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Wheeler v. Prison Health Services

September 1, 2010

AARON CHRISTOPHER WHEELER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRISON HEALTH SERVICES, INC.; JEFFREY BEARD (IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY ON BEHALF OF THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS); DAVID DIGUGLIEMO (IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY ON BEHALF OF THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT GRATERFORD); AND JOHN DOES NO. 1 - 3; DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norma L. Shapiro, J.

MEMORANDUM

Before the court are two motions to dismiss Aaron Christopher Wheeler's second amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Wheeler's second amended complaint asserts two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a negligence claim under state law. This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1367.

I. Background

We accept the following factual allegations as true and draw all inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable to Wheeler. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008).

Plaintiff Aaron Christopher Wheeler ("Wheeler") is a prisoner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") housed at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford ("SCI-Graterford"). Wheeler was convicted on December 4, 1992, and is currently serving a sentence of 27-1/2 to 55 years in prison. At all relevant times, defendant Jeffrey A. Beard, Ph.D. ("Beard"), was the secretary of the DOC, and defendant David DiGuglielmo ("DiGuglielmo") was the warden at SCI-Graterford. Defendant Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS") is a corporation that has contracted with DOC to provide general health care and specialized medical services to inmates at prison facilities, including those at SCI-Graterford. Defendants John Doe #1 (tentatively identified as Doctor Stefanic),*fn1 #2 (a nurse), and #3 (a correctional officer) are individuals employed by or serving on behalf of PHS or SCI-Graterford; each are alleged to have contributed to the harms complained of in the complaint.

On or around February 25, 2006, Wheeler noticed a boil on his stomach. He also suffered from a high fever, swelling in his stomach area, and was in excessive pain. Wheeler requested medical care by completing a sick call request for treatment of the boil. Dr. Stefanic examined Wheeler on or around February 26, 2006. Dr. Stefanic diagnosed Wheeler with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ("MRSA"). He cut and drained the boil on Wheeler's stomach and prescribed the antibiotic Bactrim. The defendants failed to provide the prescribed antibiotic on February 26, 2006; Wheeler did not receive the prescribed medication until March 3, 2006. From March 7, 2006 through and including March 12, 2006, Dr. Stefanic cut and drained the boil on Wheeler's stomach daily. Since February 26, 2006, Wheeler has contracted staph infection and/or MRSA twenty-one times on various parts of his body including his face, arms, buttocks and chest.

Wheeler avers that the defendants: (1) deliberately and intentionally deprived him of the prescribed medication; (2) failed to inform him how to prevent the spread of MRSA to other parts of his body or to others; (3) failed to provide a sanitized environment to halt the spread of his condition; (4) failed to provide him with clean towels, bedding, razors, new clothes and liquid soap; and (5) never performed a culture or laboratory test on any of the infected areas. As a direct and proximate result of the actions of the defendants, Wheeler suffered physical and psychological harm, pain and suffering.

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is "plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads sufficient factual content to allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record, including judicial proceedings.

S. Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Wah Kwong Shipping Group, Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999). In the Third Circuit, a court must grant leave to amend before dismissing a civil rights complaint that is merely deficient. See, e.g., Phillips, 515 F.3d at 228; FletcherHarlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 252 (3d Cir. 2007).

III. Discussion

A. Counts I & II: The § 1983 Claims

Wheeler's amended complaint asserts two substantive counts for violations of Section 1983 against all defendants. Section 1983 authorizes redress for violation of constitutional ...


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