United States District Court, D. New Jersey
May 4, 2005.
WILLIAM SEYMOUR JONES, Plaintiff,
CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: DENNIS CAVANAUGH, District Judge
Plaintiff, William Seymour Jones ("Jones"), confined at S.C.I.
Frackville in Frackville, Pennsylvania, seeks to bring this
action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
Based on plaintiff's affidavit of indigence and his prison
account statements, it appears that plaintiff is qualified to
proceed as an indigent. Therefore, the Court will grant
plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and
direct the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint without
pre-payment of the filing fee.
Having reviewed the Complaint to identify cognizable claims
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court concludes that the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to
state a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and for lack of
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 with respect to
plaintiff's state law tort claims.
Jones brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as
against the following defendants: Correctional Health Services,
Inc. ("CHS"); CHS Doctors Catharine Sloan and Richard Grady; Dr.
Greuiano Zara; Dr. Wynn; Ralph Green, Administrator at the Hudson
County Corrections Center ("HCCC"); Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.;
Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. Medical Laboratories; Contract Health
Services; Dr. Bader Maria Pedamonte; and Bio-Reference
Laboratories. (Complaint, Caption, ¶¶ 6-15a). The following
factual allegations are taken from the Complaint and are accepted
as true for purposes of this review.
On December 13, 2002, Dr. Wynn prescribed Clonidine to Jones
for his high blood pressure but did not warn or inform him that
Clonidine could "cause diabetes and hypertitis". (Compl., ¶ 17).
From December 13, 2002 to September 2003, Drs. Wynn and Zara
continued to prescribe Clonidine to Jones, but, with "deliberate
indifference", failed to check blood and urine tests of plaintiff
to see if he had acquired hypertitis and diabetes. (Compl., ¶¶
18-24). In Count Two of his Complaint, Jones asserts that CHS failed to
provide education, warnings, training and supervision to Drs.
Zara and Wynn regarding the dangers of Clonidine and Keflex.
(Compl., ¶¶ 25-26). He further asserts that Dr. Pedamonte failed
to notify Dr. Wynn that Jones suffered from hypertitis and
diabetes after having tested Jones on April 7, 2003. (Compl., ¶
27). As to defendants, Drs. Grady and Sloan, Jones alleges that
they were required as learned intermediaries to warn Drs. Zara
and Wynn about the dangers of Clonidine. (Compl., ¶ 28).
Next, Jones claims that defendant Green failed to set policies
and procedures for prescribing medications at HCCC, which caused
plaintiff to get diabetes. (Compl., ¶¶ 29-30). He further alleges
that CHS conspired with defendants, Drs. Wynn, Zara, Grady and
Sloan, and Warden Green, Contract Health Services, and Mylan
Pharmaceuticals to cause Jones to suffer hypertitis and diabetes
by prescribing him Clonidine. (Compl., ¶ 31). The Mylan
Pharmaceuticals defendants, as the manufacturers of Clonidine,
had an obligation to warn plaintiff about the side effects of
Clonidine in causing diabetes and hypertitis, which they failed
to do. They failed to seek additional approval of the Food and
Drug Administration ("FDA") necessary to warn plaintiff and the
public that Clonidine caused diabetes and hypertitis. (Compl., ¶¶
32-36). Jones also asserts that Contract Health Services conspired with
the other defendants to prescribe plaintiff with Clonidine.
Finally, Jones alleges that Dr. Pedamonte and Bio Reference
Laboratories conspired with the other defendants to administer
and provide unacceptable blood tests, which failed to detect
plaintiff's diabetes until May 2003. (Compl., ¶¶ 37, 38).
Jones complains that he suffers diabetes and hypertitis as a
result of defendants "deliberate indifference". He contends that
he faces future loss of his eyesight and limbs, has loss of sex
drive, has nausea, nervousness, weakness, blurred vision,
frequent urination, blurred vision, numbness, joint pain, and
depression. (Compl., ¶ 40).
Plaintiff seeks compensatory, punitive, and prospective damages
in excess of $21 million. He also seeks appointment of counsel.
II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub.L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996),
requires a district court to review a complaint in a civil action
in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis or
seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. The
Court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua
sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A.*fn1
In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the
Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the
plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972);
United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court
must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and
all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view
them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v.
Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The
Court need not, however, credit a pro se plaintiff's "bald
assertions" or "legal conclusions." Id.
III. SECTION 1983 LIABILITY
Jones brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of his constitutional rights. Section 1983 provides in
Every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State
or Territory . . . subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of
any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress. . . .
Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the
alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting
under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42
(1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250
, 1255-56 (3d
Here, Jones names Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mylan
Pharmaceuticals Medical Laboratories, and Bio-Reference
Laboratories, as defendants in his § 1983 action. However,
because they are not state actors or persons acting under color
of state law, these defendants are not subject to liability under
§ 1983. Accordingly, plaintiff's § 1983 claims asserted against
these defendants will be dismissed with prejudice.
Construing the allegations of the Complaint most liberally for
the pro se plaintiff, the Court finds that plaintiff alleges
a § 1983 Eighth Amendment claim with respect to medical
treatment, and state law tort claims of medical negligence and
product liability with respect to the prescription of Clonidine. A. Section 1983 Eighth Amendment Claim
The Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment requires that prison officials provide inmates with
adequate medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04
(1976). In order to set forth a cognizable claim for a violation
of his right to adequate medical care, an inmate must satisfy an
objective component and a subjective component. He must allege:
(1) a serious medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of
prison officials that constitutes deliberate indifference to that
need. Id. at 106.
The second element of the Estelle test requires an inmate to
show that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to
his serious medical need. "Deliberate indifference" is more than
mere malpractice or negligence; it is a state of mind equivalent
to reckless disregard of a known risk of harm. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837-38 (1994). Furthermore, a prisoner's
subjective dissatisfaction with his medical care does not in
itself indicate deliberate indifference. Andrews v. Camden
County, 95 F. Supp.2d 217, 228 (D.N.J. 2000); Peterson v.
Davis, 551 F. Supp. 137, 145 (D. Md. 1982), aff'd,
729 F.2d 1453 (4th Cir. 1984). Similarly, "mere disagreements over medical
judgment do not state Eighth Amendment claims." White v.
Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 110 (3d Cir. 1990). "Courts will disavow
any attempt to second-guess the propriety or adequacy of a
particular course of treatment . . . [which] remains a question of sound
professional judgment." Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v.
Pierce, 612 F.2d 754, 762 (3d Cir. 1979) (internal quotation and
citation omitted). Even if a doctor's judgment concerning the
proper course of a prisoner's treatment ultimately is shown to be
mistaken, at most what would be proved is medical malpractice and
not a constitutional violation. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06;
White, 897 F.3d at 110.
Here, Jones does not allege that the medical defendants and
Warden Green failed to provide him with medical care. Instead,
plaintiff merely asserts that the medical defendants prescribed
him with Clonidine, which may cause a condition known as
secondary diabetes. The medication Clonidine is typically
prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure. Plaintiff
does not allege that the doctors continued to prescribe Clonidine
after it was learned that he had developed diabetes.
These allegations sound in medical negligence at best, and do
not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Jones merely
disagrees with the doctors' use of Clonidine to treat his high
blood pressure because a possible side effect may be secondary
diabetes. Thus, even if the doctors, CMS and Contract Health
Services were wrong in prescribing Clonidine to Jones, at most
what would be proved is medical malpractice and not a
constitutional violation. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06; White, 897 F.3d at 110. Accordingly, plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim,
which simply alleges medical negligence and not a deliberate
indifference to plaintiff's medical needs, fails to state a
cognizable claim under § 1983.*fn2
Likewise, the claim against Dr. Pedamonte and Bio-Reference
Laboratories, regarding the blood tests, fails to assert an
Eighth Amendment violation. Jones merely alleges that the blood
tests were inadequate and defendants failed to detect diabetes
until five months after he had been prescribed the Clonidine. At
most, the tests were allegedly defective. The allegations do not
show that defendants deliberately refused to monitor plaintiff's
medical condition. Therefore, this aspect of the medical care
claim under § 1983 will be dismissed for failure to state a
B. State Law Tort Claims
While the Complaint fails to state a § 1983 claim against any
of the defendants, Jones may be able to establish a medical
negligence claim against the defendant doctors, CMS and Contract Health Services.*fn3 Moreover, Jones asserts facts that may
possibly establish a products liability claim against the Mylan
Pharmaceutical defendants and Bio-Reference Laboratories.
