Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Claudio Hernandez v. John A. Palakovich

September 12, 2011

CLAUDIO HERNANDEZ,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN A. PALAKOVICH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM

This civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was filed by Claudio Hernandez, an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield ("SCI-Smithfield"). At the time, he was proceeding pro se in this matter. He is now represented by counsel and the action proceeds on an amended complaint filed on January 28, 2011. (Doc. No. 105.) Named as Defendants are the following individuals employed at SCI-Smithfield during the relevant time period: John A. Palakovich, Superintendent; Victoria Kormanic, Deputy Superintendent; George Weaver, Health Care Administrator; and Dr. Ronald Long, prison physician. Plaintiff sets forth claims of deliberate indifference to medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment and related state claims. Pending is a motion to dismiss the amended complaint filed by Defendants Palakovich, Kormanic and Weaver. (Doc. No. 108.) For the reasons that follow the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

When Plaintiff filed his original complaint in this action he named the Defendants

referenced above as well as the SCI-Smithfield Medical Department, Holy Spirit Hospital and John Doe, a surgeon at Holy Spirit Hospital. Motions to dismiss the complaint were thereafter filed by Defendants. On November 10, 2010, a Memorandum and Order was issued granting the motions to dismiss but affording Plaintiff the opportunity to submit an amended complaint with respect to his claims against Defendants Long, Palakovich, Kormanic and Weaver. (Doc. No. 99.) Defendants Holy Spirit Hospital and John Doe were dismissed from the action without leave to amend.

On January 24, 2011, Plaintiff, with the assistance of counsel, submitted his amended complaint. (Doc. No. 105.) He alleges that just after beginning his 4-12 year state sentence he began to feel an irritating and burning sensation in his left eye. He first received medical treatment for his eye in early 2004 when unidentified SCI-Smithfield officials sent him to JC Blair Memorial Hospital. He was advised there that he had a cataract in his left eye and that laser surgery was the appropriate treatment. On March 23, 2004, Plaintiff underwent what he expected to be routine cataract surgery on his left eye at Holy Spirit Hospital. Although he was told that laser surgery would be performed, hospital personnel instead performed surgery with a scalpel. As a result, Plaintiff maintains he sustained injury to his cornea. In addition, he states that the surgery was not effective and that he did not heal properly.

Plaintiff states that while he was being treated at Holy Spirit Hospital, he was housed temporarily at SCI-Camp Hill because of its proximity to the hospital. Following surgery, he was prescribed a series of eye drops and transferred back to SCI-Smithfield. He contends that the eye drops were ineffective and worsened his condition. He claims that because of the "blotched" operation and ineffective treatment, his left eye became infected. (Id. at ¶ 14.) He claims that after he notified SCI-Smithfield officials of the worsening condition of his eye due to the infection, he did not receive medical treatment for almost one week and suffered ongoing pain and discomfort.*fn1

Plaintiff alleges that due to the deteriorating condition of his left eye, he was prescribed a set of "protective tinted glasses." (Id. at ¶ 16.) However, he contends that he did not receive the glasses for over two (2) years. When he finally received the glasses, they were allegedly "non-tinted reading glasses." (Id.) Following several requests, tint was added to the glasses at Plaintiff's expense. Plaintiff claims that, at all relevant times, Defendant Long was his treating physician and that Defendant Weaver was the Health Care Administrator at SCI-Smithfield. According to Plaintiff, Long and Weaver knew about his medical problems concerning his left eye and the ongoing ineffective and improper treatment.

On December 16, 2004, Plaintiff was taken to see Dr. Schietroma. Dr. Schietroma recommended surgery to remove Plaintiff's left eye to eliminate the infection and prevent it from spreading to the right eye. According to Plaintiff, Dr. Schietroma also told him that the surgery would alleviate the discomfort caused by the infection. Surgery was scheduled for January 7, 2005. Prior to that date, Nurse Jackie at SCI-Smithfield gave Plaintiff a form to sign and told him that if he did not sign it, he could not have the surgery. Two (2) other unidentified nurses also were involved in the conversation. Plaintiff alleges that he does not speak English and was unable to read or understand the form. He states that the form was not explained to him, and his request to consult with an attorney prior to signing the form was denied. As a result, Plaintiff declined to sign the form, and the surgery was not performed. Plaintiff contends that the form presented to him constituted a policy, practice, and custom of SCI-Smithfield with respect to the treatment of prisoners.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Palakovich, Kormanic, Weaver, and Long bore supervisory responsibility for his medical care and knew of the policy, practice, and custom of requiring prisoners to sign a form as a condition of receiving medical treatment without making certain that they understood the form. As such, Plaintiff claims that they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff states that he lost the vision in his left eye, suffers from deteriorating vision in his right eye, and has suffered significant physical and emotional distress.

Following the above allegations, Plaintiff sets forth specific counts in the amended complaint. Count I is alleged against all four (4) Defendants for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. He states that, at all relevant times, he was under the custody of SCI-Smithfield and, therefore, Defendants were constitutionally obligated to provide him with medical care.*fn2 He states that his eye condition constituted a serious medical need and that the surgery scheduled for January 7, 2005 could have prevented his significant discomfort as well as the spreading of the infection to his right eye. He claims all Defendants "bore supervisory responsibility" for his medical care and that the form presented to him for signature before surgery constituted a policy, practice, or custom of SCI-Smithfield related to the medical treatment of prisoners of which Defendants knew or should have been aware of, and that they disregarded the excessive risk that his treatment would be conditioned on the signing of a form that he did not understand.

In the alterative, Plaintiff claims that, upon information and belief, Defendants knew of the policy, custom, or practice of requiring prisoners to sign a form as a condition of receiving medical treatment without taking steps to ensure that they understood the form. He alleges claims of deliberate indifference against each of the Defendants on the basis that he was denied surgery for his serious medical need for refusing to sign the form.

Plaintiff also asserts a separate count of deliberate indifference against Defendants Long and Weaver. He bases this count upon the failure to provide him with medical care for his left eye for a one (1) week period after he notified SCI-Smithfield officials of his worsening condition following surgery, and for the failure to provide him with the prescribed tinted glasses for over two (2) years. The remaining counts are against Defendant Long for medical ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.