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Wood v. Cook

United States District Court, D. Utah

March 22, 2018

BRIAN LEE WOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
DOUG COOK et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER GRANTING MEDICAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          HONORABLE ROBERT J. SHELBY United States District Court Judge.

         Plaintiff, inmate Brian Wood, asserts that Physician Assistant Raymond Merrill and Dr. Kennon Tubbs (Medical Defendants) violated his right against cruel and unusual punishment under the Federal Constitution. Specifically, he asserts Medical Defendants provided inadequate medical treatment by failing to properly treat his back pain and Hepatitis C. Based on qualified immunity, Medical Defendants seek summary judgment on causes of action against them. They assert that Plaintiff did not suffer a constitutional violation (the first prong of the qualified-immunity inquiry). (Doc. No. 45.) Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Doc. Nos. 35, 58 & 69.)

         Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 5), and complaint addendum (as construed by the Court), (Doc. No. 9), has these evidentiary attachments regarding his medical treatment: (1) grievance copies; (2) medical records; and (3) disciplinary reports. On this Court's order, Medical Defendants filed a Martinez report, (Doc. No. 30), including this evidentiary documentation: (1) medical records; (2) grievance records; (3) disciplinary records; and (4) Defendants' declarations. These documents subsume those that Plaintiff filed with his Complaint. Plaintiff filed no further evidentiary support for his claims with his responses to the summary-judgment motion.

         The Court rules for Medical Defendants.

         UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS

         • In early 2014, Utah State Prison (USP) medical staff, including Medical Defendants, assessed Plaintiff's back symptoms, with the help of x-rays, and concluded Plaintiff suffered mild-to-moderate degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. (Compl., Doc. No. 5, at 4-5; Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶¶ 5-8, 11; M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 9-10.)

         • Defendant Tubbs ordered an MRI that was done on April 30. (Compl., Doc. No. 5, at 5; sealed Ex. to Compl., Doc. No. 6, at 2-3; Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶ 11; Tubbs Decl., Doc. No. 30-2, at ¶ 8; M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 8.)

         • Plaintiff refused a consultation with a neurosurgeon to discuss other treatment options. (M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 8.)

         •Medical Defendants prescribed Neurontin for his pain. (Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶ 9; Tubbs Decl., Doc. No. 30-2, at ¶ 10; M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 1-2, 7, 9.)

         • Neurontin is an addictive drug with high potential for abuse and a high street value and is commonly abused for recreational purposes among prison populations. (Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶ 9; Tubbs Decl., Doc. No. 30-2, at ¶ 12.)

         • Another MRI was done on June 11, 2014. (Compl., Doc. No. 5, at 5; sealed Ex. to Compl., Doc. No. 6, at 2-3.)

         • In October 2014, USP officials found Plaintiff guilty of abusing the Neurontin. (Sealed Ex. to Compl., Doc. No. 6, at 9; Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶ 13.) A search of his cell revealed 600 mg. pills, when he had been prescribed 400 mg. pills. (Compl., Doc. No. 5, at 6; Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶ 14; M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 7.) Plaintiff states that he “bought someone else's [so he could] take one at night.” (Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶ 14; compl. addendum, Doc. No. 9, at 1.) As a consequence, medical staff, including Medical Defendants, discontinued his Neurontin prescription for six months. (Comp. addendum, Doc. No. 9, at 1; Merrill Decl. Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶¶ 14; M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 7.)

         • While Neurontin was suspended, Plaintiff kept asking for Neurontin, but Medical Defendants offered Plaintiff other, less addictive, pain medications--i.e., Elavil, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and Tylenol. (Compl., Doc. No. 5, at 15; Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶¶ 15-19; Tubbs Decl., Doc. No. 30-2, at ¶¶ 13-14; M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 6-7.) Plaintiff refused alternative medications. (Merrill Decl., Doc. No. 30-1, at ¶ 16; Tubbs Decl., Doc. No. 30-2, at ¶ 14; M-Track notes, sealed Ex. 1 to Martinez report, at 6.)

         • While he was off Neurontin, Plaintiff was not at risk of serious medical harm, nor did his condition worsen. ...


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