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Corman v. Schweitzer

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

October 29, 2015

Ryan R. Corman, Plaintiff,
Alex Schweitzer, NDSH Superintendent, Kerry Wicks, NDSH Secure Services Program Director, ' now retired, Larry Culp, NDSH Secure Services Unit Coordinator, NDSH Clinical Team, From... Aug[. 30, 20]12 to... Jan[. 16, 20]15, inclusive, Dr. Ernster, NDSH Physician, Nurse Sheila, ' NDSH Secure Services RN, and Randy Perkins, NDSH Secure Services Nurse Practitioner, Defendants.


ALICE R. SENECHAL, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Ryan R. Corman, who is proceeding in forma pauperis, filed a complaint alleging that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. #8). The court reviewed the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)[1] and determined that Corman stated a plausible claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, but that he had not sufficiently identified which defendants were personally involved in the purported deprivations. (Doc. #25). Corman was therefore given an opportunity to amend his complaint, and he has now filed an amended complaint. (Doc. #31). Corman also filed an "Addendum of Information." (Doc. #32). The court now conducts a review of the amended complaint, together with the "Addendum of Information, " under § 1915(e)(2).

Summary of Recommendation and Order

Corman cannot maintain a claim against the entire North Dakota State Hospital (NDSH) "Clinical Team" since it is not a person that is amenable to suit. All of the individual defendants are immune from a suit for monetary damages in their official capacities. Corman has failed to state a plausible claim against Nurse Sheila, since he has not alleged she was personally involved in the purported deprivations. This court therefore recommends that the claims against the "NDSH Clinical Team, " against all defendants in their official capacities, and against Nurse Sheila be dismissed. The court also recommends that Corman's amended complaint, insofar as it seeks to recover property, be dismissed since he has not stated a plausible claim that would entitle him to that relief.

Corman has stated a plausible claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against Alex Schweitzer, Kerry Wicks, Larry Culp, Travis Bullock, Randy Switters, Randy Perkins, and Dr. Ernster in their personal capacities, and he should be allowed to proceed with that claim. The court will therefore order the Clerk to effect service as to those individuals. Lastly, Corman is not entitled to appointment of counsel, so his request for court-appointed counsel will be denied.


Corman contends that, in 2007, he was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease of the right hip by doctors at Altru Health System in Grand Forks, North Dakota. (Doc. #31, p. 6). He was advised that due to his age, he should not have hip replacement surgery at that time. Id.

In 2011, Corman experienced an increase in "pain and other symptoms" while incarcerated at the James River Correctional Center (JRCC). Id . Corman underwent physical therapy and examinations, and a JRCC doctor "determined" that Corman would need "surgery." Id.

On August 30, 2012, Corman was detained at the NDSH pending a hearing on the state's petition for his civil commitment pursuant to North Dakota Century Code chapter 25-03.3. Id. at 7. Corman alleges that from August 30, 2012, until April 7, 2014, NDSH staff "ignored [his] daily verbal and often written complaints of increasing pain and rapidly decreasing mobility... [and his] requests for medical treatment as determined [needed] by two (2) accurate and legitimate pre-existing diagnoses." Id. at 7-8. Corman states that he was "occasionally" referred to "medical, " but that "no action [was] taken." Id. at 8.

Corman asserts that he initially reported his medical complaints to Travis Bullock and Randy Switters, members of the "Secure Services Clinical Team."[2] He alleges that those individuals "confined" him to "Secure One" for over five months "for the infraction of repeating a request for medical assistance." Id. at 4-5.

Corman states that he was examined by Nurse Practitioner Randy Perkins on "several occasions." Id. at 10. Corman alleges that Perkins prescribed naproxen[3] for pain management, which became ineffective, and recommended physical therapy, "which often didn't materialize." Id. at 10, 17, 20. Corman alleges that "[a]lternatives to [n]aproxen were not allowed." Id. at 20. Corman states that he never requested "opiate based painkillers, " that his request for additional naproxen was denied, as was his request for surgery, and that the defendants never considered "[a]lternative pain management strategies." Id. at 21. Corman states that Perkins "claimed to have referred [him] to Dr. Ernster on many occasions, " but may not have actually made those referrals. Id. at 10-11.

Corman contends that Dr. Ernster agreed with the previous diagnoses and "claimed to have referred [him] to specialists, " but Corman states he does not know if Dr. Ernster actually made those referrals or if the requests were denied by the "Clinical Team." Id. at 11. Corman alleges that members of the "Clinical Team, " including defendants Alex Schweitzer, Kerry Wicks, Larry Culp, Travis Bullock, and Randy Switters, had access to his medical history and were aware of his condition but denied him appropriate medical care. Id. at 5, 10-13. Corman states that he cannot identify other members of the "Clinical Team" because they "conceal their identities" from the civilly committed individuals. Id. at 14-15.

Corman has alleged no contact with defendant Nurse Sheila until after he underwent surgery on April 7, 2014. Id. at 13. Nurse Sheila oversaw Corman's post-operative recovery. Id . Corman states that Nurse Sheila was not part of the "Clinical Team" that allegedly denied him appropriate medical care for approximately nineteen months. Id . But, he states he has no way to know whether she participated in decisions to deny him medical care. Id. at 16.

Corman alleges that, because surgery was delayed, he was subjected to "unnecessary x-ray radiation, " "substitution of [n]aproxen for actual treatment, " pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Id. at 18-20. Corman also states that he was "publicly humiliated" because he had to attend medical appointments "strapped up like an animal." Id. at 20.

Corman seeks monetary damages against defendants in their official and individual capacities. Id. at 23. He also requests court-appointed counsel, "the recovery of property, " and that the defendants be held accountable for ...

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