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Sims v. Figueroa

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

July 17, 2019

WILLIAM SIMS, Plaintiff,
ALEXIS FIGUEROA, etc.; et al., Defendants.



         I. Status

         Plaintiff, an inmate of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), is proceeding pro se on a Complaint (Complaint) (Doc. 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant, Dr. Colombani's Motion to Dismiss Complaint With Prejudice (Doc. 9) and Defendant, Dr. Figueroa's Motion to Dismiss Complaint With Prejudice (Doc. 13) are pending before the Court.[1] Plaintiff filed a Declaration in Opposition to Defendant's [Colombani] Motion to Dismiss Complaint With Prejudice (Doc. 16) and a Declaration in Opposition to Defendant Figueroa's Motion to Dismiss Complaint (Doc. 22). See Order (Doc. 5). For its review, the Court accepts the facts in the Complaint as true and views them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff.[2]

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility 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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         This Court noted:

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406, 122 S.Ct. 2179, 153 L.Ed.2d 413 (2002). A complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted); Marsh v. Butler County, Ala., 268 F.3d 1014, 1022 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc). To satisfy the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, a complaint simply must give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002). The Court need not accept unsupported conclusions of law or of mixed law and fact in a complaint. Marsh, 268 F.3d at 1036 n. 16.

Hatten v. Davis, No. 203CV114FTM29DNF, 2005 WL 3186183, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 29, 2005).

         Furthermore, a district court, in undertaking its review, "is limited to the pleadings and any attachments thereto in ruling on the motion to dismiss." Id. at *2. Thus, in its review of a motion to dismiss, a court excludes from consideration documents not previously submitted with the complaint unless the documents are referred to in the complaint, are central to the case, and are undisputed (the authenticity of the document is not challenged).

         Harvin v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. 1:15-CV-04477-MHC-JFK, 2016 WL 9450467, at *5 (N.D.Ga. June 28, 2016), report and recommendation adopted by 2016 WL 9453333 (N.D.Ga. Aug. 1, 2016), aff'd, 696 Fed.Appx. 987 (11th Cir. 2017). The court may, however, take judicial notice of public filings, public records, and court filings. Id.

         When analyzing these motions to dismiss, the Court will consider the Complaint and the documents attached to the Complaint. The Court will not convert the motions to dismiss into a motions for summary judgment and will exclude consideration of any documents not meeting the above standards. See Rule 12(d), Fed.R.Civ.P. The Court's inquiry at this stage is focused upon whether the Complaint gives Defendants fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). As to whether Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, this assertion "merely tests the sufficiency of the complaint; it does not decide the merits of the case." Harvin, 2016 WL 9450467, at *5 (quotation and citations omitted).

         Based on the above, the Court will consider the pending motions as 12(b)(6) motions for failure to state a claim and will limit its analysis and ruling accordingly.

         III. The Complaint

         Plaintiff claims Defendants Dr. Colombani and Dr. Figueroa subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment by denying and delaying the provision of medical care. Complaint at 5. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief against Defendant Figueroa and compensatory and punitive damages from Defendants Figueroa and Colombani. Id. at 7-8.

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts. On February 16, 2017, an outside medical specialist at the brace clinic saw Plaintiff and determined Plaintiff needed replacement arch supports and orthopedic boots. Id. at 5. Dr. Colombani was aware of Plaintiff's left foot deformity and knew Plaintiff needed to be returned to the clinic to be fitted for custom-made arch supports and boots. Id. On August 1, 2017, Dr. Colombani made a consultation request for a referral to an outside specialist. Id. However, the request was not submitted and an appointment was not scheduled. Id.

         Dr. Figueroa saw Plaintiff on September 8, 2017 for a medical appointment. Id. at 6. Plaintiff told Dr. Figueroa of the need to be returned to an outside specialist to be evaluated for custom arch supports and boots as Plaintiff had been wearing severely worn and torn boots for eighteen months. Id. Dr. Figueroa told Plaintiff he would address the matter at a later date. Id. After waiting nearly three months, Plaintiff wrote an inmate grievance on December 12, 2017. Id. Plaintiff received a grievance response stating that his medical chart would be placed in Dr. Figueroa's box for review and a possible new consultation for the brace clinic. Id.

