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Robinson v. Beard

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 13, 2013

JEFFREY BEARD, et al. Defendants.



Currently pending before the Court is a Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint by Defendants Jeffrey A. Beard, David DiGuglielmo, Myron Stanishefski, Francis Beretsky, William Wilcox, and Bryan Toms (collectively, the “Commonwealth Defendants”). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


According to the facts set forth in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Harvey Miguel Rodriguez was an inmate within the “J Block” section of the State Correctional Institution (“SCI”) at Graterford. (Am. Compl. ¶ 16.) J Block is a restricted housing unit (“RHU”) where all inmates are subject to administrative segregation and, in most cases, require correctional officers to escort them when moving outside of their cells. (Id.)

On July 3, 2006, Plaintiff was scheduled to attend the law library located within J Block at approximately 7:00 a.m. (Id. ¶ 17.) At that time, Defendant Bryan Toms, a correctional officer, approached Plaintiff’s cell door to escort Plaintiff to the library. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff told Toms that he required several more minutes to wash up and prepare himself. (Id.) When Toms returned to escort Plaintiff, but before he reached Plaintiff’s cell, the cell door opened. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff stepped into the cell doorway and asked Toms why the door was opened, to which Toms replied, “to take you to the library, get dressed.” (Id.) While Plaintiff was bending down to put on his shoes, Toms suddenly grabbed Plaintiff’s upper body and pulled him out of the cell and into the tier area of J Block. (Id. ¶ 20.) At that time, Plaintiff and Toms were alone. (Id. ¶ 18.) Toms proceeded to hold Plaintiff by the throat with one hand while continually punching Plaintiff in the face and head. (Id. ¶ 21.) The punching continued for a period of time, during which Toms repeatedly stated, “go down” after every strike. (Id. ¶ 21.)

At that point, Defendants William Wilcox and Francis Beretsky came running down the B-Wing tier of J Block and immediately began punching and kicking Plaintiff while wrestling him to the ground, finally handcuffing Plaintiff behind his back. (Id. ¶ 22.) Toms and Beretsky then continued to kick and punch Plaintiff as he was handcuffed and lying on the ground. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff was then picked up by several correctional officers and confined in the shower area located in B-Wing. (Id. ¶ 24.)

After waiting in the shower for approximately thirty minutes, correctional officers escorted Plaintiff to the medical infirmary located in Graterford, where he was examined by two nurses and a physician, Dr. Felipe Arias. (Id. ¶ 26.) The medical staff completed a medical incident report and took pictures of almost all of Plaintiff’s visible injuries. (Id.) During the examination, Plaintiff reported pain in his head, face, eye, ear, neck, shoulders, and back, as well as blurred vision and various abrasions. (Id. ¶ 27.)

At approximately 1:30 p.m. on the same day, Plaintiff received two DC-141 misconduct reports-one written by Defendant Joseph Frushon and one written by Defendant Toms- charging him with assault for purportedly threatening an employee and refusing a direct order based on the above described events. (Id. ¶ 28.) According to the reports, Plaintiff was being escorted to the law library by both Toms and Frushon and was able to “free his hand” from his cuffs in order to “swing[] his closed right fist repeatedly at Toms.” (Id. ¶ 29.) The reports also accused Plaintiff of threatening Toms and refusing an order. (Id.)

From the time of the above-mentioned assault to the present, Plaintiff has submitted numerous medical sick call slips and has been scheduled from many “doctor line” call outs. (Id. ¶ 31.) In addition, he has experienced daily throbbing pain in his head and neck, as well as blurred vision. (Id.) He has reported and continues to report these conditions to the Graterford medical staff. (Id. ¶ 32.) Nonetheless, Graterford medical staff have denied most, if not all, of Plaintiff’s requests for medical treatment, aside from occasionally providing Plaintiff with ibuprofen. (Id. ¶ 33.) Based on these denials, Plaintiff submitted an inmate grievance against Defendants, including Dr. Arias, in accordance with Graterford policy. (Id. ¶ 34.) Defendant Julie Knauer was assigned to investigate Plaintiff’s grievances, but denied both his grievances and his requests for specialty medical treatment. Accordingly, Plaintiff filed a second level appeal to Superintendent David DiGuglielmo, who responded by upholding Defendant Knauer’s decision. (Id. ¶ 36.)

During the first week of October 2006, Plaintiff began experiencing severe debilitating problems with his nervous system, causing his fingertips to go numb. (Id. ¶ 37.) By the end of October, the numbness, tingling, and pain spread to his palms, forearms, and biceps. (Id. ¶ 38.)

