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BROWN v. GIGLIOTTI

October 14, 2005.

KEITH BROWN, Plaintiff
v.
VICKI GIGLIOTTI, STEPHANIE DUMAS, and JANINE M. SHEPLER, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SYLVIA RAMBO, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Before the court are Defendants Gigiliotti and Shepler's (hereinafter "the Department Defendants") motion for summary judgment (Doc. 237) and Defendant Dumas's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 240). The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the Department Defendants' motion and Defendant Dumas's motion.

I. Background

  A. Factual

  Plaintiff, Keith Brown*fn1 brought this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that the deliberate indifference of prison officials to his serious medical needs amounted to a violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. The background of the instant case is extensive and well known to the parties.*fn2 Thus, the court will not recite the facts in depth. The following facts are relevant at the outset of this memorandum.

  In August 2002, while incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Waymart ("SCI-Waymart"), Plaintiff broke his left ankle while state corrections officers were attempting to breakup an altercation between Plaintiff and another prisoner. Because of the severity of the fracture, Plaintiff had surgery on his ankle. Five screws and a plate were attached to Plaintiff's bones to stabilize them and assist with the healing process. Plaintiff's ankle was placed in a nonweightbearing cast. While Plaintiff's ankle was still in a nonweightbearing cast, Plaintiff was transferred from SCI-Waymart to the Long Term Segregated Housing Unit at SCI-Pittsburgh.

  B. Procedural

  Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 24, 2003, naming seven defendants: Raymond Colleran, Joan Delie, Vicki Gigliotti, Donald Fiske, Stephanie Dumas, Concepto Flores, and Thomas Gammill. On May 21, 2003, the court granted Plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint. Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on June 16, 2003, adding Janine M. Shepler as a defendant. On June 30, 2003, Defendants Colleran, Delie, Fiske, Gigliotti, and Shepler filed a motion to dismiss. On July 2, 2003, Defendant Flores filed a motion to dismiss. On July 9, 2003, Defendants Dumas and Gammill filed a motion to dismiss.

  This court's December 4, 2003 order granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Doc. 99.) Specifically, the court dismissed all claims against Defendants Colleran, Delie, Fiske, Flores, and Gammill. (Id.) Additionally, the court dismissed all claims against Defendants Gigliotti and Shepler in their official capacities. (Id.) The court denied the motion to dismiss claims against Defendants Gigliotti and Shepler in their personal capacity and the motion to dismiss claims against Defendant Dumas. (Id.) The court's order stated that "[t]he sole claims remaining in this action are Plaintiff's claims under the Eighth Amendment against Defendants Gigiliotti and Shepler in their personal capacities and against Defendant Dumas." (Id.)

  The Department Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on May 4, 2004 and Defendant Dumas filed a motion for summary judgment on May 6, 2005. On June 28, 2005, Plaintiff filed responses to Defendant Dumas's motion and to the Department Defendants' motion. Defendant Dumas filed a reply brief on July 17, 2005 and Plaintiff filed a sur-reply brief in response on July 20, 2005.*fn3

  II. Legal Standard: Summary Judgment

  Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); accord Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis which would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 341 (3d Cir. 1985); see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992).

  Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, he must "go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. (internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. "`Such affirmative evidence — regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial — must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'" Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)). III. Discussion

  A. Eighth Amendment Standard

  The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.*fn4 To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment for denial of medical care, the plaintiff must at a minimum show that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976)). The deliberate indifference standard has two elements: "First, [the] plaintiff must make an `objective' showing that the deprivation was `sufficiently serious,' or that the result of [the] defendant's denial was sufficiently serious. Additionally, the plaintiff must make a `subjective' showing that [the] defendant acted with `a sufficiently culpable state of mind.'" Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 499 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298).

  A serious medical need is one "that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or one that is so obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Monmouth County Corr. Inst. v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir. 1987). Deliberate indifference has been defined as constituting the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104 (internal citations omitted). The Third Circuit has found deliberate indifference in instances where a doctor "insisted on continuing courses of treatment that the doctor knew were painful, ineffective or entailed substantial risk of serious harm." White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 109 (3d Cir. 1990). In addition, "intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed" may constitute deliberate indifference. Estelle 429 U.S. at 104-05.

  However, the fact that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not constitute an Eighth Amendment claim. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104 ("Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner."). It is well established that as long as a physician exercises professional judgment his behavior will not violate a prisoner's constitutional rights. Brown v. Borough of Chambersburg, 903 F.2d 274, 278 (3d Cir. 1990). Additionally, a disagreement between a plaintiff and a medical professional regarding the course of treatment does not constitute deliberate indifference. ...


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