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Jerry Shrubb v. Warden

January 30, 2012


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


Plaintiff, Jerry Shrubb, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging various federal and state law claims arising out of his fifteen-day confinement at the Jefferson County Prison in August 2007. He names two groups of defendants: 1) the warden and deputy warden of Jefferson County Prison and John Does Correctional Officer(s)/Sergeant(s), (collectively, the "Jefferson County Defendants"); and 2) PrimeCare Medical, Inc., Glenna Bodenhorn, R.N., Carrie Mitchell, L.P.N., Cynthia Stradofsky, L.P.N. and Cindy Cunningham, PA (collectively, the "Medical Defendants").

Currently pending for disposition are two motions for summary judgment, one filed by the Jefferson County Defendants (ECF No. 68) and the other by the Medical Defendants (ECF No. 73). For the reasons that follow, the motions will be granted.


This matter arises from Plaintiff's fifteen-day incarceration at Jefferson County Prison from August 17, 2007 to September 1, 2007, while waiting transfer after receiving a six to twelve-year prison sentence to a State Correctional Institution. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11-12.)*fn1 On August 17, 2007, Plaintiff was convicted by a jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Elk County, Pennsylvania of five counts of arson, burglary and receiving stolen property. (Shrubb Dep. at 55, 100;*fn2 Sentencing Disposition*fn3 ; Warmbrodt Aff. ¶ 5.*fn4 ) After being convicted, Plaintiff was detained in Elk County Prison, but was moved within hours to the Jefferson County Prison. (Shrubb Dep. at 51.) Elk County Prison did a screening of Plaintiff during intake. (ECF No. 70 Ex. C; Warmbrodt Aff. ¶¶ 6-7.)

Plaintiff claims to have mental health diagnoses of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") stemming from his being physically assaulted several years prior to the incarceration in question. He also claims to have obsessive-compulsive disorder ("OCD"). (Shrubb Dep. at 24-25, 27.) Plaintiff claims to have degenerative discs in his cervical spine that cause neck and shoulder pain. He also claims to have had temporomandibular joint disorder ("TMJ") as a result of the earlier assault. He claims that this disorder caused him to have severe headaches. (Shrubb Dep. at 25, 33.)

The Elk County Prison put Plaintiff on suicide watch with fifteen-minute checks because of his mental health problems and his sentence. (Shrubb Dep. at 101-02; ECF No. 70 Ex. D; Warmbrodt Aff. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff does not believe that Elk County Prison had a camera in his suicide watch cell. Elk County Prison did restrict the items in his cell, and gave him a quilted blanket and a smock in the "same sort of situation" as he later had at the Jefferson County Prison. (Shrubb Dep. at 102.)

When the Elk County Prison transferred Plaintiff to the Jefferson County Prison, it sent a copy of his Committing Sheet, which stated that "Inmate is on 15 min checks due to past history his sentence." (ECF No. 70 Ex. D; Warmbrodt Aff. ¶¶ 11-12.) Plaintiff stated that having been convicted and sentenced caused him to enter a manic state, with his mania progressing toward hallucinations. (Shrubb Dep. at 115.) When he left the Elk County Prison, he was in a manic state. (Shrubb Dep. at 111.)

Plaintiff contends that he should not have been placed on suicide watch. He cites an Intake Suicide Screening form which indicates that an inmate should be placed on suicide watch if he meets eight or more criteria, but he met only four. (ECF No. 86 Ex. A.) The Jefferson County Defendants respond that the form Plaintiff cites was a PrimeCare Medical, Inc. form and that he was placed on suicide watch by Elk County Prison not based solely on that form but also due to his past history and his sentence.

