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Ritter v. Reinke

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 27, 2017



          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court


         Before the Court in this prisoner civil rights case are motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants William Poulson, Eugene Clark, and Rona Siegert. See Dkts. 82, 83. Plaintiff James Ritter has also filed various motions, including four discovery motions and a motion for an extension of time to effect service on Defendant Debbie Richardson. See Dkts. 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 77. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant defendants' motions for summary judgment and deny all other pending motions.


         Plaintiff James Ritter is a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). He alleges that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by refusing to provide adequate pain medication.

         1. Facts Relevant to Ritter's Claim Against Clark

         Ritter entered IDOC custody on September 23, 2011. He was suffering from several serious medical conditions at the time, including a lower back injury, acute pancreatitis, a torn gallbladder, and a herniated cervical disk. See Am. Compl., Dkt 9, ¶¶ 1, 2, 14, at pp. 5-6.

         Ritter says that as soon as he entered IDOC custody, prison medical care providers reduced his pain medication. On September 26, 2011, Ritter decided to save two pills and take them later. He was caught and placed in administrative segregation as punishment. Id. ¶¶ 5-6, at p. 5; Dkt. 83-3 (IDOC disciplinary report). According to Ritter, Defendant Lieutenant Clark handcuffed him, took him to administrative segregation, and ordered prison medical staff to discontinue his medication. Clark disputes this fact; he says he has no authority to issue medical orders, and that he did not do so in this case.

         Ritter says he remained in segregation until October 18, 2011, [1] without a single medication for pain and that he suffered excruciatingly as a result. Id. ¶¶ 3, 8, 10, 11, at pp. 5-6.

         These are the only facts relevant to Defendant Clark's alleged wrongdoing. Otherwise, plaintiff primarily complains that Defendant William Poulson and others failed or refused to provide adequate pain medication.

         2. Facts Relevant to Ritter's Claim Against Defendant Poulson

         Poulson is a nurse. He began working for IDOC in July 2012. Between July 2012 and November 2013, Poulson saw Ritter ten times. In 2012, Ritter had appointments with Poulson on September 10, 12, and 13, October 11, 22, and 29, November 5, and December 18. In 2013, Ritter had appointments with Poulson on February 7 and November 7. See Poulson Aff., Dkt. 82-3, ¶¶ 20-22, 25, 27, 30, 31, 34, 37, 41. Ritter saw numerous other providers during this time as well, and he also underwent various tests, including bloodwork, an x-ray, and an MRI. Id. ¶ 20, 25, 29, 36. Likewise, after Ritter filed his complaint in November 2013, he continued to be seen by prison medical staff, including Poulson, as well as offsite providers. See Id. ¶¶ 42-59.

         Ritter's medical care providers have prescribed a wide variety of medications to address his pain, including Ultram, Norco, Tegretol, Apap, Meloxicam, Tramadol, ibuprofen, Depakene, Neurontin, and Elavil. Plaintiff was also provided with physical therapy to help with pain management.

         On some occasions, Poulson declined to prescribe the specific pain medications Ritter was requesting, and instead prescribed alternative medications. For example, in December 2012, Ritter saw Dr. Shane Andrew, who had performed surgery on Ritter's back in the summer of 2011. Dr. Andrew planned an MRI for Ritter, and, in the meantime, recommended Tramadol and ibuprofen for pain. See Poulson Aff. ¶ 33; MR1, MR48.[2]

         Poulson disagreed with Dr. Andrew's recommendation and instead prescribed an alternative medication (Depakene) to treat Ritter's pain. See Poulson Aff. ¶ 34. A few days later, another provider at the prison prescribed Tramadol, and Ritter apparently received that medication until February 2013. Id. ¶ 35. In February 2013, Ritter saw Dr. Andrew again to discuss the results of his MRI. After this visit, Dr. Andrew recommended that Ritter stop taking Tramadol and switch to NSAIDs. He also recommended physical therapy. Id. ¶ 38.

         Another time, on October 11, 2012, Poulson prescribed Tegretol to treat Ritter's nerve pain. Poulson Aff. ¶ 25. During this visit, Poulson recorded his impression that Ritter met the DSM-IV criteria for “probable malingering.” See MR 37. Poulson also stated that Ritter “seemed to imply that he would try anything I prescribed for his pain and intentionally fail or claim adverse psychological effects until I prescribed him narcotics . . . . I suspected gaming with this patient because he should be amenable to neuropathic pain treatment options which he had failed in a serial fashion so far.” Id.

         Ritter says that during this visit he told Poulson that he could not take Tegretol because it made him suicidal. Ritter's medical records available to Poulson at that time did not document that side effect, however. Rather, Ritter orally reported that he had taken this medication several years earlier. In any event, Ritter later reported that he was not taking Tegretol for pain and Poulson discontinued the prescription. Poulson Aff., Dkt 82-8, ¶ 27.


         The Court will first resolve Ritter's pending motions, and then turn to defendants' motions for summary judgment.

         1. Discovery Motions

         Ritter has filed four motions to compel further responses to discovery requests. See Motions to Compel, Dkts. 68-71. The Court will deny these motions.

         Generally, each party is entitled to discover nonprivileged information “relevant to any party's claim or defense” so long as it is proportional to the needs of the case in light of the following factors: (1) the importance of the issues at stake in the action; (2) the amount in controversy; (3) the parties' relative access to relevant information; (4) the parties' resources; (5) the importance of discovery in resolving the issues; and (6) whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Nevertheless, courts retain broad power to limit the frequency and extent of discovery. Id. (“Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: . . . .”) (emphasis added). Indeed, a court can - and must - limit discovery if it determines that the discovery is not proportional to the needs of the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii).

         Ritter seeks an order compelling Poulson to provide additional responses to six interrogatories (Nos. 1, 2, 4, 14, 16, and 19) and eight document requests (Nos. 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, and 17). See Motions to Compel, Dkts. 68, 70. He seeks an order compelling Defendants Siegert and Clark to further respond to ten interrogatories (Nos. 1-4, and 13-18) and six document requests (Nos. 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, and 18). See Dkts. 68-71 (motions) and Dkts. 73-76 (response briefs).

         The Court has reviewed each disputed request along with its corresponding response and has determined that no further responses are necessary. The Court will not discuss each request here, though it will briefly discuss a few requests that highlight the nature of the problems.

         First, many of the disputed discovery requests seek irrelevant information. For example, Ritter asks Defendant Poulson to list all complaints filed against him by any person. See Interrog. No. 2, Dkt. 73, at 4-5 (asking Poulson, among other things, to “list all complaints filed against the Defendant, all investigation reports all write ups.”). Ritter also asked Poulson to identify any complaints filed against any medical staff member who worked at the prison, regardless of whether that staff member cared for Ritter. Interrogatory No. 14 to Poulson, Dkt. 73, at 6-7. Similarly, Ritter asked Defendants Siegert and Clark to identify “any documents related to any complaint, grievance, censure reprimand, or rebuke directed ...

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