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Bronson v. Young

February 13, 2008

PURCELL BRONSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. YOUNG; DR. LASKY; P.A. NEWFIELD; D. KELCHNER; I. TAGGART; AND S. BURKS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MAGISTRATE JUDGE SMYSER

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 134), and Defendants' Objections to the September 18, 2007 Report and Recommendation. (Docs. 137, 140.) The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 134.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation will be granted in part and overruled in part, and the Court will adopt in part and reject in partthe Report and Recommendation, and grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff, Purcell Bronson, was a prisoner confined in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at the State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill") from June 23, 2004 until October 13, 2006. (Corrections Defs.' Statement of Material Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ¶ 1, Doc. 89; Defs.' Lasky, Newfield and Young's Statement of Material Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ¶ 3, Doc. 110.)*fn1 During the relevant period, Defendant Burks was employed by the Department of Corrections at the Department's Central Office as Chief Grievance Officer. (Doc. 89 ¶ 2.) Defendants Kelchner and Taggart were employees of the Department of Corrections at SCI-Camp Hill. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Kelchner worked as the Superintendent of SCI-Camp Hill, and Taggart is the Assistant to the Superintendent. (Id.) Defendant Newfield was the primary physician's assisted assigned to sick call at the SMU. (Defs. Laskey, Young, and Newfield's Statement of Material Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ¶ 73, Doc. 110.) Defendant Young was the physician assigned to see inmates in the SMU. Id.

Plaintiff Purcell Bronson believes that he has throat cancer. (Doc. 89 ¶ 5.) However, he has not been diagnosed with throat cancer by a doctor at this time. (Id.; Pl.'s Response to Corrections Defs.' Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 5, Doc. 115.) Plaintiff has been treated for various medical complaints by the medical personnel at SCI-Camp Hill. (Doc. 110 ¶ 18.) Plaintiff's complaints to the medical staff have included requests for medications and the change of dosage, including prescriptions for Prednisone, Elvavil, Motrin, Metamucil, and Naprosyn; a sore throat not helped by a water gargle; surgery on a previously sprained and/or partially torn ACL; arthritis pain; dry cough and stuffy nose; allergies and sinus infections; swollen glands; "hard BM's"; a pulled hamstring; chapped lips; shoulder pain; bleeding in the nose; knee pain; swollen ankles; rashes; curvature of the spine; dry throat; difficulty swallowing; hemorrhoids; jock itch; orthopaedic-related complaints; head cold; swollen arteries in his temple; bilateral aneurysms; ringing in the ears; pains in the neck; and pains around his belly. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 29, 32, 34, 37, 38, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 56, 57, 60, 61, 62, 67, 69, 70.)

Plaintiff sent request slips and inmate grievances to Defendant Kelchner regarding his medical treatment in the SMU. (Doc. 89 ¶ 4.) These papers concerned the treatment of his ears, nose, throat, and arthritis pain. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 28.) This slip was then passed on to Defendant Taggart for handling. (Id. ¶ 28) Plaintiff's contact with Defendant Taggart has been through request slips and grievances. (Id. ¶ 9.) As the Grievance Coordinator, Defendant Taggart records and processes inmate grievances. (Id.) According to Defendant Taggart, Plaintiff submitted a medical grievance on January 24, 2005, numbered 107968. (Id. ¶33.) In grievance No. 107968, Plaintiff named Defendants Young and Newfield, and Teresa Law, which was also denied based on a lack of required documentation. (Id. ¶ 11.) The appeal was denied by Defendant Kelchner. (Id. ¶33.) Similarly, Plaintiff submitted grievance No. 106429 against Teresa Law, which was denied. (Id. ¶ 10.) On February 7, 2005, Plaintiff submitted a grievance concerning alleged throat cancer and requests for consultation and tests. (Id. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff's grievance No. 111486, which was also denied based upon lack of documentation. (Id. ¶ 12.) This appeal was similarly denied by Defendant Kelchner. (Id. ¶ 34.) However, in his response to the Statement of Material Facts, Plaintiff disputes whether the documentation was submitted. (Doc. 115 ¶ 11.) Grievance No. 114656 alleged deliberate indifference against Defendants Young and Newfield, which was denied based upon lack of documentation. (Doc. 89 ¶ 13.)

Pursuant to Department Policy for the Inmate Grievance System, inmate grievances are processed by the Grievance Coordinator at the place the inmate is housed. (Id. ¶ 17.) If the inmate is dissatisfied with the response, he may appeal the matter to the Facility Manager or Superintendent. (Id.) Then, if the inmate is dissatisfied with the Superintendent's decision, the inmate may appeal to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals for final review. (Id.) The records of the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals revealed that Plaintiff only attempted to appeal two grievances to final review based upon the lack of medical care at SCI-Camp Hill. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed the Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 14, 2005. (Doc. 1.) On May 2, 2005, the Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 13.) On April 11, 2007, and May 30, 2007, the Defendants filed motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 87, 102.) On September 18, 2007 Magistrate Judge Smyser issued the present Report and Recommendation (Doc. 134), recommending that the Defendants' motions for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. Defendants filed their objections to the Report and Recommendation on September 26 and 27, 2007. (Docs. 137, 140.) The summary judgment motions are ripe for disposition, as is the Report and Recommendation.

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Review of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

Where objections to the magistrate judge's report are filed, the Court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo review, the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the Court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the Court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if "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). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All reasonable doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Hersh v. Allen Prods. Co., 789 F.3d 230, 232 (1986). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to ...


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