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Benge v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 8, 2014

Robert Joseph Benge, Plaintiff,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Joseph Benge, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). The Court will order Defendants Ryan, Pratt, Wexford, Corizon, Merchant, Mahler and Tucker to answer the Complaint and will dismiss the remaining Defendants without prejudice.

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $7.49. The remainder of the fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income credited to Plaintiff's trust account each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam )).

III. Complaint

In this two-count Complaint, Plaintiff names the following Defendants: Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan; Jane Doe Ryan; Director of Health Services Richard Pratt; Jane Doe Pratt; the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC); Wexford Health Incorporated (Wexford); Corizon Health Sources (Corizon); Dr. Kenneth Merchant; Jane Doe Merchant; Physician's Assistant Carey Tucker; Jane Doe Tucker; and Registered Nurses C. Mahlar and John Doe.

In Count One, Plaintiff claims his Eighth Amendment rights were violated when he was denied immediate treatment for a fractured tibia. Plaintiff states that on May 3, 2012, he fell and injured his leg to the extent that he could not walk on his own. Plaintiff was taken to medical where he was evaluated by Defendant Mahlar who gave Plaintiff ice, but no pain medication, and told Plaintiff that x-rays would be ordered. Plaintiff did not receive x-rays. On May 12, 2012 Deputy Warden Mattson saw Plaintiff's still swollen and discolored leg and asked medical to see Plaintiff; medical stated that Plaintiff needed to fill out a Health Needs Request, which Plaintiff did on May 13, 2012.

Plaintiff was seen by Defendants Mahler and Nurse Doe on May 14, 2012. Plaintiff states that both Defendants saw that Plaintiff could barely walk on his own and that his knee and leg were badly swollen and bruised. Plaintiff claims both Defendants failed to splint or otherwise stabilize the leg and "actively thwarted Plaintiff's attempts to be seen by a medical doctor."

On June 12, 2012, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Merchant who observed Plaintiff's knee and leg were still swollen and bruised and could not bear weight. Defendant Merchant ordered an MRI. Plaintiff received the MRI on July 3, 2012. Although Defendant Merchant immediately received the results of the MRI, which showed Plaintiff had suffered a fractured tibia, Defendant Merchant did nothing and did not see Plaintiff until August 7, 2012, at which time he told Plaintiff that he did not have time to go over the results of the MRI with Plaintiff. Defendant Merchant then prescribed pain medication. Plaintiff states that he was not provided with the results of the MRI until November 15, 2012, when he was seen by an orthopedic surgeon. Plaintiff alleges that failure to immediately treat his fractured tibia has resulted in permanent injury and continuing pain.

Plaintiff further claims that Defendants Ryan and Pratt were aware of "widespread and systematic abuse of inmates with regards to health care." Similarly, Plaintiff claims Defendant Wexford had a custom of providing inadequate care for inmates and that Defendants Ryan, Pratt, and Wexford "neglected the serious medical needs of inmates by failing to manage, support, supervise, and administer medical care to prisoners." Compl. at 7.

In Count Two, Plaintiff alleges his Eighth Amendment rights were violated when, on multiple occasions, he did not receive prescribed pain medication. Plaintiff claims that on June 18, 2013, his prescription medications gabapentin and propranolol were abruptly discontinued for three months because Defendant Mahler failed to renew Plaintiff's prescriptions and failed to give his chart to the health care provider. Plaintiff further claims Defendant Mahler refused to arrange for Plaintiff to see a healthcare provider for pain management issues.

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Tucker "drastically altered Plaintiff's medication regimen with the abrupt discontinuation of Plaintiff's baclofen 60 mg daily" and reduced the amount of pain medication Plaintiff received. Plaintiff further alleges that several other medications were discontinued or decreased, but Plaintiff does not allege who was responsible for these changes. On January 14, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by an outside provider who gave Plaintiff a prescription for tramadol for pain management; Plaintiff claims Defendant Tucker refused to prescribe the medication.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ryan, Pratt, and Corizon "instructed [Defendant] Tucker and other medical staff members not to issue any new medications to inmates, ...

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