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Albert Juan Ortiz v. Prison Board Members

March 7, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo


This pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was initiated by Plaintiff Albert Juan Ortiz ("Ortiz"), an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Graterford, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Graterford"). Remaining Defendants are Warden Dominick DeRose, Captain Lahr, Deputy Warden Nichols, and Lisa Reitz, R.N., all of whom were employed at the Dauphin County Prison.*fn1

I. Background

A. Facts

This matter regards events which purportedly transpired during Plaintiff's prior confinement as a pre-trial detainee at the Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. With respect to Moving Defendant Reitz, the amended complaint contends that prior to being taken into custody, Plaintiff was prescribed high blood pressure and heart medication. During a 138 day period of time (approximately May-August, 2008) when the prison was in a prolonged lockdown, Ortiz contends that he was denied those medications, an adequate diet,*fn2 as well as other treatment .*fn3 (Doc. 33-3, ¶¶ 22-23.) As a result of those purported deprivations, Plaintiff allegedly fainted.

The amended complaint concludes that Defendant Reitz's conduct during the lockdown constituted deliberate indifference to his medical needs as contemplated under the Eighth Amendment.Ortiz seeks injunctive and declaratory relief along with compensatory and punitive damages.

B. Procedural History

On June 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.*fn4 (Doc. 33-3.) This matter was subsequently reassigned to the undersigned on June 30, 2010. On December 21, 2010, the court issued a memorandum and order which denied Defendant Lisa Reitz's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint.*fn5 (Doc. 42.)

By memorandum and order dated February 28, 2011, a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint filed by Defendants Dominick DeRose, Lahr, and Nichols was partially granted. (Doc. 51.) Dismissal was granted with respect to Plaintiff's claims of: (1) denial of access to the courts; (2) negligence under § 1983; (3) deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs; and (4) violation of the First Amendment. However, the motion to dismiss was denied regarding the claim that those Defendants subjected Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement during the course of an institutional lockdown.

Presently pending is Defendant Reitz's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 37.) The unopposed motion is ripe for consideration.

III. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001).

A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Twp. of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. (internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "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 at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. "'Such affirmative evidence -- regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial -- must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'" Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)).

It is undisputed that Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee during the relevant time period, as such his claims must be considered under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as opposed to the Eighth Amendment, which is the applicable standard for ...

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