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Mathis v. Camden County

December 3, 2009

STEVEN MATHIS JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY; JANE DOE; ERIC TAYLOR, WARDEN-CAMDEN COUNTY CORR. FAC.; DR. AMED; DR. POMERENTZE; OUR LADY OF LOURDES HOSPITAL; HOLY SPIRIT HOSPITAL; NURSE WILCOX; DR. KULLIAT; DR. AMIT P. NAYAR DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff, Steven Mathis, Jr., brings this civil rights and negligence action against defendants Camden County, Eric Taylor, the warden of the Camden County Correctional Facility, Dr. Amed, Dr. Pomerentze, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Holy Spirit Hospital, Nurse Wilcox, Dr. Kulliat, and Dr. Amit P. Nayar.*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that defendants acted with deliberate indifference towards his serious medical condition and needs and did not exercise reasonable care in treating him.

Before the Court are a pair of Motions to Dismiss filed by defendant Holy Spirit Hospital ("Holy Spirit"). In the first motion, Holy Spirit seeks to dismiss plaintiff's claims alleging that Holy Spirit acted negligently and with deliberate indifference when performing an operation on plaintiff. In the second motion, Holy Spirit seeks to dismiss a cross-claim asserted by defendants/cross-claimants Camden County and Eric Taylor, demanding contribution and or indemnification from Holy Spirit and the other defendants.

For the reasons expressed below, Holy Spirit's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint is granted and its Motion to Dismiss Camden County and Taylor's Cross-claim is granted.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state law.*fn2 This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND

The following facts were presented in plaintiff's complaint.*fn3

In 1997, plaintiff, who at the time was incarcerated in a Pennsylvania state prison, underwent angioplasty at Holy Spirit in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. As part of the procedure, a shunt was implanted in plaintiff's subclavian vein. Plaintiff was prescribed pain medication and blood thinners for six months to prevent blood clots.

In February 1998, plaintiff was released from prison. During the next year, however, he violated his parole and returned to custody. While serving the remainder of his sentence, plaintiff began to experience pain and swelling in his right arm near the site where his surgery had been performed. Despite his pain, prison officials refused to provide plaintiff any medical treatment or services. Plaintiff was released from prison in 2001.

Several years later, in 2007, plaintiff was convicted of an offense in New Jersey and, eventually, was placed in an intensive supervision program. In or around October 2008, plaintiff violated his program and was remanded to the custody of the Camden County Correctional Facility ("CCCF"). At this time, plaintiff again experienced pain and swelling throughout his right arm, as well as chest pains and the debilitation of his right hand. Plaintiff requested medical attention from the CCCF's healthcare providers.

On or about October 12, 2008, a nurse refused to examine plaintiff's arm, informing him that he would have to wait until a doctor could see him. Several days later, plaintiff complained again to the nurse about the pain and swelling, which disrupted his sleep. Thereafter, Dr. Pomerentze examined plaintiff's arm and sent him to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital ("Lourdes").

At Lourdes, Dr. Amed informed plaintiff that his shunt had collapsed, causing blood clots in his subclavian vein. Plaintiff avers that "[t]his is when [he] learnt that the shunt had been implanted incorrectly." Having failed to eliminate the clots using a catheter through the arm and groin, Dr. Amed told plaintiff that only by removing one of his ribs could plaintiff be successfully treated. Nevertheless, doctors refused to perform the operation, or even review plaintiff's medical records, because Camden County and CCCF officials, including Warden Taylor, would not assume the cost of plaintiff's medical care and further deterred any treatment. Dr. Amed reported to plaintiff that, despite the doctor's preference to keep him in the hospital, plaintiff had to return to the CCCF because Camden County officials demanded that he be discharged and refused to pay for his medical care. On or around October 31, 2008, plaintiff was discharged from Lourdes and returned to the CCCF.

Plaintiff complained to Taylor, Camden County officials, and Lourdes personnel about the County's deliberate indifference towards his serious medical condition and its refusal to pay for his necessary services. He received no response.

Moreover, CCCF officials and Dr. Pomerentze failed to order and maintain adequate amounts of prescribed medication for plaintiff and did not monitor his condition. Taylor, meanwhile, refused to address the problems plaintiff experienced with his treatment. Although he iterated that plaintiff's condition was life-threatening, Dr. Pomerentze stated that plaintiff would not receive the requisite medical care he promptly needed until he was released from custody.

Also during plaintiff's term in the CCCF, around October and November 2008, Nurse Wilcox treated plaintiff by injecting him intravenously with medication intended to prevent blood clots. On a number of occasions, Nurse Wilcox injected plaintiff improperly, causing him extreme pain. She told plaintiff that she did not care about his injury or medical condition. In response to the nurse's mistreatment, plaintiff filed a grievance. However, Taylor, Dr. Pomerentze, and Camden County officials did not address plaintiff's complaints. Rather, Dr. Pomerentze ceased the administration of medication to plaintiff.

On or around December 5, 2008, while examining plaintiff, Dr. Pomerentze informed him that new blood clots had developed in his lower right forearm. Without re-administering plaintiff's medication and in spite of his inability to fully use his right arm and hand, Dr. Pomerentze released plaintiff from the CCCF's infirmary back to the general population. Ultimately, plaintiff returned to the medical unit. Plaintiff's right arm remained cradled in a shoulder sling.

On December 12, 2008, plaintiff, as a pro se litigant, submitted a complaint to this Court naming several defendants, including Camden County, Taylor, the CCCF, Dr. Amed, Dr. Pomerentze, Lourdes, Holy Spirit, and Nurse Wilcox. The complaint alleges violations of plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state claims for medical malpractice and negligence. Plaintiff avers that defendants acted with deliberate indifference towards his serious medical condition and needs by refusing to provide him with and otherwise delaying and disrupting his requisite medical care. More specifically, and particularly relevant here, plaintiff alleges that Holy Spirit "was deliberately indifferent" towards his medical condition when it "incorrectly implanted the shunt in plaintiff's subclavian vein." Plaintiff also submits that Holy Spirit, in violation of state law, "was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs" when it failed "to use that degree of care normally used by others under like circumstances." Defendant seeks $1,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Soon after plaintiff filed his complaint, he was released from the CCCF and now resides in Pennsylvania. This Court granted plaintiff in forma pauperis status.*fn4 In response to plaintiff's suit, Camden County and Taylor filed an Answer, which set forth a cross-claim seeking contribution and or indemnification from the other defendants named in the action, including Holy Spirit.

Presently before the Court are two motions filed by Holy Spirit --- the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and the Motion to Dismiss Camden County and Taylor's Cross-claim.*fn5

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's pro se complaint alleges a violation of Section 1983 and medical malpractice or negligence against Holy Spirit. Defendants/cross-claimants Camden County and Taylor seek ...


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