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Johnson v. Hastings

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 30, 2018



          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         This is a pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against East Jersey State Prison (“EJSP”) administrative and medical officials. Plaintiff alleges Beverly Hastings (“Hastings”) and Grace Amistico (“Amistico”) acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The matter comes before the Court on Amistico's unopposed motions to seal an exhibit and for summary judgment. Hastings does not join in the motions and since she received service of process in 2014, no steps or proceedings appear to have occurred as to her. There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons below, the motions are GRANTED. As to Amistico, Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Complaint and Amistico's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“SMF”) and supporting exhibits.[2] And in light of reviewing Plaintiff's electronic medical records as to the alleged inadequate care provided, the Court will highlight the encounters with prison medical officials relevant to Plaintiff's condition and need not go into detail on each and every visit. See SMF ¶¶ 4- 50, ECF No. 47-2.

         A state prisoner incarcerated for over 30 years, Plaintiff has a history of hepatitis C dating back to 2004 when he first received treatment. Id. ¶ 4. After suffering adverse side effects to his eye, the treatment was discontinued. Id. Eight years later during a chronic care visit, Plaintiff asked about the possibility to start a new hepatitis C treatment regimen. Id. ¶ 5. About a year later, after receiving approval from optometry and mental health to restart treatment, Amistico became involved in Plaintiff's medical care. Id. ¶ 23.

         In a March 2013 encounter, Amistico noted in Plaintiff's chart his current medications would contraindicate the hepatitis C treatment regimen, so no treatment was ordered. Id. She informed the Medical Site Director of this development. Id. In a follow-up appointment the next day, a doctor confirmed Amistico's observation to withhold treatment and suggested Plaintiff discontinue certain medications. Id. ¶ 24. Acting on the doctor's recommendation, Amistico scheduled Plaintiff for repeat lab work and a follow-up appointment to discuss treatment options. Id. ¶ 25.

         In April 2013, Amistico discussed and Plaintiff agreed to stop taking certain medications so Plaintiff could receive the hepatitis C treatment. Id. ¶ 28. Amistico again informed the Medical Site Director on Plaintiffs treatment. Id. A week later, Amistico met with Plaintiff again and placed him on the hepatitis C treatment waiting list. Id. ¶ 29. Four weeks later, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance report over the delay in treatment because he was told Trenton lacked funds to purchase the medications and a doctor had already approved his treatment plan in February 2012. See Raymond-Flood Cert. ¶ 4, Ex. C, Inmate Remedy System Form, ECF No. 47-1. Shortly after filing the grievance, EJSP officials denied it. Id.

         In September 2013, a doctor reviewed Plaintiff's chart and suggested a reconsultation for advice on the ophthalmologic reaction that ended a previous hepatitis C treatment. SMF ¶ 32. In the months that followed, Plaintiff had multiple optometry exams and consultations. Some delays in between care were attributable to Plaintiffs refusal to attend appointments for non-medical reasons. Id. ¶¶ 33-34, 37-38. While others were to monitor retinal holes found in his eye and to discuss previous eye lid swelling. Id. ¶¶ 34, 36, 40-42. During this time, Plaintiff expressed interest in retreatment. Id. ¶ 44. In a July 2014 consult, the provider found a retinal hole with mild fluid elevation and hepatitis which required a follow-up visit. Id. ¶ 45.

         In September 2014, Plaintiff received administrative approval for hepatitis C treatment. Id. ¶ 47. Plaintiff completed the treatment regimen and lab results showed no traces of hepatitis C. Id. ¶¶ 48-49. Although cleared of hepatitis C, Plaintiff receives continued monitoring every six to eight months. Id. ¶ 50.

         Plaintiff filed this pro se Section 1983 Complaint, alleging Amistico denied him adequate medical care and placed him on a long waiting list to receive needed medical treatment. For her alleged incompetence, Plaintiff believes he has liver cancer. See Raymond-Flood Cert. ¶ 4, Ex. B, Johnson Dep. 35:9-24. Amistico now moves for summary judgment on the ground that she was not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs medical needs and that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies through EJSP's grievance procedures. In support of the summary judgment motion, Amistico submitted relevant excerpts of Plaintiff's electronic medical record, whose contents she seeks to seal and protect from public disclosure because the exhibit contains Plaintiffs protected health information. See Raymond-Flood Mot. to Seal Decl. ¶¶ 5-6, Ex. A, ECF No. 45-1; Amistico's Mot. to Seal Br. 4-5, ECF No. 45-2.


         Summary judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material facts exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In its review, the Court considers all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007). For unopposed summary judgment motions, the Court must decide whether the moving party's “undisputed facts warrant[ ] judgment as a matter of law.” Miller v. Ashcroft, 76 F. App'x 457, 462 (3d Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).


         The Court will first address the motion to seal Plaintiff's medical records and then discuss ...

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