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Ryan v. Correctional Health Partners

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 12, 2019

SHAWNEE RYAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL HEALTH PARTNERS, JENNIFER MIX, M.D., HILARY VICTOROFF N.P., and LAURA SOMMERSCHIELD N.P., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION TO AMEND TO ADD CLAIM FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES; DENYING MOTION TO BIFURCATE CLAIMS; DENYING MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT TO ADD NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS

          Marcia S. Krieger Senior United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to several motions brought by Plaintiff Shawnee Ryan's (“Ms. Ryan”). The first is her Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint to Assert a Claim for Punitive Damages Against Defendants Correctional Health Partners (“CHP”) and Dr. Jennifer Mix (#142)[1], CHP and Dr. Mix's Response (# 160), to which no reply was filed. The second is Ms. Ryan's Motion to Bifurcate Claims #5 and #6 Against Defendant Hilary Victoroff (# 147)[2], Nurse Victoroff and Nurse Sommerschield's response (#161), and CHP and Dr. Mix's Response (# 160), to which no reply was filed. The third is Ms. Ryan's Motion to Join Negligence Claims Against CHP Defendants and Defendants Victoroff and Sommerschield (# 133), CHP and Dr. Mix's Response (# 160), to which no reply was filed.

         FACTS

         On the date she commenced this suit, Ms. Ryan was a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”) and housed at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility (“DWCF”). (# 1). On October 4, 2018, Ms. Ryan was eventually released from DOC custody on parole and proceeds in this matter pro se.[3] (# 119 at 9).

         According to Ms. Ryan's Fourth Amended Complaint (# 119), which is the current operative pleading, in November 2012, she entered the CDOC in “excellent health.” (# 119 at 8). By the following spring, however, Ms. Ryan became ill and “could not fully recover.” (#119 at 8). Over the next year, she was diagnosed with two fatal diseases: Multiple Myeloma (a blood cancer) and Light Chain Deposition/Cast Nephropathy. (# 119 at 8). Mr. Ryan asserts that these diseases require the following complex three-phase treatment: (i) intensive chemotherapy; (ii) a bone marrow transplant; and (iii) a post-transplant recovery period of two years to rebuild the immune system. (# 119 at 8). By April 2014, Ms. Ryan's condition had worsened and progressed to an advanced stage of Multiple Myeloma, causing 30% atrophy of her right kidney, a compromised immune system, and bone fractures. (# 119 at 8).

         Ms. Ryan contends that prison officials denied her adequate medical care from September 2013 until her release in October 2018. More specifically, she claims that despite the passing of the Affordable Health Care Act and the Inmate Catastrophic Medicaid Provision, Defendant CHP only allowed Ms. Ryan access to its own network of providers and repeatedly denied her requests for a bone marrow transplant. (# 119 at 9-10). She alleges that CHP never informed her that Medicaid was available and that she “fully qualified for [a] transplant.” (# 119 at 10). During this time, Dr. Jennifer Mix was the “sole final authority over what medical care Ryan received or was denied.” (# 119 at 13). Dr. Mix was aware of Ms. Ryan's medical diagnoses but “personally denied [the] life essential transplant and appeals five times.” (# 119 at 13).

         At all relevant times, Nurse Practitioner Hilary Victoroff was Ms. Ryan's CDOC assigned provider. (# 119 at 14-15). In late January 2017, Ms. Ryan was admitted to the Aurora South Hospital to undergo chemotherapy treatment. Upon completion of this treatment, Ms. Ryan was taken back to the prison where Nurse Victoroff allegedly failed to monitor her condition. The following day, Ms. Ryan fell unconscious and was found unresponsive in her cell. (# 119 at 15-16). Ms. Ryan spent the next 10 days in the hospital with neutropenic fever and a staph infection. (# 119 at 16).

         In June 2017, Ms. Ryan underwent a stem cell transplant, completing the second phase of the treatment plan. (# 119 at 10-11). However, CHP continued to deny Mr. Ryan “all ongoing medical care” including post-transplant treatment and hospitalizations. (# 119 at 10).

         Then, in July 2017, Ms. Ryan began to experience vision loss due to cataracts. (# 119 at 19). In October 2017, Nurse Practitioner Laura Sommerschield scheduled an optometry exam for Ms. Ryan. Ms. Ryan asserts that the optometrist consulted with a surgeon who recommended “immediate next” eye surgery. (# 119 at 19-20). However, Ms. Ryan alleges that Nurse Sommerschield did not order the eye surgery until April 2018. Apparently, providers at Denver Health intervened on Ms. Ryan's behalf, and on December 17, 2018, Ms. Ryan underwent surgery on her left eye. Unfortunately, that surgery was unsuccessful, and another surgery was recommended. Again, Nurse Sommerschield scheduled the surgery for the latest possible date in January 2018. (# 119 at 21). Ms. Ryan then underwent two eye surgeries on both January 2, 2018 and January 11, 2018.

         As a result of the various Defendants' denial of care for several years and Ms. Ryan's prolonged exposure to high doses of chemotherapy, Ms. Ryan suffered severe physical complications including: (i) heart damage; (ii) pulmonary hypertension; (iii) chronic renal insufficiency and anemia with atrophy of both kidneys; (iv) eye damage including vision loss; (v) acute pancreatitis; (vi) deep vein thrombosis; and (vii) severe neuropathy. (# 119 at 10).

         Construed liberally in Ms. Ryan's favor, her Fourth Amended Complaint asserts seven claims, four of which are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (i) a claim that CHP violated Ms. Ryan's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by denying her essential medical care; (ii) a claim that Dr. Mix was deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs in violation of the Eight Amendment; (iii) a claim that Nurse Victoroff was deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs in violation of the Eight Amendment; and (iv) a claim that Nurse Sommerschield was deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs in violation of the Eight Amendment. Ms. Ryan also asserts a claim of negligence, presumably under state law, against CHP. Finally, Ms. Ryan asserts two additional claims against Nurse Victoroff for the alleged mishandling of Ms. Ryan's medical records in violation of state law (“Claims Five and Six”). (# 119).

         Ms. Ryan is a prolific filer of motions, and she has repeatedly requested to amend her pleadings, two of which requests are pending before the Court (#133 and #142). Additionally, Ms. Ryan has filed a number of pleadings related to her belief that defense counsel, as part of the discovery process, has improperly obtained her medical records from the CDOC (# 147 (motion), # 148 and # 153 (supplements to motion)) (requesting the Court bifurcate and stay the two claims asserted against Nurse Victoroff related to her medical records pending the outcome of a separate “investigation”). The Court addresses each of the pending motions in turn.

         MOTIONS

         A. ...


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