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LOPEZ v. BROWN

November 3, 2005.

JONATHAN P. LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DEVON BROWN, JAMES F. BARBO, LYDELL B. SHERRER, RICHARD CEVASCO Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DENNIS CAVANAUGH, District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon motion by Defendants Devon Brown, James F. Barbo, Lydell B. Sherrer and Richard Cevasco ("Moving Defendants") for summary judgment against Plaintiff Jonathan P. Lopez ("Plaintiff"). No oral argument was heard pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After carefully considering the submission of the parties and based upon the reasons set forth below, it is the finding of this Court that Defendants' motion is granted and the Complaint is dismissed as to Moving Defendants. The Complaint is not dismissed as to the remaining Defendants, Dr. Harold Goldstein, Dr. Scott Miller and Dr. Alicia Caputo.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  On December 20, 2004, Plaintiff filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Devon Brown, James Barbo, Lydell Sherrer, Richard Cevasco, Dr. Harold Goldstein, Dr. Scott Miller, Dr. Alicia Caputo, and Dr. S. Kurra, and an application to proceed in forma pauperis. At the time of the filing of the Complaint, Plaintiff was an inmate at Northern State Prison ("NSP") in Newark, New Jersey. On February 16, 2005, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. On August 22, 2005, Defendant S. Kurra filed a motion to dismiss for Plaintiff's failure to keep the Court and counsel apprised of his current address. The Court granted the motion to dismiss on October 17, 2005, and S. Kurra was terminated as a party to this action.

  Plaintiff was incarcerated at NSP from September 16, 2004 through April 29, 2005. See Affidavit of Mario Viera, Exhibit A. Prior to his incarceration at NSP, Plaintiff was remanded to the custody of the Atlantic County Department of Public Safety at the Atlantic County Jail, where he remained from August 20, 2004 to September 3, 2004. Pl. Comp. at ¶ 16. On September 3, 2004, Plaintiff took an overdose of prescription medications in a suicide attempt. Id. at ¶ 17. After the overdose, Plaintiff was treated at a local hospital, and then involuntarily committed to Ancora Psychiatric Hospital from September 4, 2004 through September 15, 2004. Id. at ¶ 19. While a patient at Ancora, Plaintiff was prescribed a course of medical treatment, including the administration of various psychotropic medications. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff was discharged from Ancora on September 15, 2004 and transferred back to the Atlantic County Jail where he remained in custody until being transferred to NSP on September 16, 2004. Id. at ¶ 21. Plaintiff alleges that once back at NSP, he was not allowed to continue the course of medical treatment prescribed to him at Ancora. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff also contends that he was subjected to verbal harrassment by his treating physician, former Defendant S. Kurra. Id.

  In his pro se Complaint, Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights in two ways: (1) by deliberate indifference in changing a prescribed course of medical treatment and abrupt discontinuation of treatment and (2) by cruel and unusual punishment in disregarding the right to refuse medical treatment. Pl. Compl., Stmt. of the Case. In addition, Plaintiff alleges medical malpractice, harassment, and negligence under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. Pl. Compl. at 1. With regard to the Moving Defendants, Plaintiff claims Defendants had knowledge of these violations of his rights and deliberately failed to take any action to protect his rights. Pl. Compl. at ¶ 26.

  On May 13, 2005, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, on the basis that the undisputed facts show that the Moving Defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's alleged medical needs, that they are entitled to qualified immunity as to their actions, and that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Def. Br. at 2. In addition, Defendants submit that Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages should also be dismissed because he can not show that the Moving Defendants' actions were motivated by an evil motive or callous indifference. Def. Br. at 2.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Standard of Review

  Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is only appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Rule 56(e) requires that when a motion for summary judgment is made, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must resolve any reasonable doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue of fact against the moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests initially on the moving party. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

  The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law will preclude the entry of summary judgment. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If the evidence is such that a reasonable fact-finder could find in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment should not be granted. See id.; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

  Due to an understandable difference in legal sophistication, a complaint drafted by a pro se litigant must be held to a less exacting standard than a complaint drafted by trained counsel. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). However, "while pro se complaints are entitled to liberal construction, the plaintiff must still set forth facts sufficient to survive summary judgment." Ezeiruaku v. U.S., 2000 WL 1751077, *3 (E.D.Pa. 2000) (citing Shabazz v. Odum, 591 F.Supp. 1513 (M.D.Pa. 1984)).

  B. Plaintiff's Eight Amendment Claims

  Plaintiff invokes the jurisdiction of the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 authorizes a person such as Plaintiff to seek redress for a violation of his federal civil rights by a person who was acting under color of state law. To recover under section 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a person deprived or caused him to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 ...


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