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Brett T. Culver v. James Specter

October 9, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


This civil rights action was filed by Brett T. Culver ("Culver") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the complaint, Culver alleges that employees at SCI-Mahanoy failed to protect him from an assault by another inmate after they informed the inmate that Culver had made complaints about him. He further maintains that he was denied adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment with respect to the injuries sustained from the assault. State medical negligence claims are also asserted. Presently before the Court are motions to dismiss the complaint filed by the Corrections Defendants (Doc. No. 32) and the Medical Service Provider Defendant (Doc. No. 44).

I. Allegations in the Complaint

Culver claims that on December 3, 2009, while confined at SCI-Mahanoy, Unit Manager Muick and Counselor Marhelko failed to protect him from an assault by another inmate when they informed said inmate that Culver had made complaints against him. By doing so, Culver claims that Defendants deliberately disregarded his safety by inciting hostility toward him that resulted in the attack. As a result, Culver suffered a broken jaw. Following the assault, Culver states he was denied adequate medical care with respect to his injury. When he reported to the prison medical department he was seen by Defendant Moczulski, the prison dentist, and referred to Defendant Specter, a private practice oral surgeon contracted by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to provide services to SCI-Mahanoy.*fn1 Specter admitted Culver to the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital the same day, and performed surgery on him on December 4, 2009. Culver raises claims with respect to the treatment provided by Specter. Specifically, he alleges that Specter failed to detect and repair all the jawbone breaks that had occurred, causing permanent damage and disfigurement. Culver was returned to SCI-Mahanoy the same day.

Once back at the prison, Culver alleges that the SCI-Mahanoy Medical Department Defendants disregarded his complaints about the pain he was experiencing and his visible need for medical attention. This behavior continued for several weeks until he was returned to see Specter. Culver further maintains that although the Medical Department prescribed a pureed diet due to his wired jaw, Defendant Stanitis as manager of Food Services failed to provide this diet. As a result, Culver claims he lost weight and was denied proper nutrition. A grievance filed with respect to these issues (Grievance #30081) was denied on all levels.

On January 7, 2010, Culver was taken back to see Specter. He raises Eighth Amendment and state negligence claims against him for removing the wires and anchors in his jaw and advising him that his treatment was complete without performing x-rays after Culver complained that pain and fractures still existed.

When returned to SCI-Mahanoy, Culver complained to the SCI-Mahanoy Defendants of excruciating pain and a jaw that was visibly still broken, but his complaints were disregarded. He alleges that he was removed from the pureed diet and placed back in general population. The following day he attended sick call and voiced the same complaints, but again received no response. He attended sick call on January 12, 2010, and was also disregarded. On January 13, 2010, Culver went to the Medical/Dental Department and requested x-rays. At this time he states that Defendants confirmed that he had unrepaired, existing fractures. Although he was admitted to the prison infirmary and prescribed a pureed diet, Culver claims that he was not provided any medical attention for his injuries and was denied properly prepared food by Defendant Stanitis. On January 14, 2010, he filed a grievance against Stanitis (#304494).

On January 26, 2010, Culver was visited by Stanitis and Alice Chipriano, the Medical Department Health Care Administrator, in response to the grievance he filed. Defendants agreed to remedy the food problem if Culver signed off on the grievance he had submitted. Although Culver agreed to do so, he claims that Defendants reneged on their promise the following day. As a result, Culver filed grievance #305153 against Stanitis and the Medical Department with respect to the lack of proper food and medical treatment. It was denied on all levels.

On January 28, 2010, Culver was taken back to see Defendant Specter who again disregarded his complaints about his pain and the disrepair of his injury. Although Specter stated that no unrepaired fractures existed, he then proceeded to perform a second surgical procedure on Culver. Culver alleges that the existing fractures still were not repaired, and that Specter inserted more wiring and anchoring devices, all causing him intense pain and permanent damage to his jaw.

When Culver returned to SCI-Mahanoy the same day, he complained to the prison medical personnel of the pain and improper treatment, but was again disregarded and received no medical care. On February 3, 2010, Culver pleaded with Dr. Lisiak for medical intervention and referral to a sports injury specialist, but he was ignored. He further complained of malnutrition and weight loss due to the prison's failure to provide him with a pureed diet. Another grievance (#306746) was submitted on this date. It was denied on all levels of appeal.

On February 8, 2010, Culver complained to Dr. Gustitus in the SCI-Mahanoy Medical Department, but his pleas for medical intervention were disregarded. Another complaint was also submitted to Stanitis, but Culver claims he still failed to receive properly prepared food. A grievance was filed by Culver (#307426) challenging the denial of his request to have photographs taken of his condition. The grievance was denied on all levels.

On February 16, 2010, Culver was taken back to see Specter. His complaints of incorrect procedures, problems and pain were again disregarded. A complaint was also submitted to Defendant Moczulski on this date requesting that photos be taken of the improper work performed by Specter and his condition, but Moczulski refused to do so and denied Culver any medical attention. Complaints were again made to Moczulski on February 19, 2010, with no response. SCI-Mahanoy Defendants forced Culver to see Specter again on March 5, 2010, who again ignored his complaints of excruciating pain. Also on this date, Specter performed a tightening of wires procedure which caused further pain and pulled Culver's teeth out of place. When Culver was returned to the prison, medical personnel there continued to deny him any medical relief.

On March 7, 2010, Culver reported to the medical staff complaining of pain and broken wires, but was denied any relief. The following day, he reported to Defendant Moczulski who ignored requests for x-rays and intervention. Culver was taken back to see Specter on March 9, 2010, where Specter insisted Culver's teeth would realign once the installed devices were removed. While the wires securing his jaw were removed, the devices anchored to his tooth roots were left in place, causing Culver further pain. Culver was told to return on March 23, 2010 for the removal of these devices.

Following his return to SCI-Mahanoy, Culver again notified the dental department on March 12, 2012 about the improper procedures performed on him several days earlier by Specter and requested medical intervention. Defendant Moczulski disregarded his pleas. A further complaint of pain and request for proper medical treatment was made to Dr. Lisiak on March 12, 2010, but refused.

On March 23, 2010, Culver was returned to see Specter. Specter did not remove the anchored installments as previously promised. Rather, he rewired Culver's jaw back together in the same incorrect fashion as he had done previously, causing him extreme pain. Following Culver's return to the prison, all pleas for medical intervention were denied. He again notified Dr. Lisiak of everything that had occurred, but Lisiak failed to take any action. On or between March 26, 2010 and March 29, 2010, Culver states that he documented the history of his jaw problems and provided the same to the prison Dental Department, prison medical administration and Dr. Lisiak, but no responsive action was taken. Although he was permitted to speak with Lisiak on April 1, 2010, Lisiak disregarded what he told him. On April 7, 2010, Culver provided the same documentation to the prison Medical Department, Defendant Chipriano and the prison administrators, but no action was taken.

On April 15, 2010, Culver alleges he was again subjected to Defendant Specter who ripped out the wires anchored to his tooth roots without providing any sedation. Specter then informed him that his jaw and teeth were in perfect alignment, and that his treatment was over. Upon his return to the prison facility, Lisiak disregarded Culver's complaints and discharged him from the medical infirmary back into ...

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