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Dianna Overton v. Brian Shrager

July 19, 2011


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



The plaintiff, Dianna Overton, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § ("Section") 1983 alleging violations of her Eighth Amendment rights. (Dkt. entry no. 75, 3d Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 32-49.) Defendants Dr. Sandra Braimbridge ("Dr. Braimbridge") and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey ("UMDNJ") now move to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint insofar as asserted against them with respect to events occurring after October 1, 2008, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) ("Braimbridge/UMDNJ Motion"). (Dkt. entry no. 77, Braimbridge/UMDNJ Mot. Dismiss & Braimbridge/UMDNJ Br. at 1.) Defendant Dr. Brian Shrager ("Dr. Shrager") separately moves to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint insofar as asserted against him pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 ("Shrager Motion"). (Dkt. entry no. 78, Shrager Mot. Dismiss.) Defendants Dr. Braimbridge and Correctional Medical Services, Inc. ("CMS") separately move to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint insofar as asserted against them with respect to events occurring up to and including October 1, 2008, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) ("Braimbridge/CMS Motion"). (Dkt. entry no. 80, Braimbridge/CMS Mot. Dismiss & Braimbridge/CMS Br. at 1.) The plaintiff opposes the separate motions. (Dkt. entry no. 81, Pl. Consol. Br.)

The Court determines the separate motions on the briefs without an oral hearing, pursuant to Rule 78(b). For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant the Braimbridge/UMDNJ Motion, grant the Shrager Motion, and grant in part and deny in part the Braimbridge/CMS Motion.


The plaintiff is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility ("EMCF"). (3d Am. Compl. at ¶

1.) The plaintiff alleges that when she entered EMCF on March 14, 2008, she was suffering from various "pre-existing medical conditions, including lupus, severe hypertension, chronic renal disease requiring hemodialysis treatment, thyroid disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and a seizure disorder triggered by her hypertension." (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 16.) The plaintiff alleges that she advised medical staff at EMCF, including Dr. Braimbridge, of her medical conditions upon her arrival there, and provided them with a list of the medications and supplements she was taking. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

Dr. Braimbridge is a physician who was employed or contracted by CMS and later UMDNJ to provide medical treatment to inmates at EMCF. (Id. at ¶ 2.) The plaintiff asserts that she "specifically informed the medical staff, including . . . Dr. Braimbridge, that . . . the only medication her outside physicians had determined to be effective at controlling her hypertension and, therefore preventing her seizures, was a combination of minoxidle and clonidine." (Id.)*fn1 She asserts that sometime in April 2008, her blood pressure reached a "dangerously high level," leading to her discovery that "Dr. Braimbridge had taken her off the combination treatment of minoxidle and clonidine and had prescribed a different kind of hypertension medication . . . without her knowledge." (Id. at ¶ 18.) She alleges when she asked why her hypertension medication had been changed, Dr. Braimbridge advised that because minoxidle was a "non-formulary" medication, "CMS's policy was that it would not approve such non-formulary medications for inmates at" EMCF. (Id. at ¶ 19.) The plaintiff asserts that she suffered three seizures on April 7, 2008, due to not receiving minoxidle and clonidine, but after this incident Dr. Braimbridge provided these medications until August 2008. (Id.) She further alleges that from August 2008 to September 2008, she again went without minoxidle medication "because of an extended delay in filling the prescription for it by . . . CMS and/or Braimbridge." (Id. at ¶ 23.) According to the plaintiff, the lack of minoxidle caused her to suffer a brain hemorrhage. (Id.)

The plaintiff alleges that she was admitted to St. Francis Hospital in August 2008 for surgery, to be performed by Dr. Shrager, to (1) remove an aneurysm in her left arm, and (2) place a dialysis access graft in her upper right arm. (Id. at ¶ 21.) She asserts that Dr. Shrager "improperly placed the replacement dialysis access" in her lower right arm, instead of the upper right arm, and that the improper placement in the lower arm caused a blockage that resulted in numbness in her right hand. (Id. at ¶ 22.) She further asserts that (1) another surgery was required to provide dialysis access in her right arm, (2) Dr. Shrager delayed in performing remedial surgery to her left arm, and (3) as a result of the delay, dialysis access in her arms became infeasible, necessitating a chest catheter for dialysis access. (Id.)

According to the plaintiff, she was hospitalized several times between August 2008 and November 2008 due to infections in her chest catheter. (Id. at ¶ 27.) She states that her doctors informed her in November 2008 that due to the likelihood of recurrent infections at the catheter site, she needed to be placed on a kidney transplant list, a prerequisite to which is a kidney transplant evaluation. (Id.) However, she asserts that she did not receive the transplant evaluation until over a year later, in December 2009, and that she still has not received a kidney transplant. (Id. at ¶ 28.)

CMS was responsible for providing medical staff to the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC") and for the care, custody, and treatment of inmates at facilities including EMCF from some indeterminate time predating the plaintiff's incarceration at EMCF through September 30, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 6.) CMS's contract with NJDOC ended on September 30, 2008, and UMDNJ took over healthcare services for inmates at EMCF on October 1, 2008. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) The plaintiff alleges that both CMS and UMDNJ had policies of not providing "non-formulary" medications to inmates. (Id. at ¶¶ 19, 26, 39.) She further alleges that in October 2008, after UMDNJ took over healthcare services for inmates at EMCF, she did not receive timely refills of medically necessary prescriptions, specifically Sensipar, which is used to reduce elevated levels of parathyroid hormone in people with chronic renal disease who are on hemodialysis treatment. (Id. at ¶ 30.) She alleges that as a result of being deprived of Sensipar, she experienced "extremely elevated parathyroid levels," necessitating a partial thyroidectomy. (Id. at ¶ 31.) She states that while her nephrologist ordered the partial thyroidectomy in January or February 2010, she did not actually have the surgery until July 2010. (Id.)


I. Applicable Legal Standards

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

In addressing a motion to dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine, whether under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). At this stage, a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not 'show[n]'--that the 'pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (quoting Rule 8(a)(2)).

The Court, when considering a motion to dismiss, may generally not "consider matters extraneous to the pleadings." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). Dr. Shrager moves for summary judgment in the alternative to his motion to dismiss, and has annexed, inter alia, certain medical records to the brief in support of his motion. (Shrager Br., Exs. F, G, & H; dkt. entry no. 83, Shrager Reply Br., Exs. A-D.) The Court declines Dr. Shrager's invitation to convert his motion to one for ...

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