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Leinheiser v. Hoey

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 5, 2018

NOE LEINHEISER, Plaintiff,
v.
T. HOEY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The Plaintiff, Noe Leinheiser, is a convicted federal prisoner incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey. The plaintiff is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis was previously granted.

         At this time, this Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit. For the reasons set forth below, this Court concludes that the complaint will proceed in part.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. The complaint names ten defendants: (1) T. Hoey, NREMT-P; (2) D. Alatory, NREMT-P; (3) R. Newbury, RN; (4) Jose Ravago, MLP; (5) Ms. D, RN; (6) Grant (FNU), Correctional Officer; (7) Dr. Ravi Sood, M.D.; (8) Dr. Ahmar Shakir (FNU); (9) Newland (FNU), RM/CD; and (10) Federal Bureau of Prisons, Fort Dix.

         On October 20, 2014, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey (“FCI Fort Dix”), he received ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee. The surgery was performed by Ahmar Shakir (“Defendant Shakir”), a doctor of orthopedics at St. Francis Hospital. At approximately 4:00 p.m. that same day, Plaintiff returned to FCI Fort Dix and was transported by T. Hoey (“Defendant Hoey”), an EMT, back to his housing unit. Defendant Hoey allegedly pulled up to Plaintiff's housing unit and released Plaintiff from the hospital transportation cart without assistance. (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 1). Due to the anesthetic Plaintiff had been given for pain at the hospital, he was unable to feel his left leg. As Plaintiff walked into his room, his left knee collapsed causing him to fall.

         The following day, on October 21, 2014 at approximately 4:00 a.m., Plaintiff went to use the restroom but was still unable to feel his leg. This lack of feeling caused Plaintiff to fall onto his left side, which opened a stitch in his left knee. However, Plaintiff did not notice this injury until later. At approximately 1:30 p.m. that day, Plaintiff walked unassisted to the medical unit, and requested a device that would aid him in walking. After “begging” for a cane, Plaintiff was provided with one. At that time, Plaintiff also informed Defendant Hoey that he was not currently in any pain because the anesthetic had not worn off. The pain and anti-inflammatory medications prescribed for Plaintiff, however, were still ordered.

         Plaintiff subsequently stopped by the medical unit at various times to see if his prescriptions had been filled, but to no avail. According to Plaintiff, “[he] did not take the pain medication ordered for [him] because of the anesthetic that was injected into [his] left hip lasted longer than the 7-8 hours that the hospital suggested. [He] was not able to fully feel [his] leg for four days and the pain medication ordered was for 5 days.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 2).

         On October 22, 2014, Plaintiff went to the medical unit to have his leg dressing changed since his suture was partially torn and draining. One week later, on October 29, 2014 at 11:30 a.m., Plaintiff attempted to stand up and heard a soft “pop” in his left knee joint. Although his knee did not bother him at that time, approximately one hour later he felt his knee begin to tighten and swell. Plaintiff felt a burning sensation in his knee and when he attempted to stand, he discovered that he was unable to walk easily. Plaintiff then limped, with the assistance of his cane, to the medical unit to report this problem. Plaintiff was again seen by Defendant Hoey, who ordered that Plaintiff receive x-rays. Defendant Hoey informed Plaintiff that with exercise the problem should subside. Plaintiff sat in the medical waiting area from approximately 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. as the pain in his left knee became increasingly unbearable. Plaintiff stated in his Complaint that, through his pants, he was able to see his entire leg swelling. Plaintiff asked Defendant Hoey if he could see a doctor but Defendant Hoey denied Plaintiff's request. Plaintiff also asked D. Alatory (“Defendant Alatory”), another EMT in the medical unit at that time, if he could see a doctor because Plaintiff believed there was a problem with his leg. Defendant Alatory responded, “Nope, can't help you.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 2).

