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Prosser v. Proctor

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division

August 6, 2019

CHRISTOPHER PROSSER, Plaintiff,
v.
RONALD PROCTOR, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon review of plaintiff Christopher Prosser's Second Amended Complaint, filed on his behalf by appointed counsel. (ECF No. 19). For the reasons explained below, the Missouri Department of Corrections, Nina Zumwalt, Anne Precythe, and Latoya Duckworth will be dismissed from this action, and the Clerk will be directed to serve process upon the remainder of the Second Amended Complaint.

         Background

         Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections (also MDOC). In 2009, he filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit against Corizon, Corizon personnel, and MDOC officials. See Prosser v. Nagaldinne, et al, No. 4:09-cv-2117-JAR (E.D. Mo. 2009). He alleged the defendants denied necessary medical care following a spine injury, causing him to suffer lifelong pain and permanent paralysis. On May 20, 2013, the case was dismissed upon plaintiffs notice of dismissal, in which he advised he and the defendants had reached a settlement. Neither the settlement agreement nor the terms thereof were provided to the Court or referenced in the Court's order dismissing the action, nor did the Court retain jurisdiction over the settlement agreement. At present, plaintiff is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from chronic severe pain and other ailments.

         The Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff brings the instant action against a total of 19 defendants: Dr. Ronald Proctor, the MDOC, Corizon Health, Inc. (Corizon), Corizon Pharmacorr, Inc. (Pharmacorr), Dr. Mina Massey, Dr. Thomas Bredeman, Dr. Gary Babich, Corizon's Director of Operations Debra Steinman, Dr. Abby Rardin, Dr. Thomas Cabrera, Nurses Tamara Anderson, Nina Zumwalt, and Melanie Powell, Wardens James Hurley and Chantay Godert, Assistant Warden Richard Griggs, Anne Precythe and George Lombardi (the current and former Directors of the MDOC, respectively), and Medical Contract Monitor Latoya Duckworth. He sues the individual defendants in their individual capacities. Condensed and summarized, he alleges as follows.

         The events giving rise to plaintiffs claims occurred in 2014, following Corizon's implementation of a new policy by which it would no longer administer Tramadol and Neurontin, among other drugs. Plaintiff had been taking Tramadol and Neurontin, as prescribed by his rheumatologist, with good results. In September of 2014, plaintiff was told he would not be given Tramadol and Neurontin, and would instead be given Tegretol. He filed an Informal Resolution Request (IRR) about the change, but Steinman responded by stating the drugs were being withheld because they were no longer appropriate for him.

         Plaintiff took the first dose of Tegretol in September of 2014. Immediately thereafter, he encountered Dr. Proctor and asked him about the drug. Dr. Proctor assured him the drug had been around a long time and was safe. On or about September 29, 2014, plaintiff began experiencing a fever and flu-like symptoms, severe painful lesions on his hands, arms, face, and the insides of his nostrils, and other symptoms. He then developed bleeding, oozing lesions on his fingers and stabbing pains in his hands, along with vomiting and diarrhea. His skin began to slough off, exposing areas that resembled severe burns. He sought treatment from Powell, but she refused to treat him or let him see a doctor. Plaintiffs symptoms worsened and he sought treatment from Powell on two more occasions, but she refused to provide treatment and told him to return to his housing unit.

         On October 3, plaintiff met with the prison's Director of Mental Health and described his symptoms and history of having taken Tegretol. The Director's nurse diagnosed plaintiff with Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a painful and potentially life-threatening condition often triggered by medications.[1] The nurse summoned Dr. Rardin, who also diagnosed SJS and told plaintiff that, if his condition worsened over the weekend, he would need to be transported to a hospital equipped with a burn unit. She did nothing to facilitate transferring plaintiff, nor did she provide him with medical treatment for his symptoms.

         Plaintiffs SJS symptoms progressed. On October 5 he was seen by a nurse who opined that plaintiff should be treated at a hospital with a burn unit. The nurse contacted Dr. Massey for authorization to do so, and Dr. Massey told her to call Dr. Bredeman. When the nurse called Dr. Bredeman, he told her to put plaintiff in an administrative segregation cell inside the infirmary, and ordered that no medical treatment be provided to him. Plaintiffs condition worsened. On October 6 in the infirmary, plaintiff encountered Dr. Cabrera. He described his condition and asked Dr. Cabrera to send him to the hospital, but Dr. Cabrera refused. Plaintiff insisted that he needed emergency care, but Dr. Cabrera told him to sue them again or maybe learn to not bite the hand that feeds him, and discharged him from the infirmary.

         Shortly thereafter, plaintiff had a regularly-scheduled telemed conference with one Dr. Pryor, who examined him using high-resolution camera. Dr. Pryor diagnosed SJS secondary to Tegretol, and prescribed eight Dexamethasone pills to halt the disease's progression. He instructed that plaintiff take four pills immediately and four the following day, and instructed that plaintiff would require further follow up if his condition did not enter remission. On October 6, plaintiff took the first four pills, but was told the remaining four pills were lost and he would be called when they were found. In the pharmacy, plaintiff encountered Anderson and explained the situation. Anderson refused to authorize purchase or delivery of the remaining Dexamethasone, and told plaintiff to leave the pharmacy. The SJS progressed, causing plaintiff to suffer pain and other serious symptoms.

         On October 9, plaintiff met with Steinman, Corizon's Director of Operations. Steinman agreed that plaintiffs medication should not have been changed by anyone other than Dr. Seva or Dr. Pryor, but took no action.

         Plaintiffs symptoms eventually subsided, and he began writing letters to "appropriate authority figures in the Missouri Department of Corrections and [Corizon]." He told Anderson, Lombardi, Griggs, Godert, and Hurley about the interference with his prescribed medications, but they failed to take action. Plaintiff alleges that Duckworth "further allowed for the unconstitutional and harmful acts "by Corizon by letting them occur without intervention. He alleges that Precythe turned and continues to turn a blind eye to Corizon's unconstitutional behavior and has "refused to intervene and ensure that inmates like plaintiff have been and are provided with adequate medical care," and was deliberately indifferent to the health, welfare and constitutional rights of incarcerated patients. Plaintiff concludes that Precythe therefore tacitly approved Corizon's unconstitutional behavior.

         In 2018, Corizon again retaliated against plaintiff by withholding administration of another of his medications, Humira, which had been prescribed to treat arthritis. Also, as of the date of the second amended complaint, Corizon and Pharmacorr have refused to fill his prescriptions for Tramadol and Neurontin. Plaintiff claims ...


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