A. Transfer to Jefferson County Prison

At 7:46 p.m. on August 17, 2007, Plaintiff was transferred to the Jefferson County Prison due to overcrowding. (Shrubb Dep. at 55-56; ECF No. 70 Ex. E; Warmbrodt Aff. ¶ 13; Pl.'s Statement Disputed Factual Issues ¶ 1;*fn5 Jefferson County Defs.' Resp. ¶ 1.*fn6 ) When he was transferred, Plaintiff was still in a manic state. (Shrubb Dep. at 110.) After he arrived at the Jefferson County Prison, he was evaluated and processed. (ECF No. 70 Exs. E, F, I, J.) During his processing, Plaintiff signed a commitment sheet stating, inter alia, that he had received the Inmate Handbook. (ECF No. 70 Ex. F.) He also completed a list of visitors he wanted. (ECF No. 70 Ex. G.)

During his processing, Plaintiff was seen by an intake nurse. (Shrubb Dep. at 56.) Medical care at the Jefferson County Prison was provided by PrimeCare Medical, Inc. ("PrimeCare"), pursuant to a contract titled the Comprehensive Health Services Agreement. (ECF No. 70 Ex. H.)

At the time of his transfer from Elk County Prison to Jefferson County Prison, Plaintiff claims that health care providers had prescribed him Lamictal for his bipolar disorder, Seroquel for when he was "starting to lose touch a little bit and get aggressive," and Klonopin. For his alleged neck pain, he claims to have been prescribed Lorcet (hydrocodone). (Shrubb Dep. at 34-35.) When he was transferred, Plaintiff brought his prescription medications with him. (Shrubb Dep. at 58.) He claims that he asked the intake nurse for his narcotics (Lorcet) but the nurse said she could not give them to him until he had been seen by a doctor. (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.)

PrimeCare's records reveal that Plaintiff was given an intake assessment on August 19, 2007. (ECF No. 75 Ex. B.) The intake assessment indicates that Plaintiff received psychiatric medications. The Dispensary Card for Plaintiff indicates that he was given Lithium, Lamictal, Seroquel, and Klonopin on August 17, 2007, and for the duration of his incarceration at Jefferson County Prison. Plaintiff was also given Tylenol and Motrin for pain management. (ECF No. 75 Ex. C.) Plaintiff challenges these notations, arguing that the Dispensary Cards indicate that the medications were not ordered until August 23, 2007, that the cards list Plaintiff as receiving Motrin even after he requested that it be discontinued and that the cards suggest he was given medications by the same individual at 6:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. as if that person worked more than a thirteen-hour shift. He also argues that the fifteen-minute mental health checks document only ten instances during his incarceration at the Jefferson County Prison when he was offered his medications, as opposed to the Dispensary Cards which state that he received his medications three times a day.

A request form was available to inmates, as explained in the Inmate Handbook. (ECF No. 70 Ex. I at 3.) On the night of his arrival (August 17, 2007), he executed a request form to "speak with a lawyer," complained about "lack of medical attention and pills" and complained "that I was transferred to Jefferson Co." (ECF No. 70 Ex. K; Shrubb Dep. at 68-71.)

Plaintiff also submitted a sick call slip and was seen by a nurse. In that slip, he indicated that he required Lorcet or Hydrocdone for pain from degenerative disc disease and TMJ. (ECF No. 75 Ex A.)

Between the manic state he was already in and the refusal to provide him with narcotics, Plaintiff was "agitated." (Am. Compl. ¶ 38.) As was the case in the Elk County Prison, Plaintiff was placed on suicide watch in the Jefferson County Prison. His actions were recorded every fifteen minutes on check sheets. The first notation was made at 12:05 a.m. on August 18, 2007. (ECF No. 70 Ex. J.)

Plaintiff's suicide watch cell was equipped with a video camera. He agrees that it is possible that the lights were left on for purposes of the camera. (Shrubb Dep. at 122.) The cell at the Jefferson County Prison is the only cell Plaintiff remembers being in that was equipped with a video camera. (Shrubb Dep. at 106.)

The correctional officers were checking on him every 15 minutes. They told him that they periodically did so by watching him on the camera. (Shrubb Dep. at 103.) Plaintiff claims that the lights were left on at different periods during his incarceration. However, he admits that it is possible that the lights needed to be on for purposes of the camera. (Shrubb Dep. at 122.)

