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Trautman v. County of Allegheny

September 17, 2009

DOUGLAS P. TRAUTMAN PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, AND ALLEGHENY CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

In this memorandum opinion, the court considers two motions for summary judgment, one filed by the County of Allegheny ("Allegheny County") and the other filed by Allegheny Correctional Health Services ("ACHS," and together with Allegheny County, "defendants"). (Doc. Nos. 68, 71.) Plaintiff Douglas P. Trautman ("Trautman" or "plaintiff") brought an action against defendants alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The pending motions were filed in response to the second amended complaint of plaintiff, an inmate at Allegheny County Jail ("ACJ") at all times relevant to this action. (Doc. No. 52.) In count I of his second amended complaint, plaintiff asserts that defendants violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, based upon the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff avers that he was denied proper medical treatment for both an abscessed tooth and depression. (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 35.) On October 20, 2008, count I was dismissed with respect to defendant Allegheny County. ACHS moved for summary judgment with respect to count I.

At count II, plaintiff claims defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights based upon a theory of retaliation. Plaintiff asserts that he made complaints about his removal from alternative housing, and that defendants wrongfully denied him psychiatric and medical treatment in retaliation. (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 50.) Plaintiff also alleges that those acts were taken in accordance with the "policies, practices, and customs" of ACHS and ACJ. (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 54.) Defendants moved for summary judgment with respect to count II. (Doc. Nos. 68, 71.) Defendant ACHS labeled plaintiff's retaliation claims as unfounded, asserting that plaintiff failed to meet the standards for a § 1983 retaliation claim. Defendant Allegheny County averred that it may not be held liable as a municipality since plaintiff failed to point to a specific policy leading to a violation of his constitutional rights. Both defendants maintain that upon review of all evidence of record, no genuine issues of material fact exist and they are entitled to a judgment in their favor.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed the original action against defendants on August 2, 2006. (See Doc. No. 1.) On December 20, 2006, plaintiff filed his first amended complaint. (See Doc. No. 15.) On March 13, 2008, plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, alleging defendants unconstitutionally subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment and retaliated against him. (See Doc. No. 52.) The cruel and unusual punishment claim was dismissed with respect to defendant Allegheny County. (See Doc. No. 64.) On November 20, 2008, defendants filed the pending motions for summary judgment. (See Doc. Nos. 68, 71.)

While incarcerated at ACJ, plaintiff alleges that he had a serious tooth condition and severe depression and that defendants failed to treat properly those medical conditions, even after plaintiff made numerous requests for medical care. (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 21, 23.) ACHS is a Pennsylvania corporation under contract with Allegheny County to provide medical care to inmates. Typically, if an inmate needs medical attention, a nurse sees the inmate and if necessary, makes an appropriate referral.

Plaintiff was incarcerated at ACJ after pleading guilty to one count of corruption of minors. Plaintiff's sentence was imposed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. (Allegheny County's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. C ("Plea and Sentencing Hr'g Tr.").) Transcripts of the proceedings indicate that plaintiff was sentenced to seven to fourteen months imprisonment in ACJ with the recommendation that he be placed in alternative housing:

[Judge:] Mr. Troutman [sic], at count nine I order you to pay the costs, undergo a term of 7 to 14 months in the [ACJ] with the recommendation that you be placed in alternative housing at the Renewal Center effective February 16. Understand that if you do not complete the Renewal program then you will have to serve time in the Allegheny County Jail.

(Id. at 6.)

From February 16, 2005 until approximately ten days later, plaintiff was incarcerated in ACJ, during which time he was given a physical exam by a medical professional, was evaluated by a psychiatrist, and was placed on Effexor and a blood pressure medication. (Allegheny County's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. J ("Trautman Dep.") at 32-33, 87.) The physical exam took place in a medical room and lasted approximately thirty to forty-five minutes. (Id. at 87.) Despite receiving exams and medication, plaintiff criticized the care he received during this tenday period, stating "I didn't get care." (Id. at 32-33.) Plaintiff's medical records indicate that on February 23, 2005, he was prescribed Effexor for a sixty-day period. (Allegheny County's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. I.)

