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Rickert v. Farnsworth

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 9, 2014

JASON LEE RICKERT, Plaintiff,
v.
REVADA FARNSWORTH, R.N., Boulder County Jail Badge #1524, CHERI HARVEY, R.N., Boulder County Jail Badge #1581, PATTI BOOTH, R.N., Boulder County Jail Badge #1507, and DR. JEREMIAH KAPLAN, M.D., Boulder County Jail Medical, Defendants.

ORDER ADOPTING AND AFFIRMING APRIL 14, 2014 RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, District Judge.

This case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. (Doc. # 29.) On November 18, 2013, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 87.) On April 14, 2014, Judge Boland issued a Recommendation granting Defendants' Motion. (Doc. # 96.) Plaintiff filed timely objections to Judge Boland's Recommendation. (Doc. ## 98, 99.)

When a magistrate judge issues a recommendation on a dispositive matter, a district court judge is required to "determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's [recommendation] that has been properly objected to." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Court has conducted a de novo review of this matter, including reviewing all relevant pleadings, the Recommendation, and Plaintiff's objections. In conducting its review, "[t]he district court judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Based on this de novo review, this Court concludes that the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation is correct and is not called into question by Plaintiff's Objections.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff suffers from Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes, among other things, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. At the time he filed the instant complaint, Plaintiff was detained at the Boulder County Jail and received medical treatment from the four Defendants: (1) Revada Farnsworth, R.N., who responded to the majority of Plaintiff's kites and worked with jail staff regarding Plaintiff's medical treatment; (2) Dr. Jeremiah Kaplan, M.D., who was the Doctor responsible for Plaintiff's treatment, prescribed Plaintiff's medications, and determined Plaintiff's necessary medical treatment; (3) Cheri Harvey, R.N. and (4) Patti Booth, R.N., who were nurses also responsible for treating Plaintiff. (Doc. # 20 at 3-9.)

As relevant here, the undisputed facts establish that there were two ways to treat Plaintiff's Crohn's disease: orally with a drug called methotrexate and intravenously through injections into a device called an "infusaport, " which is implanted in a patient's chest. (Doc. ## 87-4, 87-6 at 12.) Health care providers may supplement either course of treatment with pain relievers if necessary. See (Doc. ## 20 at 3, 9-12; 87-4; 87-6; 99 at 3-5.)

Defendants decided to treat Plaintiff's disease with methotrexate and to provide him with only over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Motrin. (Doc. ## 87-4, ¶ 8; 87-6 at 15; 87-18, ¶¶ 8-9.) Defendants also had Plaintiff's infusaport surgically removed after they saw Plaintiff picking at it and observed that the area around the infusaport had become inflamed and bloody. (Doc. ## 87-6, ¶ 11; 87-13, ¶¶ 3-5.)

As a result, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit, arguing that the methotrexate-based treatment was inappropriate, that Defendants acted improperly by failing to "flush"[2] his infusaport, and that Defendants should have given him stronger (narcotic) pain relievers. (Doc. ## 20 at 3-5; 87 at 9-10.) In turn, Defendants filed a summary judgment motion, in which they argued there was no dispute that: (1) methotrexate was an appropriate treatment course, (2) it was not necessary to flush the infusaport with the frequency suggested by Plaintiff, and (3) that they were justified in removing the infusaport because Plaintiff kept picking at the device. (Doc. ## 87 at 9-11; 87-6; 87-16.)

The Magistrate Judge decided that there were no genuine disputes of material fact and that Defendants' treatment course was appropriate and did not deny Plaintiff his Constitutional protections. (Doc. # 96.) Plaintiff advances a number of objections to the Magistrate Judge's analysis which the Court discusses below. (Doc. ## 98, 99.)

II. ANALYSIS

To prevail on his claim that Defendants' medical care violated his constitutional rights, [3] Plaintiff must show "acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Fitzgerald v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 403 F.3d 1134, 1143 (10th Cir. 2005). To establish deliberate indifference, Plaintiff must show that: (1) objectively, he was deprived of a medical need that is "sufficiently serious, " and (2) subjectively, Defendants knew of and disregarded "an excessive risk to [Plaintiff's] health or safety." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 837 (1994) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

Meeting this standard requires establishing more than mere negligence in treatment. Indeed, "[m]edical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Fitzgerald v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 403 F.3d 1134, 1143 (10th Cir. 2005). Relatedly, "a prisoner who merely disagrees with a diagnosis or a prescribed course of treatment does not state a constitutional violation." Perkins v. Kansas Dept. of Corrections, 165 F.3d 803, 811 (10th Cir. 1999).

Finally, in reviewing Defendants' motion for summary judgment, this Court must determine whether the record discloses "no genuine issue as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The Court looks to the factual record and makes reasonable inferences to be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Sealock v. Colorado, 218 F.3d 1205, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000). The plaintiff must "go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts so as to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case in order to survive summary judgment." Id. "To defeat a motion for summary judgment, evidence, including testimony, must be based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or surmise." Self v. Crum, 439 F.3d 1227, 1230 (10th Cir. 2006). In other words, "[u]nsubstantiated allegations carry no probative weight in summary judgment proceedings." Id.

The Magistrate Judge correctly applied this standard to the facts presented in the record by the parties. See (Doc. # 96.) Defendants justified the medical decisions that they took with regard to Plaintiff's care by supplying affidavits that detailed the reasons they opted for their preferred treatment course. (Doc ## 87-4, 87-15, 87-16, 87-22.) In particular, they justified their decision not to use the infusaport because it was not necessary for the treatment of Plaintiff's disease and was impossible to administer by the medical staff at the jail. (Doc. ## 87-4, ¶¶ 9-10; 86-6 at 16; 87-18, ¶¶ 10, 12.) Defendants further established they needed to remove Plaintiff's infusaport in light of the inflammation and bleeding Plaintiff caused around the device and the infusaport had become useless to Plaintiffs treatment regime. (Doc. ## 87 at 9-11, 87-6, 87-16.) Finally, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's pain was ...


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