         On October 30, 2014, Plaintiff's unit officer, Mr. Sarfo, came by Plaintiff's cell and inquired how Plaintiff felt. Plaintiff informed Mr. Sarfo that he was in pain and unable to move his left leg. Mr. Sarfo notified the medical unit and Defendant Hoey transported Plaintiff from his housing unit to the medical unit for observation. Defendant Hoey requested that Jose Ravago (“Defendant Ravago”), a physician's assistant in FCI Fort Dix's medical unit, examine Plaintiff and determine whether Plaintiff needed medical attention. Defendant Ravago allegedly advised Plaintiff that he should, “walk like a 97 year old man and not like a 17 year old.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 3). Plaintiff asked Defendant Ravago about the large lump above Plaintiff's knee and the intense pain he felt in his leg. Defendant Ravago responded that the strongest pain reliever he could provide was Motrin and that he was very busy with other patients and unable to assist Plaintiff any further. Plaintiff then asked Defendant Hoey if, “that was it?” to which Defendant Hoey responded, “yes.” Plaintiff did not receive the Motrin for his pain until November 3, 2014, despite the fact that the medication was ordered on October 20, 2014 and received by the “pill line” on October 31, 2014. Plaintiff states that, “for 14 days [he] went without proper medication after [his] surgery.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 3).

         On the morning of November 6, 2014, Plaintiff went to “sick call” to again request treatment for his leg. Plaintiff was no longer able to walk, even with the assistance of a cane. In order to attend sick call in the medical unit, Plaintiff had to borrow a wheelchair from another inmate. At sick call, Plaintiff was seen by R. Newbury (“Defendant Newbury”), a nurse in the medical unit, who took Plaintiff's vitals and asked what issues Plaintiff was experiencing. Plaintiff provided Defendant Newbury with a brief medical history of his knee and requested to be “put on the call out” to see a doctor. Plaintiff also requested a wheelchair to be able to move around. Defendant Newbury informed Plaintiff that only a doctor could approve Plaintiff's request for a wheelchair, but that Defendant Newbury did not see a reason for Plaintiff to visit with a doctor at that time. Defendant Newbury advised Plaintiff that he should exercise his leg to reduce the swelling. Defendant Newbury stated that the exercise would, “hurt like hell, ” and suggested that Plaintiff find a “friend” to help bend his legs and assist him with movement.

         Upon returning to his housing unit that day, Plaintiff decided to take a shower with the use of the wheelchair he had borrowed from another inmate. While seated on a bench inside the shower, Plaintiff was overcome with dizziness and anxiety which caused him to fall off the bench. The fall injured Plaintiff's knee and caused him to lose consciousness. Another inmate, Curtis Motley, heard the fall and notified the unit officer. Mr. Motley proceeded to help Plaintiff back into the wheelchair and took Plaintiff to the medical unit. Plaintiff was not seen by a doctor, but rather by Defendant Newbury again. Defendant Newbury did not take Plaintiff's vitals, but he did inspect Plaintiff's leg. Defendant Newbury subsequently informed Plaintiff that he was fine and could go back to his housing unit.

         On November 7, 2014, Plaintiff's leg began draining “orange-looking fluid” and he had to apply bandages for seven days. Plaintiff and his friends cleaned the wound themselves and used torn towels as makeshift bandages. Plaintiff stated that, “it got to the point where [he] was using whole t-shirts and towels to cover [his] leg because of the amount of fluid that was draining out.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 4).