B. August 18, 2007

On the morning of August 18, 2007, Plaintiff claims that he asked for his narcotics, and was given Tylenol. In response, he "began pounding on his cell door with his hands and feet and began loudly shouting and singing." He "continue[d] being annoying" because he wanted "everyone else . to suffer the same misery" as he. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 62-68, 79-80.) The 15- minute mental health checks records document that, at 11:30 a.m., Plaintiff was under his bunk and ordered to get out. (ECF No. 70 Ex. J.) At 3:30 p.m., he was placed in a suicide smock, also known as a "turtle suit" or a "pickle suit." (Shrubb Dep. at 116; ECF No. 70 Ex. J.) On that same day, Plaintiff executed a request form to add persons to his telephone lists. (ECF No. 70 Ex. K.)

C. August 19, 2007

On August 19, 2007, the nurse saw Plaintiff again. He thinks he told the nurse that he was in pain and wanted his Lorcet. The nurse told him she could not prescribe it without him being seen by the doctor. The nurse gave him Tylenol. (Shrubb Dep. at 64-65; Am. Compl. ¶ 89.) He signed a form explaining how to sign up to see a doctor. (Shrubb Dep. at 63-64.)

Plaintiff takes issue with the number of showers he received during his incarceration at the Jefferson County Prison. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 168-70.) The 15-minute records document him asking for and receiving a shower at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.) on August 19, 2007. (ECF No. 70 Ex. J.) He acknowledges that this is "possible." (Shrubb Dep. at 133.)

D. August 20-21, 2007

On August 20, 2007, Plaintiff executed request forms for narcotics to both the warden and deputy warden. (ECF No. 70 Ex. K.) He indicated that "I have not yet received my prescribed pain pills." (ECF No. 75 Ex. A.) Plaintiff was seen thereafter and given Motrin. Plaintiff seems to understand that narcotic pain medication can have interactions with his psychiatric prescriptions. (Am. Compl. ¶ 31.) He wrote that he believed his medical and mental health needs were not being addressed through requested prescription medication. (ECF No. 75 Ex. A.) Plaintiff has admitted that he "loses touch with reality" and claims he was manic during this time. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 68-71, 102.)

On August 21, 2007, Plaintiff rolled up his blanket into a cylinder and began playing "stick poi" with it. (Shrubb Dep. at 116-17; Am. Compl. ¶ 102.) A female officer told him to "hand over the blanket because she believed [he] was going to harm [himself] with it[.]" (Shrubb Dep. at 117.) Plaintiff agrees that it "may have been her perception" that he was trying to commit suicide. (Shrubb Dep. at 118.) He was on suicide watch at the time. (Shrubb Dep. at 118.) He put the blanket through the 6 by 9 inch mail slot. The female officer pulled on it, but it got "jammed" in the slot. She lost her balance and slammed against the wall. (Shrubb Dep. at 119.) Officers then gave a "quick" search of his cell. Plaintiff agrees it was not unreasonable to do so. (Shrubb Dep. at 120.)

The officers found a tear on the suicide smock which, according to Plaintiff, was "threads started to come loose . sticking up" on its Velcro fasteners "which are supposed to be untearable" so that a suicidal inmate cannot use it to harm himself. They confiscated it. (Shrubb Dep. at 121.) After the suicide smock was confiscated, Plaintiff was allowed to keep his blanket. (Shrubb Dep. at 121.) Plaintiff does not know which officers were involved in this incident. The Jefferson County Prison "had a couple female officers." He does not remember what the female officer looked like. (Shrubb Dep. at 138.)

Also on August 21, 2007, he executed a request form to speak to the doctor. He wrote that he has "a medical condition that needs to be treated and looked at more carefully." (ECF No. 70 Ex. K.) On August 21, 2007, Plaintiff submitted another sick call slip asking to see a doctor (ECF No. 75 Ex. A.) Plaintiff admits that on Tuesday, August 21, 2007, he was seen by a psychologist for Jefferson County. (Am. Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 92, 174.) Plaintiff further admits that at all times he was provided ...

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