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Zheng v. Palakovich

September 20, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sylvia Rambo


Before the court is Defendant Rosalia Dominguez, M.D.'s motion to dismiss, (Doc. 99), Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 93). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

A. Facts*fn1

At all times relevant to this complaint, Joseph Holguin was an inmate at the State Correction Institution- Smithfield ("SCI-Smithfield"), located in Huntington County, Pennsylvania. Before being transferred to SCI-Smithfield, Holguin had been an inmate at SCI- Montgomery. While at Montgomery, it was determined that Holguin had long term depression issues and would need continuing treatment. It was also determined that he should be closer to his family, and was thus transferred to SCI-Smithfield on August 10, 2006.

September 5, 2006, was the first time Holguin, since being transferred to SCI-Smithfield, sent a request slip to prison medical staff informing them that he was severally depressed and wished to be placed on medication. On October 5, Holguin sent a request slip again asking that he be placed on medication because he was afraid he was going to hurt himself. Following these requests, on a monthly basis, Holguin sent requests slips to various prison personnel explaining his depression and requesting medication.

On October 2, 2006, Holguin was told by a counselor that the psychiatric department would be informed that he wished to see a psychiatrist. On August 14, 2007, Holguin filed another Inmate Request indicating that he was very depressed and that he wished to be placed back on his medication. He was told he would be seen by Dr. Dominguez. On September 5, 2007, Holguin filled out another Inmate Request and was told he would get to see Dr. Dominguez that same day. Holguin was not seen by anyone on September 5, 2007, and was told on September 6, 2007, that he was not on the list to see Dr. Dominguez. Holguin complained that he needed his medication stating, "I thought I would be able to handle not being on it, but I can't now I put in my last request on the 14th [of August]. I was told to wait till the 5th of this month and I did not get to talk to anybody. I need my medication." (Compl. ¶ 77.)

On September 7, 2007, Dr. Dominguez saw Holguin. Holguin informed her that he was feeling down. Dr. Dominguez prescribed ten milligrams of Prozac, even though Prozac is normally prescribed in twenty milligram increments. He was told on September 11, 2007, that he would be placed on his medication a day or two after meeting with Dr. Dominguez. On September 14, 2007, Dr. Dominguez changed Holguin's medication to twenty milligrams of Prozac and 100 milligrams of Elavil. However, Dr. Dominguez did not actually see Holguin until September 19, 2007. On this date she diagnosed Holguin as having "schizo-affective disorder major depressive disorder recurrent with psychotic features and borderline personality disorder." (Id. ¶ 81.)

On October 1, 2007, Holguin was placed in the Psychiatric Observation Cell ("POC"), where he remained until October 11, 2007. While in the POC, Holguin missed twelve meals and the Psychiatric Review Team determined that he was depressed. On October 4, 2007, Dr. Dominguez again met with Holguin, who told her he was feeling down and having suicidal thoughts. Dr. Dominguez increased Holguin's Prozac to forty milligrams, discontinued the Elavil and added various doses of both Sinequan and Depakene. On October 9, 2007, Dr. Dominguez again saw Holguin, who was covered in a blanket, would not go to the cell door, and refused to make eye contact.

On October 11, 2007, Holguin said he was depressed and checked himself into the Mental Health Unit for voluntary commitment. However, on October 15, 2007, he checked himself out. On October 16, 2007, Dr. Dominguez saw Holguin for the last time. She noted that he was "unfortunately" still in the POC while awaiting placement into the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). (Id. ¶ 88.) Even though Holguin indicated he would harm himself if transferred out of the POC back into the RHU, Dr. Dominguez nonetheless sent him back to the RHU. Twenty minutes after Holguin was seen by Dr. Dominguez, Holguin told another counselor that he would hurt himself if placed in a jumpsuit. The counselor informed Dr. Dominguez of this. Dr. Dominguez responded that she believed Holguin was manipulative, and disregarded the threat.

Holguin was transferred to the RHU and placed on seventy-two hour observation, but was never again seen by a psychiatrist. On October 29, 2007, Holguin was found to have hung himself with a bed sheet in his cell.

Plaintiff claims that Dr. Dominguez was deliberately indifferent to Hogluin's serious medical needs by readmitting him to the RHU, despite her knowledge that Holguin was severally mentally unstable.

B. Procedural History

On June 2, 2009, Plaintiff, as Administratrix of the estate of Holguin, filed her original complaint. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff has twice been given leave to amend the complaint, with the most recent filing being this Second Amended Complaint docketed on July 5, 2010. (Doc. 93.) On July 21, 2010, Defendant Dominguez field a motion to dismiss, (Doc. 99), followed by a brief in support on July 30, 2010, (Doc. 100). ...

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