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Christian D. Woodson v. Prime Care Medical

January 23, 2013


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


Plaintiff Christian Woodson, a prisoner currently being held at Lancaster County Prison, brings suit against the following defendants*fn1 Prime Care Medical, Inc. ("Prime Care"); Carol Greener, head supervisor of the LCP Prime Care clinic; Dr. Lorie Hosteller; Dr. Turgent; Dr. Sandra Abbey; Leslie Harless, L.P.N.; Lancaster County Prison ("LCP"); Paul Smeal, Warden of LCP; and Deputy Wardens Arnold and Shiffer. In his complaint, Woodson alleges various constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and appears to allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-796, and defamation of character. Currently before me is a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on behalf of defendants LCP, Warden Smeal, and Deputy Wardens Arnold and Shiffer. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted, and Woodson's claims under the Eighth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, and his "class of one" Equal Protection Clause claim, all pursuant to § 1983, along with his defamation of character claim, are dismissed with prejudice. Woodson's suspect class Equal Protection Clause claim and possible ADA and RA claims, however, are dismissed without prejudice to his right to file an amended complaint.


Woodson was incarcerated at LCP on June 15, 2012. (Compl. 9.) Sometime between June 15 and June 30, Woodson came under the care of Dr. Lorie Hosteller, a Prime Care physician who works at LCP, for a routine physical. (Id. 6.) Following the physical, Woodson claims that Dr. Hosteller cleared him to work in LCP with "no restrictions." (Id. 7.)

From July 22 to July 30, 2012, Woodson worked as a prison cleaner, or "C.Q.," at LCP. (Id. 5.) On Monday, July 30, Correction Officer Palkowitz, by order from Sergeant Lefever, fired Woodson as a C.Q. (Id.) When Woodson asked why he was being removed from his position, he was told it was for medical reasons, and that pursuant to a Prime Care policy Woodson was not allowed to handle food or touch trays. (Id.) Woodson claims that he was never shown such a policy, and that if such a policy in fact exists, it has been enforced only against him. (Id.)

A corrections officer advised Woodson to write to Carol Greener, the head supervisor of Prime Care, to request further information. (Id.) Woodson claims he wrote to Greener on June 30, the same day he was fired, and asked her to provide him with documentation to support his removal from his C.Q. position, along with legal and medical justification for Prime Care's policy. (Id. 5-6.) As of August 16, 2012, Greener had not responded to Woodson's letter. (Id. 6.)

In addition to his letter to Greener, Woodson claims he also submitted grievances to Warden Smeal and Deputy Wardens Arnold and Shiffer, in which he relayed his issues and concerns behind his removal from his C.Q. position. (Id.) Arnold responded on August 13, 2012, and provided the following explanation:

Please understand that you have no right to any gratuitous prison work assignment. In view of your drug (specific) usage, medical has determined that you are not eligible to work in Food Service. There is no evidence substantiating disparate treatment between you and any inmate similarly situated. Your request is denied. (Pl.'s Ex. A.) Despite this response, Woodson felt the policy was unconstitutional, and thus brought this complaint alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

In support of his argument that the policy is unconstitutional, Woodson claims that not a single inmate became ill or caught a disease while he worked as a C.Q., nor were any complaints or negative reports filed against him. (Compl. 7.) He also alleges that he is not an "I.V. drug user," but admits to snorting heroin prior to incarceration. (Id.) Furthermore, Woodson claims that he does not have any communicable diseases. (Id.) He claims that there are numerous inmates who are I.V. drug users or have communicable diseases, but still remain employed as C.Q.s and kitchen assistants. (Id.) For these reasons, Woodson alleges that the policy is discriminatory, perhaps even racially so.*fn2 (Id.) As a result of the discriminatory policy, Woodson alleges mental and emotional injuries and defamation of his character.

Woodson also claims that he has been denied medicine for the following diagnosed mood disorders: bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. (Id. 8.) He claims that he was prescribed medication by Drs. Turgent and Abbey, both medical personnel with Prime Care at LCP, and that Prime Care refused to provide him with his medication from the start of his incarceration on June 15, 2012.*fn3 (Id.) Because of this denial, Woodson claims medical negligence, mental and emotional anguish, pain and suffering, and cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. 9) Woodson also "feels and believes" that Smeal and Shiffer are involved in the denial of medicine because "they made no efforts or attempts to eliminate the problem or investigate [his] complaints." (Id.)

On August 16, 2012, Woodson filed this complaint. Thereafter, defendants LCP, Smeal, Arnold, and Shiffer moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Woodson then filed a response, opposing the defendants' motion to dismiss. I now address the defendants' motion.


In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The pleading standard of Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements" will not suffice. Id. at678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to be plausible on its face. See id. "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"; a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient. Id.

"[W]hen presented with a pro se litigant, [the court has] 'a special obligation to construe his complaint liberally.'" Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011)(quoting United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644, 648 (3d Cir. 1999)). In reviewing Woodson's complaint, I bear in mind that "a pro se complaint, 'however inartfully pleaded,' must be held to 'less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers . . . .'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972)). Nevertheless, "in a desire to effect justice by affording an uncounseled plaintiff leeway in pleading his case, a court must be mindful to work with ...

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