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Doctor not deliberately indifferent to detainee

Although a doctor didn’t prescribe opioids to treat a detainee’s chronic kidney stones and pain, the doctor was nevertheless granted summary judgment on the detainee’s deliberate indifference claim. The record showed the doctor was responsive to the detainee’s needs and provided individualized care based on his professional medical judgment.


Daniel L. Gross alleges violations of his rights under the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States based on the decision of James R. Dudley MD to not prescribe opioids to treat plaintiff’s chronic kidney stones and pain while incarcerated at the Northern Neck regional jail. This matter is before the court on Dr. Dudley’s motion for summary judgment.


The parties do not dispute that plaintiff’s kidney stones are an objectively serious medical need. However, the parties dispute whether defendant was deliberately indifferent to that medical need. The court finds the record demonstrates that defendant was responsive to plaintiff’s needs and provided individualized care based on his professional medical judgment. As such, no reasonable jury could find defendant was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff’s medical needs.

There was no formulary, policy or practice in place that limited defendant’s ability to prescribe opioids. Defendant was able to prescribe narcotics and, in fact, previously prescribed opioids to other inmates. Thus, there is nothing in the record to suggest defendant did not make a reasoned, individualized medical decision regarding plaintiff’s treatment simply based on policy. Although plaintiff can point to being prescribed opioids for his kidney stones prior to incarceration, the fact that defendant disagreed with his previous physicians and did not prescribe opioids is not sufficient to state a claim of deliberate indifference.

Plaintiff was continually screened and evaluated in the medical department for his kidney stones and complaints of pain. Defendant provided various medication regimens for plaintiff that not only provided several different pain medications utilized at increasing dosages, but also pain medications used in conjunction with other medications to increase the effectiveness of the pain medication.

Defendant continually monitored plaintiff and worked to find objective sources for his pain. Defendant conducted physical examinations, but plaintiff’s presentation was inconsistent with acute and chronic pain. Defendant ordered numerous urinalyses, blood work, and CT scans to assess plaintiff’s renal function and determine if his complaints of pain were the result of complete or partial obstructions due to kidney stones. Defendant encouraged plaintiff to drink fluids, prescribed Vitamin C, lemon juice and special diets to reduce the likelihood of plaintiff developing kidney stones.

Furthermore, plaintiff was referred to a urology specialist, and defendant consulted with them regarding the appropriate treatments for plaintiff. Plaintiff’s urologist also did not prescribe opioid medication for treatment of plaintiff’s kidney stones. Accordingly, defendant did not act in a manner that was in violation of the Constitution.

Qualified immunity

The court finds that the facts as alleged, taken in the light most favorable to plaintiff, do not establish that defendant violated the Constitution through his medical care or treatment plan for plaintiff. Because the court finds that defendant did not violate the Constitution, consideration of whether there was a constitutional right clearly established is unnecessary. Thus, the court finds that defendant is entitled to summary judgment.

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted.

Gross v. Dudley, Case No. 3:21-cv-805, Nov. 14, 2022. EDVA at Richmond (Hudson). VLW 022-3-516. 15 pp.

VLW 022-3-516

Virginia Lawyers Weekly