The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge Middle District of Pennsylvania
Charles Iseley ("Iseley"), an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset, Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 5, 2002. The matter proceeds on an amended complaint (Doc. No. 76) wherein Iseley names as defendants various Department of Corrections ("DOC") officials, employees at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township ("SCI-Coal"), Pennsylvania and the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon ("SCI-Huntingdon"), Pennsylvania, and prison medical providers. Iseley asserts claims of denial of medical treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment for the following illnesses: Hepatitis-C ("HCV"); fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome ("CFS") and rheumatoid arthritis. He further asserts violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Equal Protection clause, and state laws with regard to his medical care. Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by three of the defendants: Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS, Inc."), America Service Group Inc. ("ASG, Inc.") and Joseph Kort, M.D.*fn1 After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.
The incidents in the amended complaint occurred during Plaintiff's confinement at SCI- Coal Township and SCI-Huntingdon, and concern his care and treatment for the illnesses referenced above. On July 9, 2004, Defendants Dawn Mills, Paul Roemer and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 123.) The Court granted the motion on the basis that collateral estoppel applied to bar Plaintiff's amended complaint. (Doc. No. 163.) In addition, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim as to the remaining defendants. On March 31, 2006, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion to alter judgment and for reconsideration. (Doc. No. 177.)
Following Plaintiff's appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, an opinion was issued by the Third Circuit on June 27, 2007, affirming in part, vacating in part, and remanding the matter for further proceedings. (Doc. No. 185.) Specifically, the Third Circuit affirmed this Court's finding that collateral estoppel applied to bar the relitigation of Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs concerning denial of treatment for his Hepatitis-C, the DOC's protocol for Hepatitis-C treatment and required psychiatric screening, and consent forms for such treatment. The case was remanded with regard to all of Plaintiff's other claims. Id.
In a Memorandum and Order dated March 5, 2008, this Court clarified the issues to be considered on remand. (Doc. No. 249.) Specifically, the following issues are before this court:
(1) failure of Defendants to treat Plaintiff's fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis as constituting cruel and unusual punishment; (2) denial of medical treatment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act*fn2 relating to all of Plaintiff's illnesses; (3) denial of medical treatment in violation of Plaintiff's Equal Protection rights relating to all of his illnesses; and (4) various state law claims.*fn3
Presently pending before the Court for consideration is the motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of Defendant Kort, a doctor at SCI-Coal Township; Defendant PHS, Inc., the medical service provider to SCI-Coal Township; and Defendant ASG, Inc., the parent corporation of PHS. Only the allegations relevant to these Defendants will be set forth.
Plaintiff states that in 1998 he tested positive for HCV, a serious medical condition. (Doc. No. 76, Am. Compl. ¶ 26.) He unsuccessfully sought treatment for the condition in early 1999 and thereafter. He maintains that he was later diagnosed by a doctor as suffering from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disc disease. He claims to suffer from symptoms including nausea, vomiting, debilitating chronic fatigue, severe muscle and joint pain, weight loss, weakness, dizziness, abdominal pain, migraine headaches, liver damage, difficulty with urination, memory loss, insomnia and difficult doing normal everyday activities. (Id. ¶ 35.)
Plaintiff states that while incarcerated at SCI-Coal Township from 2000-2001, he was denied treatment for HCV. He claims that Defendant Kort was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by intentionally failing to use valid professional medical judgment, and "mechanically following the DOC HCV treatment protocol which is inadequate . . . and designed to hinder and frustrate the acquisition of adequate medical care for HCV." (Id. ¶¶ 37, 38.)
Plaintiff further contends that he was denied HCV treatment due to the policies and practices of PHS and ASG. In following these policies, Kort failed to notify him of his disability, refer him to a liver specialist, order a Hepatitis B vaccination, perform physical/mental examinations or consider treatments other than that specifically allowed by the DOC. (Id. ¶ 49.)
According to Plaintiff, Defendants refused to provide him with HCV treatment because his mental illness caused him to fall under the exclusionary criteria of the DOC HCV protocol. As such, DOC policy barred him from receiving treatment unless he signed an agreement form consenting to become a mental health patient, and waiving his privacy rights. (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff refused to do so because he argues that he does not suffer from mental illness and, as such, does not fall within the exclusionary criteria of the protocol. (Id. ¶¶ 44, 45.) He claims that each day he does not receive HCV treatment, he suffers increasing damage to his liver, greater pain and future adverse health consequences. (Id. ¶ 86.) He further alleges that his condition qualifies as a disability, and that he exhausted available administrative remedies even though they were "utterly useless." (Id. ¶¶ 89, 94.)
Plaintiff also maintains that Defendants allowed his confidential medical information to be shared with others by informing various prison personnel of his medical condition and data without his permission in retaliation for his seeking treatment for the HCV. (Id. ¶ 46.)He seeks compensatory, punitive, declaratory and injunctive relief.
Summary judgment will be granted if the record establishes that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ P. 56(c); Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). In considering a motion for summary judgment, inferences from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).
Rule 56(c) imposes a burden on the moving party to point to an absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Caltrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232. The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The opposing party must "set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R Civ. P. 56(e)(2). Issues of fact are "genuine only if a reasonable jury, considering the evidence presented, could find for the nonmoving party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit will preclude the entry of summary judgment. Id. Even so, "all that is required [by Rule 56(e)(2)] is that sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." First Nat. Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993). Allegations made without any evidentiary support may be disregarded. Jones v. UPS, 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). 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 determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).
Defendants move for summary judgment on grounds which include the following: failure to exhaust, failure to demonstrate deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment, failure to establish a claim under the ADA and failure to establish an Equal Protection violation. In support of their motion, they submit a brief, a statement of material facts*fn4 , and supporting evidentiary materials. The materials submitted consist of a docket sheet from the instant action (Doc. No. 272-5); Plaintiff's medical records from SCI-Coal Township (Doc. Nos. 272-6, 272-7); and the declarations of Dorina Varner (Doc. No. 272-8) and Defendant Kort (Doc. No. 297-3).
Defendants first argue that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e prior to filing the instant action. Exhaustion of administrative remedies by an incarcerated person suing over matters arising out of his ...