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Robinson v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 21, 2018

WILLIAM ULYSSES ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS, DOCTOR PETER SARKOS, RUBEN B. MORALES, MARYLIN ANGUD, and DENISE RODRIGUEZ, Defendants.

          William Ulysses Robinson, No. 57982-037 FCI - Berlin P.O. Box 9000 Berlin, NH 03570 Plaintiff Pro se

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff William Ulysses Robinson, a prisoner previously incarcerated at FCI Fairton, in Fairton, New Jersey, seeks to bring an Eighth Amendment claim pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), as well as related state law claims, against the United States of America, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (in his official capacity), Dr. Peter Sarkos, Ruben B. Morales, Marylin Angud, and Denise Rodriguez for actions that occurred while he was incarcerated at FCI Fairton. See ECF No. 1.

         At this time, the Court must review the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) 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 such relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim, with leave to amend, as to Defendants Sarkos, Morales, Angud, and Rodriguez and dismiss with prejudice Defendants United States of America, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions as immune from suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).

         BACKGROUND

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that in June 2015, while he was playing baseball at FCI Fairton, he slid and injured his left wrist and experienced sharp and excoriating pain. ECF No. 1 at 4. On June 19, 2015, Plaintiff first went to sick call where he was examined by Defendant Rodriguez, his health care provider, who initially concluded that Plaintiff only sprained his wrist. Id. at 5, 10. Plaintiff requested an x-ray, and Donna Mazur, who is not a defendant in this action, told him that an x-ray would be scheduled for June 30, 2015. Id. at 5, 11. During this period of time, Plaintiff complained to Defendant Angud, who is the head of the FCI Fairton Medical Department about his ongoing pain. Id. at 10. He received the x-ray on June 30, 2015, which was conducted by non-defendant Donna Mazur, and on July 1, 2015, the x-ray revealed that Plaintiff had a fracture of the scaphoid bone in that wrist. Id. at 5, 10. Non-defendant Donna Mazur then told Plaintiff that he would be referred to Defendant Dr. Sarkos, who is an orthopedic surgeon employed at Inspira Health Network. Id. at 1, 5, 10. On July 7, 2015, Defendant Sarkos examined Plaintiff and recommended surgical repair of the fracture. Id. The Utilization Review Committee at FCI Fairton approved surgery for Plaintiff on July 10, 2015. Id.

         On August 14, 2015, Dr. Sarkos performed the recommended surgery and noted, “[r]ecommended follow up post op in 3-5 days. Apply cast. Scaphoid fracture repaired.” Id. A few hours after surgery, Plaintiff experienced throbbing pain. He went to the FCI Fairton Medical Department for that pain. Id. The staff recommended ibuprofen, but Plaintiff rejected that recommendation and told the staff that it would not be strong enough. Id. Staff then approved acetaminophen with codeine for Plaintiff's pain, but Plaintiff decided not to take the prescribed pain medication because he believed it would trigger a negative effect based on his previous experiences. Id. In the past, when Plaintiff had been prescribed Percocet, Plaintiff became nauseous, incoherent, and vomited. Id. On August 18, 2015, Plaintiff had his follow up appointment with Defendant Dr. Sarkos. Id.

         About a month later, on September 15, 2015, Plaintiff had a reevaluation with Defendant Sarkos, who concluded that the range of motion was comparable with his age with normal joint stability and muscle power. Id. at 6. Plaintiff had another follow up appointment on October 20, 2015, during which time the doctor noted that Plaintiff was doing well and that in three weeks, he will have his cast removed and initiate therapy. Id. Plaintiff had another set of x-rays taken on November 11, 2015. Id. Then, on November 17, 2015 or November 20, 2015, Plaintiff's cast was removed, and he was instructed on appropriate physical therapy and was given a splint to use. Id. at 6 (providing date as November 17), 11 (providing date as November 20). After the cast was removed, Plaintiff and Defendant Sarkos noticed that Plaintiff was unable to bend his left wrist like he could before the surgery. Id. at 11. At this time, his x-rays were reviewed and demonstrated an appropriate union at the fracture site. Id.

         On February 3, 2016, Defendant Morales, at doctor in the Fairton Medical Department, reviewed Plaintiff's x-rays and stated that he was not impressed with the healing. Id. On March 1, 2016, Defendant Sarkos examined Plaintiff and told him that his healing was going along perfectly and to continue doing his physical therapy exercises. Id. Plaintiff provides no further allegations as to whether the mobility of his left wrist continued to improve with his physical therapy exercises or if he performed the prescribed exercises. He later describes his wrist as “paralyzed.”

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sarkos proximately caused Plaintiff's wrist injury as a result of negligence. Id. at 11. Specifically, Plaintiff states that after surgery, his left wrist became inoperable and that Defendant Sarkos neglected Plaintiff's medical condition despite his numerous requests for therapy. Id.

         As to Defendants Morales, Angud, and Rodriguez, Plaintiff alleges that they knew his left hand is paralyzed but have “neglected the plaintiff medical need for therapy, second surgery, or any other remedies that would help to alleviate the Plaintiff's pain, suffering and abnormality” caused by his surgery. Id. at 12.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Section 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. The Court must 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. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

         To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). “‘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.'” Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a ...


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