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Brito v. United States

March 15, 2010

RAMON BRITO, PLAINTIFF
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is Defendant United States of America's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 14). Having been fully briefed, the motion is now ripe for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Ramon Brito ("Brito") brings this claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") alleging medical negligence by the prison staff at Low Security Correctional Institution-- Allenwood ("LSCI -- Allenwood"), in White Deer, Pennsylvania. (Compl. (Doc. 1)).*fn1 Brito alleges that he fractured the pinky finger on his left hand in September 2006. (Compl. at 2 (Doc. 2)). Brito was X-rayed, the finger was splinted, and Brito was given pain medication. (Id.) A follow-up X-ray in October of 2006 indicated that the fracture remained. (Id.) On October 25, 2006 Brito was examined again. The splint was removed and Brito performed range of motion exercises. (Id.) Brito indicated that he is a diabetic and that his injury was slow to heal.

In November of 2006 Brito was X-rayed again, revealing that the fracture was not healing. (Id.) Through January of 2007 Brito was given pain medication and continued to perform range of motion exercises at the direction of the medical staff. (Compl. at 3 (Doc. 1)). In January of 2007 Brito fell while cleaning a bathroom and injured the ring finger of his left hand. (Id.)

On April 19, 2007 Brito was examined by Dr. Thomas Dominick who noted that Brito "was extremely noncompliant with his range of motion exercises and he developed a contracture to the [pinky] finger." (Notes of Thomas F. Dominick, M.D., Pl.'s Ex. D (Doc. 17 at 16)). Dominick noted that while range of motion exercises and physical therapy "may be of some benefit" to Brito, surgery would be required to regain Brito's ability to move his pinky finger. (Id.) Dominick stated he would refer Brito to a hand specialist. (Id.)

On June 27, 2007 Brito was examined by David Ball, D.O. (Notes of David J. Ball, D.O., Pl.'s Ex. C (Doc. 17 at 15)). Doctor Ball noted that Brito "had been totally noncompliant with his range of motion and exercises and that was apparently one of the reasons why he developed a contracture of the left [pinky finger]." (Id.) Doctor Ball informed Brito that some of his patients who developed contractures after trying to treat themselves choose to have their finger amputated. (Id.)

On June 29, 2008 Brito filed an administrative tort claim with the BOP claiming $120,000.00 for his injuries. (Compl. at 9 (Doc. 1)). His claim was denied on December 23, 2008. (Denial Letter (Doc. 15-2 at 4)). Brito's complaint (Doc. 1), along with his motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) was filed against Defendant United States of America on July 1, 2009. On July 22, 2009 this court granted Brito's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 8). Defendant United States of America filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment on October 13, 2009, bringing the case to its present posture. (Doc. 14).

JURISDICTION

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1) ("The district courts... shall have exclusive jurisdiction of civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages, accruing on and after January 1, 1945, for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred."), and 28 U.S.C. § 1402(b) ("Any civil action on a tort claim against the United States under subsection (b) of section 1346 of this title may be prosecuted only in the judicial district where the plaintiff resides or wherein the act or omission complained of occurred.").

The plaintiff is currently incarcerated at LSCI -- Allenwood, Pennsylvania, which is located in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff's claims arose from conduct that occurred during his confinement at LSCI-Allenwood. The United States is a party to this action, and the action concerns the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

LEGAL STANDARD

When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations are tested. Granting the motion is appropriate if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, the plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," or put another way, "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Third Circuit interprets Twombly to require the plaintiff to describe "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element of the claims alleged in the complaints. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35.

In relation to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the complaint need only provide "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests,'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 ...


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