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Allen v. Hinchman

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 10, 2014

CHRISTA ALLEN, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD HINCHMAN, M.D.; RICHARD TANNER, M.D.; AND JEFFERY SMITH, M.D., Appellee-Defendant

Page 864

APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Heather A. Welch, Judge. Cause No. 49D12-1201-PL-3666.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JAMES E. AYERS, Wernle, Ristine & Ayers, Crawfordsville, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: CAROL A. DILLON, Bleeke Dillon Crandall, Indianapolis, Indiana.

BAKER, Judge. KIRSCH, J., and ROBB, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 865

BAKER, Judge

In this case, we are asked to determine whether the standard of care for doctors treating incarcerated persons is a different, lower standard of care than that applied to their professional counterparts practicing outside prison walls. We find that it is not. The standard of care for doctors practicing in Indiana prisons is no different than the standard of care for doctors practicing within the general population.

Christa Allen appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of appellees-defendants Doctors Richard Hinchman, Richard Tanner, and Jeffrey Smith (collectively, the Doctors) regarding her medical malpractice claim based on the treatment provided by the Doctors during her incarceration. Allen argues that the trial court erred when it determined that physicians who provide medical care to incarcerated persons are subject to a different, lower standard of care and found that her tendered expert, Dr. Wilson, was unqualified to testify because he was unfamiliar with the standard of care for physicians practicing in prisons. Allen asserts that Dr. Wilson was qualified to testify and maintains that there is a question of fact as to whether allowing her the use of a vaginal stent was medically necessary. Allen also argues that the trial court erred when it denied her motion to amend her complaint to allege a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Finding that Dr. Wilson was qualified to testify, we conclude that summary judgment was inappropriate. However, we affirm the trial court's decision to deny Allen's request to amend her complaint, as her Eighth Amendment claim was barred by the relevant statute of limitations.

FACTS

Allen received gender reassignment surgery on January 3, 17, and 22, 2002. Dr. Alan Neal Wilson performed a partial penectomy, bilateral orchiectomy, construction of a vaginal vault, construction of external genitalia, clitoroplasty, and a labioplasty. As part of Allen's treatment after leaving the hospital, Dr. Wilson prescribed hormone therapy and the use of a vaginal stent, which is a soft plastic appliance worn internally like a tampon.

Allen was incarcerated from March 2006 through December 2007. She was originally an inmate at the Marion County Jail. Representatives of the Marion County Superior Court Probation Department asked Dr. Wilson if it was necessary to continue to provide Allen with hormones and allow her the use of the stent, and Wilson advised them that the continued use of Allen's prescription and stent was necessary.

Page 866

Wilson testified that, to his knowledge, that recommendation was honored while Allen remained in the Marion County Jail.

On June 16, 2006, Allen entered the Department of Correction (DOC). Dr. Jeffrey Smith was her medical provider while she was housed at the Rockville Correctional Facility. During her intake examination, Allen disclosed that she had undergone gender reassignment surgery and that she took a female sex hormone, Estradiol. Allen also reported that she required the use of a vaginal stent to keep her vaginal vault dilated and to prevent atrophy.

On July 4, 2006, Allen submitted a request for healthcare, stating that she needed a stent for her vaginal vault to prevent closure. Dr. Smith contacted Dr. Wilson and asked whether the stent was a medical necessity or whether it was for cosmetic purposes. Dr. Wilson told him that the stent was necessary to maintain the integrity of Allen's vaginal vault. Dr. Smith and the prison administration determined that Allen's family could send her stent from home. Dr. Wilson faxed Allen's medical records and the prescription for the vaginal stent, and the prison property department was notified that Allen's stent was being sent from home and she should be allowed to keep it on her person. On August 17, 2006, Dr. Wilson's office informed Dr. Smith that Allen should wear the stent at all times and only remove it for cleaning purposes.

However, shortly after Allen was allowed the use of the stent, the prison Superintendent told Dr. Smith that Allen's use of the stent was a security breach. The stent was taken from Allen, and Dr. Smith determined that, as an alternative, Allen could use a hard vibrator to dilate her vagina. Beginning on August 18, 2006, Allen was permitted to use a vibrator twice a day to dilate her vagina.

At or around the middle of February 2007, Dr. Michael Mitcheff, the regional medical director for Correctional Medical Services, Inc., called Dr. Smith to inform him that he had met with the prison Superintendent and the DOC medical director, Dr. Elton Amos. The three determined that Allen did not need dilation treatment because it was " not medically necessary" and " only necessary to maintain the integrity of an elective procedure." Appellant's App. p. 3. While Dr. Amos did not think that Allen needed vaginal dilation treatment, Dr. Mitcheff insisted that she be allowed to use something to dilate her vagina. The prison Superintendent and Dr. Amos then decided that Allen could use tampons for dilation.

On March 18, 2007, Allen submitted a request for healthcare, stating that she was finding blood on the tampons she was forced to use for dilation. The nurse who saw Allen in nursing sick call observed blood on Allen's tampon. On March 26, 2007, Allen again submitted a request for healthcare, this time stating that she needed her stent because she was beginning to have pain. The medical staff informed Allen that she no longer had an order for such care. On April 9, 2007, Allen submitted another request for healthcare, informing the medical staff that she was experiencing pain, bleeding, and muscle atrophy in her vaginal vault because she was not receiving dilation treatment.

Allen was transferred to the Indiana Women's Prison on May 16, 2007. There, she was no longer Dr. Smith's patient, and responsibility for her medical care was transferred to Dr. Richard Tanner. Dr. Tanner's affidavit states that he had very little to do with Allen's healthcare, as she " did not have any chronic health issues." Id. at 39. Dr. Tanner stated that he did not override the wishes of Dr. Amos regarding the stent because he did not feel

Page 867

there was a medical reason to do so. Allen was also cared for by Dr. Richard Hinchman, a gynecologist. Dr. Hinchman also " did not feel that a vaginal stent for Ms. Allen was medically necessary for her health." Id. at 42.

On May 16, 2007, Dr. Amos sent a letter to Allen, explaining his reasons for denying her dilation ...


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