Plaintiff reported these problems to prison officials via sick call slips, medical visits, and written memoranda. (Id.) On November 1, 2006, Plaintiff separately sent Defendants DiGuglielmo and Knauer memoranda informing them of the aforementioned problems-which he believed were due to nerve damage as a result of his assault by Toms, Wilcox, and Beretsky-and requesting a CT scan and specialist treatment. (Id. ¶ 39.) No response was forthcoming other than the return of his memoranda with stamps marked “RECEIVED” by the medical department and by the Superintendent’s office. (Id. ¶ 40.)

On November 20, 2006, Defendant Myron Stanishefski wrote to Plaintiff stating, “I have received your medical records. There is numerous documentation of your request for CAT scan and MRI. However, our medical exams and x-rays have been negative. Your request to be seen by a specialist and to receive an MRI or CAT scan is denied at this time.” (Id. ¶ 41.) Nonetheless, Plaintiff continued to submit sick call slips describing his symptoms. (Id. ¶ 42.) Finally, on December 1, 2006, Dr. Arias informed Plaintiff that he was approving and sending Plaintiff for an MRI of his upper spinal column. (Id. ¶ 43.) Thereafter, on December 26, 2006, Plaintiff was taken to a local hospital and had an MRI done of his upper spinal column (neck). (Id. ¶ 45.) Ultimately, on December 30, 2006, Dr. Arias spoke with Plaintiff during a sick call visit, informed him that the MRI showed the Plaintiff had two ruptured disks and a fractured vertebra, and indicated that Plaintiff would be scheduled for a doctor line visit to discuss the MRI results. (Id. ¶ 46.) Dr. Arias further advised Plaintiff that he ordered additional tests to measure any nerve damage. (Id.)

Plaintiff continued to submit sick call slips and, during his sick call visits, he complained of a worsening nervous system condition. (Id. ¶ 47.) On February 20, 2007, Dr. Arias informed Plaintiff that tests to measure nerve damage were approved. (Id. ¶ 48.) Subsequently, on March 29, 2007, Plaintiff was finally taken to a private physician, who performed nerve conduction studies. (Id. ¶ 49.)

The following day, Plaintiff spoke directly with Defendant DiGuglielmo regarding his worsening nervous system problems, and DiGuglielmo assured Plaintiff that he would investigate his concerns. (Id. ¶ 50.) On April 10, 2007, Plaintiff again spoke directly to DiGuglielmo to express concerns over the status of his physical condition and to again request medical treatment. (Id. ¶ 51.) In addition, Plaintiff requested the aid of a plastic chair for resting on while in the shower and yard. (Id.) DiGuglielmo again agreed to look into it. (Id.)

Plaintiff continued to submit sick call slips to request the results of his nerve conduction study tests. (Id. ¶ 52.) Eventually, Plaintiff was informed that he, in fact, had nerve damage and that he would be scheduled to speak to Dr. Arias. (Id.) When Plaintiff brought all of his requests to the attention of Dr. Arias during ensuing sick call visits, however, the doctor denied all requests for medical treatment beyond the provision of ibuprofen. (Id. ¶ 54.)

Via letter dated July 30, 2007, Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, regarding the failure to address his worsening medical condition and to make Beard aware of the assault. (Id. ¶ 55.) Moreover, Plaintiff requested initial reviews on July 5, 2006, July 11, 2006, July 21, 2006, and July 31, 2006. (Id. ¶ 57.) He also sought both second level appeals and final reviews of the initial grievances/complaints. (Id.)

Plaintiff commenced the current federal action in July 2008 against Jeffrey Beard, former secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; former Correctional Health Care Administrators Jule Knauer and Myron Stanishefski; former Superintendent David DiGuglielmo; Prison Health Services employee Dr. Felipe Arias; and Corrections Officers Bryan Toms, Francis Beretsky, William Wilcox, and Joseph Frushon. The Court granted Defendants DiGuglielmo and Stanishefski’s joint Motion to Dismiss on October 1, 2008. Subsequently, on July 22, 2009, the Court granted Defendant Beard’s and Defendant Arias’s Motions to Dismiss. Following an extended discovery period, Plaintiff requested and was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff filed his current Amended Complaint on September 11, 2013, setting forth the following causes of action: (1) violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) assault and battery; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (5) negligence. On October 7, 2013, ...

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