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Darrell Morton v. City of Philadelphia; Warden

February 15, 2011

DARRELL MORTON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; WARDEN
CLYDE D. GAINEY; AMERICA
SERVICE GROUP, INC.; PRISON
HEALTH SERVICES, INC.; A.R. CAULK,
M.D.; MOHAMMED HAQUE, M.D.;
ARNONE, M.D.; EKE KALU, M.D.;
ARIA HEALTH; FRANKFORD
HOSPITAL; MATTHEW MCLEAN, M.D.;
MATTHEW YOUNG, D.O.; JOHN DOE,
M.D. (I-III); AND ABC CORP., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants City of Philadelphia (the "City"), Warden Clyde D. Gainey ("Warden Gainey"), America Service Group Inc., Prison Health Services, Inc., ("PHS")*fn1 , A.R. Caulk, M.D. ("Dr. Caulk"), Mohammed Haque, M.D. ("Dr. Haque"), James Arnone, M.D. ("Dr. Arnone"), and Eke Kalu, M.D.'s ("Dr. Kalu") Motion for Summary Judgment against Plaintiff Darrell Morton ("Morton"). Also before this Court is Defendants Frankford Hospital ("Frankford") and Aria Health's ("Aria")*fn2 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment against Morton. For the reasons set forth below, the Summary Judgment Motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Morton filed the instant Complaint on October 22, 2009 alleging a violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and medical malpractice related to medical care that he received in the Philadelphia Prison System beginning on July 1, 2008. Morton, an inmate at a county correctional institution named Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF"), contends that on July 1, 2009 he was caused to slip and fall on a slippery floor surface inside of this facility. (Compl.¶ 19.) Morton states that on July 2, 2008, he was transported to Frankford Hospital with complaints of pain in his thighs, legs, and an inability to walk. (Id. ¶ 20.) X-rays at Frankford revealed hip fractures, but the attending physician there determined that although there was "no need for emergent surgery, he should follow up at a university center for additional consultations and/or definitive treatment," and it was recommended that he get additional therapy to his hips, thighs and legs after he returned to CFCF. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Morton asserts that at no time subsequent to his release from Frankford Hospital and return to CFCF was he ever transported to a university hospital for any type of consultation, nor did he receive any physical therapy from PHS. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) Morton also claims that he did not receive any diagnostic or radiology testing in the months of July and August 2008 (Id. ¶ 29.) He avers further that on or around July 16, 2008, a prison health progress note indicated that Morton should have an orthopedic follow up as soon as possible, and that no such follow up was scheduled for the months of July, August, or September 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 31-34.) Morton states that from July 2, 2008 until September 10, 2008, he was continuously vocal about his hip pain and symptoms which were documented by the prison medical staff, but he received no medical relief or treatment from PHS. (Id. ¶ 38.) Morton avers that he finally had an orthopedic consultation with Dr. Dennis Mc Hugh, and that on October 27, 2008, he was admitted into Mercy Suburban Hospital where he underwent a hip procedure called a "bilateral bipolar hemi-arthroplastics" performed by Dr. McHugh. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) Morton asserts that all defendants were informed by Frankford Hospital that he had urgent medical needs and required treatment yet, in violation of his Eight Amendment constitutional rights, they repeatedly refused to treat him and send him to the recommended facilities for consultations, therapy, and diagnostic testing. (Id. ¶¶ 43-45.) Morton asserts that this delay in treatment caused permanent deformities and gait impairments, and that all defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. (Id. ¶¶ 48-54.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) states that summary judgment is proper "if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court asks "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether . . . one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law. Further, a dispute over a material fact must be 'genuine,' i.e., the evidence must be such 'that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.'" Compton v. Nat'l League of Prof'l Baseball Clubs, 995 F. Supp. 554, 561 n.14 (E.D. Pa. 1998).

Summary judgment must be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has produced evidence in support of summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the allegations set forth in its pleadings and counter with evidence that presents "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1362-63 (3d Cir. 1992). "More than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" must be presented by the non-moving party in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Tziatzios v. United States, 164 F.R.D. 410, 411-12 (E.D. Pa. 1996). If the court determines that there are no genuine issues of material fact, then summary judgment will be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Deliberate Indifference

The Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment requires that prison officials provide inmates with adequate medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). The Estelle Court determined that in order to state a cognizable claim, a prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Id. at 106. Therefore, to succeed under these principles, Morton must demonstrate (1) that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and (2) that those needs were serious. Seeid.

It is well-settled that claims of negligence or medical malpractice, without some more culpable state of mind, do not constitute "deliberate indifference." As the Estelle Court noted: "[I]n the medical context, an inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care cannot be said to constitute 'an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' or to be 'repugnant to the conscience of mankind.'" Id. at 105; see alsoRouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999); Durmer v. O'Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 67 (3d Cir. 1993) ("[T]he law is clear that simple medical malpractice is insufficient to present a constitutional violation."). "Deliberate indifference," therefore, requires "obduracy and wantonness," Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986), which has been likened to conduct that includes recklessness or a conscious disregard of a serious risk. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994) (stating that "it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm").

The Third Circuit has found "deliberate indifference" in a variety of circumstances, including where the prison official (1) knows of a prisoner's need for medical treatment but intentionally refuses to provide it; (2) delays necessary medical treatment based on a non-medical reason; or (3) prevents a prisoner from receiving needed or recommended medical treatment. SeeDurmer, 991 F.2d at 68.

We first note that there is no issue in this case that Morton meets the "serious medical need" part of the Estelle standard. There is no dispute that Morton somehow injured his hips on July 1, 2008. He was carried by stretcher to the CFCF medical unit where he was twice prescribed pain medication and taken back to his cell. The following day, he was transported to Frankford Hospital where he was diagnosed with two broken hips that needed surgical repair. Ultimately, on October 27, 2008, four months after Morton's initial diagnosis, he underwent hip replacement surgery. Thus, our focus is on the second part of the Estelle standard- whether the Defendant physicians were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. 429 U.S. at 106.

Morton has brought a cause of action for "deliberate indifference" against CFCF physician, Dr. Haque, CFCF's Chronic Care Physician, Dr. Caulk, CFCF's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Arnone, and CFCF's Medical Director, Dr. Kalu. As will be discussed, infra, we are of the opinion that sufficient evidence exists in the record that each of these physicians committed acts and/or failed to act to get Morton the orthopedic care that he needed which a reasonable jury could conclude amount to "deliberate indifference" to Morton's serious medical needs. The record contains evidence of a healthcare system at CFCF that neglected the needs of inmates that needed immediate orthopedic care and/or other immediate medical attention. The deposition testimony of the Defendant physicians describes a medical care environment of confusion and uncertainty regarding each physician's responsibilities to ensure that an inmate patient gets the medical that care he needs. As will be discussed below, ...


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