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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. EARL HOWARD LYLES (09/02/83)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: September 2, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT
v.
EARL HOWARD LYLES, JR., APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Earl Howard Lyles, Jr., Nos. 1941-78, 1942-78, 1943-78, 1944-78, 1945-78, 1946-78, 1947-78, 1948-78, 4918-76 and 5083-73.

COUNSEL

Carl Vaccaro, with him John T. Kalita, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellant.

Michael C. Shields, with him Morris Gerber, Gerber, Gerber & Shields, for appellee.

Judges Rogers, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 15]

Earl Howard Lyles, Jr. (Appellee) escaped from the State Correctional Institution at Graterford (SCIG) in

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 16]

November of 1977. When recaptured, Lyles sustained multiple gunshot wounds, as a result of which he is now a permanent paraplegic.

Subsequent to his recapture, Lyles was sentenced by Judge Honeyman, of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, to a term of twenty to forty years for a series of robberies. As part of the plea bargaining agreement reached between Lyles and the Commonwealth, and in recognition of the inability of SCIG to properly treat Lyles for his paraplegic condition, Judge Honeyman ordered that Lyles' sentences be served at a United States Government hospital*fn1 until such time as Lyles was considered sufficiently recovered, when he would then resume serving his sentences at a designated state correctional institution.

Numerous attempts were made to have Lyles placed in a United States Government hospital all met with failure. During this time, Lyles was confined in the hospital ward of SCIG. Lyles subsequently filed a "Petition for Modification of Sentence" under the provisions of Section 1 of the Act of May 31, 1919 (Act), P.L. 356, as amended, 61 P.S. § 81, in the Montgomery County court. That section reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

Whenever any convict or person is confined in any . . . penal institution, under conviction or sentence of a court, . . . and it is shown to a court of record by due proof that such convict or person is seriously ill, and that it is necessary that he or she be removed from such penal institution, the court shall have power to modify its sentence . . . and provide for the confinement or care of such convict or person in some other

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 17]

    suitable institution where proper treatment may be administered. Upon the recovery of such person, the court shall recommit him or her to the institution from which he or she was removed.

A hearing was held on Lyles' petition on September 5, 1980, before Judge Horace Davenport,*fn2 at which time testimony was received concerning both the lack of physical therapy for Lyles at SCIG*fn3 and the physical harm Lyles suffered due to SCIG's inability to provide adequate treatment. Judge Davenport entered an order on June 11, 1981, modifying*fn4 the previously imposed sentence of twenty to forty years to a sentence of thirty years probation, releasing Lyles into the custody of his parents pending admission to an appropriate rehabilitative institution at the cost of the Commonwealth.

In its appeal to this Court*fn5 the Commonwealth does not dispute Judge Davenport's determination that Lyles was not and could not receive necessary treatment while at SCIG; neither does the Commonwealth challenge the sentencing judge's authority to modify Lyles' sentence to thirty years parole under the Act. The only issue presented to us is whether, pursuant to the provisions of the Act, the trial court could order the Commonwealth to pay for rehabilitative treatment.

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 18]

Under the specific facts of this case we hold that it could not; therefore, we will reverse that portion of the court's order.*fn6

Lyles' paraplegia, the medical condition which makes SCIG an unacceptable physical environment, was not incurred as a result of his prison detainment by the Commonwealth. Furthermore, Judge Davenport did not find that Lyles had suffered an additional permanent physical harm due to the inadequacy of treatment facilities at SCIG.*fn7 We are thus faced with a situation in which a felon who has been released from the correctional system due to that system's inability to provide needed care seeks payment for what may amount to a lifetime of medical treatment from the correctional system for an illness which is not of the system's making.

While the correctional system is duty bound to arrange for all the necessary medical care of persons within its control, see City of Revere v. Massachusetts General Hospital, 51 U.S.L.W. 5008 (1983), and Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), the correctional

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 19]

    system is not a medical provider and should not be considered solely liable for the expense of treatment of every person who at some point is placed in the system. Id. While we do not define, as a matter of law, when the correctional system would be liable for the costs of necessary medical care, we are of the opinion that the present circumstances do not trigger the Commonwealth's liability under the Act.

Order

The order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County dated June 11, 1981, in the above captioned matter, is reversed to the extent that it places the cost of rehabilitative therapy upon the Commonwealth pursuant to Section 1 of the Act of May 31, 1919, P.L. 356, as amended, 61 P.S. § 81.

Disposition

Reversed.


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