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Paiva v. Blanchette

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

September 28, 2015

EDWARD A. BLANCHETTE, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief District Judge.

Defendants and Plaintiff have filed cross-motions for summary judgment as to Defendants Blanchette and Vohr (ECF No. 65 ("Defs.' Mot. I"); ECF No. 71 ("Pl.'s Mot. I")), and Defendants Wall and Marocco (ECF No. 72 ("Pl.'s Mot. II"); ECF No. 75 ("Defs.' Mot. II")). The parties have filed objections to all four motions. (ECF No. 69 ("Pl.'s Obj. I"); ECF No. 74 ("Defs.' Obj. I"); ECF No. 80 ("Defs.' Obj. II"); ECF No. 84 ("Pl.'s Obj. II").) Plaintiff filed a Reply to Defendants Blanchette and Vohr's Objection to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 79). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motions are GRANTED and Plaintiff's motions are DENIED.

I. Background

Plaintiff Richard Lee Paiva claims that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated during his incarceration at the Adult Correctional Institution ("ACI") in Cranston, Rhode Island, when prison doctors and officials failed to provide him with effective medical treatment to control his chronic back pain. Plaintiff also alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Plaintiff's allegations in this matter are similar in many respects to a prior lawsuit he filed in this District. See Paiva v. Bansal, No. CA 10-179-M, 2012 WL 1123527 (D.R.I. Apr. 3, 2012) (McConnell, J.) (granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment).

The four defendants in the instant case are Edward A. Blanchette, M.D., Plaintiff's prison physician; Fred H. Vohr, M.D., Medical Program Director; Ashbel T. Wall, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections; and Joseph Marocco, C.C.H.P., Associate Director of Health Care Services. Plaintiff alleges that Drs. Blanchette and Vohr "repeatedly prescribed, and continued, known ineffective treatment"; "ignored and did not follow nearly all of the pain specialist[']s recommendations whom they consulted with, Dr. Todd Handel"; and failed to "perform a physical examination of the plaintiff in which he was touched." (Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Pl.'s SUF I") ¶¶ 18-19, 21, ECF No. 70.) Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Wall was aware of Plaintiff's insufficient treatment yet "never took any action to ensure that [Plaintiff] was provided with meaningful, effective pain management." (Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Pl.'s SUF II") ¶¶ 12, 18, ECF No. 73.)

Plaintiff's complaints about his treatment are documented in a number of letters between him and Defendants Vohr and Wall. On August 9, 2012, Dr. Vohr informed Plaintiff that the medication he had previously been taking, Ultram or Tramadol, was no longer available at the ACI because while "[i]t was originally marketed as a non-narcotic substitute for opiods [sic], (Vicodin, Morphine, etc.)... it clearly has all the negative attributes of narcotics as well as increased reports of serious adverse effects." (Ex. F to Defs.' Mot. I, ECF No. 65-7.) On September 4, 2012, Dr. Vohr explained that "the decision to remove Tramadol from the formulary was based on careful consideration of the drug's benefits as well as harmful effects, and upon recommendations from our pharmacy board and departments of correction from across the country." (Ex. G to Defs.' Mot. I, ECF No. 65-8.) On October 3, 2012, Mr. Paiva wrote a letter to Director Wall in which he stated:

Since my incarceration, I have been prescribed Motrin and Neurontin, each, three different times already. Both medications have previously proven to Since my injury, I have had three steroid injections. All three of the injections have also been ineffective and not helped to reduce my pain.
Instead of following the recommendations of the Pain Specialist that has been charged with my chronic pain management, and trying new medications and/or treatment, Dr. Blanchette is re-prescribing me the same known ineffective medications (Motrin and Neurontin) and treatment (steroid injections), over and over again. In the meantime, weeks, and now months are passing by, while I am left to unnecessarily suffer and endure constant, moderate to severe sciatic pain.
And yet, with Dr. Vohr having full knowledge of this, I am still currently prescribed only Motrin and Neurontin, and I have yet another steroid injection scheduled. I am in constant pain and need to be provided with effective chronic pain management.

(Ex. H to Defs.' Mot. I, ECF No. 65-9.) Wall responded in a letter dated October 5, 2012, indicating that he had instructed his staff to contact Dr. Vohr to provide a detailed report regarding Plaintiff's treatment, that Plaintiff had been referred to the neurosurgery clinic and Dr. Handel, and that Wall considered Drs. Vohr and Blanchette an authority relative to Plaintiff's condition and considered the issue closed. (Wall Aff. ¶ 5, ECF No. 75-3.) From October 2012 to June 2013, Plaintiff continued to write a series of letters to Dr. Vohr, complaining about Dr. Blanchette's medical care. (See Exs. B - E to Pl.'s Obj. I, ECF Nos. 69-3 - 69-6.) Most recently, Plaintiff states that his "day to day pain management consists of a single, known ineffective n-said medication, Naprosyn, and that his numerous ongoing requests for medical treatment for his chronic pain are being ignored by defendants Blanchette and Vohr." (Pl.'s SUF I ¶ 31, ECF No. 70.)

Regarding Defendant Marocco, Plaintiff alleges that he "informed defendant Marocco that he had difficulty sleeping" and asked "that he be accommodated with a softer medical mattress.'" (Pl.'s SUF II ¶ 7, ECF No. 73.) According to Plaintiff, Marocco "suggested that because the plaintiff was given a new' standard issue mattress, that an accommodation of a medical mattress' was not warranted, despite one being ordered by an ACI physician." (Id. ¶ 8.) In reality, Mr. Marocco's letter stated that the Department of Corrections had already attempted to accommodate Mr. Paiva's request with a new mattress, and "[i]f you feel that this accommodation is not appropriate I would suggest you see the physician assigned to your facility regarding your alleged ADA incapacitation to see if the physician concurs with you." (Ex. B to Pl.'s Mot. II at 6, ECF No. 72-3.) Regarding Plaintiff's claim that he had difficulty sleeping, Defendants have produced a sleep log showing that Mr. Paiva slept through the night a number of times. (Ex. D to Defs.' Mot. I, ECF No. 65-5.)

Pursuant to the Court's scheduling order in this case, expert disclosures were required to be made by June 30, 2014. (Defs.' Mot. I 14, ECF No. 65-1.) Plaintiff failed to disclose any expert witnesses. (Id.) Defendants identified Donald C. Kern, M.D., M.P.H., C.C.H.P, as an expert who will testify on their behalf. (Id. at 6.) Defendants anticipate that "Dr. Kern will testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that defendants performed well within the standard of care for the average practitioner in their field, and that nothing defendants did, or failed to do, was the cause of any of Mr. Paiva's alleged injuries." (Id.)

II. Discussion

A. Legal ...

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