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Richard Wilson v. Margaret Burke

September 18, 2012


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


Plaintiff Richard Wilson was committed to the custody of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF") on July 25, 2008, just days after having suffered multiple gunshot wounds. In this civil rights action, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Dr. Margaret Burke and Dr. Alyn Caulk ("Medical Defendants") were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they failed to follow the course of treatment that had been prescribed by a specialist before Plaintiff was admitted to the facility (Count I). He also asserts an excessive force claim against Defendant Sergeant Michael Brown for injuries caused when Defendant Brown pushed Plaintiff up two flights of stairs (Count II). Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendant the City of Philadelphia ("the City") liable for the acts of both Medical Defendants and Defendant Brown.

Before the Court are three Motions for Summary Judgment: two filed by Medical Defendants *fn1 and one filed by Defendant Brown and the City (collectively, "City Defendants"). *fn2 Because the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, has failed to establish municipal liability as to the City, and has failed to produce evidence from which a jury could conclude that Medical Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs or that the force applied by Defendant Brown was excessive, the Motions will be granted.


On July 21, 2008, Plaintiff Richard Wilson was admitted to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania ("HUP") in Philadelphia for treatment of injuries resulting from several gunshot wounds. *fn3 Two days later he was transferred to Presbyterian Hospital, also in Philadelphia, for additional treatment, including surgery on his abdomen, right arm, and right hip. *fn4 During surgery on Plaintiff's right arm, doctors inserted various plates and pins to facilitate healing of the bone, which had been shattered. *fn5

According to Plaintiff, a doctor at either HUP or Presbyterian provided prison officials a recommended course of treatment, including prescribed medications, and advised that Plaintiff be seen by a specialist. *fn6

During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he did not have a copy of, nor had he seen, this recommendation, but maintained that the doctors who treated him between July 21 and 25, 2008, advised that he return to the hospital to see a specialist following his surgery. Plaintiff's medical records contain written discharge instructions which prescribe that Plaintiff be given medicine for pain and vitamins and other supplements to promote recovery, instructs that his arm be kept dry and not bear any weight, and provides that Plaintiff should follow up with a doctor in one week. *fn7

A. Plaintiff's Medical Treatment While Incarcerated

On July 25, 2008, Plaintiff was released from Presbyterian Hospital into the custody of two Philadelphia police officers who took Plaintiff to the CFCF where Plaintiff was processed for incarceration. *fn8 As part of this inmate processing, Plaintiff was evaluated by a registered nurse. *fn9 Plaintiff claims that within a few days of his admission to the facility, he complained to prison staff about increasing pain in his arm. *fn10 A day or two after arriving at CFCF, Plaintiff was seen by a doctor and a nurse; he does not remember what happened during this exam, and cannot remember whether the doctor explained the nature of his injury. *fn11

During his deposition, Plaintiff was unable to recall exactly how many times he was seen by Defendant Doctors Alan Caulk and Margaret Burke, but stated that he was "treated, the overwhelming majority of the time, by Dr. Caulk and Dr. Burke as related to [his] arm," and that he was seen by Dr. Caulk over a period of five to six months. *fn12

Dr. Caulk, who worked as a chronic care specialist at CFCF, met with Plaintiff on one or more occasions to explain that x-rays revealed several fragments in his shoulder and that she was going to perform surgery to remove the fragments. *fn13 In response, Plaintiff stated that he wanted to be seen by an orthopedist or another specialist, or to be sent back to HUP for the surgery; he refused to authorize Dr. Caulk to perform the surgery. *fn14 According to Plaintiff, when he asked why he could not be taken to a specialist, Dr. Caulk said "something to do with the budget, funding, then transportation, and the most vivid conversation I had with her she stated, basically, to me that, this type of surgery, I could do this here and remove the chips on my own. *fn15

It appears that Dr. Caulk left CFCF in December 2008, and about a month later, Dr. Burke began working there as a chronic care specialist. *fn16 Although Plaintiff does not remember having a specific conversation with Dr. Burke about attending physical therapy for his arm, since he attended physical therapy, "then apparently, I would have had to have a conversation with her about being able to exercise and do some therapy." *fn17

Plaintiff attended a physical therapy session in the summer of 2009 at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, but refused to return for any additional sessions because he found it too painful. *fn18

On February 8, 2009, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance, claiming that he "received inadequate medical attention for his injuries," and requesting relief in the form of his being seen by an orthopedist immediately. *fn19 It is unclear what the initial disposition of this grievance was, but neither party has submitted any evidence that this grievance was resolved and Plaintiff has not shown that he took any steps to redress the alleged inadequate medical treatment beyond the filing of the initial grievance.

In the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that Dr. Caulk and Dr. Burke ignored the course of treatment provided in discharge instructions and that their failure to follow this course of treatment rises to the level of deliberate indifference (Count I). Plaintiff submits that the City is liable for Medical Defendants' deliberate indifference because Dr. Caulk's comment that Plaintiff could not see a specialist because of "something to do with the budget, funding, then transportation," evidences a prison policy which resulted in the denial of treatment here. *fn20

B. Plaintiff's Altercation with Defendant Sergeant Michael Brown

On May 12, 2009, nearly 10 months after he arrived at CFCF, prison officials transferred Plaintiff from Cell 13 of Unit C1, Pod 1 to Cell 23 of this same unit. *fn21 Cell 13, which is on the first tier of the unit, and Cell 23, which is on the second tier of the unit, are separated by a staircase with a short flight of stairs, a landing, and then a longer flight of stairs. *fn22 Before Plaintiff was transferred, Correctional Officer Dominic Ninan approached Plaintiff, who was in Cell 13, and asked Plaintiff for his bunk status; Plaintiff responded, "bottom bunk and bottom tier." *fn23 Officer Ninan then left, returning 35 to 40 minutes later, and asked Plaintiff to produce his bunk designation card. *fn24 Another 25 minutes passed before Officer Ninan returned with Defendant Sergeant Michael Brown. *fn25
Defendant Brown asked Plaintiff why he was not packed; Plaintiff answered, "nobody told me to pack." *fn26 At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that Defendant Brown responded with dismissive profanity, ordered Plaintiff to turn around, and handcuffed Plaintiff with his hands behind his back. *fn27 Defendant Brown then began pushing Plaintiff up the first short flight of stairs to Cell 23, bumping Plaintiff's arm, injured shoulder, and side against the railing. *fn28 Defendant Brown then began pushing Plaintiff up the second, longer fight of stairs, "repeatedly" pushing Plaintiff's arm, shoulder, and side against the wall. *fn29 According to Plaintiff, during this interaction, Plaintiff's shoulder made contact with the railing once, and the wall 3-4 times, but he never fell due to the force used by Defendant Brown. *fn30

Plaintiff made several Sick Call Requests over the next few days complaining of pain in his shoulder, wrist, forearm, and hip. *fn31 Plaintiff testified at his deposition that the day following the incident, x-rays showed injury to his rotator cuff. *fn32 Plaintiff's prison medical file contains an entry, which appears to be dated May 15, 2009, *fn33 noting that Plaintiff was seen by a triage nurse after he complained about injury sustained to his arm, shoulder, and hip two days prior. *fn34 The nurse notes that Plaintiff had no abrasions or swelling, and minimal tenderness of his shoulder without deformity. *fn35

On May 13, 2009, Plaintiff submitted a grievance regarding his confrontation with Defendant Brown. *fn36 Plaintiff's inmate grievance record provides the status of this grievance as "unresolved." *fn37 Plaintiff did not file any additional grievances regarding this incident or file a level two appeal. However, Plaintiff ...

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