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Wilson v. Correctional Medical Services

March 17, 2010

EUGENE R. WILSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORRECTIONAL MEDICAL SERVICES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William J. Martini

OPINION*fn1

I. INTRODUCTION

In this civil rights action asserting both federal and state theories of liability, the plaintiff, a state prisoner, alleges that he was seriously injured by improper medical care (including the alleged lack thereof). Defendants Correctional Medical Services, Niranjana Shah, M.D., Jeane Betha, C.M.A., and Rosenleine Prophete's, R.N. ("Medical Defendants") have brought a motion to dismiss (the "Motion"), arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The matter was briefed and, in addition, Plaintiff was also specifically directed by the Court to explain what actions he took to exhaust his claim. (Doc. Nos. 48, 51.)

For the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT in part, and DENY in part the Motion, (Doc. No. 25).

I. FACTS, PROCEDURAL POSTURE, AND THE CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

On December 6, 2007, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that, while incarcerated in Northern State Prison, he was denied proper medical treatment for a serious medical condition. (Doc. No. 1.) On December 3, 2008, he filed an amended seventeen-count complaint, asserting a variety of federal and state causes of action, the latter ostensibly falling under the Court's supplemental jurisdiction. More specifically, Plaintiff asserted a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that, while incarcerated, he was denied proper medical treatment for a serious medical condition in violation of his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and in violation of his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. No. 23.)

The Medical Defendants' Motion is now fully briefed. See The Opening Brief, (Doc. No. 25); Opposition Brief, (Doc. No. 28); Reply Brief, (Doc. No. 29); and Sur Reply Brief, (Doc. No. 30). The Medical Defendants argued in their Motion that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Opening Brief 35-38. The Court ordered supplemental briefing from both parties on this issue. (Doc. Nos. 48, 51.) The Medical Defendants state, and it is not disputed, that the Northern State Prison has a system in place through which prisoners may seek to vindicate grievances administratively prior to bringing suit in court. See Opening Brief 35-38; Brooks Aff., (Doc. No. 52); Inmate Handbook, (Doc. No. 52-1); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e; Concepcion v. Morton, 306 F.3d 1347, 1355 (3d Cir. 2002) (holding that the exhaustion process put forward in a prison handbook applies even if the handbook was not adopted by the state administrative agency). Here, the Medical Defendants put forward Plaintiff's (purported) grievance forms, also known as Inmate Request Forms ("IRFs"), and further noted that Plaintiff failed to take an appeal in regard to any of them. See Brooks Aff., (Doc. No. 52).

Plaintiff makes several responses to this argument. First, he argues that there were other IRFs relating to this matter, that is, IRFs in addition to those put forward by the Medical Defendants in their supplemental filing on the exhaustion issue. In responding to the Medical Defendants' argument, Plaintiff did not actually supply the missing IRFs; rather, Plaintiff claimed that the missing IRFs were in the file in the clerk's office. See Doc. No. 1-2 (providing the IRFs as an attachment to the original complaint); Doc. No. 28-2 (providing IRFs as exhibits to Plaintiff's opposition brief). Second, he claims that because of the continuing nature of the harm caused by the Defendants, his "wait[ing] for a 30 day appeal from the administration would have been redundant or frivolous." (Doc. No. 56 at 1.) Third, he asserts that there were some IRFs which were put in the appeal process, although he fails to specify in any way which IRFs were appealed, or if they were the ones put forward by the Medical Defendants, or if they were the ones the Medical Defendants failed to put forward.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Motion is brought pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. Furthermore, in order satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief," which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] document[s]." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002). Generally, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in determining a motion to dismiss. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).

III. ANALYSIS

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (the "PLRA") of 1995, as codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, states that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).*fn2 The exhaustion of all administrative remedies, at all levels of review, is mandatory, even if (1) the prisoner believes they are ineffective, or (2) the available administrative process cannot grant the desired remedy. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739-41 (2001); see Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). Therefore, to comply with the PLRA, a prisoner must properly exhaust administrative remedies as a precondition to bringing a federal claim in federal court, or risk defaulting the claim. Warren v. Pennsylvania, 316 Fed. Appx 109, 112 (3d Cir. 2008).

The Medical Defendants have put forward nine IRFs as both relevant to the instant dispute and as the only ones Plaintiff entered into the grievance system. These nine IRFs are dated between December 6, 2007 and March 21, 2009. This suit was brought by Plaintiff on December 6, 2007, as such grievances filed after December 6, 2007 are largely ...


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