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Blackstone v. Ortiz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 7, 2018

MATTHEW J. BLACKSTONE, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN DAVID ORTIZ, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Matthew J. Blackstone, is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, New Jersey. Plaintiff was previously incarcerated at FCI McDowell in Welch, West Virginia. He is proceeding pro se with a civil complaint filed pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). At this time, this Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs claims against the FCI McDowell Defendants will be severed and transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Plaintiffs remaining claims against the FCI Fort Dix Defendants will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. Plaintiff names the following individuals as defendants: (1) David Ortiz, Warden at FCI Fort Dix; (2) Ashley Stark, PA-C, Health Services, FCI McDowell; (3) Sherri Lilly, PA-C, Health Services, FCI McDowell; (4) Ms. Smith, Associate Warden, FCI McDowell; (5) Kelly Lucas, Health Services Administrator, FCI McDowell; (6) Dr. Isaac Alexis, Clinical Director, FCI McDowell; (7) Bart Masters, Warden, FCI McDowell; (8) Mr. Collins, Associate Warden, Operations, FCI McDowell; (9) C. Eichenlaub, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"); (10) Ian Connors, National Inmate Appeals Administrator, Central Office, BOP; (11) William Goode, PA-C, FCI McDowell; (12) Dr. Jorge Vazquez-Velazquez, Acting Clinical Director, FCI McDowell; (13) Chandra Carothers, PA-C, FCI McDowell; (14) Dr. Pradip Patel, FCI Fort Dix; (15) Dr. Michael S. Cohen, St. Francis Medical Center; (16) R. Newbury, R.N., FCI Fort Dix; (17) Dr. S. Doneputi, FCI Fort Dix; (18) Rolando Newland, Clinical Director, FCI Fort Dix; (19) Ja'Nay Shelton, PA-C, FCI Fort Dix; (20) Dr. Louis G. Fares, F.A.C.S., FCI Fort Dix; (21) Steven Esposito, MLP, FCI Fort Dix; (22) N. West, R.N., FCI Fort Dix; (23) Vicente Elias, MLP, FCI Fort Dix; (24) Phillip Wawrzyniak, NREMT-P, FCI Fort Dix; (25) Dr. Nicoletta Turner-Foster, FCI Fort Dix; (26) Dr. Jeffrey Steinig, FCI Fort Dix; and (27) John Doe(s).

         Plaintiffs complaint arises from the medical treatment he received for his umbilical hernia while incarcerated at FCI McDowell and FCI Fort Dix. (See ECF No. 1 at p. 4). Plaintiff claims that his medical condition began in December 2013, while he was incarcerated at FCI McDowell. (See id.). Plaintiff states that the Medical Health Services Department ("Medical Services") first diagnosed him with an umbilical hernia on February 4, 2014. (See id.). On July 7, 2014, physician assistant Sherri Lilly evaluated Plaintiff and ordered a request for an outside consultation for Plaintiffs hernia. (See Id. at pp. 4-5).

         On July 23, 2014, Plaintiff completed an inmate request form directed to Associate Warden Smith wherein he requested the status of his hernia consultation. (See Id. at p. 5). In response to Plaintiffs request, Associate Warden Smith responded that "a consult (consultation) was submitted for [his] hernia to be reviewed at the Utilization Review Committee. If approved this will have to go to the Region (Mid-Atlantic Regional Office) for approval." (See id.). On July 31, 2014, Plaintiff received correspondence from the Utilization Review Committee advising that his case had been "tabled at this time" and that he would be scheduled for additional in-house tests and evaluations, which would be presented to the Utilization Review Committee at a later date. (See id.).

         On August 28, 2014, Ashley Stark, a physician assistant, evaluated Plaintiff and noted that his abdominal inspection was within normal limits. (See Id. at p. 6). Following this examination, Plaintiff sent e-mail correspondence through the TRULINKS computer system to Dr. Isaac Alexis on September 29, 2014, Associate Warden Collins on October 3, 2014, and Warden Bart Masters on October 17, 2014, documenting his pain and requesting assistance. (See id.). On October 31, 2014, Plaintiff was evaluated by physician assistant William Goode, who failed to include specific observations regarding Plaintiffs hernia in his medical records. (See Id. at p. 7).

         On October 31, 2014, Plaintiff received correspondence from the Utilization Review Committee approving Plaintiff to undergo additional diagnostic testing and evaluation by an outside urologist. (See Id. at pp. 7-8). On November 5, 2014, Plaintiff received an e-mail from Warden Masters stating that on October 31, 2014 "All [Plaintiffs] vital signs were within normal limits. Due to [his] recurring abdominal pain, new labs (lab tests) were ordered and a consult (consultation) for a urologist was written." (See Id. at pp. 6-7).

         On December 15, 2014, Plaintiff was treated by physician assistant Chandra Carothers, who failed to address Plaintiffs complaints of hernia and shoulder pain. (See Id. at p. 8). Thereafter, Plaintiff made two requests for preventative healthcare visits, complaining of pain in his feet, legs, and hernia. (See id.). On January 7, 2015, Plaintiff underwent a preventative healthcare visit with Ms. Carothers and was issued an abdominal binder for his umbilical hernia and arch supports for his feet. (See Id. at p. 9). Additionally, Ms. Carothers noted that Plaintiffs rheumatoid factor results came back as negative. (See id.). On January 13, 2015, Plaintiff had a second preventive healthcare visit, wherein Ms. Carothers noted that she was requesting a general surgery consultation for Plaintiffs hernia. (See Id. at pp. 9-10).

         On January 21, 2015, Plaintiff requested and received an update from Medical Services advising that his urology and orthopedic consultations were pending scheduling and that his general surgery consultation was disapproved. (See Id. at p. 10). On March 24, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a sick call request to Medical Services complaining of pain in his shoulder, calves, knees, legs, feet, prostate, and hernia. (See Id. at pp. 10-11). On May 20, 2015, Plaintiff completed an inmate request form stating that he went to the urologist but was advised that he was sent to the wrong doctor and inquiring what was being done about his medical conditions. (See Id. at p. 11).

         In mid-June 2015, Plaintiff was transferred from FCI McDowell to FCI Fort Dix. (See id.). On July 2, 2015, Plaintiff had an initial evaluation at FCI Fort Dix by Dr. Pradip Patel, who diagnosed Plaintiff as having a mild umbilical hernia. (See Id. at pp. 11-12). On September 17, 2015, Plaintiff was taken to St. Francis Medical Center for a consultation. (See Id. at p. 12). There, Dr. Michael Cohen recommended surgery for Plaintiff s umbilical hernia. (See id.). On December 22, 2015, Plaintiff underwent a surgical consultation for his umbilical hernia with Dr. Louis G. Fares. (See Id. at p. 14). On March 8, 2016, Plaintiff completed an inmate request form requesting his ultrasound and x-ray results and inquiring about the status of his hernia surgery. (See Id. at p. 15). Nearly eight months after his consultation, Plaintiff underwent umbilical hernia surgery on August 8, 2016. (See Id. at p. 17).

         Plaintiff now raises Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims against the individual Defendants, alleging that the Defendants knew of Plaintiff s serious medical need and failed to reasonably respond. (See Id. at p. 19). Plaintiff also asserts a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (See Id. at p. 18).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (Apr. 26, 1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauper is, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See United States v. Day,969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The court should "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist,132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Thus, "[a] pro se complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears 'beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim ...


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