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Betrand v. Dep't of Corrections

March 18, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure



This pro se civil action "pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6600, the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments" was filed in the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas by George Betrand, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Frackville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Frackville"). See Record document no. 1, Complaint, ¶ 1. The matter was subsequently removed to this Court by Defendant Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"); Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS").

In addition to PHS, also named as Defendants are four (4) SCI-Frackville employees, Superintendent Robert Shannon, Health Care Administrator Barbara Malewski,*fn1 Assistant to the Superintendent B.L. Tritt, and Nurse Donna Jones (hereinafter the Corrections Defendants).*fn2

Betrand states that he is a diabetic who requires daily injections of insulin. Shortly after being transferred to SCI-Frackville, Plaintiff asserts that he visited the prison's medical department on August 16, 2005 for the purpose of receiving an insulin injection. He was informed by an unidentified nurse that the injection would be administered in the waiting room/lobby of the medical department. Betrand asked that the injection be given in private so the procedure could not be viewed by other prisoners and members of the correctional staff. Plaintiff's request was denied by the attending nurse. See id. at ¶ 16.

After receiving his injection, Betrand contends that he was approached by inmates in the prison exercise yard and dining hall who have allegedly ostracized him based on a fear that he has HIV or Hepatitis C. On November 1, 2005, Betrand submitted an inmate request slip to Defendants Malewski and Jones which asked that his diabetes treatment be given "in a more sanitary and private area."*fn3 Id. at ¶ 22. According to the Complaint, Nurse Jones responded to the submission by stating that the injection procedure and area in which it was given were appropriate.

On or about November 13, 2005, Betrand avers that he filed an administrative grievance contending that the injection procedure violated his right to privacy and that prison medical staff were improperly discussing his medical condition in the presence of non-medical staff. In a November 21, 2005 response, Defendant Tritt allegedly stated that due to the size of SCI-Frackville, the daily insulin injections had to be given under those conditions. See id. At ¶ 25. Plaintiff filed an appeal with Superintendent Defendant Shannon. The Superintendent purportedly concurred with Tritt's response, and likewise concluded that Betrand's rights were not being violated. A subsequent administrative appeal to the DOC's Central Office went unanswered. See id. at ¶ 30.

Plaintiff states that while his appeal to Superintendent Shannon was pending he submitted another request slip to Nurse Jones. On or about November 29, 2005, Health Care Administrator Malewski responded to the request on behalf of Jones. Malewski stated that "she had observed the insulin line and she did not see any violations." Id. at ¶ 28. Plaintiff further contends that despite his repeated objections he continues to be forced to receive his life sustaining treatment in the lobby of the medical department." Id. at ¶ 18. Betrand concludes that the Defendants have violated his right to privacy, caused damage to his reputation, inflicted emotional distress, and engaged in both negligent conduct as well as unsanitary treatment. His Complaint seeks compensatory, punitive and nominal damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

Presently pending is the Corrections Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Record document no. 9. The motion has been briefed and is ripe for consideration.


The Corrections Defendants argue that they are entitled to an entry of dismissal on the grounds that (1) the administration of insulin shots to the Plaintiff in the infirmary lobby did not violate his right to privacy; (2) the non-medical Corrections Defendants have immunity with respect to the state law claim of negligence; and (3) there is no alleged personal involvement by the supervisory Corrections Defendants in the alleged constitutional misconduct.

A. Standard of Review

A court, in rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, must accept the veracity of the plaintiff's allegations. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added that when considering a motion to dismiss based on a failure to state a claim argument, a court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." "[W]hen a complaint adequately states a claim, it may not be dismissed on a district court's assessment that the plaintiff will fail to find evidentiary support for his allegations or prove his claim to the satisfaction of the factfinder." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955. 1969 (2007).

"The test in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is whether, under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Holder v. City of Allentown, 987 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Additionally, a court must "accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them." Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990); Independent Enters., Inc. v. Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Auth., 103 F.3d 1165, 1168 (3d Cir. ...

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