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Oppen v. Phillips

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

March 12, 2015

DICKIE CLAIR OPPEN, Plaintiff,
v.
JO PHILLIPS and JAMES EDWARDS, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VOLUNTARILY DISMISS AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is pro se Plaintiff Dickie Clair Oppen's Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss the Complaint Pursuant to Rule 41(a), ECF No. 35, and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 36. The Court has reviewed the motions, all other relevant findings, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Oppen ("Oppen") filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 in this Court on November 27, 2013. ECF No. 1. Following Magistrate Judge John T. Rodgers' order directing Oppen to amend or voluntarily dismiss his complaint, ECF No. 8, Oppen filed his first amended complaint on February 18, 2014. ECF No. 9. Oppen seeks damages and injunctive relief against Defendants Phillips and Edwards[1] regarding violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights while housed at the Washington State Penitentiary ("WSP").

Oppen is currently housed at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center at 191 Constantine Way in Aberdeen, Washington 98520. ECF No. 29 at 1. However, at all times relevant to this action, including the filing of his complaint, ECF No. 1, Oppen resided at the WSP at 1313 N. 13th St. in Walla Walla, Washington 99362. ECF No. 9 at 2.

The parties agree that Oppen suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome ("GBS"). ECF No. 9, Attach. A-1; ECF No. 20 at 3. Defendant, Dr. James Edwards[2], explains that GBS is "an immune reaction that affects the nervous system causing gradual paralysis." ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 2 at 2. Dr. Edwards admits that neuropathic pain may occur in roughly 40-50 percent of patients during the course of GBS. ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 2 at 3. Oppen contends that his symptoms include exhaustion, neuro-muscular paralysis, excruciating and constant pain, and muscle spasms in his back, neck, and legs. ECF No. 1, Attach. B-1. These symptoms were documented as neuropathic pain. ECF No. 9, Ex. 2.

Oppen states that from 2001 until 2006, he was treated for the symptoms of his GBS and was subjected to rigorous testing of different medications to discover the most effective medication to manage his pain. ECF No. 1, Attach. B-1. On June 7, 2007, Oppen was indefinitely prescribed the drug "Gabapentin"[3] to treat his chronic pain associated with GBS. ECF No. 9, Ex. 2.

On July 5, 2013, Defendant Jo Phillips, Oppen's treating Physican's Assistant at the WSP, submitted a request for renewal of Oppen's Gabapentin prescription. ECF No. 37-3, Attach. A. The DOC Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee ("P&T Committee")[4], responsible for reviewing all renewal requests, denied the request. ECF No. 37-3, Attach. A. The P&T Committee gave the following explanation for the denial of Defendant Phillips' request:

It is not clear from the neuro consults that the patient has a seizure disorder and/or whether he is still experiencing side effects related specifically to Guillain-Barre, or that the pain is neuropathic in nature. Please begin the taper process for the gabapentin and titrate with a formulary alternative (higher dose of nortriptyline or carbamazepine). Should he fail these options, further alternatives would be submission of NFR for either topiramate (especially if he shows return of seizure activity) or duloxetine.

ECF No. 37-3, Attach. A.

Defendant Phillips' medical notes indicate that she met with Oppen on July 16, 2013, to explain that the P&T Committee denied his Gabapentin renewal request as of July 13, 2013. ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 3 at 3; ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 3, Attach. C. Defendant Phillips' report of the meeting indicated that Oppen expressed frustration about the denial to continue Gabapentin and expressed concerns that the suggested alternative drug made him nauseous. ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 3, Attach. C. Noting that nausea is not one of the side effects recognized as a bar to using the alternative drug, Nortriptyline, Defendant Phillips began titration as ordered by the P&T Committee. ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 3 at 4; ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 3, Attach. C.

Defendant Edwards' records reveal that he met with and examined Oppen on September 3, 2013. ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 2, Attach. A. According to his notes, Defendant Edwards acknowledged Oppen's request to resume Gabapentin, but explained to Oppen that because the renewal request had been denied, he must try alternative medication. ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 2, at 4-5, ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 2, Attach. A. Oppen agreed to try another alternative medication, venlafaxine. ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 2, at 4-5, ECF No. 37-3, Ex. 2, Attach. A.

In his first amended complaint before the Court, Oppen contends that on July 16, 2013 and September 3, 2013, Defendants Phillips and Edwards, respectively, "terminated [his] prescribed medication, gabapentin, without notice and for no valid reason." ECF No. 9, Attach. A-2. Oppen furthers that Defendants "knew that termination of [his] prescribed medication, gabapentin, would cause an immediate increase in pain and deterioration to his health." ECF No. 9, Attachs. A-2, A-3. Finally, Oppen argues that Defendants "intentionally terminated [his] prescribed medication, gabapentin, to inflict pain, cause suffering, and to punish [him]." ECF No. 9, Attachs. A-2, A-3. Consequently, Oppen alleges that Defendants violated his rights under both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. ECF No. 9, Attachs. A-3, A-4.

Following a series of denied motions to compel discovery and shift the costs of discoverable materials on the Defendants, Oppen filed a Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss the Complaint Pursuant to Rule 41(a) on January 1, 2015. ECF No. 35. Oppen moved to dismiss on the ground that he "does not have the monetary funds to pay for the records" sought to prove his case. ECF No. 35 at 1. Also on January 5, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment alleging that: 1) Oppen cannot demonstrate an Eighth Amendment violation by either Defendant, 2) even if the Court finds a constitutional violation, ...


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