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Price v. White

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 4, 2013

MARK A. PRICE Plaintiff,
v.
RANDY WHITE et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff, Mark A. Price, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP). He names as Defendants the following KSP employees: Warden Randy White; Dr. Steve Hiland; Nurse Bob Wilkerson; and Unit Administrators Hobert Huddleston and Mitchell McLeod. He also sues Dr. Doug Crall, Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) Medical Director. All are sued in their individual and official capacities. He requests monetary and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

Plaintiff's first claim involves the alleged failure to treat his broken hand. He alleges that on February 15, 2013, he arrived at KSP with a broken right hand and informed KSP medical staff of that fact. He states that he "signed up to see Dr. Hiland but was ignored by KSP medical." He states that he again signed up on March 12th, at which point Nurse Wilkerson told him that KSP medical was aware of his injury and that Dr. Hiland was not going to see him. He alleges that Nurse Wilkerson told him to lie down, his hand will heal. He states that he then wrote a letter to Dr. Hiland pleading for treatment for his hand, but Dr. Hiland ignored him.

According to the complaint, Plaintiff again requested medical assistance and Nurse Wilkerson came to see him and advised him that Dr. Hiland knew of his situation and was not going to treat him. Nurse Wilkerson told Plaintiff his hand would heal on its own. When Plaintiff told him his hand hurt, Nurse Wilkerson told him the pain would probably stop when it was totally healed. He states that on March 15, a nurse gave him an order for a mild pain pill. He states that he wrote to Warden White and appealed his grievance to Medical Director Crall. Plaintiff asserts that all Defendants were aware of yet neglected their responsibility in treating him or getting him treated. He alleges that his hand is healing "deformed."

Plaintiff's second claim involves his allegation that he is being forced to shave his head against his religious beliefs (Judaism) in violation of his First and Eighth Amendment rights. He alleges that on March 13, 2013, while in segregation he was told that Defendant Huddleston had told an office sergeant to "cut my hair, to shave my head completely bald." When Plaintiff stated that cutting his hair was against his religion he was told that KSP has a policy that inmates' heads are to be shaved. Specifically, Sergeant McLeod told him that Defendant Huddleston "don't care about that and he shaved my head against my will and beliefs and has continued to shave my head every other week, " handcuffing and shackling Plaintiff to do so. Plaintiff states that he grieved this practice and was denied and that he appealed to Warden White, who told them to keep shaving his head. According to Plaintiff, under prison policy, exemptions to the grooming standards may be authorized in writing by the warden. Plaintiff asserts, "This exception was put into the policy for inmate that have religious beliefs such as to native American Indian or the Buddhism (or) the Judaism & Amish but KSP prison officials over look it and shave everbodys heads in the segregation."

Plaintiff attaches a number of exhibits. He attaches a copy of KDOC's Policies and Procedures 13.2 relating to Health Maintenance Services effective January 3, 2011. He also attaches a grievance dated February 27, 2013, in which he asks to be taken to a specialist "ASAP" for his hand. Plaintiff states in his grievance that his hand injury occurred on January 6, 2013, at Little Sandy Correctional Complex, where he was told that his middle finger and knuckle were out of place. He also states in that grievance that, two weeks later, a doctor at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex x-rayed his hand and ordered him pain medication. The informal response referred Plaintiff to the provider note, which states:

Distal right 3rd metacarpal has deformity where previously fractured, mildly decreased ROM adduction of proximal 3rd phalange with normal remaining distal joints. Normal distal sensory function and normal capillary refill. When cuffed behind back, patient able to adduct phalange to 90 degrees (patient did not know he was being observed). When cuffed in front, patients notes decreased ROM in adduction to only 45 degrees. Tendons all appear to be intact.

This note was signed by Nurse Wilkerson. In the assessment portion of that note, it states "Assessment/Plan: Old fracture of right 3rd distal metacarpal with mild deformity - I recommended ROM of area over the next several months. There is no additional assessment or treatment indicated at this time." KDOC notes also state that Plaintiff complained of an inability to move his right third finger and asserted that he was supposed to be sent to a specialist for treatment. That note also states that the injury to the right hand was self-inflicted on a cinder-block wall. Also attached is the Health Care Grievance Committee's Findings and Recommendations dated March 28, 2013, concurring with the informal response to Plaintiff's grievance. The final administrative review of the grievance concurred with the Grievance Committee.

Plaintiff also attaches a memorandum from Warden White dated March 11, 2013, explaining that Plaintiff had been seen by Nurse Practitioner Wilkerson regarding his hand and noting that he is allowed to seek a second opinion, but at his expense. He also attaches a letter from KDOC stating that a review of his record revealed that the Nurse Practitioner at KSP had evaluated him and determined that, aside from temporarily restricting movement of his hand, no treatment was necessary. Also attached is a letter that Plaintiff sent stating that he cannot open or close his hand and that his hand was painful. The response from Medical Director Crall states that he has reviewed the record and finds that Plaintiff has received appropriate care.

With regard to his claim about cutting his hair, Plaintiff attaches the KSP Special Management Unit Operating Procedures, which includes the provision that "[h]air shall not be longer than two (2) inches in length." He also attaches grievances and letters and responses thereto in which it was explained to Plaintiff that the requirement that inmates in segregation have their hair cut exists for security and sanitation no matter the inmate's religion.

II. ANALYSIS

When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action, if the court determines that it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally ...


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