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Harold v. Rayburn Correctional Center

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 5, 2018


         SECTION “R” (2)



         Plaintiff, Sanchaz Demond Harold, was an inmate incarcerated in the Rayburn Correctional Center (“Rayburn”) in Angie, Louisiana at the time he filed this complaint pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that defendants Rayburn, Dr. Robert Cleveland and Warden Beverly Kelly provided him with inadequate medical care while he was incarcerated. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the total amount of $800, 000 and a complete health evaluation, including blood work. Record Doc. No. 1 (Complaint at ¶ V).

         On October 17, 2017, I conducted a telephone conference in this matter. Participating were plaintiff pro se and Assistant Louisiana Attorney General Michael Keller, counsel for defendants. Plaintiff was sworn and testified for all purposes permitted by Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985), and its progeny. After the conference, I denied plaintiff's motion for an emergency physical examination order, Record Doc. No. 22, because plaintiff's testimony during the telephone conference, together with the medical records, failed to establish good cause for a medical examination. Record Doc. No. 24. Plaintiff was sent a copy of all medical records received by the court, but he did not provide the court with any written comments concerning them by the November 30, 2017 deadline established in the court's order. Record Doc. No. 28.

         Having considered the record as a whole and the applicable law, I recommend that this case be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE for the following reasons.

         THE RECORD

         Plaintiff testified that he was incarcerated in Rayburn in 2012 for a simple burglary conviction and a parole violation. He stated that he would be released on November 1, 2017. Harold confirmed that his medical care claims in this case arise from symptoms, including vision issues, dizziness, weight loss and HIV exposure, that he began to experience while he was incarcerated in Rayburn. Harold testified that he received the care necessary to address his vision/eye-related issues and that his medical care complaint does not include those conditions. Instead, he complained of inadequate medical care concerning his symptoms of dizziness, loss of energy, decreased muscle and body mass, tingling muscles and body aches. Harold testified conclusorily that “something is wrong, ” and that he had gotten “really small.” Plaintiff traced the onset of his alleged symptoms to an altercation in 2015 with another inmate, Donald Vicks, whom he suggested may have been HIV positive. Harold stated that he contacted the Rayburn medical department in October 2015, after his fight with Vicks, because he was experiencing symptoms he had never experienced before. Harold stated that he was told he would have to attend a sick call and request an HIV test. He confirmed that his blood was drawn several times at Rayburn, but testified that there were no lab results in his medical records. Harold confirmed, however, that he received and reviewed a copy of his medical records from the court- including letters from nurses concerning his blood work- and that he was informed that the results of his HIV tests were negative.

         Harold confirmed that he has seen a copy of the HIV opt-out test performed on October 25, 2016, and that the results were negative. He stated that a member of the medical department at Rayburn told him that “HIV doesn't live outside the body for long, ” and that the nurse who took his blood struggled to put it in a vial for about 10 to 15 minutes. When asked whether he thought there was an issue with the way the test was done, he responded that it was not done accurately. Harold testified that after the nurse took his blood, she set it down on the table, “messed” with the testing machine, opened the vial after fiddling with it for 10 to 15 minutes, asked him to wait in the lobby and then told him the test was negative.

         Plaintiff confirmed that he saw the January 5, 2017 response from Nurse Tullos in his medical records, which states that his November 2016 test results were negative. He explained that his blood was drawn in November but that he never received the results, which is why he wrote Nurse Tullos asking about his HIV status. In response to the question “what is your complaint about [Nurse Tullos' response], ” Harold testified, “I have no documentation that there was lab work ever done on the blood.”

         Harold confirmed that he also has a copy of the letter dated February 8, 2017, from Nurse Knight, which indicates that his HIV lab results were negative. When asked to elaborate upon his complaint, plaintiff responded “something is wrong, your honor. Something is really wrong with me.” He then stated he was tested for infectious disease but that the medical staff did not know what he could have. He stated, “well if it's not infectious disease, what else could it be? I showed them pictures of me and how my physical [appearance] has changed. Even security officers here are telling me to seek medical attention because I'm getting small, and stuff like that. It's not just them noticing it, I feel this in my body.”

