United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge.
Hector Valdez is confined at the Federal Medical Center in
Lexington, Kentucky (FMC-Lexington). Proceeding without
counsel, Valdez filed a civil rights action under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 and the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six
Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971),
alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional
rights. [Record No. 1] Valdez is apparently suing the
defendants in their official and individual capacities. He
claims that the defendants displayed deliberate indifference
to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and also engaged in
medical malpractice. [Record Nos. 1, 1-1] The matter is
before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2).
Court will dismiss Valdez's complaint. As an initial
matter, Valdez's claims against the defendants in their
official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity. Next,
Valdez's Eighth Amendment claims against the defendants
in their individual capacities fail to state claims upon
which relief may be granted. Finally, the Court will decline
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Valdez's
claims of medical malpractice.
alleges that he injured his foot at a previous institution
and subsequently sought help from the medical staff at
FMC-Lexington. [Record No. 1 at 2-3] He claims that he
requested that the staff provide him with “special
shoes” that would help him stabilize his feet. However,
Valdez contends that he was given the incorrect shoe size
and, as a result, suffered additional harm because his left
foot shifted and slid when he walked. Valdez alleges that
“[t]he already damaged area was unable to heal”
and, as a result, he “was in constant pain.”
[Record No. 1 at 2]
further alleges that he brought this issue to the
defendants' attention, but he claims that “they
ignored my request and stated I was just complaining and the
treatment they provided was adequate.” Valdez
ultimately argues that “[t]he Warden allowed his staff
to provide inadequate medical care, ” that “Mr.
Banto and Mr. Armentano made decisions that caused me to
suffer and disregarded doing what was reasonable, ” and
that “Ms. Baker failed to provide the treat[ment] I
needed and did not report the injury seriousness [sic] to the
physical therapist; instead, she allowed me to suffer . . .
.” [Record No. 1 at 2]
the alleged foregoing events, Valdez pursued administrative
remedies in early 2015 through the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
He attached to his complaint a number of documents related to
this administrative review process. [Record No. 1-1 at 1-10]
During that process, Warden Francisco Quintana responded to
Valdez's request for an administrative remedy by
summarizing the medical care that Valdez had allegedly
received. [Record No. 1-1 at 3-4] According to the Warden,
physical therapists saw Valdez multiple times regarding his
foot, issued him a custom orthotic, and determined that he
demonstrated good ambulation with a cane. [Record No. 1-1 at
3] The Warden also stated that Valdez's feet were
re-measured and, when it was determined that his
“current shoe was one-half size too large and a bit too
wide, ” new medical shoes were ordered. [Record No. 1-1
at 3-4] The Warden further asserts that, among other things,
the prison's nurse subsequently treated Valdez and
determined that his wound seemed to be improving. [Record No.
1-1 at 4]
pursued his administrative remedies through the appeals
process after receiving the Warden's response. In doing
so, he repeated the arguments that he was provided inadequate
medical care and that his medical needs were disregarded.
[Record No. 1-1 at 6, 7] However, Valdez also acknowledged
that he had received at least some medical care. Indeed, he
wrote, “I made every effort to comply with the doctors
[sic] instructions, but his diagnosis was premature and I was
not ready for a cane when prescribed a cane.” [Record
No. 1-1 at 6] Likewise, Valdez later wrote, “[t]he
medical care plan developed and implemented by primary care
provider team was misdiagnosised [sic] and the results were I
was providing [sic] with shoes that caused greater damage to
my feet . . . .” [Record No. 1-1 at 7] Ultimately,
Valdez's administrative appeals were denied. [Record No.
1-1 at 5, 8-9]
then filed this lawsuit against four defendants: (1)
FMC-Lexington Warden Francisco Quintana; (2) “Officer
Banta, ” who apparently is a physical therapist at
FMC-Lexington; (3) “Officer Armentano, ” who also
apparently works in the physical therapy office at the
prison; and (4) “Wound Care Nurse Baker, ” who
Valdez claims is now retired. [Record No. 1 at 1-2]. While it
is not clear from the complaint whether Valdez is suing the
defendants in their official or individual capacities [Record
No. 1], he stated during the administrative appeals process
that agents of the United States “should . . . be held
responsible in their individual capacities as well as their
official capacities.” [Record No. 1-1 at 7].
Ultimately, Valdez claims that the defendants displayed
deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in
violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and also engaged in medical malpractice. [Record
No. 1 at 2, 4] Valdez is seeking $250, 000 in monetary
damages. [Record No. 1 at 8]
claims against the defendants in their official capacities
are barred by sovereign immunity. This is because the United
States as a sovereign is generally immune from suit.
United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941).
This immunity extends to claims against government agents
acting in their official capacities. Blakely v. United
States, 276 F.3d 853, 870 (6th Cir. 2002). While the
United States can expressly waive its immunity, it has not
done so in Bivens actions. Nuclear Transport
& Storage, Inc. v. United States, 890 F.2d 1348,
1351-52 (6th Cir. 1989). Therefore, Valdez's claims
against the defendants in their official capacities are
Eighth Amendment claims against the defendants in their
individual capacities fail to state claims upon which relief
may be granted. Under certain circumstances, a prisoner can
establish an Eighth Amendment violation if he or she is
provided inadequate medical care. However, the plaintiff must
show that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to
the plaintiff's serious medical needs. See Blackmore
v. Kalamazoo County, 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004)
(citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)).
Here, even when the complaint is construed in the light most
favorable to Valdez, the plaintiff cannot establish a cause
of action under the Eighth Amendment.
the Court assumes that Valdez's medical needs are
serious, the statements he made while pursuing his
administrative remedies and now incorporates into his
complaint, establish that the defendants did not act with
deliberate indifference to those needs. Valdez tacitly
acknowledged on multiple occasions that he received medical
treatment and simply disagreed with the diagnoses he was
given. He stated, for example, that he “made every
effort to comply with the doctors [sic] instructions, but his
diagnosis was premature and [he] was not ready for a cane
when prescribed a cane.” [Record No. 1-1 at 6]
Likewise, he later wrote that, “[t]he medical care plan
developed and implemented by primary care provider team was
misdiagnosised [sic] and the results were I was providing
[sic] with shoes that caused greater damage to my feet . . .
.” [Record No. 1-1 at 7] The Sixth Circuit has
recognized that, in this situation, “[w]here a prisoner
has received some medical attention and the dispute is over
the adequacy of the treatment, federal courts are generally
reluctant to second guess medical judgments and to
constitutionalize claims that sound in state tort law.”
Graham ex rel. Estate of Graham v. County of
Washtenaw, 358 F.3d 377, 385 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 n.5 (6th Cir.
1976)). Similarly, the court has repeatedly recognized that a
mere disagreement over medical treatment does not give rise
to a constitutional claim of deliberate indifference.
See, e.g., Wright v. Sapp, 59 F. App'x 799, 801
(6th Cir. 2003); Simpson v. Ameji, 57 F. App'x
238, 239 (6th Cir. 2003).
Valdez's own statements indicate that he has been
examined and treated by medical staff at FMC-Lexington and
that he simply disagrees with the adequacy of that treatment
and the diagnoses he was ...