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Richards v. State

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 29, 2016

LEONARD J. RICHARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA, by Lori R. Swanson, its Attorney General; MIKE HERMERDING, State Program Administrative Manager Principal of the Department of Corrections of the State of Minnesota “DOC”, in his individual and official capacities; SHEILA PACKWOOD, Food Program Director of the DOC, in her individual and official capacities; NANETTE M. LARSON, Health Services Director of the DOC, in her individual and official capacities; THOMAS A. ROY, Commissioner of the DOC, in his individual and official capacities also known as Tom Roy; MARK BRANDT DAYTON, Governor of the State of Minnesota, in his official capacity also known as Mark Dayton; STEPHEN F. SIMON, Secretary of State of the State of Minnesota, in his individual capacity also known as Steve Simon, and BRADLEY K. ANDERSON Election Administrator of the Secretary, in his individual capacity also known as Brad Anderson; and all persons in concern with any of the defendants or on their behalf, Defendants.

          Leonard J. Richards, No. 149837, MCF-Stillwater, pro se.

          Margaret E. Jacot, Assistant Attorney General, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, for defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE DATED JANUARY 14, 2016

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Leonard J. Richards is an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, Minnesota (“MCF-Stillwater”). Richards commenced the instant action against the State of Minnesota (“State”), Minnesota Secretary of State Donald Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Election Administrator Brad Anderson, Minnesota Data Practices Compliance Officer Bert Black, Minnesota Commissioner of Correction Thomas A. Roy, Governor of Minnesota Mark Brandt Dayton, and Thomas Edward Nelson. Richards asserted claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehabilitation Act”), various amendments of the United States Constitution and Minnesota Constitution, and certain Minnesota election statutes.

         Defendants moved to dismiss Richards' First Amended Complaint. The Court granted the defendants' motion in part, dismissing all of Richards' claims except the ADA claims against the State and Roy. The Court permitted Richards to amend his Complaint to provide additional facts supporting several of the claims dismissed without prejudice.

         In addition to reasserting claims against the State, Dayton, Roy, Anderson, and Minnesota Secretary of State Stephen Simon, [1] Richards' Second Amended Complaint alleged claims against Department of Corrections' (“DOC”) employees Mike Hermerding, Sheila Packwood, and Nanette Larson.[2] As well as claims premised on the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and the United States Constitution, Richards brought a new claim pursuant to Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”).

         Defendants answered the Second Amended Complaint and filed a partial motion to dismiss, arguing the Court should dismiss all of Richards' claims except Richards' ADA claims against the State and DOC Defendants in their official capacities and Rehabilitation Act claims against DOC Defendants in their official capacities. On January 14, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Janie S. Mayeron issued a Report and Recommendation (“2016 R&R”), recommending the Court grant Defendants' partial motion to dismiss in part. The Magistrate Judge recommended denying Defendants' motion with regard to Richards' Rehabilitation Act claims against the State, and granting in all other respects.

         Richards objected to the 2016 R&R on various grounds. Because Richards failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted on the claims subject to the partial motion to dismiss, except the Rehabilitation Act claim against the State, the Court will adopt the 2016 R&R, allowing this case to proceed on Richards' ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against the State and DOC Defendants in their official capacities. The Court will dismiss all other claims.

         BACKGROUND [3]

         I. RICHARDS' CELIAC DISEASE ACCOMODATION

         A physician diagnosed Richards with celiac disease[4] in 2011. (Second Am. Compl. (“SAC”) ¶ 37, Apr. 14, 2015, Docket No. 134.) Richards received an initial biopsy, which showed his small intestine suffered damage due to the disease. (Id. ¶¶ 66, 91.) Despite the results, Richards alleges he never received a follow-up endoscopy, with a biopsy, to determine whether healing occurred in Richards' small intestine. (Id. ¶¶ 65, 92, 111.) Richards also requested, but did not receive, genetic testing to assess whether celiac disease caused the damage to his small intestine or whether another disease was to blame. (Id. ¶¶ 66-68, 93.)