On February 25, 2005, plaintiff was transferred from ACJ to ADA's House, an alternative housing facility. (Trautman Dep. at 86-87.) Less than two months later, however, plaintiff was removed against his will from ADA's House. On April 12, 2005, he was returned to ACJ to serve his sentence. (Id. at 87-88; 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 12.) A Residential Incident Report from ADA's House indicates that he was returned to ACJ "due to his charges and that he was asking women to bring their kids down to the 12 step meetings." (Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. F.)

Plaintiff asserts that he made numerous complaints about being removed from ADA's House. As a result, plaintiff alleges that he was retaliated against and denied treatment for both his medical and psychiatric conditions, particularly during the time frame of June 6, 2005 until July 15, 2005. (2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 26.) In his deposition, however, plaintiff indicated that he has "no reason to believe" that the delay in getting him dental treatment was related to his complaints about being removed from alternative housing. (Trautman Dep. at 83.)

After plaintiff's April 2005 return from ADA's House to ACJ, plaintiff received an examination and evaluation similar to that which he received when he entered ACJ in February 2005. (Id. at 88.) During the April 2005 examination, he discussed his medical and psychological concerns with a female member of the jail's medical staff. (Id. at 88-89.) Plaintiff stated that he did not receive medication for a two-week period following his re-entry to ACJ. (Id. at 83.) He testified that, as a result of not receiving Effexor for these two weeks, he "was extremely depressed." (ACHS's Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 3 at 63-64.) The Effexor was to hold off feelings of depression and sadness. (Id.) Plaintiff could not recall whether the failure to treat him with Effexor for the two-week span had any physical effects on him. (Id. at 67.)

An April 26, 2005 entry on plaintiff's medical records indicates that "he was very concerned that he did not get his meds"; he was again prescribed Effexor for a sixty-day period. (Allegheny County's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. I.) The medical notes indicate that on June 8, 2005, he was ordered to continue to take Effexor. (Id.) On July 23, 2005, he was again prescribed Effexor for sixty days. (Id.)

Plaintiff first had tooth pain in May 2005. (Trautman Dep. at 80.) Plaintiff testified that he saw a dentist twice prior to July 12, 2005:

I believe [I saw a dentist] -- I'm not sure, but I believe on two different occasions, the first time in May when I was diagnosed with a bad tooth which progressed into an abscess which in June --

I think June 6th or 9th that I wrote Dana Phillips about, asking her please get me some help and it still took another whatever, four, five weeks, before they put me on the antibiotic and then put a temporary filling in it. Before that I was shoving paper in it. (Id. at 82.) Plaintiff was seen by a dentist the same month he raised his first complaint, and was diagnosed with "a bad tooth." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges the bad tooth progressed into an abscess, which he complained about on June 6 or 9, 2005. (Id.) Plaintiff admitted that on June 9, 2005, almost immediately after that complaint, he saw a dentist. (ACHS's Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 3 at 84.) There was a dental office at the jail, and he was seen by the dentist on both occasions at this office. (Id. at 83-84.)

Plaintiff believed that the bad tooth was a molar; the tooth caused him pain and swelling. (Trautman Dep. at 82-83.) On July 12, 2005, ACHS progress notes indicate that plaintiff was ordered amoxicillin and motrin, and the medical professional noted "Dentist Fri. please." (Allegheny County's Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. I.) When asked if he had problems with the tooth after receiving amoxicillin, plaintiff stated "I have had a tremendous amount of dental work done, so as to which tooth exactly that it is, we'd have to pull up my dental records to see."

(Trautman Dep. at 82.) On August 15, 2005, plaintiff was again prescribed motrin. (ACHS's Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 2.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

The nonmoving party must point to specific affirmative evidence in the record, rather than rely upon conclusory or vague allegations or statements. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Concrete evidence must be provided for each element of each of the claims, and the evidence must be such that a reasonable fact-finder could find in that party's favor at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "A nonmoving party, like plaintiff, must 'designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Orenge v. Veneman, No. 04-297, 2006 WL 2711651, at *6 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 20, 2006) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324).

A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by the mere existence of some disputed facts, but will be defeated when there is a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether the dispute is genuine, the court's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 249. The court may consider any evidence that would be admissible at trial in deciding the merits of a motion for summary judgment. Horta v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 2, 8 (1st Cir. 1993); Pollack v. City of Newark, 147 F. Supp. 35, 39 (D.N.J. 1956), aff'd, 248 F.2d 543 (3d Cir. 1957) ...


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