         On the morning of November 10, 2014, Unit Officer Robels informed Plaintiff that Plaintiff's boss from his job at UNICOR was calling to inquire whether he was ready to return to work. Plaintiff informed Officer Robels that he was still unable to walk and that his leg was leaking fluid. Officer Robels inspected Plaintiff's leg and advised him to go to the medical unit to have it treated. Officer Robels informed Plaintiff that, if left untreated, Plaintiff could lose his leg. Plaintiff explained to Officer Robels his attempts to receive treatment but stated that he had been denied each time. Officer Robels decided to notify the medical unit himself of Plaintiff's medical problem. Officer Robels apparently spoke with a nurse, Ms. D (“Defendant Ms. D”) who informed Officer Robels that there was nothing more that could be done for Plaintiff's leg if Plaintiff refused to exercise it. Officer Robels relayed the conversation to Plaintiff and stated that he would notify the Operations Lieutenant on duty who would, “force medical to see [Plaintiff].” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 4). No. one came back to check on Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff was bed ridden from October 29, 2014 through November 14, 2014. During that time, other inmates brought Plaintiff food and assisted him in changing and using the restroom. Plaintiff showered only three times during those two weeks because he was unable to stand or move his leg due to severe pain. Plaintiff stated in his Complaint that when he attempted to walk, he felt that he was going to pass out. Plaintiff later learned that this was due, in part, from having diabetes. Plaintiff had previously been unaware that he was afflicted with this disease. Between October 29, 2014 and November 14, 2014, Plaintiff attempted four times to see a doctor but was denied. Finally, on November 14, 2014, Plaintiff again went to the medical unit. When Defendant Newbury pulled the socks off of Plaintiff's feet, the left sock was soaked with fluid and blood. Defendant Newbury asked Plaintiff whether he wanted to keep the socks. When Plaintiff stated that he did not, Defendant Newbury threw the socks away, utilizing the regular trash bin rather than the infectious waste bin. Plaintiff was then seen by R. Newland (“Defendant Newland”), a doctor in the medical unit, who ordered that Plaintiff remain “in the institution” and be treated for fourteen days with Keflex. Plaintiff stated in his Complaint, “I believe that if that order was followed, I would not be alive to make these statements.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 5).

         Plaintiff alleged that as of January 2, 2015, he had very limited use of his leg. He was unable to straighten his leg or bend it to a ninety-degree angle. Plaintiff was also unable to put weight on his leg or stand straight. Plaintiff could only lift his foot off the floor while in a seated position. Plaintiff was still in constant pain, his leg continued to worsen, and he was unable to move around without the use of crutches or a wheelchair.

         On January 12, 2015, Plaintiff heard a rumor that UNICOR would be relocating all of its inmates into one housing unit, unit 5803. Since Plaintiff was unable to move and reliant on a wheelchair, he felt that he had no choice but to quit his job at UNICOR. When Plaintiff notified a Mr. Silver that he would be quitting, Mr. Silver responded, “I'm moving you anyway, you're not going to tell me where you're going to live.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 6). Three days later, on January 15, 2015, Plaintiff was forced to move without assistance into unit 5803. Plaintiff used his wheelchair to move his belongings. On January 22, 2015, all inmates that had quit UNICOR were permitted to move back into their previous housing unit. Plaintiff, however, was forced to remain in unit 5803. Plaintiff alleges that this was retaliation for quitting UNICOR and for the “write-ups” he was submitting about the FCI Fort Dix medical staff.

         On February 10, 2015, Plaintiff went to the medical unit to be seen by the orthopedic surgeon, Defendant Shakir. Plaintiff informed Defendant Shakir that he still had limited use of his leg, and that “something from the inside of [his] leg was moving out underneath the skin” and becoming sensitive. (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 7). Defendant Shakir expressed confusion as to why Plaintiff was still unable to walk and wondered why Plaintiff still needed the assistance of crutches. When Defendant Shakir examined Plaintiff's knee, he informed Plaintiff that what was moving underneath the skin was the screw that had been placed into Plaintiff's knee during his ACL reconstruction surgery. Defendant Shakir ordered an MRI for Plaintiff as soon as possible.

         On February 25, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Ravago who stated that, “[Plaintiff] was pretty much screwed.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 7). Defendant Ravago apparently could not believe the condition of Plaintiff's knee and stated that it was caused by the “incompetence of the medical staff at Ft. Dix.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 7). Defendant Ravago extended Plaintiff's wheelchair and crutch privileges and told Plaintiff that he would recommend a total knee replacement.

