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Harris v. Hershey Medical Center

August 27, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

Magistrate Judge Smyser


Before the Court are three motions to dismiss (Doc. Nos. 30, 36, 65), Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending that the motions be granted in part (Doc. No. 70), Plaintiff Terry Harris's ("Harris") objections to the R&R (Doc. No. 74), and a response to Harris's objections filed by Defendant Deborah Cook (captioned as "Nurse Deb") (Doc. No. 75). For the reasons that follow, the Court will adopt the R&R in part and remand the case to Judge Smyser for further proceedings.


A. Factual and Procedural Background

In the interest of economy, the Court incorporates by reference the uncontested background of the case as presented in the R&R. (Doc. No. 70 at 2-5.) The necessary background for purposes of this memorandum is set out as follows in Judge Smyser's R&R:

The plaintiff alleges that on December 5, 2007, unknown medical personnel from the Hershey Medical Center Orthopaedic Department faxed forged and false medical documents to defendant Coolbaugh of the Adams County Domestic Relations Office. One of the documents stated that the plaintiff could not work, but the other two documents stated that the plaintiff could do sedentary work. On December 6, 2007, the documents were introduced as evidence against the plaintiff at a child support contempt hearing. Judge Bingham believed that the plaintiff had been lying about his inability to work and found the plaintiff to be in contempt of court.

The plaintiff was handcuffed, shackled and transported to the ACACC by the Adams County Sheriff's Department. The plaintiff's walking cane was confiscated from him. The plaintiff slipped on ice on the sidewalk leading to the intake entrance of the ACACC. As the plaintiff was lying on the ground, the Sheriff's Deputy called for assistance. Defendant Keefer, defendant Nurse Deb and other prison officers arrived. The plaintiff told defendant Nurse Deb that he was in extreme pain, that he had reinjured his back and right leg and that he had also injured his neck and head. Defendant Nurse Deb was familiar with the plaintiff's pre-existing back and leg injury based on the plaintiff's prior incarceration at the ACACC.

Defendant Nurse Deb told the officers to lift the plaintiff and get him inside. After several unsuccessful attempts were made to lift the plaintiff, defendant Keefer became agitated, yelled at the plaintiff to get up and kicked the plaintiff in the leg. Neither defendant Nurse Deb nor defendant John Doe Sheriff's Deputy nor any of the other people at the scene tried to stop defendant Keefer from kicking the plaintiff. Prison officers grabbed the plaintiff and lifted him into a wheelchair. They took him to a medical examining room.

The plaintiff complained about being assaulted by defendant Keefer, but [Doctor Young] told him to stop. The plaintiff told the doctor about his pre-existing injuries, his ongoing physical therapy and his new injuries. The plaintiff also told the doctor that he was in extreme pain. The doctor gave the plaintiff a "once over naked eye examination" and said that the plaintiff was alright. The plaintiff was taken in a wheelchair to a holding cell and then to the classification housing unit. Even though he kept complaining of extreme pain, the plaintiff was not given any pain medication.

The plaintiff's fiancee paid the plaintiff's child support arrears, and, at about 10:00 p.m, the plaintiff was released from the ACACC. The plaintiff went straight from the ACACC to the Gettysburg Hospital Emergency Room. At the Emergency Room, the plaintiff was given X-Rays, scans and a shot for his pain. He was told to see his chief care giver as soon as possible.

The plaintiff was not able to get an appointment with his chief care giver - Dr. Mark Knaub of the Hershey Medical Center - until January 14, 2008. At that appointment, Dr. Knaub apologized for the false medical documents that were sent to the Adams County Domestic Relations Office and he told the plaintiff that he would write a letter to Domestic Relations explaining the error. Dr. Knaub did write such a letter. The plaintiff introduced the letter written by Dr. Knaub at a hearing to try to have his child support obligation reduced and to have a stay placed on his duty to pay until after his social security appeal is decided. The plaintiff's requests were denied. The plaintiff claims that he can not work and that the Domestic Relations Office is denying him due process by not waiting for the outcome of his social security appeal.

B. Standard of Review

The Magistrate Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636, and Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), provide that any party may file written objections to a magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations. In deciding whether to accept, reject or modify the R&R, the Court is to make a de novo determination of those portions of the R&R to which objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

In analyzing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), "courts accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). The plaintiff still must provide more than a formulaic recitation of a claim's elements that amounts to mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). Additionally, the complaint's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative ...

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