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Montana Supreme Court denies former inmate’s denial of Hydrocodone claim

By Zachary Lewis | Mar 30, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newswire) – The Montana Supreme Court upheld the 13th Judicial District Court’s decision to dismiss a case filed by a former inmate incarcerated at Yellowstone County Detention Facility on March 21.

The inmate, Donnie Dorrell Nolan, initially filed a pro se complaint against then Yellowstone County’s health care provider, RiverStone, on Feb. 11, 2013, for allegedly denying him access to prescribed pain medication Hydrocodone.

Nolan claimed being denied the drug constituted as cruel and unusual punishment, violating his Eighth and 14th Amendment rights. However, it was deemed Nolan had failed to follow through in properly pursuing the complaint.

He had used a mail service to deliver pro se documents and an issuance of summons to the provider on April 8, 2014. However, sending a summons through a mail services is against the Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires summons to be served by a process server.  According to the court documents, he also neglected to include the original complaint as well as additional amendments he made, although Nolan claimed the paperwork was sent to RiverStone’s business address.

A year had passed with little to no initiative taken in the case by Nolan, leaving him 20 days to provide a valid reason for the delay or face dismissal in accordance with the law.

Nolan filed two subsequent motions compelling RiverStone to answer the complaint and another summons issued on Dec. 21, 2015, but to no avail. RiverStone moved for the dismissal of the complaint citing failure to effect proper service of process within three years.

Nolan filed two pro se responses to the dismissal insisting RiverStone was given proper notice of the complaint and as a pro se litigant, he should be allowed a degree of leeway with the Rules of Civil Procedure that govern pleading and practice requirements. But on Sept. 20, 2016, the complaint was dismissed with prejudice in the 13th Judicial District Court.

Undeterred, Nolan filed the aforementioned appeal believing the District Court had made a mistake in dismissing the case. Nolan lost his appeal on March 21, as the state Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Nolan was required to have the summons and other documents pertaining to hand delivered by an authorized process server unless given express approval otherwise and must follow the mandatory rules for proper service of process, which he had failed to comply with.

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