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LaRiviere v. Wheeler

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

October 6, 2016

Richard LaRiviere
Lynda Wheeler and Mattew Masewic Opinion No. 2016 DNH 180


          Joseph DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Richard LaRiviere, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against employees of the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections (“HCDOC”). Claims against several defendants have been dismissed, leaving Lynda Wheeler and Matthew Masewic as the remaining defendants. Wheeler and Masewic have moved for summary judgment on all claims against them.

         Procedural Background

         After Wheeler moved for summary judgment, LaRiviere moved for appointment of counsel to represent him. In support of his motion, LaRiviere represented that he was being held in the special housing unit of the prison where he was incarcerated and that his mental health had deteriorated to the extent that he was no longer able to proceed pro se. The defendants objected to the motion to appoint counsel.

         The court required LaRiviere to provide psychiatric treatment records and his own sworn affidavit to support his representations of an inability to proceed pro se. After LaRiviere was moved to a different facility, the court ordered the medical staff there to send LaRiviere's current psychiatric treatment records to the court under seal. The court also stayed all deadlines in the case, including the deadline for LaRiviere to respond to the pending motions for summary judgment.

         After receiving and reviewing LaRiviere's records, the court concluded that LaRiviere is capable of proceeding pro se and denied his motion for appointment of counsel. The stay was terminated, and the court set a deadline for LaRiviere to respond to the motions for summary judgment. LaRiviere did not file a response.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A genuine dispute is one that a reasonable fact-finder could resolve in favor of either party and a material fact is one that could affect the outcome of the case.” Flood v. Bank of Am. Corp., 780 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2015). The facts and reasonable inferences are taken in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. McGunigle v. City of Quincy, __F.3d__, 2016 WL 4570420, at *7 (1st Cir. Aug. 21, 2016). “On issues where the movant does not have the burden of proof at trial, the movant can succeed on summary judgment by showing ‘that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'” OneBeacon Am. Ins. Co. v. Commercial Union Assurance Co. of Canada, 684 F.3d 237, 241 (1st Cir. 2012) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)).

         “All properly supported material facts set forth in the moving party's factual statement may be deemed admitted unless properly opposed by the adverse party.” LR 56.1(b). Because LaRiviere failed to respond to the motions for summary judgment, the properly supported material facts provided in support of the motions are taken as true. Even when a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the court must review the motion on the merits based on the undisputed facts, but the court is not obligated to develop arguments or search for evidence to oppose the motion on behalf of the nonmoving party. Alberti v. Carlo-Izquierdo, 548 F.App'x 625, 635 (1st Cir. 2013).

         Factual Background

         LaRiviere's claims in this case arise from events that occurred during his incarceration as a pretrial detainee at HCDOC in 2014 and focus on his suicide attempt on June 17, 2014. Lynda Wheeler was a nurse at the jail while LaRiviere was held there. Matthew Masewic was a medical doctor who contracted with the HCDOC to provide medical services at the jail.

         Following preliminary review, LaRiviere's claims in Counts I and II, alleging inadequate medical care, were allowed to proceed against Wheeler and Masewic, along with others who are no longer in the case. Those claims are based on allegations that the defendants denied LaRiviere medication for his severe depression, declined to refer him for mental health care despite repeated requests and knowledge of his severe depression, denied him pain medication that had been ordered by the Elliot Hospital doctor who treated LaRiviere's self-inflicted injury to his leg in a suicide attempt, and failed to properly care for LaRiviere's wound, causing it to become infected and painful.

         Wheeler has established through her own affidavit and the affidavit of Denise Ryan, the Health Services Administrator for HCDOC, that she was not authorized to prescribe medication or adjust prescriptions for medication. Wheeler shows that although LaRiviere had contact with many members of the HCDOC medical staff, Wheeler had only limited contact with him. Wheeler also shows that LaRiviere could have requested mental health care and that other medical care providers cared for his wound.

         Masewic provides undisputed evidence that the jail had a mandatory grievance procedure to address complaints by inmates and detainees. While incarcerated at HCDOC, LaRiviere filed only one grievance form. On that form, LaRiviere stated that he needed to speak to a doctor about a rash and chronic lower back pain. He also charges that Wheeler has a grudge against him. Ryan responded to the grievance, explaining that LaRiviere was on restrictions because of a detox watch and a history of seizures and that the doctor would review blood test results ...

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