United States District Court, D. Colorado
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
S. Krieger Senior United States District Judge
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), 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), 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.
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. (# 119 at 9).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.