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Iseley v. Beard

September 29, 2009

CHARLES ISELEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

Charles Iseley ("Iseley"), filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 5, 2002. The matter proceeds on an amended complaint filed on July 9, 2003. (Doc. No. 76.) Named as defendants are 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 ("FM"), chronic fatigue syndrome ("CFS") and rheumatoid arthritis ("RA"). He further asserts violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act*fn1 ("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 the following prison medical providers from SCI-Huntingdon: Dawn Mills, physician's assistant; Dr. Paul Roemer; and their employer, Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford"), the former contractual health care provider at SCI-Huntingdon.*fn2 After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Background

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 set forth above. On July 9, 2004, Defendants Mills, 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 on June 27, 2007, affirming in part, vacating in part, and remanding the matter for further proceedings. (Doc. No. 185.) 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) the failure of Defendants to treat Plaintiff's FM, CFS and RA as constituting cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (2) the denial of medical treatment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act relating to all of Plaintiff's illnesses; (3) the 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 before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Mills, Roemer and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. 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 difficulty performing everyday activities. (Id. ¶ 35.)

While incarcerated at SCI-Huntingdon from 2001-2002, Plaintiff claims he was denied treatment for HCV by Defendants Beard, Bitner, Kyler, Baney, Everhart, Yarger, Roemer, Showalter, Moe and Wexford because his mental illness caused him to fall under the exclusionary criteria of the DOC HCV protocol. (Id. ¶ 60.) As such, DOC policy prohibited him from receiving treatment unless he signed a waiver of his constitutional rights and agreed to become a mental health patient. Plaintiff claims, however, that the exclusionary criteria did not apply to him because he is not mentally ill or was ever diagnosed as being mentally ill. (Id. ¶¶ 60-62.)

Plaintiff contends that Defendant Mills denied him medical treatment for CFS, claiming that CFS is only serious for individuals who are not incarcerated. He states that Mills found no medical reason to support his claim of CFS, but argues that Mills is not a doctor, and therefore not qualified to make such a diagnosis. Plaintiff also contends that Mills never examined him, and failed to use skill to treat his HCV and CFS, despite having a duty to do so. (Id. ¶¶ 65-68.)

Plaintiff also alleges that he was seen by Defendant Roemer while at SCI-Huntingdon, and requested treatment for HCV, FM, RA and CFS. He claims Roemer refused to refer him to a specialist regarding his HCV, and failed to record his complaints in the medical records. Plaintiff also claims Roemer violated his rights when he referred to him as a "nigger." (Id. ¶¶ 72-73.)

In the amended complaint Plaintiff further contends that his "conditions" qualify as disabilities, and, as such, Defendants violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Id. ¶89.) He also sets forth various state law claims including negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and medical malpractice. He seeks compensatory, punitive, declaratory and injunctive relief. (Id. ¶ 103.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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).

III. DISCUSSION

Summary judgment has already been granted in favor of Defendants Mills, Roemer and Wexford with respect to all claims regarding the denial of HCV treatment, the DOC HCV protocol, and the required psychiatric screening and consent forms. (Doc. No. 185 at 5.) Thus, remaining against said Defendants are the (1) deliberate indifference with respect to treatment of FM, CFS and RA claims; (2) the ADA claim; (3) an Equal Protection claim and (4) the state law claims.

Defendants move for summary judgment on all grounds. In support of their motion, they submit a brief (Doc. No. 281) and a statement of material facts with attached supporting evidentiary materials (Doc. No. 282).*fn4 The materials submitted consist of medical progress notes (Doc. No. 282-2), physician's orders, lab reports and other medical records (282-3); the Affidavit of David Rowe, D.O. and Chief Medical Officer for Wexford Health Sources, Inc. during the relevant time period with attached exhibits (Doc. No. 282-4 - 282-6); an amended complaint in the case of Iseley v. Horn, No. 00-cv-4839 (E.D. Pa.)(Doc. No. 282-7); the declarations made under penalty of perjury with attached exhibits of Marva Cerullo, Corrections Health Care Administrator at SCI-Mahanoy (Doc. No. 282-8 - 282-9); Wilma Sewell, Health Care Administrator at SCI-Coal (Doc. No. 282-10); and Jane Dando, R.N. at SCI-Coal (Doc. No. 282-11). Also submitted are excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition conducted in the case of Iseley v. Dragovitch, et al., No. 00-cv-4839 (E.D. Pa.)(Doc. No. 282-12).

A. Eighth Amendment Medical Care Claims

In order to state an Eighth Amendment medical claim, a plaintiff must show "(i) a serious medical need, and (ii) acts or omissions by prison officials that indicate deliberate indifference to that need." Natale v. Camden Cty. Correctional Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999).

A prison official acts with deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs when he "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Thus, a complaint that a physician or a medical department "has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. . . ." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).

As such, a "medical decision not to order an X-ray, or like measures, does not represent cruel and unusual punishment. At most it is medical malpractice." Id., 429 U.S. at 107. "[A]s long as a physician exercises professional judgment his behavior will not violate a prisoner's constitutional rights." Brown v. Borough of Chambersburg, 903 F.2d 274, 278 (3d Cir. 1990). Further, a doctor's disagreement with the professional judgment of another doctor is not actionable under the Eighth Amendment. See White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 110 (3d Cir. 1990). In sum, negligence, unsuccessful medical treatment, or medical malpractice does not give rise to a civil rights cause of action, and an inmate's disagreement with medical treatment is insufficient to establish deliberate indifference. See Durmer v. O'Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 69 (3d Cir. 1993).

In Rouse, 182 F.3d 192 (3d Cir. 1999), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit set forth the standard necessary to establish a claim for deliberate indifference to a ...


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