         Harold stated that “everything is accurate in the medical records, ” but he reasserted that he does not have copies of any lab results. Asked how many times he had been seen by doctors or nurses at Rayburn for this issue, plaintiff answered “three to four times.” He later specified that he had only seen a doctor twice. Harold asserted that throughout the five years he has been incarcerated in Rayburn, this is the first serious complaint he has made to the medical department.

         Harold testified that he is not simply complaining about a general sense of “not feeling good, ” but that his arms, neck and face have gotten “severely small.” Harold stated that he is “drying up, ” and he is “trying to figure out what's wrong” because you can “see the bones and stuff in my arms and my shoulders. I wasn't this small.” He confirmed that during a February 2017 visit to University Medical Center (“UMC”) for eye-related issues, he weighed 148 pounds, and during a sick call visit later that same month he weighed in at 147 pounds. Harold was back up to 148 pounds when he returned to UMC in May 2017. He testified that when he saw a doctor the day before this Spears hearing he weighed in at 144 pounds. Plaintiff maintained, nevertheless, that he had lost weight.

         Harold testified that his most recent doctor's visit was with Dr. Cleveland on October 16, 2017. Plaintiff testified that Dr. Cleveland talked with him about the lab results from September 20, 2017, when his blood was tested for infectious disease. Harold stated that Dr. Cleveland informed him that his lab results were negative. “I'm not saying that I have HIV, ” Harold asserted, “but something is wrong because I'm aching and hurting.” Plaintiff testified that Dr. Cleveland assured him that he would schedule more lab work.

         The verified medical records from Rayburn state that plaintiff filed a health care request form for HIV testing on September 26, 2016, after his altercation with Donald Vicks. Record Doc. No. 10-1 at p. 25. The September 26 form is the first medical record notation of any complaint of exposure to HIV. The nurse who saw Harold that day noted that he requested HIV testing and claimed that he received multiple scratches after an altercation with another offender. Id. at p. 25. The nurse referred the chart to a doctor. Id. In response to Harold's letter questioning when his HIV testing request would be processed, Harold was informed on October 23, 2016 that he had a pending appointment with a doctor and that the doctor was the only person who could order medical tests. Id. at p. 5. He was also advised that “[his] risk for contracting HIV is small unless [there] has been an exchange of bodily fluids. HIV does not live long outside the body so it is unlikely to contract the virus simply by sharing the same space as someone with it.” Id. Nurse Wheat signed an HIV opt-out testing form on October 25, 2016, indicating that Harold's HIV test results from that day were negative. Id. at p. 12.

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Cleveland on November 16, 2016, and he requested HIV testing. Id. at p. 21. Dr. Cleveland ordered HIV and RPR[1] testing and a hepatitis panel. Id. Harold wrote a letter to Nurse Knight on January 3, 2018, concerning the testing ordered by Dr. Cleveland. Nurse Tullos responded to Harold's letter on January 5, 2018, informing him that all of his lab work was normal and that his weight ranged from 144 pounds on December 1, 2014 to 153 pounds on December 30, 2016. Id. at p. 27. Nurse Knight informed Harold via letter on February 8, 2017, that the results from his third HIV test on January 18, 2017 were normal. Id. at p. 14.

         Plaintiff attended routine sick call on February 22, 2017 and complained of dizziness, weakness, blurry vision, a change in his physique-face, wrists and other areas-and that he had lost a lot of weight. Id. at p. 28. The nurse scheduled a doctor's appointment and noted that plaintiff's charts showed a weight fluctuation of one to two pounds since June 2016. Id. Harold complained of weight loss and requested that additional tests be done during his ...

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