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Morris v. Lorillard

September 22, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Chief Judge Kane)


Plaintiff Warren Morris ("Morris") commenced this 42 U.S.C. §1983 action claiming that exposure to second-hand smoke has caused him to develop medical complications. (Doc. 1.) Presently before the court is a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 29) filed on behalf of Defendant Tennis. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion will be granted.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

At all times relevant to this action, Morris was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview (SCI-Rockview). Effective December 2000, the Department of Corrections (DOC) instituted policy statement 1.1.7, which provides a smoke-free environment in each of its facilities by specifying permitted and prohibited smoking areas in each facility. (Doc. 32, at 3.) In May 2003, SCI-Rockview prohibited smoking in all buildings. (Doc. 30-4, at 2.) Smoking by inmates is permitted only on the outside walkways, outside in front of the buildings, or at designated outdoor areas. (Doc. 32, at 3.)

The DOC smoking policy was revised in June 2003, to provide that the bargaining-unit staff is prohibited from smoking in common areas and in inmate-housing units, but smoking is permitted in private offices, designated employee lounges or break areas, and designated outside areas. (Doc. 30-4, at 3.)

Morris began complaining of breathing complications at an emergency sick call on January 24, 2003. (Id. at 6.) He was short of breath and complained that he was coughing and his heart was racing. He stated that he lived on a smoking block and that he had these problems for two years. He also reported being under a lot of stress and indicated that he was not taking prescribed psychiatric medication. The examination revealed no coughing or wheezing and indicated that Morris was not in acute distress. Morris was told to complete some relaxation exercises, to take his medication, and sign up for sick call if he had any further problems.

Morris sought medical treatment four days later. He was diagnosed with an asthmatic episode and prescribed an inhaler. He was also added to the Asthma Chronic Care Clinic for regular follow-up. (Doc. 33, at 4; Doc. 30-9, at 7.)

Thereafter, he submitted a grievance dated January 31, 2003, alleging that he was having difficulty breathing. (Doc. 30-6, at 2-3.) The grievance officer responded by detailing the medical care Morris received that day. (Id. at 4.) He also informed Morris that the doctor would provide further direction to the nursing staff for plans of care for potential asthma cases. (Id.) His appeals were denied based on the conclusion that he was being adequately treated. (Id. at 6-7.)

On February 14, 2003, Morris again reported to the medical department complaining of breathing trouble and inquiring about the use of the inhaler. (Doc 30-9, at 8.) The examination revealed that his lungs were clear and that he was able to fully ventilate. He was also instructed on the proper use of the inhaler. At that time, the doctor recommended him for the non-smoking block. (Doc. 30-10, at 5.)

On February 25, 2003, Morris reported for a follow-up appointment for his asthma. He was prescribed a new inhaler, which he was directed to use twice daily. It was noted that a move to a non-smoking block was in process. (Doc. 30-9, at 9.)

On March 16, 2003, Morris filed a grievance complaining that the "constant smoking" limited his ability to breathe and seeking to be moved to a non-smoking block immediately. (Doc. 30-6, at 8.) Morris's grievance was found to be without merit because he had been purchasing tobacco products, which barred Morris's move to a non-smoking block. (Doc. 30-6, at 10.) In order to be moved to the non-smoking block, "inmates cannot purchase tobacco for 30 days as a prelude to moving to B/A." (Id.) Morris was informed that his commissary purchases would be checked again on April 1, 2003. (Id.) He appealed the grievance claiming that he did not smoke, and that if he did, it should not influence his request to be moved to a non-smoking block because his health condition was caused by the constant smoking inside and outside his cell. (Doc. 30-6, at 12.) At that time, he was informed that if he had a defined "medical need to be moved to BA, [a non-smoking block], medical staff must advise unit staff and a move will be made." (Id. at 13.)

Morris was seen for a medical follow-up on March 21, 2003. He complained of difficulty breathing. Review of use of the inhalers confirmed that he was using them correctly. Later that month, he was reminded that one of the inhalers was to be used following an asthma attack while the other one was to be used twice a day. (Doc. 30-6, at 17.)

He was moved to BA, the non-smoking block, on April 25, 2003. (Id. at 14.)

Morris was continuously seen over the course of the next sixteen months and all indications were that his asthma condition was stable. (Doc. 30-9, at 9-50; Doc. 30-10, at 6-19.) In addition to his asthma, ...

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