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Johnson v. Levi

March 11, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.



Defendants, Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") , the Federal Detention Center-Philadelphia ("FDC-Philadelphia"), and FDC-Philadelphia Warden Troy Levi ("Warden Levi")*fn1 file this motion to dismiss, or alternatively, for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b). (Doc. no. 24.) For the reasons that follow, summary judgment will be granted.


On March 25, 2009, Plaintiff Wayne Patrick Johnson ("Mr. Johnson") filed a complaint alleging violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that occurred while he was an inmate at FDC-Philadelphia. (Doc. no. 1.) Plaintiff's overarching claim is that the medical staff at FDC-Philadelphia repeatedly ignored his painful medical condition and complaints. Plaintiff claims that, beginning in April 2007, he was experiencing painful rectal bleeding. He claims that the medical staff (unidentified in his complaint) repeatedly ignored his requests for appropriate care. Moreover, Plaintiff claims that Warden Levi failed to fulfill a promise to Johnson that medical staff would attend to him. Finally, Johnson claims that he was unable to grieve these issues administratively because his complaint forms were "accidentally left locked in the [FDC-Philadelphia] library[.]"*fn2 (Complaint.)

On June 19, 2009, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. no. 10.) On October 16, 2009, the Court denied the motion and ordered Defendants to take Plaintiff's deposition and file a motion for summary judgment.*fn3

On January 26, 2010, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. (Doc. no. 24.) It is this motion that is before the Court. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.


A. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper when "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if its existence or non-existence would affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is "genuine" when there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party regarding the existence of that fact. Id. at 248-49. "In considering the evidence, the court should draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party." El v. Se. Pa. Transp. Auth., 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007).

"Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, 'the burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001)). Once the moving party has thus discharged its burden, the nonmoving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must-by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56]-set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2).

B. Section 1983 & Eighth Amendment Medical Treatment for Prisoners

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a cause of action for an individual whose constitutional or federal rights are violated by those acting under color of state law.*fn4 See generally Gonzaga University v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002) (recognizing that Section 1983 provides a remedy for violations of individual rights "secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States). While plaintiff alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, this Court treats the violations as those under Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), as the defendants are federal actors. See Egervary v. Young, 366 F.3d 238, 246 (3d Cir. 2004).

Plaintiff claims a violation of the Eighth Amendment with respect to each of the Defendants. The Eighth Amendment "requires prison officials to provide basic medical treatment to those [ ] incarcerated." Anderson v. Bureau of Prisons, 176 Fed. App'x 242, 243 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999)). It is well-settled that, "[o]nly 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' or 'deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs' of prisoners are sufficiently egregious to rise to the level of a constitutional violation." Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 108-09 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976))). A claim of medical malpractice is not sufficient for a Constitutional violation and, thus, negligence on the part of a physician will not be considered a Constitutional deprivation. Spruill, 372 F.3d at 235 (citing White, 897 F.2d at 108-09; Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Monmouth County Correctional Institutional Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 346 (3d Cir. 1987)). Finally, "'mere disagreement as to the proper treatment' is also insufficient." Spruill, 372 F.3d at 235 (quoting Lanzaro, 834 F.2d at 346 ...

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