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Dennis v. Jensen

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 20, 2013

JAMES E. DENNIS, Plaintiff,
RICHARD JENSEN, et al., Defendants.


A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt (Doc. 33) and objections filed by Plaintiff James E. Dennis (Doc. 41). The Magistrate Judge recommends that this action be dismissed with prejudice because Dennis's Amended Complaint (Doc. 32) fails to state a claim. The Court agrees and will adopt the R & R and dismiss Dennis's Amended Complaint with prejudice.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff James E. Dennis is currently an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution Gilmer in Glenville, West Virginia. At all relevant times, he was incarcerated at the United States Prison-Canaan ("USP-Canaan") in Waymart, Pennsylvania. He has filed a Bivens action[1] asserting Eighth Amendment denial of medical care claims against three individuals employed by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") at USP-Canaan at all relevant times: Richard Jensen, PA-C (physician's assistant), Jane Vander Hey-Wright, HCA (health care administrator), and Mary Jane Denuzzia, RN (registered nurse).

Dennis alleges the following in his pro se Amended Complaint (Doc. 32):

Dennis broke his wrist while in federal custody. After he sought medical attention, it was determined that the injury warranted outside medical care. Defendants provided Dennis with a temporary rubber brace for his wrist. A few days later, Dennis removed the brace before showering and it was stolen. He returned to "medical" and requested a stronger device, as the brace did not adequately support his wrist. Defendants refused to give him a stronger device and chastised him for being careless with the brace.

After three months had passed, Dennis was escorted to an outside medical facility. He was told that his wrist injury was too severe for individuals at that facility to treat and was recommended to undergo wrist surgery performed by a specialist. The "prison medical custodians" were given specific instructions to provide Dennis with a short arm splint, but these directions were not followed. Dennis continued to endure extreme pain and not have any support for his broken wrist. He was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis, which he will always suffer from, and will never be able to bend or flex his hand in a backward motion.

Had treatment been rendered sooner, Dennis would not have contracted arthritis of this magnitude and would have maintained full mobility of his hand. Defendants' reckless disregard for Dennis's medical needs has caused this permanent damage. Defendants' acts occurred while Defendants were federal employees acting under color of federal law. Dennis is suing Defendants in their individual capacities and seeks damages.

B. Procedural History

Dennis instituted this Bivens action pro se on July 16, 2010. He alleged the following in his original Complaint (Doc. 1):

On November 27, 2008, Dennis fell from his prison bunk at USP-Canaan and broke his wrist. Defendant Jensen refused his request for cast, giving him only a rubber wrist brace. On December 3, 2008, Defendant Denuzzia conducted an x-ray of Dennis's wrist, but also refused his request for a cast. At lunch the following day, Defendant Vander Hey-Wright expressed concern about Dennis's wrist, but responded to his request for a cast by saying he would receive outside treatment soon. On February 23, 2009, Dennis was evaluated by an outside orthopedic surgeon, who recommended surgery for a "non-union" of the scaphoid bone and noted that a cast should have been applied. On May 26, 2009, Dennis received surgery to correct this injury, but his wrist still requires additional medical treatment. He sought "to have [his] wrist fixed so that it can bend again" as well as $250, 000.00 in compensatory damages from Defendants.

The Magistrate Judge screened Dennis's original Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915[2] and recommended on August 23, 2010 that the case be dismissed with prejudice due to Dennis's failure to state an Eighth Amendment denial of medical care claim. (Doc. 8.) Dennis objected to the Magistrate Judge's R & R on September 10, 2010. (Doc. 11.) On November 29, 2011, the Court issued a Memorandum and Order that adopted the R & R in part and rejected it in part. (Doc. 25.) The Court agreed that Dennis's original Complaint failed to sufficiently allege an Eighth Amendment denial of medical care claim against any Defendant, but did not agree that leave to amend would be futile. ( Id. at 7.) Accordingly, the Court dismissed Dennis's original Complaint, gave him twenty-one days to amend it, and recommitted the matter to the Magistrate Judge. (Doc. 26.)

After being granted extensions of time, Dennis filed a Petition to Amend his Complaint on January 24, 2012. (Doc. 28.) On January 31, 2012, the Magistrate Judge granted the petition and directed Dennis to file an Amended Complaint within ten days. (Doc. 29.) The Magistrate Judge's Order instructed Dennis that the Amended Complaint must "properly allege a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, " "be complete in all respects, " ...

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