         In April of 2018, during a chronic clinic appointment, Plaintiff asked Dr. Figueroa about returning to an outside specialist. Id. Dr. Figueroa said it would be easier and less expensive if he were to order boots himself and issue regular insoles. Id. Dr. Figueroa issued Plaintiff a pass for insoles. Id. Plaintiff mentioned the pain and discomfort he was experiencing, the Dr. Figueroa said money was not available right now. Id. Dr. Figueroa did not refer Plaintiff to an outside specialist. Id.

         In July of 2018, during a sick-call visit, Plaintiff was advised regular boots had been ordered. Id. at 7. Plaintiff experienced pain and discomfort "because money was an issue." Id.

         Attached to the Complaint are a number of documents that are relevant for this Court's review. The record demonstrates that on December 12, 2017, while confined at Suwannee Correctional Institution (SCI), Plaintiff wrote a Request for Administrative Remedy or Appeal (Doc. 1-1 at 1) to the Warden. Plaintiff complained he had been denied medical treatment since February 26, 2017, after being seen in the brace clinic by Mr. Lang. Id. Plaintiff stated he was to be returned to the clinic to be refitted for orthotics and to obtain replacement of orthopedic boots. Id. Plaintiff complained he had not received the consultation for approximately ten months. Id.

         In response, on December 27, 2017, F. Cruz, M.D., approved the grievance and stated:

You were seen in Chronic Clinic by MD in Oct. and discussed your brace needs. It does appears [sic] a Consult was written in July by your previous facility that has not been completed. Your chart has been placed in the MD's box for further review of this matter and possible new consult for brace. You will be notified when this has been completed.

(Doc. 1-1 at 2).

         On January 22, 2018, Plaintiff wrote a Request for Administrative Remedy or Appeal to the Warden, reiterating that he had been sent to the brace clinic at RMC on February 16, 2017, and was due to be returned to the clinic for fittings. (Doc. 1-1 at 3). Plaintiff stated he had been transferred to Hamilton Correctional Institution (HCI) on March 14, 2017, but a consultation for the brace clinic was not completed at that institution. Id. Plaintiff said upon his arrival at SCI, he told Dr. Figueroa of Plaintiff's need to return to the brace clinic because his boots were worn out and he needed custom-made orthotics for his left-foot deformity. Id. A consultation was not completed. Id. Plaintiff provided a copy of the December 27, 2017 approved grievance. Id. Plaintiff noted, Dr. Figueroa wrote in Plaintiff's medical file that Dr. Campbell of the Regional Office was contacted and denied Plaintiff's return to the brace clinic. Id. Plaintiff said he has received treatment at the brace clinic and has been given orthopedic boots since 2006, long before Centurion took over medical services for the FDOC, and he should not be told to wear Crocs. Id. at 3-4.

         In response, on January 26, 2018, F. Cruz, M.D., denied the grievance noting the previous grievance was approved only on the basis that the doctor would review Plaintiff's chart for possible referral to the brace clinic. (Doc. 1-1 at 5). Dr. Cruz stated: "The chart was placed to the MD and he reviewed the information and further discussed the matter with the Regional Medical Directory [sic], Dr. Campbell, which is an appropriate measure." Id. Additionally, it was noted that Plaintiff was not recommended to wear Crocs, and "it's noted that DOC provide low heel shoes." Id.

         On February 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a grievance appeal to the Secretary of the FDOC, noting that a consult to the brace clinic was allegedly filled out in July of 2017, but not submitted. (Doc. 1-1 at 6). Additionally, he said that he was not sent to the clinic from SCI. Id. Finally, Plaintiff stated that his primary health care provider had a phone conversation with a physician from the Regional Office, and a determination was made that Plaintiff should wear FDOC low-heeled shoes. Id. Plaintiff asserted that he should have been sent to the brace clinic based on his February 16, 2017 appointment at the clinic. Id. at 7. Plaintiff sought to be returned to the brace clinic to be fitted with custom made arch supports and to receive replacement orthopedic boots. Id. On June 14, 2018, staff denied the appeal, noting Plaintiff was seen by the provider on May 29, 2017 to address these concerns. (Doc. 1-1 at 8).

         Plaintiff wrote another grievance appeal to the Secretary asking that his medical grievance be returned to the institution and be properly investigated. (Doc. 1-1 at 9). Staff ...

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