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Anthony L. Richardson v. Louis Folino

December 14, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

ECF Nos. 31, 35


Anthony L. Richardson ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette ("SCI-Fayette"). The events forming the basis for this action occurred while he was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Greene ("SCI-Greene") in 2009 and 2010. Defendants are employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and medical providers at SCI-Greene.*fn1 Plaintiff initiated this action on January 23, 2012.*fn2 (ECF No. 1.) His Complaint was docketed on January 26, 2012 (ECF No. 4), and he filed an Amended Complaint on April 24, 2012 (ECF No. 15). Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF Nos. 31, 35), and upon careful consideration of the submissions of both parties, Defendants' motions will be granted for the reasons that follow.

I.Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff alleges that he has several disabilities, including diabetes, genitourinary issues, and hearing impairment, and that he has suffered injuries to his left hip, back, and knees which confine him to a walker. (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 15 at ¶ 3.) He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking redress for violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. He is also seeking redress for Pennsylvania state law violations of Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution and medical malpractice. Id. at ¶¶ 1, 78-81.

Plaintiff has divided his Amended Complaint into four "Fact" sections. In Fact 1, Plaintiff alleges that, on February 18, 2009, he fell in the dining hall due to unsafe conditions. Id. at ¶ 16. He was transported to the medical department in a wheelchair where he claims he was given "no examination, assessment, or relief alternatives" for his pain. Id. at ¶ 18. He was instructed to fill out a sick call slip and return to his cell, which he did. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Parks the following day, fourteen hours after the incident. Id. at ¶ 19. He claims that Dr. Parks failed to provide any kind of meaningful medical care. Id. However, he admits that he was prescribed a pain reliever on February 19, 2009, but did not receive it until February 25, 2009. Id. at ¶¶ 19-20. He also admits that a nurse gave him a cane on February 20, 2009, and that he received x-rays for his injuries on March 2, 2009. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 22. Plaintiff claims that two other inmates were injured in identical circumstances in the same dining hall. Id. at ¶ 28. Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the delay and lack of proper medical care as well as

the unsafe conditions in the dining hall which led to his fall, but it was denied through all three levels of review. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23-30.

In Fact 2, Plaintiff alleges that, on January 25, 2010, he fell in the commissary after tripping over an inmate's foot due to overcrowding. Id. at ¶ 33. An officer delayed in coming to his aid but Ms. Conklin, a commissary staff member, gave him water. Id. at ¶ 40. He was subsequently transported by wheelchair to the medical department. Id. at ¶ 41. He claims that the Physician's Assistant did not give him any pain medication because he was already on pain medication from the previous accident in the dining hall, but he was given a tube of analgesic cream for his knee. Id. at ¶ 43. He claims that he was bound to a wheelchair for several months as a result of his fall. Id. at ¶ 41. He grieved the incident, but his grievance was denied by Lt. Armstrong. Id. at ¶¶ 42-45. His appeal was denied by Superintendent Folino, and his final appeal was denied by Chief Grievance Officer Varner. Id. at ¶¶ 46-48.

In Fact 3, Plaintiff alleges that, on April 4, 2010, he was "catapulted" out of his wheelchair after hitting a pothole and landed on the ground. Id. at ¶ 52. He claims that Officer King witnessed the incident but walked away, in an attempt to avoid it. Id. at ¶¶ 53-54. He returned to his housing unit, informed his block officer of the incident, and requested that he call the medical department. Id. at ¶ 55. Medical instructed Plaintiff to sign up for sick call and told him that he would be examined when the nurse came to collect the sick call slips that day. Id. The nurse came but left without examining him. Id. However, he was advised to report to the medical department later that day. Id. at ¶ 56. He claims that he was held overnight in a medical cell but not given any pain medication. Id. He was seen by Dr. Parks the following day but claims that Dr. Parks released him back to his housing unit without conducting an examination. Id. at ¶ 57. Plaintiff filed a grievance over this particular incident in regards to hazardous conditions at SCI-Greene, Officer King's refusal to come to his aid, and deprivation of medical treatment by the nurse who came to collect the sick call slips. Id. at ¶ 58. His grievance was denied through all three levels of review. Id. at ¶¶ 58-59. Plaintiff claims that the pothole, which caused his accident, had been there for years and was allowed to worsen. Id. at ¶ 58. He further claims that several other inmates and one staff member were injured by the same pothole and that caution cones were later placed around the pothole and other problematic areas on the premises of SCI-Greene. Id.

In Fact 4, Plaintiff alleges that he fell in his cell on May 5, 2010, after he rose from his bed to receive his insulin shot from Nurse McElroy. Id. at ¶ 62. He asserts that his fall would have likely been prevented had he not been previously stripped of his wheelchair, cane, and plastic chair. Id. at ¶ 65. He claims that both Nurse McElroy and the escorting officer laughed and walked away without assisting him after administering the insulin shot. Id. at ¶¶ 63-64. He was assessed by a Physician's Assistant the following day. Id. at ¶ 67. He filed a grievance, which was denied by Lt. Durco. Id. at ¶¶ 66-69. Plaintiff's appeal and final appeal were also denied. Id. at ¶¶ 69-70.

