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Morris v. Levi

November 23, 2009

DEVON MORRIS, PLAINTIFF
v.
TROY LEVI, ET AL., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Devon Morris suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a possibly fatal heart condition. While incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center, Mr. Morris informed the prison medical personnel of a prior diagnosis of this condition and a prior recommendation he undergo surgery to implant an implantable cardioverter defibrillator ("ICD"). In addition, he repeatedly complained of chest pains, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Mr. Morris arrived at the FDC in February 2008, but did not see a cardiologist until August 2008, and did not undergo the recommended surgery until October 2008. Mr. Morris alleges the FDC's delay in providing treatment for his condition was a violation of his Eight Amendment rights. Defendant filed this motion to dismiss Mr. Morris's second amended complaint, or, in the alternate, a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, I will deny the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Devon Morris was arrested on January 11, 2008 and was transferred to the Federal Detention Center ("FDC") in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 11, 2008. Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 16. When he arrived at the FDC, Mr. Morris informed an intake nurse he suffered a heart condition, chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fainting spells. Id. at ¶ 17. After the intake evaluation, his FDC file noted "enlarged heart and in need of pacemaker. History of fainting." Id. at ¶ 17.

On February 21, 2008, defendant Hussain Bokhari, a medically licensed practitioner at the FDC, examined Mr. Morris for an initial intake physical examination. Id. at ¶ 18. Mr. Morris told Mr. Bakhari he had been diagnosed with a serious heart condition at the Tucson Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona the previous October and the Tucson physician had informed him there was a significant risk of sudden cardiac death and recommended surgical implantation of an ICD. Id. at ¶ 19. Mr. Morris also explained he suffered from chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fainting spells. Id. Mr. Bokhari noted Mr. Morris had an abnormally high blood pressure. Id. at ¶ 18.

Mr. Bokhari informed defendant Dr. Odeida Dalmasi, Clinic Director at the FDC, of Mr. Morris's condition and prior diagnosis. Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 21. On March 20, 2008, Dr. Dalmasi administered an electrocardiogram ("EKG") test on Mr. Morris. Id. at ¶ 22. The EKG showed extreme abnormalities, and Dr. Dalmasi recommended the FDC provide Mr. Morris with an examination by a cardiologist. Id. at ¶ 23. The FDC provided Mr. Morris with a medical release form to allow it to obtain Mr. Morris's records from the Tucson Medical Center. Id.*fn1

In late March 2008, the Tucson Medical Center sent Mr. Morris's medical records to the FDC. Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 24. These medical records confirmed Mr. Morris had been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and that the Tucson Medical Center had recommended surgical implantation of an ICD. Id. at ¶ 25.

On May 2, 2008, Defendant Stephen Spaulding, the Health Services and Utilization Review Committee Coordinator at the FDC, and Dr. Dalmasi informed Mr. Morris the FDC "Utilization Review Committee"*fn2 had tabled his request to be evaluated by a cardiologist. Id. at ¶ 26. Mr. Morris "continued to live in fear of sudden death due to his untreated heart condition," and he continued to experience chest pains, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fainting. Id. at ¶ 27.

On May 22, 2008, Mr. Morris's counsel from a different proceeding sent Dr. Dalmasi and Mr. Spaulding a copy of the medical records from the Tucson Medical Center, calling attention to the hypertrophic cardiomyopthy diagnosis and implantation recommendation. Id. at ¶ 28. On June 2, 2008, Sadie Carney, a certified physician's assistant at the FDC, examined Mr. Morris. Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 29. He again complained of chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting spells, and referenced his prior diagnosis. Id. Ms. Carney, however, merely ordered an increase in Mr. Morris's blood pressure medication. Id. Dr. Askok Patel, a medical doctor at the FDC, cosigned Ms. Carney's "Clinical Encounter" report for Mr. Morris's visit.

On June 5, 2008, Mr. Morris submitted an urgent administrative request to defendant Troy Levi, warden at the FDC, requesting the recommended heart surgery. Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 31.

On August 21, 2008, six months following his arrival at the FDC, Mr. Morris was evaluated by Dr. Daniel J. Vile, a cardiologist in private practice. In an August 22, 2008 letter to the FDC "Medical Director," Dr. Vile warned Mr. Morris "could be at high risk for sudden cardiac death." Id. at 33. Dr. Vile recommended Mr. Morris be treated by an electrophysiologist for possible surgical implantation of an ICD. Id. at 34.

On August 28, 2008, after defendants had not acted on Dr. Vile's recommendations, Mr. Morris filed a request for administrative relief to Warden Levi. Id. at ¶ 35. On or about September 2, 2008, defendant Antonio Fausto, a medically licensed practitioner at the FDC, examined Mr. Morris for chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fainting spells. Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 36.

For 40 days following Dr. Vile's recommendations, defendants took no action. Id. at ¶ 37. On October 22, 2008, Mr. Morris underwent surgical implantation of an ICD. Id. at ¶ 38. Following this surgery, defendants ...


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