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Bronson v. White

October 15, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)



Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 66), and Plaintiff's Objections to the August 10, 2007 Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 67.) The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment and decline to exercise jurisdiction over the Plaintiff's state law claims. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation will be overruled, the Court will adopt the Report and Recommendation, and grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 47.)


Plaintiff Purcell Bronson is a prisoner incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill"). (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 1, Doc. 50.)*fn1 From June 23, 2004 until October 13, 2006, Plaintiff was housed in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at SCI-Camp Hill. (Id. ¶ 15.) Since October 13, 2006, Plaintiff has been housed in the Restricted Housing United ("RHU") at SCI-Camp Hill. (Id. ¶ 3.) The Defendants are David G. White, a dentist employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at SCI-Camp Hill; Robert J. Marsh, a Unit Manager employed at the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill; and David E. Patton, a Deputy Superintendent for Centralized Services employed at SCI-Camp Hill. (Id. ¶ 2.)

On June 23, 2004, Plaintiff was transferred from the State Correctional Institution at Fayette ("SCI-Fayette") to the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill. (Id. ¶3.) Prior to being housed at SCI-Fayette, the Plaintiff was housed at the State Correctional Institute at Pittsburgh ("SCI-Pittsburgh"). While housed at SCI-Pittsburgh, Plaintiff saw a dentist approximately twice a year, and received a cleaning at least once a year. (Id.) Plaintiff periodically reveived x-rays of his teeth at SCI-Pittsburgh. (Id. ¶4.) While at SCI-Pittsburgh, the dental staff told the Plaintiff that his teeth were going bad due to improper care. (Id. ¶ 3.) The dental staff also told him that he should floss and brush his teeth more often. (Id.) However, Plaintiff was not permitted to have dental floss while in the RHU at SCI-Pittsburgh. (Id.) While at SCI-Pittsburgh, Plaintiff did not have any cavities. (Id. ¶ 4.)

Plaintiff was only housed at SCI-Fayette for six (6) months. (Id.) While Plaintiff was there, he was given a toothbrush, which he used. (Id.) He was not permitted to have dental floss at SCI-Fayette. (Id.)

When Plaintiff arrived at the SMU in SCI-Camp Hill, he received a toothbrush with a short handle. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff used the toothbrush approximately twice per day, but was not permitted to have dental floss. (Id.)

Defendant White provides dental care to inmates at SCI-Camp Hill in his capacity as the dentist in that facility. (Id. ¶15.) As part of his duties, Defendant White is familiar with Plaintiff Bronson, and treated Plaintiff during his time in the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill from June 23, 2004 until October 13, 2006. (Id. ¶15.) Defendant White treated Plaintiff numerous times in 2005 and 2006. (Id. ¶ 16.)

On February 16, 2005, Defendant White treated Plaintiff and diagnosed him with a periodontal abscess and generalized moderate periodontis. (Id. ¶ 17.) Periodontal disease affects the area surrounding the teeth, including the gums. (Id.) The gums become inflamed due to a buildup of plaque. (Id.) This is usually the result of poor dental hygiene, such as lack of regular brushing and flossing. (Id.) Defendant White prescribed penicillin and advised Plaintiff to brush and floss when floss was available to him. (Id.)

On subsequent visits, Defendant White noted that the swelling in Plaintiff's gums had subsided after improved dental hygiene by the Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 18.) On December 9, 2005, Defendant White saw Plaintiff, at which time the Plaintiff requested dentures. (Id. ¶ 19.) Defendant White advised the Plaintiff that he was not eligible for dentures under the Department of Corrections policy. (Id.) Under the Department's Access to Health Care Procedures Manual, inmates are eligible for dentures based upon the number and type of missing teeth. (Id.) Plaintiff has two missing teeth on his upper right side and a missing wisdom tooth on his lower right side, which Defendant White stated did not qualify him for dentures. (Id.) The dentist at SCI-Pittsburgh told Plaintiff the same thing. (Id. ¶ 11.) Defendant White further advised Plaintiff that, in his experience, dentures tend to worsen periodontal disease, which Plaintiff had been diagnosed with several months earlier. (Id. ¶ 18.)

The SMU is a specialized housing unit within SCI-Camp Hill which houses disruptive and violent inmates. (Id. ¶ 25.) There are five phases in the SMU. (Id. ¶ 26.) Each inmate begins his tenure in the SMU at the most restrictive phase, but can progress to a less restrictive phase of housing based upon behavior. (Id.) As inmates progress through the phases, their access to privileges and services is increased. (Id.)

All SMU inmates are provided with a modified toothbrush for dental hygiene. (Id. ¶ 27.) However, until recently, all SMU inmates were denied the use of dental floss for security purposes. (Id.) It was determined at that time that dental floss could be used to fashion weapons, garrote staff and other inmates, and interfere with locking mechanisms. (Id.) As of approximately January 2007, SMU inmates have been permitted to have short dental floss strips due to a revision in Department policy. (Id.)

As the Unit Manger assigned to the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill during the relevant time period, Defendant Marsh was responsible for unit security and treatment programs within the SMU. (Id. ¶25.) On or about March 20, 2005, Plaintiff submitted a request to Defendant Marsh to be permitted dental floss in his cell. (Id. ¶29.) On April 13, 2005, Marsh responded that dental floss was a security concern, and therefore his request would be denied. (Id.) Defendant Marsh does not recall any conversations with Plaintiff on this matter. (Id.) This was the extent of Defendant Marsh's interaction with the Plaintiff.

While working as Deputy Superintendent for Centralized Services at SCI-Camp Hill, Defendant Patton had managerial responsibilities for certain services at the institution, including medical services. (Id. ¶33.) On or about July 7, 2005, the Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Patton seeking permission to use dental floss in the SMU. (Id. ¶ 34.) Defendant Patton also declined this request, stating "I do not approve dental items for inmates. Dental floss is not on the approved items for the SMU. I suggest that you improve your behavior to the point that you can be released to general population." (Id.) This was the extent of Defendant Patton's interaction with the Plaintiff. (Id.)

Defendant Patton's understanding was that dental floss was not permitted to SMU inmates at that time for security reasons, as the floss could be used as a weapon, or in malfunctioning electronic components such as locks on the cell doors. (Id. ¶ 35.)

On October 21, 2005, Plaintiff filed his Complaint, claiming violations of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and state law. (Doc. 1.) On January 20, 2006, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint. (Doc. 16.) Magistrate Judge Smyser issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 20) on April 25, 2006, in which he recommended denying the Defendants' motion to dismiss. By Order dated August 2, 2006, the Court adopted the April 25, 2006 Report and Recommendation, thereby denying Defendants' motion.

Defendants thereafter filed an Answer to the Complaint (Doc. 28) and a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 47.) On August 10, 2007, Magistrate Judge Smyser issued the present Report and Recommendation ("the R&R") (Doc. 66), recommending that the Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. Plaintiff filed an objection to the R&R on August 30, 2007. (Doc. 67.) Defendants did not file an objection to the R&R.

The summary judgment motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. The Report and Recommendation is ...

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