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Betrand v. Dep't of Corrections

March 20, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure



George Betrand, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Frackville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Frackville"), initiated this pro se civil action "pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6600, the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments" in the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas. See Record document no. 1, Complaint, ¶ 1.

Following removal of the complaint to this Court, Defendant Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS") filed a motion seeking dismissal of the complaint. See Record document no. 3. Although Plaintiff responded to a subsequently submitted unrelated motion to dismiss, he has not filed a response to PHS's motion to dismiss.*fn1 For the reasons outlined below, the unopposed motion will be granted.

In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that he is a diabetic who requires daily injections of insulin. Betrand alleges that on August 16, 2005 he went to the SCIFrackville medical department for an insulin injection. An unidentified nurse told Plaintiff that the injection would be administered in the waiting room of the medical department where the procedure could be viewed by other prisoners and members of the correctional staff. Plaintiff's request that "his treatment be given in private was denied by the attending nurse." Id. at ¶ 16. After being treated, Betrand contends that he was approached by two inmates who inquired if he was HIV positive. Thereafter, other inmates have purportedly ostracized him based on a fear that he has HIV or Hepatitis C. Betrand submitted an inmate request slip to Defendants Malewski and Jones on November 1, 2005. His request asked that his diabetes treatment be given "in a more sanitary and private area."*fn2 Id. at ¶ 22. Nurse Jones allegedly responded that the injection procedure and area in which it was given were appropriate.

On or about November 13, 2005, Betrand states 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. Defendant Tritt answered the grievance on November 21, 2005 stating that due to size considerations the treatment had to be given under those conditions. An appeal was filed with Superintendent Defendant Shannon, who responded that the Plaintiff's rights were not being violated. According to the Complaint, a subsequent appeal to the DOC's Central Office went unanswered.

Plaintiff states that while his appeal was pending before Superintendent Shannon he submitted another request slip to Nurse Jones. Health Care Administrator Malewski responded to the request on or about November 29, 2005 by "stating that she had observed the insulin line and she did not see any violations." Id. at ¶ 28. The Complaint concludes despite his repeated objections, Plaintiff continues to be forced to receive his life sustaining treatment in the lobby of the medical department." Id. at ¶ 18. As relief for the alleged violation of his right to privacy, damage to his reputation, infliction of emotional distress, negligent conduct, and unsanitary treatment, Betrand seeks compensatory, punitive and nominal damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.


PHS describes itself as being a private corporation which provides health care service to SCI-Frackville inmates on a contractual basis. The moving Defendant argues that it is entitled to an entry of dismissal on the grounds that there is no assertion that: (1) any policy or practice of PHS caused injury to the Plaintiff; (2) any PHS employee caused injury to Betrand or violated his privacy rights; (3) any PHS employee disclosed Plaintiff's confidential medical information. In addition, PHS asserts that a viable state law negligence claim has not been set forth in the Complaint.

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. 1997). Finally, it is additionally well-settled that pro se complaints should be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). This Court will now discuss Defendant PHS' motion in light of the standards set forth above and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

B. Emotional Injury

Betrand is apparently seeking in part to recover compensatory damages for emotional injury which he suffered as a result of the Defendant PHS' alleged constitutional misconduct. There are no ...

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