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David Peters v. Community Education Centers

October 19, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.


I. Introduction

Plaintiff David J. Peters ("Peters") brings this action against Moving Defendant Community Education Centers, Inc. ("CEC") and other unnamed defendants (collectively, "Defendants"), for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I and II) and for Pennsylvania state law claims of negligence (Count III), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV), and negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count V). CEC moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint with respect to Counts I, IV, and V, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, CEC's Motion is DENIED.

II. Factual and Procedural History

Peters' Amended Complaint alleges the following facts. Peters is a thirty-eight year-old male and citizen of Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 6. CEC is a for-profit New Jersey corporation that owns and operates the George W. Hill Correctional Facility ("the Prison") located at 500 Cheyney Road, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. Id. ¶¶ 7, 12. Sometime prior to January 2009, CEC was contracted by the Delaware County Prison Board to assume the responsibility of comprehensive correctional services at the Prison. Id. ¶ 13.

On September 17, 2010, a bench warrant was issued for Peters' arrest due to a failure to report to the Delaware County Department of Adult Probation and Parole. Id. ¶ 15. Peters' underlying conviction was for driving under the influence, in violation of 75 P.S. § 3802(a)(1). Id. ¶ 16. Beginning on October 6, 2010, Peters was incarcerated at the Prison. Id. ¶ 17.

Upon reporting to the Prison, Peters immediately notified Prison authorities that he suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta (a.k.a. brittle bone disease, or brittle bone syndrome). Id. ¶ 19. Accordingly, on or before October 18, 2010, Prison officials issued Peters a "special needs pass." Id. ¶ 20. That pass explicitly indicated that Peters needed to be assigned to a "lower bunk/tier" to limit the risk that he might fall or suffer other injury. Id. ¶¶ 21-22; Exh. A.

Despite CEC's actual knowledge that Peters has a serious medical condition, and despite the issuance of the special needs pass, Peters was housed on a top bunk during his incarceration. Id. ¶ 23. On numerous occasions, Peters verbally complained to Prison employees about being housed in the top bunk, but his complaints were ignored. Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

During the evening/night hours of October 25, 2010, Peters awoke form his sleep to use the restroom. Id. ¶ 26. During his descent from the top bunk, he fell to the ground. Id. ¶ 27. As a result of the fall, Peters fractured the radius and ulna bones of his left forearm and also injured his ankle. Id. ¶ 28-29.

Peters was taken to and treated at the Prison's in-house medical treatment facility. Id. ¶ 30. After a period of time spent "beleaguering" in pain, he arm was casted-but not set-by CEC's medical staff. Id. Since the time of his treatment, Peters has suffered intense and chronic pain in his left arm and right foot; he also suffers from decreased mobility of those body parts. Id. ¶ 34. His left wrist and forearm are now deformed and in need of further medical attention, potentially including surgery or fusion. Id. ¶ 33-34. His right foot may also require further medical attention, possibly due to fractures. Id. ¶ 35.

On April 13, 2011, Peters filed an Amended Complaint alleging violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of his Eighth Amendment rights-specifically, his right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment (Count I) and his right to be protected from severe physical and mental injury due to the Prison's failure to protect him/prevent harm by adequately training its employees (Count II). Peters also sought relief for state law claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress (Counts III, IV, and V, respectively). (ECF No. 11.) On May 3, 2011, CEC filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss Counts I, IV, and V. (ECF No. 13.) Peters responded on May 16, 2011, and CEC did not reply. (ECF No. 15.)

After Peters' response had been submitted and while this Motion was pending, the parties entered into a stipulation providing that Peters had abandoned all claims that "allege[d] a breach of a professional duty as it relates to the provision of medical care and the medical treatment provided to the Plaintiff." Stipulation and Order of September 20, 2011. (ECF No. 18.) The parties further stipulated that, although Peters had abandoned all claims sounding in professional negligence, he was "not waiving his claims of standard negligence as pleaded in his Amended Complaint as [they] relate[ ] to a failure to protect, or prevent harm." Id.

III. Summary of CEC's Motion

CEC attacks Peters' Amended Complaint on multiple grounds. First, with respect to Count I, CEC contends that Peters failed to state a claim under § 1983 for cruel and unusual punishment based on inadequate medical care in that Peters failed to plead that prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference" in providing his care. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976). CEC also argues that Count I must be dismissed because Peters did not adequately plead that CEC, a private contractor, ...

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