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Dozier v. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 17, 2013

ROGER W. DOZIER, Plaintiff
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Roger W. Dozier, a former state inmate currently residing at Garidenizia D.R.C., Inc. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, initiated this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with a pro se complaint on April 4, 2012.[1] (Doc. 1-1, 1-2.) Plaintiff has also asserted pendant state law claims of negligence and medical malpractice. Named as Defendants are Corizon, Inc., and two medical providers ("Medical Defendants")[2] at his former place of confinement, the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield ("SCI-Smithfield") in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, as well as a number of Department of Corrections ("DOC") employees located at SCI-Smithfield ("Corrections Defendants").[3] In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs both before and after he fell from his top bunk on January 1, 2012. As relief, he seeks compensatory damages.

Before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by the remaining Corrections Defendants. (Doc. 22.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

I. Background

A. Facts

In his complaint, Plaintiff provides the following factual background with respect to his claims. For purposes of disposition of the instant motion to dismiss, the factual allegations asserted in the complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff.

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that when he arrived at SCI-Smithfield in June or July 2009, he notified a doctor that he required chronic care because he had been in an automobile accident and injured his right shoulder and back, and has been on pain management since the accident. (Doc. 1-1 ¶ 12.) When the doctor asked him why he was assigned to bottom bunk status, Plaintiff responded that he had been shot in the knee and had a "blown out bicep." ( Id .) He also explained that he was on a medical restriction of "no pushing, no pulling, no standing for long periods of time, no bending for long periods of time." ( Id .) The doctor then told Plaintiff that he would remain on bottom bunk status. ( Id .)

At some point after this initial screening with the doctor, Plaintiff was placed in the "SMU Segregated Medical Unit" ("SMU") in order to have access to an electrical outlet for his "C-Pap breathing machine." ( Id .) After forty-five days in the SMU, Plaintiff was transferred to the "A.C. Administrative Custody Side" of the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") "under disciplinary sanctions." ( Id .) Once in the RHU, Plaintiff was assigned a top bunk. ( Id . ¶ 13.) He did not know who rescinded his bottom bunk status or why the action was taken. ( Id . ¶¶ 14, 15.) Plaintiff then made an inquiry to Dr. Doll, his chronic care doctor, about why he was assigned to the top bunk and requested more pain medication. ( Id . ¶ 18.) He alleges that Dr. Doll did not respond because she was not working due to the holiday season. ( Id . ¶ 19.) However, Plaintiff also submitted a sick call slip to a physician's assistant ("PA") for more pain medication. ( Id . ¶¶ 20, 21.) The PA responded that he would place Plaintiff on the call list to see the doctor. ( Id . ¶ 21.)

Thereafter, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Agora, the doctor attending to the RHU. ( Id . ¶ 22.) Dr. Agora informed Plaintiff that there was nothing wrong with him that would preclude the use of the top bunk. ( Id .) Plaintiff continued to complain of pain in his lower back and bicep. ( Id .) In response, Dr. Agora reordered Plaintiff's pain medication. ( Id . ¶ 23.) When Plaintiff informed Dr. Agora that the pain medication was not helping him manage the pain, Dr. Agora told him that there was nothing wrong with him and escorted Plaintiff back to his cell. ( Id . ¶¶ 24, 25.)

On December 27, 2011, Plaintiff submitted a request slip to Dr. Doll complaining of his top bunk status. ( Id . ¶¶ 26, 27; Doc. 1-1 at 11, Inmate's Request to Staff Member.) In her response dated December 28, 2011, Dr. Doll wrote: "Taking elavil does not automatically give you bottom bunk status. I also notice that you have no sports restrictions. Bottom bunk status requires sports restrictions also. If you think that you qualify for this, you should sign up for sick call." (Doc. 1-1 at 11.) In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he "doesn't have five dollars to pay out [presumably for a sick call visit] to get the same answers to the same questions." (Doc. 1-1 ¶ 28.) To that end, Plaintiff does not allege that he followed Dr. Doll's directive to sign up for sick call.

On December 29, 2011, Plaintiff submitted a request slip to Dr. Agora, asking why his bottom bunk status had been rescinded and why his pain medication was reordered. ( Id . ¶ 29, 30; Doc. 1-1 at 12, Inmate's Request to Staff Member.) In his December 30, 2011 response, Dr. Agora told Plaintiff to sign up for sick call. (Doc. 1-1 at 12.) Plaintiff does not allege that he followed Dr. Agora's directive.

On January 1, 2012, Plaintiff fell off the top bunk in his RHU cell, injuring his neck, lower back and right shoulder. (Doc. 1-1 ¶ 32.) A correctional officer found Plaintiff and called for a nurse. ( Id . ¶¶ 34-37.) The nurse did an initial assessment at the cell, and then Plaintiff was taken to the medical department for further examination. ( Id . ¶¶ 35-38.) There were no doctors in the department at the time, only two nurses. ( Id . ¶¶ 40, 42.) Plaintiff was lifted into a wheelchair and placed in an observation cell. ( Id . ¶ 42.) He was prescribed Motrin and evaluated in the observation cell for two days. ( Id . ¶¶ 44, 45.) When he was released from the observation cell and returned to his cell in the RHU, Plaintiff had not been seen by Dr. Doll or Dr. Agora, nor was he taken to an outside hospital. ( Id . ¶¶ 46-48.) Further, he was still assigned to the top bunk. ( Id . ¶ 49.) Plaintiff alleges that he was still in "intolerable pain, " and was not receiving additional medication to manage the pain. ( Id .) He submitted a sick call slip to the PA, but has not received any change in his medication or in his bunk status. ( Id . ¶ 52.)

B. Procedural History

On May 4, 2012, Medical Defendants filed a notice of removal, informing the court of removal of Plaintiff's complaint from the Court of Common Pleas of Huntingdon County to this court. (Doc. 1.) Thereafter, Medical Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on May 21, 2012. (Doc. 5.) On June 7, 2012, the court directed Plaintiff to file a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss on or before June 21, 2012. (Doc. 9.) Plaintiff filed his opposition on June 20, 2012, which was accepted by the court on August 10, 2012. ( See Doc. 12.) Thereafter, on February 28, 2013, the ...


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