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Rua v. Glodis

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 24, 2014

EDWIN RUA, Plaintiff,

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For Edwin Rua, Plaintiff: Anthony R. DiFruscia, LEAD ATTORNEY, DiFruscia Law Offices, Methuen, MA.

For Guy W. Glodis, Office of the Sheriff, Defendant: Andrew J. Abdella, LEAD ATTORNEY, Worcester County Sheriff's Office, West Boylston, MA.

For Thomas Patnaude, Former Primary Care Physician, Defendant: Christopher M. Bracci, Sean E. Capplis, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Ficksman & Conley LLP, Boston, MA; Jeanine E. Goodwin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Capplis & Connors, PC, Boston, MA.

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F. Dennis Saylor IV, United States District Judge.

This action is brought by a state prisoner for alleged medical malpractice and substandard

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prison conditions, arising out of injuries he suffered in a motor vehicle accident while being transported in custody. After the accident, plaintiff Edwin Rua contends that he was treated by defendants Thomas Patnaude, M.D., and other medical staff. The complaint alleges that Dr. Patnaude and defendant Guy Glodis (who was then the sheriff and who oversaw the Worcester County Jail and House of Corrections) are responsible for his injuries. It asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § § 1983 and 1985 for violating and conspiring to violate Rua's rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and under state law for breach of fiduciary duty and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Defendants Glodis and Patnaude have separately moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be granted.

I. Background

Unless otherwise specified, the following facts are undisputed.

A. Factual Background

On March 20, 2008, Edwin Rua was arrested and then held as a pre-trial detainee in the Worcester County Jail. His medical entrance examination report stated that he had a history of drug or alcohol abuse, that he had last used heroin two days before, and that he complained of being " dope sick" but that he had no injuries or chronic medical conditions. (Patnaude Mem., Ex. C at 2).[1] He was placed on suicide watch for close observation during his detoxification. (Rua Mem., Ex. E). According to Rua, he felt ill and vomited during the withdrawal period and he remained on suicide watch for seven to ten days. (Rua Dep. at 40, 43).

On July 25, 2008, while Rua and another inmate were being transported in a Sheriff's Office van to the Lawrence District Court, the driver of the van suddenly applied his brakes. As a result, the other inmate slid into Rua, both hit the wall of the van, and they fell to the floor. Rua testified that his head hit the side of the van, knocking him unconscious. He also testified that he was yelling and screaming for the vehicle to stop. (Rua Dep. at 45, 77-78). The driver continued on to the courthouse, from where Rua and the other inmate were transported to Lawrence General Hospital for medical treatment. Rua previously had been in two or three motor vehicle accidents. (Rua Dep. at 18).

At the hospital, Rua complained of pain in his head, face, neck, spinal cord, left chest, shoulder, left knee, and left lower leg. Doctors examined him, conducted multiple tests, and provided intravenous morphine and Torodol for pain. CT scans revealed no injury to his head, spine, or back; x-rays of his left clavicle, left shoulder, left ribs, left knee, left leg, left ankle, or spine revealed no injuries. The hospital discharged him into police custody with a prescription for ibuprofen and instructions to follow up with a primary care physician. According to hospital records, Rua moved his extremities freely during the x-ray examination and was " laughing and smiling" at discharge. (Glodis Mem., Ex. 2 at 22).

Rua was returned to the jail. Records of the Sheriff's Office indicate that a medical staff member placed him on medical watch. (Glodis Mem., Ex. 3 at 4; Patnaude Mem., Ex. E at 3; Compl., Ex. D). However, Rua contends that he was placed on suicide watch, in which he allegedly had

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no mattress or blanket, toiletries, or books, was afforded no recreation time, and was exposed to light 24 hours per day. (Rua Dep. at 48; Rua Mem., Ex. L, Rua Aff. ¶ 2; see Glodis Mem., Ex. 4, Glodis Dep. at 32:16-33:21 (describing suicide unit as " cold," " with a light on," and having a bed with no box spring)). Prison records note that Rua complained of achiness in his neck and back, as well as nausea, dizziness, and headache; that he asked for pain medication; that his gait was within normal limits; and that he was oriented. (Glodis Mem., Ex. 3 at 4; Patnaude Mem., Ex. E at 3). He was given Motrin for five days. Rua testified that Nurse Pam Jones crushed his medications, causing him to have difficulty ingesting them. (Rua Dep. at 133). He also testified that after he was released from medical watch or suicide watch, he was held in segregation for one day before being released into the general prison population. (Rua Dep. at 50).