         On December 23, 2011, Richards obtained a disability accommodation under the ADA. (Id. ¶ 12.) Richards' accommodation required the prison to provide a gluten-free and diabetic-appropriate diet to Richards (collectively, “accommodation-appropriate diet”). (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) Richards contends, however, that the prison repeatedly failed to furnish an accommodation-appropriate diet. (Id. ¶¶ 64, 89, 94, 107; see also Pl.'s Objs. to 2016 R&R (“2016 Objs.”) ¶¶ 3, 5, Aug. 23, 2016, Docket No. 356.) Instead, the DOC used Richards's celiac disease and diabetes to retaliate against him. (SAC ¶ 34, see also 2016 Objs. ¶¶ 3, 5, 7.) For example, Richards alleges that the Food Service Director at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault told Richards, “[d]octors have invented the gluten problem, ” (SAC ¶ 64(a)), and refused to give him gluten-free sustenance, (id. ¶ 64(c)). Another “frequent ploy” Richards alleges occurred when the prison kitchen neglected to send Richards' meal and then “avoid[ed] answering the telephone and the in-prison radio” when prison guards called to request Richards' meal. (Id. ¶ 108.) Further, Richards alleges Hermerding denied Richards access to his dietitian - now the DOC Food Program Director - when Hermerding prevented Richards from sending correspondence. (Id. ¶¶ 85-86, 113.)

         In addition to an accommodation-appropriate diet, dental care is an essential part of the treatment for celiac disease. (Id. ¶¶ 36, 38.) Richards' original accommodation did not explicitly require provision of gluten-free dental materials. (Id. ¶ 15.) Richards filed a grievance and, approximately eight months later, the DOC supplemented Richards' disability accommodation to require gluten-free dental materials, including gluten-free toothpaste and dental floss. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17, 19, 29.) As a part of this program, Richards received gluten-free dental materials for use in the prison dental clinic, but the DOC required Richards to purchase gluten-free dental materials outside the prison dental clinic. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) In November 2012, the DOC transferred Richards to the Medical Unit at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights (“MCF-OPF”) for “alleged needed medical care.” (Id. ¶ 21.) Despite Richards' accommodation, individuals at MCF-OPF denied Richards gluten-free dental materials. (Id. ¶ 22-23.) Consequently, the staff at MCF-OPF deprived Richards of the ability to perform dental self-care. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         Twenty-one days later, the DOC transferred Richards to MCF-Stillwater. (Id. ¶ 22, 25.) At MCF-Stillwater, Richards purchased gluten-free dental materials from the prison clinic. (Id. ¶ 28.) But in September 2013 the prison clinic at MCF-Stillwater allegedly stopped making gluten-free dental materials available to Richards.[5] (Id. ¶ 31.) In recent months, the prison clinic began supplying Richards with gluten-free dental materials free of charge.[6] (Id. ¶ 29.) But, since Richards' diagnosis with celiac disease, the DOC deprived Richards' “natural teeth and adjoining tissues . . . of reliable, uninterrupted care, ” and, Richards alleges, the lack of access to gluten-free dental materials damaged Richards. (Id. ¶ 40.)

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Richards initiated this action on October 6, 2013 against state and federal defendants. (Notice of Removal, Ex. A (“Summons and Compl.”), Nov. 5, 2013, Docket No. 1.) The case was removed to federal court, (id.), and Richards filed his First Amended Complaint on April 10, 2014. (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), Apr. 10, 2014, Docket No. 28.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on May 21, 2014. (State Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, May 21, 2014, Docket No. 31.) On January 30, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“2015 R&R”), recommending the Court grant in part, and deny in part, defendants' motion to dismiss. (2015 R&R at 86-88, Jan. 30, 2015, Docket No. 110.) After considering Richards' objections, the Court adopted the 2015 R&R. (Mem. Op. & Order Adopting R&Rs of Magistrate Judge, Mar. 30, 2015, Docket No. 125.) The Court permitted Richards to amend his Complaint to provide additional facts supporting several claims dismissed without prejudice. (Id. at 25.)

         On April 14, 2015, Richards filed a Second Amended Complaint alleging Defendants violated the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Affordable Care Act. (SAC ¶¶ 41, 47, 51, 70, 80, 88, 95, 98, 106, 113-14.) Defendants filed an Answer to the Second Amended Complaint, (Defs.' Answer to SAC, May 5, 2015, Docket No. 145), and filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, (Defs.' Partial Mot. to Dismiss SAC, May 5, 2015, Docket No. 147). Defendants argued the Court should dismiss all Richards' claims except his ADA claims against the State and the DOC Defendants in their official capacities and his Rehabilitation Act claims against the DOC Defendants in their official capacities.[7]

         The Magistrate Judge issued the 2016 R&R, recommending the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss. (2016 R&R at 39-40, Jan. 15, 2016, Docket No. 237.) The Magistrate Judge recommended denying Defendants' motion with regard to Richards' Rehabilitation Act claim against the State, but granting in all other respects. (Id.) After the Court granted Richards' request for an extension of time to file his objections, [8] (see Order Extension Time File Obj. 2016 R&R, June 23, 2016, ...


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