Medical negligence and product liability are state law tort
claims over which a federal court has no original jurisdiction
unless diversity exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Federal
courts are bound to determine whether they have jurisdiction even
if none of the parties to an action have challenged the asserted
bases therefor. Packard v. Provident National Bank,
994 F.2d 1039 (3d Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. Upp v. Mellon
Bank, N.A., 510 U.S. 964 (1993); Temple Univ. v. White,
941 F.2d 201 (3d Cir. 1991), cert. denied sub nom. Snider v.
Temple Univ., 502 U.S. 1032 (1992); TM Marketing, Inc. v. Art &
Antiques Assocs., L.P., 803 F. Supp. 994 (D.N.J. 1992). If
jurisdiction is lacking, the court must dismiss the action,
regardless of the stage of the litigation. Trent Realty Assocs.
v. First Federal Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 657 F.2d 29, 36 (3d Cir.
1981); TM Marketing, supra, 803 F. Supp. at 997; Carney v.
Dexter Shoe Co., 701 F. Supp. 1093, 1100 (D.N.J. 1988). A court
can take no measures to rectify a want of jurisdiction, because
the lack of jurisdiction itself precludes asserting judicial
power. See First American Nat'l Bank v. Straight Creek Processing Co., 756 F. Supp. 945 (E.D.
Va. 1991) (where diversity of parties is incomplete, court has no
jurisdiction to consider plaintiff's motion to dismiss
non-diverse defendants; rather, court must dismiss action for
lack of jurisdiction).
This complaint does not meet the requirements for either
federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331, Congress has established jurisdiction in the federal
district courts over "all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." As stated
above, in Section IV.A, Jones fails to assert a cognizable claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which would invoke § 1331
federal-question jurisdiction. His allegations of medical
negligence and product liability present, at best, tort claims
under state law. They do not present any claim for violation of
federal statutory or constitutional law by a state actor. Thus,
there is no basis for federal-question jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1331.
There also appears to be no basis for diversity jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Jones does not allege jurisdiction based
upon diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and this
Court can discern no basis for diversity jurisdiction. Section
1332 can provide jurisdiction over state-law claims if, in the
provision pertinent here, such claims are between "citizens of different States." It has long been recognized that, to found
jurisdiction upon § 1332, there must be complete diversity among
all parties, i.e., each plaintiff must be a citizen of a
different state from each defendant. Owen Equipment and Erection
Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365 (1978). In particular, if a sole
plaintiff and any one of several defendants are citizens of the
same state, complete diversity is lacking and the action would
have to be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Id.
In the present case, Jones asserts that all defendants are
located in New Jersey and West Virginia, with the exception of
Contract Health Services, which is located in Hatboro,
Pennsylvania. Jones is domiciled in Pennsylvania. Thus, based
upon the allegations of the Complaint, diversity of citizenship
is lacking. Federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332
consequently is lacking.
The Court is mindful that Jones appears here as a pro se
plaintiff and therefore his complaint is to be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). Nonetheless, the Court
can discern no basis for asserting jurisdiction over this action.
"The person asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of showing
that the case is properly before the court at all stages of the
litigation." Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, supra,
994 F.2d at 1045. For a court properly to assume jurisdiction over an
action under § 1332, complete diversity must be apparent from the
pleadings. Neat-N-Tidy Co., Inc. v. Tradepower (Holdings) Ltd.,
777 F. Supp. 1153 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (complaint dismissed for lack
of diversity jurisdiction where corporate plaintiff failed to
allege its own and defendant corporation's principal places of
business). Thus, in the present case, where the complaint
affirmatively pleads plaintiff's and defendant Contract Health
Services' common Pennsylvania citizenship, dismissal for lack of
jurisdiction is proper. See Joyce v. Joyce, 975 F.2d 379 (7th
Cir. 1992) (affirming district court's sua sponte dismissal
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction where jurisdictional
defect was incurable).
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint will be dismissed
in its entirety, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and
1915A(b)(1), as against all defendants for failure to state a
cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and for lack of
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 with respect to the
state law tort claims. Plaintiff's application for appointment of
counsel will be denied as moot. An appropriate Order follows.