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Freeman v. Dep't of Corrections

September 16, 2009

JAMES FREEMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

Background

James Freeman, an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township ("SCI-Coal Township"), Pennsylvania, proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Along with the complaint, Plaintiff filed a supporting affidavit. (Dkt. Entry # 2). Service of the Complaint and supporting affidavit were previously ordered.

Named as Defendants are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and the following nine (9) SCI-Coal Township employees: Superintendent Joseph J. Piazza; Lieutenants Timothy Jordan and Stanley Moyer; Correctional Officers Ralph Studlack, Ronald Bowers, Lonni Fornwald and Matthew Lahr; Hearing Examiner Lisa Shay Kerns-Barr; Nurse Kyle Confer; Ann Batdorf;*fn2 and Medical Administrator Kathryn McCarty.*fn3

In his Complaint, Plaintiff sets forth claims of retaliation, denial of access to the courts, excessive force, denial of procedural due process, false misconduct reports, and denial of medical care. With respect to Defendant Batdorf, it is alleged that on August 2, 2007, Plaintiff was assaulted by correctional officers and suffered injuries including a swollen hand, "big bruises on both biceps that were bleeding," "messed up" shoulder and elbow, and a headache. (Dkt. Entry # 1, History, ¶ ¶ 20 - 23.) Following this incident, Freeman was placed in a "hard cell."*fn4 (Id. at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff states that he was seen by Nurse Confer that same day, who purportedly failed to take any action other than telling him to sign up for sick call. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Freeman claims that the following morning Batdorf examined him while he was in the "hole" and "only refiled [sic] my order and put me on for an x-ray, no ice, pain pill or bandaids [sic], or wraps for my open sores." (Id. at ¶ 24.) Plaintiff was eventually given Tylenol by Nurse Long the next morning. Long allegedly told Inmate Freeman that "no one put anything in for me." (Id.) According to the Complaint, Long additionally informed Plaintiff that "it's a security risk to give me [Freeman] proper treatment because I'm in the hole." (Id.) There are no additional allegations set forth regarding Defendant Batdorf.

Presently pending is Defendant Batdorf's motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. Entry # 48.) As correctly noted by the moving Defendant, Plaintiff has not submitted an opposing brief. (Dkt. Entry # 67.)

Discussion

Batdorf asserts that she is entitled to entry of dismissal on the grounds that (1) Plaintiff has not alleged that he was suffering from a serious medical need, and (2) the complaint does not sufficiently allege that Nurse Practitioner Batdorf was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs.

Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). The plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)(requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). Rule 8 demands "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ____ ,129 S.Ct 1937, 1949 (2009).

This requirement "calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The reviewing court must determine whether the complaint "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Id. at 562.

A civil rights complaint should allege the conduct violating plaintiff's rights, the time and the place of that conduct, and the identity of the responsible officials. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct at 1949. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations and the complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. See id. at 1950. see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008). It is additionally noted that prose pleadings are to be construed liberally, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Serious Medical Need

Batdorf initially argues that Freeman has not identified a serious medical need as required to set forth a viable claim under the Eighth Amendment. (Dkt. Entry # 49 at 8.) The moving Defendant explains that allegations of bruises on the arms and vague contentions of a messed up shoulder and elbow do not rise to the level of a serious medical need.

The Eighth Amendment "requires prison officials to provide basic medical treatment to those whom it has incarcerated." Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976)). In order to establish an Eighth Amendment medical claim, an inmate must allege acts or omissions by prison officials sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235 - 36 (3d Cir. 2004); Natale v. Camden Cty. Correctional Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003). In the context of medical care, the relevant inquiry is whether the defendant was: (1) deliberately indifferent (the subjective component) to (2) the ...


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