On an undated medical request form, Rua complained of pain in his back and head. On August 20, 2008, he was given Tylenol. On August 21, he filed another form complaining of pain in his head, hip, and leg. On August 28, Dr. Thomas Patnaude provided him Naproxen for pain. According to Dr. Patnaude, that was the first hands-on treatment he provided Rua. He had, however, discussed the case with the nurses on the day of the accident and formulated a treatment plan. (Rua Mem., Ex. I, Patnaude Dep. at 52).

In addition to providing direct care to inmates, Dr. Patnaude was in charge of all medical care at the Worcester County Jail. (Patnaude Dep. at 18). He estimated that he was present at the prison four days per week and that he saw Sheriff Glodis there two to three times per week. ( Id. at 65-70).

On August 28, 2008, Rua filed another request for medical services, complaining of pain in his head and back, pressure in his chest, and a broken tooth. On September 5, he again requested medical attention, complaining of pain in his head and legs, dizziness, and hot flashes. On September 7, he was evaluated by a nurse. On September 23, he filed another request, describing pain in his head and back. On September 25, Dr. Patnaude prescribed Meclizine for dizziness and Parafon Forte, a muscle relaxant and pain medication.

On October 1, 2, and 5, 2008, Rua filed three medical services request forms, stating that he continued to experience pain, that the prescribed medications did not relieve that pain, and that he had difficulty sleeping. On October 5, a nurse evaluated him and referred him to a doctor. On October 20, Dr. Patnaude altered his medication from Naproxen to Ultram and referred him to Saint Vincent Hospital for an MRI of his lumbar spine. The MRI, taken on October 29, revealed a mild compression deformity at T12-L1 and L1-L2 but no major abnormalities. Generally, once the prison received an external medical report, such as an MRI, a nurse would explain it to the inmate. (Patnaude Dep. at 64). However, according to Rua, he did not learn the results of the MRI until December 5.

Rua continued to report persistent pain, filing medical services request forms on November 29 and December 6, 2008. A nurse evaluated him on December 6 and referred him to a doctor. On December 16, Dr. Patnaude referred him to neurologist Dr. Thomas Mullins at Saint Vincent's Hospital.[2] At the January 16, 2009 evaluation,

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Rua described pain radiating from his left buttock to hip and in his shoulder and collarbone, discomfort in his hamstring tendons, fatigue in his lower legs, difficulty standing and walking, and numbness along his left lateral thigh. Dr. Mullins concluded that there was no evidence of lumbar radiculopathy and diagnosed meralgia paresthetica.[3] He explained that the condition would improve with time, but that " in the meantime he'd simply have to live with it." (Patnaude Mem., Ex. L at 3). He also recommended that Rua stretch and ordered hip x-rays " for completeness." ( Id. ). X-rays of Rua's pelvis and hips performed on March 19, 2009, showed no abnormalities or fractures.[4]

On March 30, 2009, Dr. Patnaude referred Rua to an orthopedic clinic at Saint Vincent's Hospital for pain management. On May 19, 2009, he was examined by Dr. Alberto Cabantong. Dr. Cabantong noted that Rua's physical condition and neurologic condition were unremarkable. He stated, however, that he could not " totally rule out components of spondylosis from the compression fracture . . . ." (Patnaude Mem., Ex. O at 4). He prescribed Parafon Forte and Ultram for back pain, recommended an epidural steroid injection, and referred Rua to physical therapy.

On June 4, 2009, a physical therapist examined Rua and recommended six to eight treatments, with an initial plan for once-per-week treatments for four weeks. However, at his third visit on July 21, 2009, Rua reported that physical therapy was " not helping" and that " it feels worse." (Patnaude Mem., Ex. P at ...

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