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Matthes v. MCP Hospital of Philadelphia

June 9, 2010


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


This is a prisoner civil rights case, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jurisdiction is federal question, 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

According to the amended complaint,*fn1 defendant Prison Health Services, Inc.*fn2 violated plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by providing inadequate medical care following multiple stab wounds in plaintiff's stomach - in particular, the failure to remove metal staples after his surgery. PHS moves to dismiss plaintiff's claims under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for non-exhaustion of administrative remedies, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Summary judgment will be entered for the following reasons.*fn3

The summary judgment record evinces the following.*fn4 On March 28, 2004, plaintiff was admitted to MCP Hospital for treatment of multiple stab wounds. Amended complaint, ¶ 4. Surgery was performed and metal staples were used. Id., ¶ 5; 3/29/04 post-surgical Xray report ("There are multiple surgical staples seen vertically oriented over the lumbar spine extending into the pelvis. There are several staples also seen over the right lateral iliac wing."), Exhibit "D." According to the complaint, on April 12, 2004, 15 staples were removed. Also on that date, plaintiff experienced weakness and pain in his stomach. Amended complaint, ¶ 7. Anti-seizure medications were administered by MCP physicians, resulting in swelling in plaintiff's stomach and arm. Id., ¶¶ 8-9. Plaintiff's medical records also evidence complaints of depression and a psychiatric consult, as well as complaints of constipation and treatment including special diet and enemas. Exhibit "D."

On April 19, 2004, plaintiff was moved from MCP to the Philadelphia Detention Center, and placed in the infirmary. Plaintiff's medical records, defendant's Exhibit "D." There, plaintiff complained of pain and requested that the remaining staples - to which he attributed his complaints - be removed. Amended complaint, ¶¶ 10-11. On May 12, 2004, X-rays were obtained and 10 additional staples removed. One week later, approximately four more staples were removed. Plaintiff continued to complain of lack of bowel movement. He was treated, albeit unsuccessfully, with enemas. Amended complaint, ¶ 14.

On May 21, 2004, plaintiff was moved to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. Amended complaint, ¶ 15. He continued to complain of pain, weakness, inactive bowel, and blood in his urine and stool - all of which he attributed to metal staples remaining in his stomach. Plaintiff's medical records reflect that the was seen and treated on 10 occasions for these complaints during the period May 21, 2004 through July 20, 2004 (as referred to in the amended complaint). On September 17, 2004, X-rays were obtained that showed that no staples remained in plaintiff's stomach. Exhibit "D."

"In order to state a cognizable claim [of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment] a prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence a deliberate indifference to a serious medical need." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976). This is a two-part test. Natale v. Camden Cty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003) ("the evidence must show (i) a serious medical need, and (ii) acts or omissions by prison officials that indicate deliberate indifference to that need."). "A medical need is 'serious' if it is 'one that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or one that is so obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Small v. Gillis, 2006 WL 1737501, at *3 (E.D. Pa., June 22, 2006), quoting Monmouth Cty. Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir. 1987).

Here, plaintiff's complaints of pain, weakness, and inability to move his bowels will be assumed to rise to the level of a serious medical need for the purpose of summary judgment.

As to deliberate indifference, however, the record does not present a triable issue. PHS is a private corporation that contracted with the Commonwealth to provide medical services to prison inmates.*fn5 In order to be held liable, PHS must be shown to have known of and acquiesced in the deprivation of plaintiff's rights. It must have acted "'with deliberate indifference to the consequences [of its acts, or] established and maintained a policy, practice or custom which directly caused [plaintiff's] harm.'" Roach v. SCI-Graterford Medical Dep't., 398 F.Supp.2d 379, 388 (E.D. Pa. 2005), quoting Stoneking v. Bradford Area Sch. Dist., 882 F.2d 720, 725 (3d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 492 U.S. 1044 (1990). Instead, this case shows that from the time he was admitted to the infirmary at the Philadelphia Detention Center on April 19, 2004, until July 20, 2004, plaintiff was evaluated on numerous occasions and treated for his complaints by prison medical personnel. Exhibit "D."

A plaintiff may not agree with or be satisfied by the medical attention in question. However, once it appears that care was given, "[c]complaints directed at the wisdom or quality of the medical care received from medical personnel will not state an Eighth Amendment violation under § 1983, even if the treatment was so negligent as to amount to malpractice." Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077, 1081 (3d Cir. 1976). See also Boring v. Kozakiewicz, 833 F.2d 468, 473 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 991(1988), quoting Inmates of Allegheny Cty. Jail v. Pierce, 612 F.2d 754, 762 (3d Cir. 1979) (a court will not "second-guess the propriety or adequacy of a particular course of treatment, [which] remains a question of sound professional judgment.")

For these reasons, summary judgment must be entered in favor of PHS.

Edmund V. ...

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