         On March 2, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Ravi Sood (“Defendant Sood”), a doctor at FCI Fort Dix. Defendant Sood informed Plaintiff that his knee would not improve without surgery. Defendant Sood stated that, “he would be meeting with the medical community on Wednesday and he would push for [Plaintiff].” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 7).

         On March 26, 2015, Plaintiff was transported to RWJ Hamilton Hospital for an MRI. (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 7). On April 6, 2015, Plaintiff again saw Defendant Shakir who informed Plaintiff that he would indeed need a total knee replacement because there was too much damage that had been caused by the infection in Plaintiff's knee. Defendant Shakir recommended that Plaintiff begin using a knee brace. Defendant Shakir also stated that in six months, Plaintiff would be able to receive a cortisone shot for his knee, and in one to two years, Plaintiff would need to have a bone analysis taken to ensure that there was no longer an infection in the bone. Only after that time would Defendant Shakir recommend Plaintiff receive a total knee replacement.

         On June 2, 2015, Plaintiff saw Defendant Sood to go over his MRI results. Defendant Sood issued Plaintiff a four-wheel walker and a knee brace, but told Plaintiff to visit a Mr. Lebron to receive this equipment. Upon speaking with Mr. Lebron, Plaintiff was told that he would have to buy his own knee brace at the commissary, even though the commissary did not have the type of knee brace that had been issued by Defendant Sood.

         Several months later, on December 29, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Ravago. Plaintiff informed Defendant Ravago that Plaintiff's knee was buckling from time to time, and that he was having constant pain in his knee because it would “pop” when he walked. Defendant Ravago told Plaintiff that he would “make some calls” for Plaintiff to get the knee brace that had been recommended by Defendant Sood. (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 9).

         On January 21, 2016, Plaintiff had an appointment at the medical unit with Physician's Assistant, Ms. Mello. At this appointment, Ms. Mello refused to listen to issues afflicting Plaintiff's knee, and “all she wanted to hear was that [Plaintiff] needed a knee brace.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 9). Ms. Mello told Plaintiff to return the following day to receive a brace. Plaintiff attempted to explain to Ms. Mello that the medical unit did not have the type of knee brace Defendant Sood had issued, but Ms. Mello replied, “that is all [Plaintiff was] getting.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 9). Plaintiff then requested to see Defendant Sood, but Ms. Mello stated that Plaintiff would have to wait until his next chronic care visit. When Plaintiff asked when that was, Ms. Mello responded, “goodbye, you're done.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 9).

         The following day, January 22, 2016, Plaintiff returned to the medical care unit to receive a knee brace, as instructed by Ms. Mello. Defendant Newbury and Mr. Lebron were both present and issuing supplies to the prisoners when Plaintiff arrived. When Plaintiff requested a knee brace, Defendant Newbury exchanged looks with Mr. Lebron and subsequently informed Plaintiff that the knee braces were out of stock. Defendant Newbury advised Plaintiff that the knee braces had been out of stock for three weeks, and that Defendant Newbury “was not going to bother looking” for one. (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 9). When Plaintiff inquired when the next shipment would arrive, Defendant Newbury stated “not for a long time.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 9).

         On June 28, 2016, Plaintiff was again seen by Defendant Sood. Defendant Sood prescribed two medications, one for a Vitamin D deficiency and one for pain management. When Plaintiff received the medications on July 1, 2016, and began taking them, he experienced side effects that made him feel ill. The side effects continued until Plaintiff stopped taking the medications on July 4, 2016.

         On July 5, 2016, Plaintiff went to the medical unit to report the side effects he was experiencing. Plaintiff saw Defendant Sood and informed him of the adverse reaction. Defendant Sood simply told Plaintiff to stop taking the medications, then turned and walked away. Defendant Sood did not ask Plaintiff what side effects he was experiencing, nor did he “ask any medical questions that a doctor would or should be normally asking.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 10). After seeing Defendant Sood, Plaintiff saw the Health Administrator and complained about the fact that he had never received the knee brace issued by Defendant Sood and that he had never received a “bone scan.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, at pg. 10). The Health ...


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