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Gordon v. East Orange Veterans Hospital

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 22, 2013

CAROL GORDON, Plaintiff,
v.
EAST ORANGE VETERANS HOSPITAL, LYONS VETERANS HOSPITAL, POLICE CHIEF JOSE GONZALEZ, POLICE OFFICER GARY DOWDY, EAST ORANGE VETERANS HOSPITAL POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, JEANNETTE GREER, M.D., LING LAI LAM, M.D., ROGER S. YANG, M.D., ASSOCIATED RADIOLOGISTS, DIANE STIGLIN, SANDY MASTERS a/k/a SANDRA MASTERS, SOMERSET MEDICAL CENTER, STEEPLE CHASE BREAST CARE CENTER, SANOFI-AVENTIS BREAST CARE CENTER, JANE DOE 1-10, and ABC-XYZ CORPORATION, Defendants.

OPINION

SUSAN D. WIGENTON, District Judge.

Before this Court are three Motions to Dismiss pro se Plaintiff Carol Gordon's ("Plaintiff") Complaint. The motions were filed by Defendants: 1) Diane Stiglin, Sandy Masters, Somerset Medical Center, and Steeple Chase Medical Breast Care Center (collectively, the "Somerset Medical Defendants"); 2) Jeannete Greer, M.D., Ling Lai Lam, M.D., Roger S. Yang, M.D., and Associated Radiologists, P.A. (collectively, the "Associated Radiologists Defendants"); and 3) East Orange Veterans Hospital, Lyons Veterans Hospital, Police Chief Jose Gonzalez, Police Officer Gary Dowdy, East Orange Veterans Hospital Police Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, United States of America (collectively, the "Federal Defendants"). Also before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint.

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) and § 1346(b)(1). Venue is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391. This matter is decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons stated below, this Court GRANTS Defendants' Motions to Dismiss and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Facts

According to the Complaint, in late 2004 or early 2005, Plaintiff received medical treatment at Defendant Lyons Veterans Hospital ("Lyons Hospital") regarding discomfort in her neck and knees. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Although x-rays were taken of Plaintiff's neck at Lyons Hospital, its staff failed to inform Plaintiff of an injury to the C6-C7 region of her spine. ( Id. ) Without medical treatment, Plaintiff's condition deteriorated and she experienced neck pain and other complications. ( Id. ) Additionally, while Plaintiff's breasts were examined on two occasions in 2005 at the Women's Health Clinic at Lyons Hospital, the examining nurse practitioner neither detected lumps in her breasts nor biopsied her breasts. ( Id. ¶¶ 15, 17.)

Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that she also underwent a mammogram at Defendant Somerset Medical Center in April 2005. ( See id. ¶¶ 16, 56, 61.) The mammogram was conducted by Defendant Sandy Masters ("Masters")[1] and interpreted by Defendant Jeannete Greer, M.D. ("Dr. Greer")[2] of Defendant Associated Radiologists. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff underwent another mammogram in December 2005, which Dr. Greer also interpreted. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff avers in the Complaint that although a nurse practitioner at Lyons Veterans Hospital prescribed an ultrasound of her breast to be conducted on December 6, 2005, neither the Lyons Veterans Hospital staff nor the staff at Somerset Medical Center, which knew about her ultrasound appointment, notified her about the appointment. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Therefore, Plaintiff missed her ultrasound appointment. ( Id. ¶ 21.)

As alleged in the Complaint, Plaintiff's next mammogram occurred on March 23, 2007 at Defendant Steeple Chase Breast Care Center ("Steeple Chase"). ( Id. ¶ 22.) Masters and Defendant Dr. Ling Lai Lam, M.D. ("Dr. Lam") conducted the mammogram. ( Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Dr. Lam referred Plaintiff to a breast surgeon, whom Plaintiff saw. ( Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Thereafter on April 16, 2007, Plaintiff returned to Steeple Chase and underwent an ultrasound biopsy of her left breast, which Plaintiff alleges was done by Defendant Dr. Roger Yang, M.D. ("Dr. Yang"); this ultrasound resulted in Plaintiff's breast cancer diagnosis. ( Id. ¶¶ 25, 52.)

The Complaint maintains that Plaintiff's failure to attend her December 2005 ultrasound appointment ( id. ¶ 19), in conjunction with Dr. Greer's failure to properly interpret Plaintiff's two mammograms in 2005, resulted in the delay of Plaintiff's breast cancer diagnosis. ( Id. ¶¶ 52-55.) Plaintiff contends that had her breast cancer been diagnosed in 2005, she would not have undergone chemotherapy and would not be permanently disabled as a result of chemotherapy and the accompanying prescription drugs. ( Id. ¶ 55.) Importantly, Plaintiff admits that she was aware of a medical malpractice cause of action on or about April 16, 2007, the date on which a biopsy revealed that she had breast cancer. ( Id. ¶ 53.)

