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Daryl Thomas v. John Palakovich

March 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)



Presently before the Court are Magistrate Judge Blewitt's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") and Plaintiff Daryl Thomas's Objections. Magistrate Judge Blewitt reviewed Mr. Thomas's complaint and recommended that it be dismissed with prejudice. The R & R will be rejected in part because the face of the complaint does not demonstrate that Mr. Thomas's claims are untimely or that he failed to exhaust. But the R & R will be adopted in part because: (1) Mr. Thomas failed to state Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment claims, medical malpractice claims, and Eighth Amendment claims against Defendant Wardens John Palakovich and Mary Sabol; (2) Mr. Thomas's claim for injunctive relief is moot; and (3) state officials cannot be sued for monetary damages. Magistrate Judge Blewitt also recommended that the Court grant Mr. Thomas's Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis; this recommendation will be adopted.

I. Background

Plaintiff Daryl Thomas has been an inmate at the State Correctional Facility at Fayette ("SCI-Fayette") in LaBelle, Pennsylvania since November 3, 2009.Mr. Thomas's complaint stems out of his prior incarceration at both the York County Prison ("YCP") and the State Correctional Facility at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill"). The facts as alleged in Mr. Thomas's complaint are as follows.

Mr. Thomas suffers from a serious medical condition called Behcet's Syndrome. Behcet's is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that has manifested in Mr. Thomas's case in the form of extremely painful oral ulcers. Proper treatment of Behcet's involves medication called Azathioprine, frequent visits to a rheumatology clinic, and blood work monitoring. Prior to his incarceration, he was being treated by Dr. Sadia Khan.

Mr. Thomas was confined in YCP on March 30, 2009.*fn1 When he arrived at YCP, he provided medical staff with his medical records and information about his Bechet's Syndrome. The medical staff, including the prison doctor, told him they had never heard of Behcet's. On April 1, 2009, Mr. Thomas saw a physician's aide, but the aide did not offer him the medical treatment he needed. Instead, he offered only the steroid Prednisone, which was not a safe option for Mr. Thomas because of the frequency of his Behcet's flare-ups. On April 6, 2009, Mr. Thomas saw another physician's aide about an oral ulcer that had become a major problem. He received no treatment, even after signing an authorization form releasing his outside medical records to YCP's medical department. On April 8, 2009, he saw another physician's aide and signed another release form.

Mr. Thomas did not meet with a doctor until April 10, 2009, when he met with Defendant Dr. Vonkiel. At that point, his lips were swelling and the pain from the ulcer was so severe that he could not eat. The doctor told Mr. Thomas that there was not much that could be done other than Prednisone. Mr. Thomas asked if Dr. Khan had approved the use of Prednisone, and the medical staff advised him that they had never contacted Dr. Khan. On April 13, 2009, Mr. Thomas began to run a fever and feel faint. The ulcer had gotten worse and he was unable to consume solid food. Mr. Thomas wrote letters to Defendant Mary Sabol, the Warden of YCP, advising her of his serious medical condition.

On April 16, 2009, Mr. Thomas was transferred to SCI-Camp Hill.*fn2 He explained to SCI-Camp Hill's medical admissions department about his Behcet's Syndrome and current symptoms. At that point, Mr. Thomas had a swollen face and his lips were starting to crack and bleed. Mr. Thomas saw the Camp Hill doctor, Defendant Dr. Nicholas Schaff, who said he thought that Mr. Thomas had gingivitis. Mr. Thomas explained that he had Behcet's and gave the doctor copies of his medical record and information describing the disease. Mr. Thomas saw a dentist on April 17, 2009, who said that in addition to the ulcers, it appeared he had developed a yeast infection in his mouth. The next day, the dentist gave him some cortisone ointment that did not help.

Mr. Thomas complained to the Camp Hill medical staff that he was having hearing loss and vision problems in both eyes, but they did nothing. On April 22, 2009, he told the medical staff that the medicine they had given him--Claritin for his rash and ibuprofen for pain--was not working. He was still unable to consume solid food, but they did not place him on a liquid diet. On April 23, 2009, Mr. Thomas passed out and had a seizure. He was taken to the infirmary, where they gave him Prednisone, Vicodin for his pain, and a liquid to control the infection. They wanted him to stay on the Prednisone for thirty days, although it was ill-advised for him to take it and he had never before taken it for that long.

On May 13, 2009, Mr. Thomas returned to YCP because Camp Hill did not want to treat him. He again notified the admissions staff of his illness because he was having a flare-up. Mr. Thomas put in a medical sick call slip on May 24, 2009, because he had a severely painful rash and swollen feet. The next day, the nurse gave him anti-itch hydrocortisone cream, but no medication to treat his pain or his ulcer. On June 4, 2009, Mr. Thomas saw the nurse to have some open wounds bandaged. The nurse prescribed betamethsone, a steroid cream, but did not examine Mr. Thomas for any other symptoms, such as his ulcer and vision/hearing loss.

Mr. Thomas presented his complaints about his medical treatment through the prison administrative grievance system. Defendant Counselor Meghann Centeno of YCP failed to provide an adequate response to his complaints.

Mr. Thomas filed a complaint in the Middle District of Pennsylvania on November 21, 2011. His complaint asserts four causes of action: (1) an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant John Palakovic, the Warden of SCI-Camp Hill; (2) an Eighth Amendment claim against Warden Sabol; (3) an Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Vonkiel; (4) Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Ms. Centeno; and (5) an Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Schaff. Mr. Thomas seeks a declaratory judgment that the Defendants violated his rights, an injunction requiring the Defendant wardens to arrange for him to receive proper medical treatment, and compensatory and punitive damages.Mr. Thomas also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on November 21, 2011.

Magistrate Judge Blewitt reviewed Mr. Thomas's claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), which provides that for proceedings in forma pauperis:

[T]he court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that-- (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal-- (I) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Magistrate Judge Blewitt filed his R & R on February 7, 2012, ...

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