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Samuel Williams v. Prison Health Care Systems

October 13, 2011

SAMUEL WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRISON HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS, DR. ALLEN SNYDER, NURSE STACY
LATKANICH, ADMINISTRATOR LORI KWISNEK, ANGIE MARHEFKA (GRIEVANCE COORDINATOR),
TONI COLLAND, KRISTEN P. REISINGER (CHIEF GRIEVANCE OFFICER), DORINA VARNER
(CHIEF GRIEVANCE OFFICER), SUPERINTENDENT MELVIN S. LOCKETT, SUPERINTENDENT JOSEPH F. MAZURKIEWICZ, CORRECTIONAL AND HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION SUED IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kelly, Magistrate Judge

[ECF Nos. 12 & 29]

U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly

OPINION

Plaintiff, Samuel Williams ("Williams"), an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg ("SCIG"), has brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution by disregarding his health care needs and that, as a result, he is legally blind in his right eye. Defendants Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS") and Dr. Snyder (collectively, "the Medical Defendants"), and Defendants Nurse Stacy Latkanich, Administrator Lori Kwisnek, Grievance Coordinator Angie Marhefka, Toni Colland, Chief Grievance Officer Kristen P. Reisinger, Chief Grievance Officer Dorina Varner, Superintendent Melvin S. Lockett, and Superintendent Joseph F. Mazurkiewicz (collectively, "the DOC Defendants"), have filed motions to dismiss which are presently before the Court. For the reasons that follow, both motions will be granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

According to the Complaint, Williams had a boil on his face that he brought to the attention of the medical staff at SCIG in or about February of 2006. [ECF No. 3 ¶ 18]. Williams alleges that Dr. Snyder recommended that the boil be cut open and drained but the recommendation was ignored by the medical staff who told Williams it would go away. It was not until February of 2010, when the boil became infected, that he was given a shot for the infection. [Id. at ¶¶ 19-21].

Williams also alleges that "he filed a number of requests and sick call slips" with the medical staff complaining about a sandy feeling in his eye but received no treatment even though one of the correctional officers called the medical staff on his behalf. [Id. at ¶¶ 23-24]. Williams was subsequently rushed to the emergency room at Westmoreland County Hospital after fluid began to run from his eye. He was later transferred to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ("UPMC") where he was seen by Dr. Freisberg and operated on for a detached retina. [Id. at ¶ 26]. Williams contends that upon his return to SCIG, Defendants failed to comply with Dr. Freisberg's post-operative instructions that he was to be single celled, cell fed and given certain pain medications. [Id. at ¶ 27]. In particular, Williams alleges that Nurse Stacy Latkanich declined to administer the pain medication prescribed by Dr. Freisberg because they contained steroids; that Dr. Snyder acted negligently and with deliberate indifference by failing to compel his assistant to provide Williams with the prescribed medication; that the Health Care Administrator violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to properly train the medical personnel to provide proper health care; and that, by failing to prevent the harm, the remaining Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. [Id. at ¶¶ 28, 37-40, 42-44].

Williams filed the instant Complaint on November 17, 2010, to which he has attached copies of the grievances he filed and the review letters he received as Exhibits E, F, G, J, K and L. The Medical Defendants and the DOC Defendants filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) on January 11, 2011 and February 4, 2011, respectively, which are now ripe for review. [ECF Nos. 12, 29].

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court held that a complaint is properly dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) where it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint, the Court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Odd v. Malone, 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court, however, need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Public Employees‟ Retirement System v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations; rather, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding that, under Twombly, "labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" do not suffice but, rather, the complaint "must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct" and that are sufficient "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s] of his claim").

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Medical Defendants' Motion

The Medical Defendants contend that the § 1983 claims brought against them by Williams are properly dismissed because he has not only failed to state a claim of deliberate indifference or pled sufficient facts to show that PHS was personally involved in the alleged wrongs, but that Williams' claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Because it appears that the majority of Williams' claims are, indeed, untimely the Court will address the latter argument first.

Congress did not specify a statute of limitations for actions arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266 (1985), superseded by statute as recognized in, Kasteleba v. Judge, 325 Fed. Appx. 153, 156 (3d Cir. April 28, 2009). Courts, therefore, are to consider § 1983 actions as tort actions and borrow the statute of limitations for personal injury or tort actions from the appropriate state. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. at 278. The state statute of limitations for personal injury/tort actions in Pennsylvania is two (2) years. 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5524. See Smith v. Holtz, 87 F.3d 108, 111 n.2 (3d Cir. 1996). ...


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