Throughout the next two years, Plaintiff continued to obtain medical treatment and care from the Somerset Medical Defendants and the Associated Radiologists Defendants. ( Id. ¶¶ 34-62.) Plaintiff alleges that both the Somerset Medical Defendants and the Associated Radiologists Defendants committed medical malpractice while rendering this medical treatment and care. ( Id. ¶¶ 56-62.) Notably, the Somerset Medical Defendants last furnished Plaintiff with medical services on March 27, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 49.) The last instance in which Plaintiff specifies that the Associated Radiologists Defendants provided her with medical services occurred in March 2009. ( Id. ¶ 50.)

Plaintiff was scheduled to undergo a lumpectomy in or about May 2007, but during administration of anesthesia in advance of the operation, the anesthesiologist cut under Plaintiff's tongue and the bottom of her mouth, leaving Plaintiff in severe pain. ( Id. ¶ 64.) Shortly thereafter in June 2007, Plaintiff underwent a port placement procedure to enable her to undergo chemotherapy. ( Id. ¶¶ 66, 93.) She refused anesthesia due to her then recent experience with the anesthesiologist. ( Id. ¶ 66.) In the fall of 2007, Plaintiff began chemotherapy and alleges that the Lyons Hospital staff did not warn her that she could get leukemia and bladder cancer from chemotherapy. ( Id. ¶¶ 68, 90.) In addition, Plaintiff avers in the Complaint that her treating medical teams at Lyons Hospital and East Orange Veterans Hospital ("East Orange Hospital") failed to timely and effectively administer her chemotherapy treatment. ( Id. ¶¶ 81, 98, 104, 108.) For example, she asserts that the nurse practitioner at Lyons Hospital failed to schedule her weekly chemotherapy sessions, which resulted in her missing ten (10) sessions ( id. ¶¶ 98, 108), and that commencement of a particular cancer-fighting drug, Herceptin, was negligently delayed ten (10) months by her treating physicians ( id. ¶ 81). Moreover, Plaintiff contends that she experienced severe dental complications as a result of chemotherapy, including increase in the risk of cavities, shifting teeth, and the forcible removal of at least two teeth. ( Id. ¶¶ 69-71, 91.) Although Plaintiff repeatedly asked her medical providers for dental care, she did not receive any. ( Id. ¶ 71.)

In addition to the above-mentioned problems with Plaintiff's chemotherapy treatment, the Complaint avers that Plaintiff was not provided with timely and appropriate transportation to receive chemotherapy and related treatment. ( See id. ¶¶ 104, 114.) Plaintiff complains that the Veterans Administration ("VA') refused to furnish her with a wheelchair-enabled van to transport her to VA medical facilities in Wilkes-Barre and Allentown. ( Id. ¶ 104.) Plaintiff also alleges that she was not provided timely transportation for a medical appointment, causing her to have a nervous breakdown and develop shingles. ( Id. ¶ 114.)

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff inquired with East Orange Hospital personnel regarding the numerous chemotherapy sessions that she had missed. ( See id. ¶ 98.) Plaintiff's inquiry resulted in police officers of the East Orange Veterans Hospital Police Department being called. ( Id. ¶ 99.) Plaintiff alleges that the police officers, including Defendant Police Chief Jose Gonzalez ("Gonzalez") and Defendant Officer Gary Dowdy ("Dowdy"), restrained her using "the 5 point takedown" method. ( Id. ¶¶ 99-100.) Plaintiff also claims that, despite her disability and inability to descend stairs because of her injured knee (which she explained to the officers), they forced her down the stairs with her hands behind her back. ( Id. ¶ 100.) Plaintiff maintains that she suffered various injuries as a result of this incident, including, but not limited to, herniated discs, scoliosis of the spine, dislocation of her right ankle, and broken blood vessels in her right arm. ( Id. ) Therefore, she brings claims against the Federal Defendants sounding in, inter alia, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and deprivation of her civil rights. ( Id. ¶ 99.)

Furthermore, according to the Complaint, Plaintiff suffered various neurological abnormalities, including speech impediments and improper brain function. ( Id. ¶ 63.) Accordingly, she advised her primary care physician at Lyons Hospital of her symptoms in March 2007 and asked to be referred to a neurologist; however, her primary care physician refused to timely refer her to a neurologist. ( Id. ¶¶ 63, 77.) Plaintiff contends that despite her symptoms, she was not referred to a neurologist until January 2008. ( Id. ¶ 77.) And even when the ...


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