II.Legal Standard

Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). A complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct.1937, 1949 (May 18, 2009) (citing Twombly,550 U.S. at 555-57). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Supreme Court further explained:

The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'"

Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57).

In Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit discussed its decision in Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232-33 (3d Cir. 2008) (construing Twomblyin a civil rights context), and described how the Rule 12(b)(6) standard had changed in light of Twomblyand Iqbal as follows:

After Iqbal, it is clear that conclusory or "bare-bones" allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. This then "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 1948. The Supreme Court's ruling in Iqbal emphasizes that a plaintiff must show that the allegations of his or her complaints are plausible. See Id. at 1949-50; see also Twombly, 505 U.S. at 555, & n. 3.

Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210.

Thereafter, in light of Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside,578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009),set forth the following two-prong test to be applied by the district courts in deciding motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. [Iqbal, 129

S. Ct. at 1949]. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. at 1950. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts. See Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234-35. As the Supreme Court instructed inIqbal, "[w]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not 'show[n]'-'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. This "plausibility" determination will be "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11.

In addition to the complaint, courts may consider matters of public record and other matters of which a court may take judicial notice, court orders, and exhibits attached to the complaint when adjudicating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Oshiver v. Levin,Fishbein, Sedran & Berman,38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing 5A Wright and Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d, § 1357; Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990)). A court may also consider indisputably authentic documents. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004); Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993); Golden v. Cook, 293 F. Supp.2d 546, 551 (W.D. Pa. 2003) ("[C]courts are permitted to consider matters of which they may take judicial notice, including records and reports of administrative bodies, and publically available records and transcripts from judicial proceedings 'in related or underlying cases which have a direct relation to the matters at issue.'") (citations omitted).

Finally, a court must employ less stringent standards when considering pro se pleadings than when judging the work product of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). When presented with a pro se complaint, the court should construe the complaint liberally and draw fair inferences from what is not alleged as well as from what is alleged. Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003). In a section 1983 action, the court must "apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether the pro se litigant has mentioned it by name." Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)). See also Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) ("Since this is a § 1983 action, the [pro se] plaintiffs are entitled to relief if their complaint sufficiently alleges deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution.") (quoting Higgins, 293 F.3d at 688). Notwithstanding this liberality, pro se litigants are not relieved of their obligation to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. See, e.g., Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002); Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 2102 (10th Cir. 1996).


Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on numerous grounds. Because there are certain grounds which are dispositive as to the each named Defendant, the Court will not address every basis for dismissal asserted. For purposes of this Memorandum Opinion, Defendants Folino, Walker, Durco, Armstrong, King, McElroy, Varner, and Conklin will be referred to as "the Corrections Defendants" and Defendants Dr. Jin and Dr. Parks will be referred to as "the Medical Defendants."

A.Res judicata

At the outset, the Corrections Defendants seek to have Plaintiff's Amended Complaint dismissed pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata, noting that the claims raised in this case either have or could have been fully litigated in a case Plaintiff filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Greene County on or about December 10, 2010, and which was dismissed on July 15, 2011 (hereinafter referred to as "the Greene County case"). With respect to this issue, the Corrections Defendants have submitted several exhibits in connection with Plaintiff's Greene County case, Case No. AD 1382. See Exhibits in Support of Motion to Dismiss, ECF Nos. 36-1 -- 36-6.*fn3 In his Greene County case, Plaintiff sued ten individuals, including Corrections Defendants Folino, Walker, Durco, King, McElroy, and Conklin, alleging retaliation, due process and equal protection violations based on the same exact events at issue in the instant matter.*fn4 See ECF 36-2. The state court found that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the case on July 15, 2011. See ECF No. 36-4. Plaintiff appealed and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dismissed the appeal for Plaintiff's failure to comply with an order of the court. See ECF No. 36-6.

1.Applicable Law

The Full Faith and Credit Clause*fn5 of the United States Constitution requires the courts of one State to give preclusive effect to the judgments rendered by the courts of another State. Riley v. New York Trust Co., 315 U.S. 343, 348-49 (1942). "A final judgment in one State, if rendered by a court with adjudicatory authority over the subject matter and persons governed by the judgment, qualifies for recognition throughout the land" and "gains nationwide force." Baker v. General Motors Corp., 522 U.S. 222, 233 (1998). Federal courts are not constitutionally required to give preclusive effect to the judgments issued by state tribunals. Kremer v. Chemical Construction Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 483 n.24 (1982) (remarking that federal courts are "not included within the constitutional provision"). However, when a judgment is rendered by a state court, federal courts are statutorily required to accord that judgment preclusive effect under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1738. The applicable statutory language provides that "[t]he Acts of legislature of any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States . . . shall have the same full faith and credit in every court within the United States and its Territories and Possessions as they have by law or usage in the courts of such State, Territory or Possession from which they are taken." 28 U.S.C. ยง 1738. "This statute has long been understood to encompass the doctrines of res judicata, or ...

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