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Carr v. Thomas

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 10, 2018

JAMES CARR, Plaintiff,
CHRISTINA THOMAS, Lawton Correctional Facility LCF Medical Administrator; MARS GONZAGA, M.D., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, appearing pro se, filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Doc. 1, and United States District Judge Stephen P. Friot referred the matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (C). Doc. 3. Before the court are Defendants Gonzaga's and Thomas' motions for summary judgment. Docs. 55, 56. Plaintiff has filed responses to both, Docs. 57, 58, and Defendants Gonzaga and Thomas have replied, Docs. 59, 60. The undersigned recommends the court GRANT Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

         I. Procedural History.

         Defendants previously filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. Docs. 19, 22. The undersigned Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendation on May 10, 2017, recommending Defendants' motions to dismiss be denied. Doc. 34. The district court adopted the Report and Recommendation. Doc. 37.

         II. Background.

         Plaintiff brought this civil rights action against two private-prison employees, Dr. Mars Gonzaga and Christina Thomas, who worked at the Lawton Correctional Facility (“LCF”) at the time Plaintiff filed his complaint.[1]Plaintiff alleges he suffers “tremendously with a back injury, ” and that prior to Defendants' arrival at LCF, Plaintiff was provided with “Tylenol 3's, then switched to vicodin, then switched to Narco, then switched to Trimadol's.” Doc. 1, at 2.[2] According to Plaintiff, “now they cold turkey discontinued all of them, ” and have “refuse[d] to provide proper pain relivers in order to save money for the Company.” Id. Plaintiff also alleges “[they] refuse [him] the surgery [he needs].” Id. “They” presumably refers to Defendants Gonzaga and Thomas, though Plaintiff identified, “Lawton Correctional Facility M.D. and medical Administrator, such as Dr. Mars Gonzaga and medical Administrator Christina Thomas.” Id. (emphasis added).

         Plaintiff alleges two causes of actions arising out of these facts: (1) he claims a violation of his “right to proper medical care under the 8thAmendment, ” Id. at 3, and (2) “Cruel and unusual Punishment.” Id. Plaintiff alleges “Christina Thomas, the [health services administrator], and Mars Gonzaga, M.D. are directly responsibly for [his] pain and suffering since around January or February when both took over.” Id.

         Plaintiff seeks the following relief: (1) “That Correct Care Solution be ordered by the Court to properly treat [his] pain and back injury that causes [him] to be 45% disabled and muse use a cathader, ” and (2) “whatever the Court would deem just and equitable on any monetary issues.” Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff was transferred to the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Oklahoma on February 27, 2017. Doc. 56, Ex. 3, at 4. He is no longer under the care or supervision of either Defendant Gonzaga or Defendant Thomas.

         A. Plaintiff's medication history at LCF.

         Plaintiff was injured while working for a hot tar roofing company in 1992. Id. at 11. Plaintiff underwent two back surgeries and a spinal leak resulting from this injury prior to his incarceration at LCF. Id. Plaintiff was incarcerated at LCF from sometime in 2003 to February 27, 2017, when he transferred to the North Fork facility in Sayre. Id. at 4. The record contains extensive information regarding the history of Plaintiff's medical care and prescribed medications at LCF relating to his back pain as well as other medical issues. The undisputed record indicates that during the time period when Defendants were involved in Plaintiff's medical care, Plaintiff was prescribed at least one pain medication at all times to treat his back pain. See Doc. 55, Ex. 3.

         For some period of time[3] until February 2, 2015, Plaintiff was prescribed narcotic pain medications. Doc. 30, at 7-11. Medical records show that the last time Plaintiff was prescribed a narcotic was on August 7, 2014, by Dr. Charles Sorenson. Doc. 56, Ex. 4, at 4. Plaintiff does not dispute this date. Dr. Sorenson prescribed Tylenol with Codeine (Tylenol 3), and this prescription was to discontinue on February 2, 2015. Id. At the time of this appointment, Plaintiff was already taking Neurontin.[4] Id. The medication notes indicate that the Neurontin was prescribed for “chronic back pain” and “neurogenic bladder, ” and that “Neurontin worked well in the past.” Id.

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Sorenson again on October 2, 2014 for “[r]ight hip injury/chronic pain.” Id. at 8. The record shows that Plaintiff's prescription for Neurontin was increased from 300mg to 600mg, and an X-ray of his right hip was ordered. Id. Plaintiff's Tylenol 3 prescription was continued “for now, ” and was still scheduled to discontinue on February 2, 2015. Id. The records indicate that Plaintiff's Neurontin prescription was increased to 800mg on January 30, 2015. Id. at 14.

         Following the discontinuation of Plaintiff's Tylenol 3 prescription, Plaintiff saw Dr. Sorenson again on February 6, 2015 for a “Medication request.” Id. at 15. At this appointment, Dr. Sorenson noted that “[Plaintiff] is requesting Tylenol #3 for his chronic back pain. He is on maximal doses of Neurontin presently. He claims his pain is not relieved without the T3.” Id. at 14. Dr. Sorenson kept Plaintiff on the “current regimen” of Neurontin, and did not prescribe Tylenol 3 or any other narcotic. Id.

         According to the record, Defendant Gonzaga first saw Plaintiff on August 7, 2015, for complaints of lower back pain and lumbar disc disease. Doc. 55, Ex. 3, at 3; see also Doc. 30, Ex. 33. Plaintiff does not dispute this date. Plaintiff was already taking Neurontin for nerve pain. See Doc. 55, Ex. 3, at 1. Defendant Gonzaga prescribed pain reliever Naprosyn[5] 500 mg in addition to the Neurontin. Id. at 3. Defendant Gonzaga noted that Plaintiff had back surgery for lumbar disc disease, was complaining of pain at the lower back that was “radiating to the RI leg, ” has “history of [peptic ulcer disease], ” and was using a cane “due to unstable gait from [radiculopathy].” Id.

         The record shows that Plaintiff had at least six subsequent appointments with Dr. Gonzaga regarding his back pain: (1) September 4, 2015, Doc. 30, Ex. 34; (2) December 1, 2015, Doc. 56, Ex. 4, at 16; (3) January 28, 2016, Doc. 30, Ex. 39; (4) March 1, 2016, id. Ex. 40; (5) April 19, 2016, id. Ex. 42; and (6) May 18, 2016, Doc. 55, Ex. 3, at 48. At each appointment, Dr. Gonzaga either kept Plaintiff on the same medications and dosages, or he increased Plaintiff's dosage of Neurontin or added additional pain medications to his regimen. See Doc. 30, Ex. 42; id. Ex. 39, at 1. The record also shows that Defendant Gonzaga ordered Plaintiff a prescription for Neurontin that had a start date of October 16, 2016, and a stop date of April ...

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