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Meekins v. Law

August 8, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Kosik


I. Introduction

William Meekins, an inmate confined at the State Correction Institution at Camp Hill (SCI-Camp Hill), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on July 5, 2006. The matter proceeds on an amended complaint filed on September 5, 2006, wherein eight (8) defendants are named. Plaintiff identifies the defendants as follows: Theresa Law, Chief of Health Care Services for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"); Donald Kelchner, Superintendent at SCI-Camp Hill; Gerald Kaspar, David White and James Selcher, dentists at SCI-Camp Hill; Debra Andidora, Chief of Health Care Services at SCI-Waymart; Dino Angelici, Chief of Bureau Health Care Services at SCI-Camp Hill; and Colleen Newfield, former physician's assistant at SCI-Camp Hill. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical/dental care. Presently pending are a motion to dismiss the amended complaint filed by the Corrections Defendants (Doc. 75), as well as a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Newfield (Doc. 80). Also pending is Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendant Newfield (Doc. 79). The motions are ripe for consideration.

II. Background

Plaintiff contends that on numerous occasions Defendants Andidora and Kaspar were informed through Request to Staff forms, sick line slips and grievance slips that he was ill "in both the medical and dental ramifying sense." (Doc. 19 at 3.) He contends that these Defendants were deliberately indifferent and engaged in medical malpractice when they ignored his condition or failed to provide any medication for his pain. He further contends that they fabricated responses to grievances with regard to treatment. He claims that his condition required more than just the "filling of infected teeth" as his condition made him extremely ill and subjected him to "wanton pain." (Id. at 3.)

Plaintiff further contends that he also notified Defendants Selcher, White, Law, Kelchner and Angelici numerous times as to his urgent need for dental and medical care and they all failed to properly respond. Plaintiff specifically states that although he advised said Defendants about being ill from his teeth condition which was causing a "mediciney (sic) aspirin residue taste and drainage into [his] stomach and mouth region" triggering a host of other conditions, Defendants left him in pain and without medication for in excess of 15 - 19 months. (Doc. 1 at 4.)

In March or April of 2006, Plaintiff states he was seen by Defendants Selcher and White in the dental department where it was determined he had periodontal disease and multiple teeth with profound holes, along with extreme gingivitis. He states that his bottom row of front teeth were rust color, which also spread to his rear top teeth. Defendants White and Selcher had Plaintiff return to the dental department on May 11, 2006, at which time they "cleaned and scraped" the discoloration off his teeth.

Plaintiff also states that Defendant Newfield was appointed to see him on numerous occasions regarding his condition, and that she was also informed various times by the nurses that Plaintiff was ill from his oral infection. Plaintiff was again seen by Newfield on June 22, 2006, after he was seen "bringing up blood." (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Newfield came into his cell, looked at his mouth and gums and told him she was not a dentist, did not know where the blood was coming from and could not help him. No medication was prescribed.

Plaintiff states he was seen on July 12, 2006 by a "doctor not a physician or dentist" who stated that his mouth was seriously infected and prescribed antibiotics until Plaintiff could be seen by the prison dental department. Plaintiff alleges that he has been experiencing severe pain and pressure in his heart, stomach, testicles and rear right lung - - all stemming from his dental issues. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Law acknowledged his discomfort but contended that it was Plaintiff's obligation to manage the problem. On August 18, 2006, Defendant Selcher visited Plaintiff and informed him that he was unable to define or cure Plaintiff's symptoms, and he would not approve Plaintiff to be seen by an outside medical practice.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to provide adequate medical care to treat/diagnose his illness or attempt to relieve his pain. He seeks declaratory, injunctive, compensatory and punitive relief.

III. Discussion

A. Plaintiff's Motion for Default against Defendant Newfield (Doc. 79)

Plaintiff contends that pursuant to this Court's Order of December 21, 2006, Newfield was directed to file a response to the amended complaint within twenty (20) days. On January 30, 2007, Plaintiff filed a motion for default (Doc. 79) because Newfield had failed to file a response to the complaint. On the same date, however, Newfield filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. A brief in support of the motion to dismiss, as well as a brief in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for default were submitted by Newfield the following day.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a), Newfield's response to the amended complaint was due on January 16, 2007. The motion to dismiss was not filed until two weeks later. Considering whether the entry of a default judgment is appropriate, the court is guided by the following principles. The court "does not favor entry of defaults or default judgments," United States v. $55,518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1984), as it prefers adjudications on the merits. See Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d C ir. 1984)(noting that "we have repeatedly stated our preference that cases be disposed of on the merits whenever practicable"); see also Gross v. Stereo Component Sys., Inc., 700 F.2d 120, 122 (3d Cir. 1983); Tozer v. Charles A Krause Mill, Co., 189 F.2d 242, 245 (3d Cir. 1951). Three factors control whether a default judgment ...

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