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Peterson v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

January 22, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.


KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Stephen Desmund Peterson is a federal inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary-McCreary ("USP-McCreary") in Pine Knot, Kentucky. Proceeding pro se, Peterson has filed a complaint, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-80, and the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), against the United States of America, the United States Department of Justice, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), and numerous prison personnel at the following five federal prisons: (1) United States Penitentiary-Victorville ("USP-Victorville") located in Adelanto, California, (2) the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma ("FTC-Oklahoma"), (3) the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri ("FMCP-Springfield"), (4) the United States Penitentiary in Inez, Kentucky ("USP-Big Sandy"), and (5) USP-McCreary. Peterson claims that he is entitled to compensatory damages under the FTCA due to the negligence and/or medical malpractice associated with surgery to his right forearm on October 27, 2009. Post-surgery, he further claims that various prison officials and employees have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. [R. 1] Peterson also appears to assert state law claims for negligence and/or medical malpractice against Dr. Louis Redix, an orthopedic surgeon in California who performed the surgery on his right forearm on October 27, 2009, and various other hospital staff at Barstow Community Hospital, a hospital located in Barstow, California. Peterson seeks compensatory damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. By prior Order, the Court granted Peterson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. [R. 7]

The Court must conduct a preliminary review of Peterson's complaint because he is proceeding in forma pauperis and because he asserts claims against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. A district court must dismiss any claim that 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. McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607-08 (6th Cir. 1997). The Court evaluates Peterson's complaint under a more lenient standard because he is not represented by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). At this stage, the Court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, and his legal claims are liberally construed in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). The Court has given his complaint a liberal, and hence broad, construction, and will evaluate any cause of action which can reasonably be inferred from the allegations made.

For the reasons stated below, Peterson's Bivens claims against prison personnel at BOP institutions located outside of Kentucky will be severed and transferred, and Peterson's state law negligence/medical malpractice claims will be dismissed without prejudice.


On or about October 27, 2009, during the time he was confined at USP-Victorville, Peterson underwent surgery at Barstow Community Hospital in Barstow, California, for repair of the malunion/nonunion of an ulna fracture of the right forearm. This malunion/nonunion condition apparently resulted from the imperfect healing of a bone broken from a gunshot Peterson sustained in 1993. [R. 1-3, Page ID# 215] Dr. Louis Redix, an orthopedic surgeon, performed the surgery and described this procedure as "Repair of malunion of the ulna bone with bone graft."[1] [R. 1-2, Page ID# 46] Peterson states the received an "allograft" cadaver bone implant and that the source of that bone was from the hospital's bone bank. Peterson claims that he had not consented to the receipt of a cadaver implant. [R. 1, Page ID# 10] Following surgery, his arm was placed in a cast. Peterson remained hospitalized for a couple of days and was returned to USP-Victorville on October 29, 2009. [R. 1-2, Page ID #60]

Apparently, Peterson was released from the hospital with no surgical after-care instructions. Ann Pierce, PA-C, in Health Services at USP-Victorville instructed him to keep the cast dry and his arm elevated. Id. Acetaminophen with codeine and ibuprofen were prescribed for pain relief. Id. On November 2, 2009, one week post-surgery, Peterson returned to Health Services complaining of pain and swelling not relieved by Motrin. Id. at 63. Acetaminophen with codeine was prescribed, and he was instructed to follow up as needed. Id. at 64. Peterson was seen at Health Services again on November 19, 2009, in his third week post-surgery, for a followup. He had removed his cast against advice. The examination showed mild swelling and tenderness, and a surgical wound with minimal sero-sanguinous discharge. Id. at 67. Cephalexin was prescribed and the ibuprofen prescription was renewed. Peterson was instructed to followup at Sick Call as needed. Id. at 68. Peterson returned to Health Services on December 20, 2009, complaining of pain in his right forearm after doing pushups. Id. at 71. An ace wrap bandage was applied to area and an x-ray was ordered. Id.

