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Jackson v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Corrections

August 22, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Kane


I. Background

Plaintiff William P. Jackson is an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township (SCI-Coal Township), Pennsylvania. He filed this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on August 17, 2005. Named as Defendants are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the following SCI-Coal Township employees: Joe Geragi and Brian Davis, physicians assistants; Joseph Piazza, Superintendent; Correctional Officers Clark and Sipe; and Gene Mull, Drug and Alcohol Supervisor. In the complaint Plaintiff claims that despite his medical condition, Defendants failed to provide him with his approved lower bunk status and forced him to work in a prison job regardless of his alleged "no work/no heavy lifting" medical restriction. He seeks monetary damages as relief. An Order was issued on August 19, 2005, directing service of the complaint. On September 20, 2005, Defendants Geragi and Davis filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. 11.) A Memorandum and Order was issued on July 13, 2006, granting this motion. (Doc. 40.) On October 13, 2005, the remaining Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint (Doc. 17) which is presently before the Court for consideration. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant, in response to a complaint, to file a motion to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted . . . ." A motion to dismiss should not be granted if "under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff [ ] may be entitled to relief . . . ." Langford v. City of Atlantic City, 235 F.3d 845, 847 (3d Cir. 2000). In making that decision, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint, Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 481-82 (3d Cir. 2000), and construe any reasonable inferences to be drawn from them in the plaintiff's favor. See United States v. Occidental Chemical Corp., 200 F.3d 143, 147 (3d Cir. 1999). Consequently, the court need not accept "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Merion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Likewise, the court need not "conjure up unpled allegations or contrive elaborately arcane scripts" in order to breathe life into an otherwise defective complaint. Gooley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 851 F.2d 513, 514 (1st Cir. 1988). A complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107-08 (1976).

B. Allegations in Complaint

The pending motion to dismiss is filed on behalf of the Department of Corrections and the following SCI-Coal Township employees: Joseph Piazza, Superintendent; Correctional Officers Clark and Sipe; and Gene Mull, Drug and Alcohol Supervisor. The allegations set forth in the complaint are as follows. On September 13, 2004, while being transported to SCI-Coal Township by the Allegheny County Sheriff Department, the vehicle Plaintiff was riding in was involved in an accident. Plaintiff sustained a bruised forehead and whiplash. On September 18, 2004, Defendant Geragi, a physician's assistant at SCI-Coal Township, agreed to Plaintiff's request for lower bunk status due to his injuries. On September 21, 2004, Plaintiff had not yet received the lower bunk status and complained to Defendant Davis, also a physician's assistant. Davis agreed that a lower bunk assignment was in order pending the outcome of x-rays performed on September 16, 2004, to prevent any aggravation of his injuries.

On September 26, 2004, Plaintiff, who still had not been reassigned to a lower bunk, fell from his upper bunk injuring his knee, elbow and side, as well as aggravating his pre-existing injuries. The following day Davis informed Plaintiff that Geragi stated the matter had been taken care of the previous day and, as such, he did not pursue the matter further. Davis promised to handle the paperwork immediately to have him moved to a lower bunk, and further informed Plaintiff that the x-rays did reveal positive results for muscle spasms of the neck and back. On September 29, 2004, because Plaintiff was still in an upper bunk, Davis went to the Restricted Housing Unit Lieutenant on duty and had Plaintiff moved to a lower bunk.

On April 13, 2005, Plaintiff was transferred from the RHU to the "Therapeutic Community Unit" to begin a drug and alcohol program. The following day, Plaintiff informed Defendant Mull about the accident and the injuries he sustained. Mull acknowledged that he was aware of Plaintiff's "medical situation" and would help accommodate him. On April 18, 2005, Plaintiff was assigned a job which required lifting heavy chairs. Mull told Plaintiff that unless he performed the job he would face consequences which included his termination from the drug and alcohol program. Plaintiff thereafter moved the chairs as directed, and was injured. The following day he saw the prison doctor who placed Plaintiff on medical restrictions which included no heavy lifting and medical lay in to avoid further injury. As a result, Plaintiff 's participation in the Therapeutic Community Program was terminated.

On May 17, 2005, Plaintiff was transferred to Block F. Approximately one week later he was informed that he had been assigned a "block" job. Plaintiff informed Defendants Sipe and Clark of his medical restrictions regarding no work or heavy lifting. On June 4, 2005, Plaintiff was directed to do cell cleaning which involved carrying mop buckets full of water up and down a flight of stairs. The correctional officer on duty stated that he knew nothing about Plaintiff's medical restrictions and threatened Plaintiff with the termination of his job and a misconduct if he refused to do the work. On June 11 and 18, 2005 Plaintiff performed the assigned work. On June 18, 2005 he sustained injury while carrying the full bucket up and down the stairs.

On June 19, 2005, Plaintiff wrote to the Medical Administrator and prison doctor requesting they send verification of his medical restrictions to the Block Officers. On June 20, 2005, he put in for sick call due to the pain he was experiencing. He was unable to make a sick call appointment the following day because he was taken to Allegheny County for court proceedings. Upon his return on June 28, 2005, another sick call slip was submitted. He was seen on June 29, 2005 in the medical department. Plaintiff's medications were renewed, and he was referred to the "M.D. line." (Doc. 1, Compl. at ¶ 23.) On this date Plaintiff also sent a request to the medical director regarding his existing medical restrictions and the issue of work.

On July 9, 2005, after being threatened with a misconduct, Plaintiff was again forced to work. He claims that he reaggravated his injuries and sustained new injuries. On July 12, 2005, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Soloman for complaints of back and neck pain due to lifting/carrying the mop buckets. Soloman informed Plaintiff he should not be working based upon the medical restrictions previously issued by Dr. Sten and ordered new x-rays to be taken.

On July 13, 2005, Plaintiff received a copy of a letter his attorney sent to Superintendent Piazza informing him of Plaintiff's injuries, and requesting him to intervene in the prison job situation in light of the issued medical restrictions. On July 16, 2005, Plaintiff was once again forced to perform the cell cleaning duties by an unidentified correctional officer who refused to call the medical department to verify ...

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