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Sparks v. Susquehanna County

June 5, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)


Before the court are the parties' motions in limine (Docs. 89, 91, 93 95). Having been fully briefed, the matters are ripe for disposition.


This suit arises out of the death of Beth Ann Croasdale ("Decedent") at the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility ("SCCF") on April 2, 2004. On that day, Croasdale suffered a severe asthma attack; she was transported from the prison to a local hospital and was pronounced dead. The deceased was admitted to the SCCF in January 2004 for operating a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license. (Amended Complaint (hereinafter "Cmplt") (Doc. 33) at ¶ 11). On the day she died, Croasdale remained incarcerated at the SCCF. (Statement of Material Facts of Defendants Susquehanna County; William Brennan; Susquehanna County Prison Board; Joann Wiser and Carole Smalacombe (Doc. 67) (hereinafter "County Defendants' Statement") at ¶ 2). Plaintiff alleges in part that the defendants failed to provide Croasdale with access to Albuterol and a nebulizer, the device she needed to deliver the medication she needed to control her severe asthma, and that her death was thus the result of defendants' deliberate indifference to Croasdale's serious medical need. (Id. at ¶ 4). She also alleges that Defendant Dr. Hassan Khalil, a physician employed by the prison, evidenced both deliberate indifference and medical malpractice in his treatment of her.

Plaintiff filed her initial complaint (Doc. 1) in this court on November 2, 2005. After the parties engaged in some initial discovery and the defendants filed answers or motions to dismiss the complaint, the court granted plaintiff's motion to file an amended complaint and add an additional party. (See Doc. 31). After plaintiff filed this amended complaint, Defendant Dr. Khalil filed a motion to dismiss that complaint (Doc. 36). The court denied this motion on March 21, 2007. (See Doc. 55). After the close of discovery, both Dr. Khalil and the county defendants filed motions for summary judgment (Docs. 64, 66). The court granted these motions in part and denied them in part on April 3, 2009 (Doc. 86). The court then scheduled a pre-trial conference, and the parties filed motions in limine and briefs related to them, bringing the case to its present posture.


As this complaint was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article II of the United States Constitution.").


The court will address each of the parties' motions in turn.

a. The County Defendants

Defendants Susquehanna County, William Brennan, Susquehanna County Prison Board, and Joann Wiser ("County Defendants") filed a motion in limine that contains several parts (Doc. 89). The court will address each of those elements in turn.

i. Evidence that Plaintiff was not Given Access to her Medication

Defendants argue that plaintiff should be precluded from introducing evidence that she was not given access to her medication. Though plaintiff contends that denial of asthma medications contributed to plaintiff's death, defendants insist that no evidence indicates that plaintiff was ever denied these medications. The defendants cite to statements from several witnesses that indicate that plaintiff could obtain her medication and autopsy reports that indicate that plaintiff had high levels of the medications in her bloodstream at the time of her death.

The court has already addressed this question in relation to defendants' motion for summary judgment, concluding that the question of whether plaintiff had actual and sufficient access to her asthma medication is a question that should be left to the jury. (See Doc. 86). A question of fact exists as to whether defendants' system for providing inmates with medication was constitutionally deficient. Since a motion in limine is not a proper place to reargue a motion for summary judgment, the court will deny the motion.

ii. Evidence that a Document Slipped out of the Prison file during Warden Brennan's Deposition

There is evidence to indicate that plaintiff had filed a request with the prison for access to her medication, and that this request became available in plaintiff's case because it fell out of a folder during Warden Brennan's deposition. Defendants argue that the court should bar this evidence after it bars evidence on access to the asthma medications. Since evidence on access to medications should not be admitted, ...

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