United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
RUDY LOZANO, District Judge.
Before the Court is a complaint filed by Jason Keel, a pro se prisoner, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (DE 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court: (1) GRANTS the plaintiff leave to proceed against Dr. Michael Mitcheff in his individual capacity for monetary damages for denying him proper medical treatment for his hand; (2) GRANTS the plaintiff leave to proceed against Dr. Michael Mitcheff in his official capacity for injunctive relief related to his current need for medical treatment for his hand; (3) DISMISSES Dr. Noe Marandet, Kimberly Myers, Mrs. Frye, Mrs. Ivers, Shalana Seifert, Dr. Benjamin R. Loveridge, and Corizon Medical Services; (4) DISMISSES any and all other claims contained in the complaint; (5) DIRECTS the United States Marshals Service to effect service on Dr. Michael Mitcheff pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d); and (6) ORDERS Dr. Michael Mitcheff to respond, as provided for in the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, only to the claims for which the plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in this screening order.
Jason Keel, a pro se prisoner, filed this action on May 2, 2014. (DE 1.) He alleges that medical staff at Miami Correctional Facility ("Miami") have denied him proper treatment for several debilitating medical conditions in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the court applies the same standard as when deciding a motion to dismiss under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal, a complaint must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bissessur v. Indiana Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 603. The court must bear in mind, however, that "[a] document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
According to the detailed complaint, Keel suffers from several chronic conditions, including degenerative disc disease, right shoulder pain, "electrical like pains" in his right arm and hand, neck pain, and inability to hold anything with his left hand. He claims that these impairments cause him difficulty carrying out daily functions, including brushing his teeth, tying his shoes, and washing himself in the shower. Upon his arrival at Miami in May 2012, he was examined by Dr. Noe Marandet. Dr. Marandet listened to his complaints and looked at an MRI report that Keel provided to him. After speaking with Keel Dr. Marandet determined that he would continue his current prescription of Neurontin for pain. He told Keel that he did not think Dr. Michael Mitcheff, the regional medical director for Corizon Medical Services ("Corizon"), would approve any additional medications.
In May 2013, after Keel put in requests for medical care complaining that he was in pain and having muscle spasms, he was seen again by Dr. Marandet. After speaking with Keel, Dr. Marandet prescribed a muscle relaxer, Soma, for a 7-day period. Dr. Mitcheff approved this medication. Keel claims that the Soma helped significantly, but after the prescription ran out it was not renewed. Keel was seen again by Dr. Marandet in July 2013, and the doctor placed him on Vicodin for a 7-day period. He also referred him for physical therapy. At the end of the month, Dr. Marandet saw him again and ordered an x-ray of his left hand and upper spinal area. He placed him on Soma and Tramadol for 14 days for pain and muscle spasms. Dr. Mitcheff approved these medications.
On August 5, 2013, Keel was experiencing significant pain in his neck, shoulder, and face, loss of vision in his right eye, and problems with his balance. He was taken to the medical unit, and after examining him Dr. Marandet ordered that he be taken to an outside hospital for evaluation. He was treated at the emergency room of Howard Health Hospital. A CAT scan was performed but, in Keel's words, "[t]hey could not find the exact cause of my loss of vision." He was given a shot of morphine for pain. The doctor at Howard advised him that the pain was likely due to muscle spasms and tension in the tendons in his neck. That same day he was released and returned to Miami.
The following day he was still in pain and was taken to the medical unit. Dr. Marandet examined him and decided to place him in the medical isolation unit in the infirmary. Keel asked for the additional medications that had been recommended by the emergency room doctor, but Dr. Marandet responded that in his view Keel's current medications were appropriate. Keel remained in the infirmary for 10 days. He asserts, without elaboration, that he "had to lie to the physician so that I could be released from the infirmary."
On August 19, 2013, he was seen again by Dr. Marandet. He reported that the Ultram, Soma, and Neurontin were working well. Dr. Marandet ordered these medications for an addition 30 days. Dr. Mitcheff approved this request. During September 2013, he was seen on four occasions by medical staff. He complains that Dr. Benjamin R. Loveridge was rude to him during a visit and told him he would be transferred to the infirmary if he continued to have medical problems, which Keel viewed as some type of threat. He was also seen by Nurse Shalana Seifert. She had the doctor examine Keel for a problem with his ear, and he was prescribed antibiotics and Tylenol. Keel claims that Nurse Seifert was rude to him and referred to him as a "cry baby." At some point after these visits Dr. Loveridge took Keel off the Soma and Ultram.
On September 30, 2013, he was seen again by Dr. Marandet. Keel asked if he could be placed back on Soma and Ultram, but Dr. Marandet told him those medications were not appropriate for longterm use. Dr. Marandet continued to prescribe Neurontin, but decreased the dosage. Dr. Mitcheff approved the decrease. On October 18, 2013, Keel was seen at an "emergency visit" by Dr. Kevin Krembs due to pain and numbness he was experiencing. Dr. Krembs made a referral for him to be placed back on Soma and Ultram, but Dr. Mitcheff did not approve this referral. He was seen again by Dr. Krembs a few days later, and the doctor ordered that his Neurontin be increased. Dr. Mitcheff did not approve this request. During November and December 2013 he was seen by Dr. Loveridge and other medical staff. Dr. Loveridge gave him an injection of another medication in his left hand, and also ordered an increase in the Neurontin. Dr. Mitcheff would not approve the increase in Neurontin but ordered alternative treatments of ibuprofen, Aleve, and Tylenol.
Around this period Keel filed a formal grievance complaining about his medical care. (DE 1-1 at 3.) In considering his grievance, the health services director noted that Keel had a "history of polysubstance abuse" and that he had changed his account of the origin of his chronic pain on several occasions, including claiming he had fallen, was in a motor vehicle accident, and was in a bike accident. She noted that in 2012 he underwent xrays of his spine, a CT scan, and an MRI, and all of them were normal, except to show mild arthritis in his back. She noted several doctor's reports indicating that his complaints of pain were not consistent with their physical examination.
She further noted that he had been treated at an outside hospital and underwent a CT scan of his head, which was normal. She noted that he complained of an inability to use his right arm, but had been observed on camera in his cell (unbeknownst to him), and was seen moving his arm in all directions, shifting through papers, making his bed, and shaking out his blankets. She noted that the physical therapist who had treated Keel noted normal exams with full range of motion, and opined that he was "medication ...