The following day, December 21, 2009, Peterson was transferred to USP-McCreary. During the transfer process, he was housed for a period of time at FTC-Oklahoma. Id. at 126. While there, his right forearm was x-rayed. The findings were: "Abnormal. Suspected fracture/failure of malleable plate hardware which transfixes mid-ulna fracture at the level of the 3rd most distal screw. Ballistic fragments, non-union of fracture fragments." Id. at 75. Peterson arrived at USP-McCreary on January 7, 2010. Id. at 77. On January 11, 2010, he was at Health Services and requested an appointment with his Primary Care Provider to discuss the x-rays of his right forearm and finger. Id. at 82. He was continued on current medications and restrictions until seen by the Primary Care Provider. Id.

On March 26, 2010, Peterson went to Sick Call complaining of nausea/vomiting that had started the previous day. He also reported having a headache. Id. at 90. A Loperamide capsule was prescribed, and a follow-up x-ray was scheduled for April 9, 2010. Id. at 91. He was instructed to follow-up at Sick Call and Chronic Care as needed. Id.

On April 5, 2010, Peterson was examined at Health Services again. An x-ray report of his forearm, previously lost, had been found and showed abnormal findings regarding his right forearm. An orthopedic consultation for evaluation and possible surgical intervention was noted in Peterson's medical record. Id. at 95. On April 26, 2010, Peterson was advised that a request for an orthopedic consultation had been approved and was awaiting scheduling. Id. at 97. The results of Peterson's repeated x-ray were: "Abnormal. - fractured fixation plate. - nonunited mid ulner fracture with distraction and angulation." Id. at 100.

Peterson's orthopedic consultation occurred on June 18, 2010, when he was examined by Ronald S. Dubin, M.D., at Kentucky Orthopedic Clinic. This examination included x-rays being taken on that date. Dr. Peterson's impression was: "Non union proximal ulna with broken plate." Id. at 113. His recommendation was that "the plate should be removed and the proximal ulna should be bone grafted." Id. Also, due to the prior surgery, he recommended that a traumatologist perform this procedure. Id. His surgery was scheduled for November 30, 2010, but had to be rescheduled because Peterson was transferred to another institution on November 22, 2010. Id. at 129. He was returned to USP-McCreary on December 28, 2010. Id.

On April 11, 2011, Dr. Patrice Beliveau, an orthopedic surgeon at Premier Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in London, Kentucky, performed a consultative examination of Peterson in preparation for a second surgery on his right forearm. Her impression was "right ulna non-union with broken hardware." Id. at 133. On November 1, 2011, Peterson was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital in London, Kentucky, for the second surgery to his right forearm. Dr. Patrice Beliveau performed this surgery. Id. at 140-141. Peterson remained hospitalized until December 6, 2011. Id. He was released with a follow-up treatment plan prescribed by Dr. Beliveau. Id.

On December 6, 2011, Peterson was transferred to FMCP-Springfield for an orthopedic surgery consultation that was performed by Gregory P. Daus, M.D., a consulting orthopedic surgeon, on December 12, 2011. Id. at 152-53. Dr. Daus's Assessment and Plan are set out below:

ASSESSMENT: Status post open reduction and internal fixation with bone grafting, right ulna fracture, complicated by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureua (MRSA) and Enterococcus-positive cultures at surgery; currently on dapatomycin.
PLAN: Patient is to finish out a total course of eight weeks of IV antibiotics. He is to follow-up with his orthopedic surgeon in Kentucky. Currently, I see no evidence of obvious infectious process; bond graft incorporation, however, has not occurred yet. He is going to follow-up with me on an as-needed basis. He is going to be placed in an ulnar gutter splint.

Id. at 152-53.

Subsequently, on May 24, 2012, Peterson was returned to USP-McCreary. On September 12, 2012, Peterson went to Sick Call, complaining of pain in his right forearm. Id. at 166. Naproxen was prescribed. Id. at 167. At that time, Peterson was also counseled about his forearm. His medical record contains the following note: "Hardware in forearm is in correct position, but bone did not grow back together. Do not play sports, do push-ups, pull-ups or apply significant ...

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