litigants are held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers"); Bala v. Cmm'w of Va. Dep't of Conservation & Recreation, 532 F. App'x 332, 334 (4th Cir. 2013) (same). But, the court must also abide by the "'affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.'" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1042 (2004).

Upon review of the record, exhibits, and applicable law, the court deems a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). Lt. Hague shall be dismissed from the suit. The Medical Defendants' Motion shall be construed as a motion for summary judgment and shall be granted.

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I. Factual Background

Mathis fell in the shower on April 20, 2019, and injured his left hand. ECF 19-4 at 55, 84.2 Thereafter, Nurse Carl Gibson saw Mathis for complaints of a left finger deformity. Id. Upon examination of Mathis's left hand, Nurse Gibson spoke to Dr. Choudry, who ordered that Mathis be transferred to a hospital for further evaluation. Id. Mathis was evaluated and treated at the Meritus Medical Center. See ECF 19-4 at 21-34.

At the hospital, Mathis received an x-ray, which showed acute fractures of the distal fourth and fifth metacarpal shafts, and mild lateral displacement of the proximal fifth left metacarpal. Id. at 24. A medical provider performed a manipulation to reduce the fifth metacarpal, and immobilized Mathis's hand with a splint. Id. at 26. Mathis tolerated the procedure well, and post-reduction x-rays confirmed alignment of the fracture. Id. Mathis was discharged and advised to follow up with an orthopedist in one week. Id.

According to plaintiff, a few days later, on April 25, 2019, Lt. Hague "grabbed" him while he was at the RCI library and took him to the medical unit in order to have his splint removed and searched for possible hidden contraband. ECF 1 at 4-5. Nurse Bryan removed the splint and, according to Mathis, this caused his left hand to "immediately shift[]," and it resulted in "extreme pain." Id. Mathis asserts that Nurse Bryan improperly repositioned the splint, two inches out of place, causing the molding to be pushed into his hand, and the placement was not corrected until the following day. Id. at 4, 6.

Further, Mathis claims that he was not given ice or Tylenol for three days and he could not sleep due to the pain and discomfort. Id. He states that he was not seen by a doctor for about five weeks after the incident and was not transported for a follow up with an orthopedic specialist. Id.

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at 4, 9. Mathis alleges that as a result, his hand "is now practically healed out of place and has to be rebroke [sic] in order to be repaired properly." Id.

Nurse Bryan does not dispute that on April 25, 2019, Mathis was escorted to the medical unit by officers who requested that she assess whether there was any contraband placed under the dressing on his left hand. ECF 19-5 (Declaration of Nurse Bryan) at 2; see ECF 19-4 at 60. She removed the two elastic bandages around Mathis's left hand while leaving the sleeve, padded dressing, and splint intact, and found no contraband. ECF 19-4 at 60. Nurse Bryan noted that Mathis showed good circulation and did not complain while she reapplied the two ACE bandages. Id. At the time of that visit, Mathis had an active prescription for Tylenol, which was in effect until May 10, 2019. Id.

Later that day, Mathis returned to the medical unit, stating that his cast was not in the proper place and needed to be redressed. Id. at 62. Mathis indicated that he would be "suing everyone" because his cast was not supposed to be removed until his orthopedic follow up. Id. Due to Mathis's threat of bringing suit, Nurse Marion Diaz advised him that she would not redress the cast and instead referred him for an appointment with a provider the next morning. Id.

On April 26, 2019, Nurse Marie Nguimbus saw Mathis after being informed that he had complained of shortness of breath. Id. at 64-65. During the visit, Mathis denied having shortness of breath but complained that a nurse had unwrapped his ACE bandage without an orthopedic order and his arm was hurting. Id. He indicated that he would be suing the State and the medical department. Id. Upon examination, Mathis's fingertip sensation was noted to be intact, his cast was in place, and his fingers were warm, with normal capillary refill. Id.

Later that day, upon the request of the nursing staff, Dr. Choudry saw Mathis for complaints of chest pain and a displaced cast. Id. at 66. Dr. Choudry noted that Mathis's cast was unwrapped

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and "slightly displaced anteriorly." Id. He repositioned the cast and wrapped it with an ACE bandage. Id. Dr. Choudry explained that he could not locate Mathis's hospital discharge documents, so he asked the medical administration to resend them. ECF 19-3 (Declaration of Dr. Choudry) at 4.

On May 7, 2019, upon receiving the documents, Dr. Choudry submitted a consultation request for an orthopedic follow up to evaluate Mathis's hand fracture. ECF 19-4 at 68-70. Dr. Choudry explains that although Mathis was originally advised to follow up with an orthopedist within one week, in the prison setting, it may take four to eight weeks to arrange an appointment and, if necessary, transportation, for non-emergent care. ECF 19-3 at 3. According to Dr. Choudry, Mathis's follow up orthopedic evaluation was scheduled in the normal course of business. Id.

Mathis reported to the medical unit on May 9, 2019, for a follow up to his left hand injury. ECF 19-4 at 72. At that time, Crystal Jamison, P.A. ordered a new x-ray and noted that Mathis had a pending consultation with an orthopedic specialist. Id. She also noted dorsal angulation of the fourth and fifth metacarpals and minimal edema. Id. During the visit, Mathis reported that he took his splint off at times because his arm itched, but he had no complaints or concerns. Id.

On May 25, 2019, Mathis refused appointments to address three requests for health care and an informal request for care. Id. at 74. Nurse Bryan noted that Mathis reported to the daily medication line without a cast or splint on his hand. Id. When she asked why, Mathis did not answer. Id.

On May 26, 2019, Nurse Bryan noted in Mathis's medical record that a housing unit officer called to ask if Mathis was supposed to remove his splint or cast. Id. at 75. According to the officer, Mathis had removed his splint and was using his hand in the recreation hall. Id. Nurse

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Bryan reviewed Mathis's chart and indicated that he was not supposed to remove his splint. Id.

Nurse Bryan saw Mathis on May 30, 2019. He was seeking an update regarding a surgical consult. Id. at 76-77. At the time of that visit, Mathis had a splint on his hand, and Nurse Bryan encouraged him to use his splint as directed. Id. Nurse Bryan then referred him to a medical provider. Id.

Mathis was unable to attend his orthopedic visit on June 7, 2019, because his housing unit was on lockdown. Id. at 78. On June 18, 2019, Dr. Choudry requested another evaluation by an orthopedist. Id. at 86-87.

Mathis saw orthopedic surgeon Lawrence Manning, M.D. on July 8, 2019, in follow up for his fractured fingers. Id. at 84. Dr. Manning noted that the range of motion ("ROM") in Mathis's fifth metacarpal was slightly deficient but that his neurovascular systems were intact. Id. Dr. Manning assessed Mathis with a healed closed fracture of the left fifth metacarpal and ordered a new x-ray of his left hand, ROM exercises, and a follow up in six to eight weeks. Id.

On July 24, 2019, Nurse Bryan saw Mathis for his hand, lower back, and right index finger...

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