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Wells v. Conrotto

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

January 6, 2015

RICHARD TODD WELLS, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN CONROTTO, M.D., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HENRY R. WLLHOLT, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the motions to dismiss the complaint filed by defendants Dr. Steven Conrotto and Nurse Service Administrator Heather Nickell [D. E. No. 10] and Dr. Doug Crall. [D. E. No. 23] Plaintiff Richard Todd Wells filed a response in opposition to the former motion [D. E. No. 19] but did not respond to the latter motion. Conrotto and Nickell filed a reply in further support of their motion [D. E. No. 21], and the time for further briefing has expired. This matter is therefore ripe for decision.

I

Wells is a prisoner currently confined at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange, Kentucky. On February 25, 2014, Wells filed a complaint asserting civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"). [D. E. No. 1] In his complaint, Wells explains that he has lower back problems and suffers from degenerative disc and joint disease. As a result, he indicates that he walks with a cane, and while in prison has typically been assigned to a cell on the bottom floor, and the lower bunk bed within the cell. [D. E. No. 1, pp. 2-3]

On July 27, 2012, Wells was transferred to the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty, Kentucky ("EKCC"), and was again assigned to a lower bunk in a cell on the first floor. [D. E. No. 1, p. 2] However, Wells alleges that in October 2012, he was reassigned to a cell on an upper floor, which would require him to climb three flights of stairs - up to five times a day - for meals and pill calls. When he complained to medical staff, nurse Madden told him that nurse Nickell informed her that Wells must accept the reassignment or face disciplinary sanctions. Wells accepted the upper floor cell. Id. at p. 3.

On October 15, 2012, Dr. Conrotto agreed to file a request to have Wells transferred to a single-story prison, but indicated he didn't have the authority to assign him to a new cell. Wells states that Dr. Conrotto filed the request for a prison transfer as he had stated he would, but alleges that on November 1, 2012, nurse Nickell told Wells that she had "canceled" the request "[b]ecause I can." [D. E. No. 1, p. 4]

On February 26, 2013, Wells fell down 10-12 steps when his right hip "gave out on me." Wells indicates that he suffered a sprain to his left shoulder, a bruise in his right shoulder, a chipped tooth, and a laceration to his lip. He was taken to a hospital where a CT scan showed a herniated disc, a right hip pointer, and a large bone spur at L5-S1. Wells was transported back to EKCC shortly thereafter with a prescription for Lortab for pain management and use of a walker. Several days later during a visit, Wells indicates that Dr. Conrotto told him that he would definitely be transferred to a "level facility" (a single-story prison). [D. E. No. 1, p. 5] On March 8, 2013, Wells was transferred to the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City, Kentucky ("GRCC").

Shortly before his transfer, on March 4, 2013, Wells filed a medical grievance complaining that it was improper to have assigned him to a cell on an upper floor in light of his back problems and limited mobility. This grievance was denied for informal resolution, and formally denied by the Health Care Grievance Committee, both in light of Wells's intervening transfer to a single-story facility. Dr. Crall, the Medical Director of the Kentucky Department of Corrections, denied Wells's appeal for the same reason on April 16, 2013. [D. E. No. 1, pp. 24-35]

Wells also alleges that shortly after he arrived at GRCC, staff confiscated his cane and walker, and his prescription for Lortab was discontinued. [D. E. No. 1, pp. 5-6] He indicates that he stopped taking his "psych meds" because his back condition prevented him from standing in the pill call line the 30-40 minutes necessary to receive his prescription. He further alleges that he was still housed on an upper walk of GRCC, and that Dr. Crall "had the final say so on this issue." [D. E. No. 1, p. 6] Wells does not allege that he suffered any injury at GRCC due to his housing assignment. Wells was subsequently transferred to the Kentucky State Reformatory in April 2014 shortly after he filed this action. [D. E. No. 11]

II

In their motion to dismiss, Dr. Conrotto and nurse Nickell contend that (1) Wells's claims under the Eighth Amendment and the ADA are barred by the applicable statutes of limitation; (2) Wells did not timely and properly exhaust his Eighth Amendment claims; and (3) they are not "public entities" subject to the requirements of the ADA. [D. E. No. 10-1, p. 4]

A

These defendants first contend that Wells's claims are time-barred. They begin with the supposition that "[t]he basis of Wells' claims against Defendants is that they refused him a bottom floor cell while he was at EKCC." If so, they continue, that claim accrued at some point between October 15, 2012, when Dr. Conrotto declined Wells's request for transfer to a different institution, and November 1, 2012, when nurse Nickell allegedly canceled Wells's transfer. [D. E. No. 10-1, pp. 5-6] Nonetheless, Wells did not file a grievance on this matter until four months later on March 4, 2013, shortly after he fell traversing the stairs as a result of his upper level cell assignment. It took 43 days, to April 16, 2013, to complete the grievance process, during which the limitations period was tolled while Wells exhausted his administrative remedies. These defendants contend Wells was required to file suit on or before December 13, 2013, which is one year and 43 days after November 1, 2012. [D. E. No. 10-1, pp. 6-7]

The Court disagrees. The events about which Wells complains occurred in Kentucky; therefore, Kentucky's one-year statute of limitations for asserting personal injuries applies. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 413.140(1)(a); Mitchell v. Chapman, 343 F.3d 811, 825 (6th Cir. 2003). Here, giving Wells's allegations the liberal construction to which he is entitled when evaluating a motion to dismiss, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007), his claim appears to be not merely that he was dissatisfied with his upper level cell assignment, but that such assignment was a cause of his fall on February 26, 2013. He filed a grievance on this claim six days later on March 4, 2013, [1] which was denied 43 days later on April 16, 2013. Because Wells's claim would have accrued upon his February 26, 2013, fall and injury, his complaint would have to be filed on or before one year and 43 days after February 26, 2013, which falls on April 10, 2014. Wells's complaint, while docketed on March ...


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