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Bullock v. Beard

April 14, 2010

ROBERT ALLAN BULLOCK AND PHYLLIS LOIS BULLOCK, AS ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATE OF MATTHEW LEE BULLOCK PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JEFFREY A. BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are the Motions to Dismiss of Defendant Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS") (Doc. 5.), Defendant MHM Correctional Services, Inc. ("MHM") (Doc. 8), and Defendants Jeffrey Beard, Michael Klopotski, Jerome Walsh, Vincent Mooney, John Corbett, James Wilk, Robert Bath, Robert McCoy, Lawrence Pudlosky, Joseph Matello, Paul Sromovski, Andrem Sromovski, Tracy Starzynski, and Chester Filipiak ("Commonwealth Defendants")*fn1 (Doc. 10.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, these motions will be denied.

BACKGROUND

The facts alleged in the Complaint are as follows. On October 28, 2003, Plaintiffs' Decedent, Matthew Lee Bullock ("Decedent"), was found guilty but mentally ill on one count of murder in the third degree and one count of voluntary manslaughter. (Compl. ¶ 22.) At trial, evidence was presented that Decedent suffered from a panoply of psychiatric disorders, had struggled with auditory hallucinations and psychotic episodes, had multiple inpatient hospitalizations for mental illness, and had attempted suicide over twenty (20) times prior to his incarceration. (Compl. ¶ 23.)

Decedent was sentenced to twenty (20) to sixty (60) years in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, to be spent in a secure mental health facility for the needed treatment period. (Compl. ¶ 26.) Instead, Decedent was confined solely in State Correction Institutes; on July 15, 2009, Decedent was transferred to State Correctional Institute at Dallas ("SCID"). (Compl. ¶ 27.) While at various other correctional facilities before his transfer to SCID, Decedent attempted suicide at least three (3) times. (Compl. ¶¶ 29-31.) On July 31, 2009, Decedent told staff at SCID that he was hearing voices, was "stressed" because his victim was related to an SCID employee, and also made self-inflicted cuts on the inside of his wrists. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-34.) At some point following this incident, Decedent's psychiatric medications were decreased and he was placed in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU").*fn2 (Compl. ¶¶ 35-36.)

On August 24, 2009, Decedent threatened to kill himself; the Defendant Correctional Officers were aware of this threat, as were the other Commonwealth Defendants.*fn3 (Compl. ¶¶ 45.) Following this threat, the Defendant Correctional Officers moved Decedent to a cell that did not have an observation camera, permitted Decedent to possess "instrumentalities which are commonly used to commit or attempt suicide in a prison setting," incited Decedent to kill himself, and failed to check Decedent's cell every fifteen (15) minutes per prison policy. (Compl. ¶¶ 45-47.) At approximately 6:15 P.M. on August 24, 2009, Decedent was found hanging in his cell; he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. (Compl. ¶¶ 48-49.) The manner of death was determined to be suicide. (Compl. ¶ 49.)

Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants Beard, Klopotosky, Walsh and Mooney, who were administrators, supervisors and managers for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and SCID, were deliberately indifferent in the training of prison personnel in regard to procedures for the identification, segregation and treatment of suicidal and/or mentally ill prisoners. (Compl. ¶¶ 56-58.) Specifically, they were deliberately indifferent in the training of prison personnel in 1) monitoring suicidal or mentally ill inmates, 2) ensuring that mentally ill inmates were provided adequate food and showers, 3) ensuring that mentally ill inmates are housed in areas with proper lighting, ventilation and surveillance, 4) ensuring that mentally ill inmates are placed on fifteen (15) minute observations or transferred to a psychiatric facility, 5) discouraging suicidal tendencies instead of actively encouraging them, and 6) ensuring that mentally ill inmates do not have instruments of suicide. (Compl. ¶ 59.) It is also alleged that the defendants "condoned the disregard of the medical and psychiatric needs of the inmates entrusted to their care, such that Decedent's death was substantially likely to occur." (Compl. ¶ 60.)

Furthermore, it was the policy or custom of these defendants to permit 1) inappropriate monitoring of suicidal or mentally ill inmates, 2) failures in ensuring that mentally ill inmates were provided adequate food and showers, 3) failures in ensuring that mentally ill inmates are housed in areas with proper lighting, ventilation and surveillance, 4) failures in ensuring that mentally ill inmates are placed on fifteen (15) minute observations or transferred to a psychiatric facility, 5) failures in discouraging suicidal tendencies instead of actively encouraging them, and 6) failures to ensure that mentally ill inmates do not have instruments of suicide. (Compl. ¶ 62.)

Plaintiff also alleged that MHM and PHS had a policy or custom to 1) provide the absolute minimum of health and psychiatric care to inmates of SCID, 2) discontinue treatment and not provide the appropriate dosages of psychiatric medication, and 3) provide the least amount of medical care possible so that they could reap the largest amount of profit possible. (Compl. ¶¶ 71, 78-79.) These actions allegedly exhibited a deliberate indifference to Decedent's psychiatric needs and constitutional rights. (Compl. ¶ 81.)

Plaintiffs filed the instant Complaint in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas on January 26, 2010. The Complaint brought causes of action against all Commonwealth Defendants and John Does 1-15*fn4 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Decedent's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights (Count 1), Defendants Beard, Klopotosky, Walsh and Mooney pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Decedent's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights (Count 2), and MHM, PHS and John Does 16-25*fn5 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Decedent's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights (Count 3). On February 23, 2010, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal. (Doc. 1.)

On March 1, 2010, PHS filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 5.) On March 2, 2010, MHM filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8.) On March 3, 2010, Commonwealth Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 10.) These motions have all been fully briefed and are currently ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant [with] the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or "'legal conclusions,'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. ...


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