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Hasty v. County of Montgomery

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

February 28, 2014

JAMES HASTY
v.
COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY, ET AL.

MEMORANDUM

R. BARCLAY SURRICK, J.

Presently before the Court are Defendants County of Montgomery and Correctional Medical Care Inc.’s Motions to Dismiss (ECF No. 27), and Defendant Carillo’s Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike (ECF No. 25). For the following reasons, Defendants’ Motions will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background [1]

Plaintiff James Hasty brings this section 1983 action against Defendants County of Montgomery, Correctional Medical Care, Inc. (“CMC”), and Dr. Margaret Carillo, M.D., for injuries that he sustained as a result of Defendants allegedly denying him medical care while he was a pretrial detainee at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (“MCCF” or the “Prison”). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on September 3, 2010, he was admitted to MCCF on pending criminal charges. (Compl. ¶ 12.) On September 13, 2010, he was prescribed Risperdal by a psychiatrist at MCCF. (Id. at ¶ 13; Pl.’s Resp. 2, ECF No. 29.) The next day, he developed priapism, which caused him to have “significant pain in his abdomen and genital area and abnormal urination.” (Compl. ¶ 14.)[2] From September 14 through September 17, Plaintiff refused medication from CMC nurses because he believed that the medication was causing the priapism. (Compl. ¶ 15.)[3] During this three day period, Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly requested medical care through the medical care request system. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff made these requests both through the medical phone request system, and directly to correctional officers and CMC medical staff, which he was directed to do by the recorded message on the medical phone request system. (Id.) The recorded message instructed inmates to notify correctional and other officers of the inmate’s need for emergency medical care. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that his requests were ignored, delayed, and denied. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

Finally, on September 17, 2010, a physician’s assistant examined Plaintiff and arranged for him to be sent to Mercy Suburban Hospital, where he was treated and returned to the Prison. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.) On September 19, 2010, Plaintiff was transferred to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he underwent surgery “and other extremely painful and debilitating medical treatments, ” which resulted in a condition of permanent impotence. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on December 6, 2012. (Compl.)[4] The Amended Complaint asserts two claims: (1) a civil rights claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants; and (2) a state law medical malpractice claim against CMC and Dr. Carillo. On August 29, 2012, Plaintiff filed certificates of merit as to Defendants CMC (ECF No. 4) and Dr. Carillo (ECF No. 5).

On December 20, 2012, Dr. Carillo filed a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and Motion to Strike Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) and Memorandum in support thereof. (Carillo Mot., ECF No. 25; Carillo Br., ECF No. 25.) On December 28, 2012, the County of Montgomery and CMC filed a Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum in support thereof. (Cnty Mot., ECF No. 27; Cnty Br., ECF No. 27.) On January 9, 2013, Plaintiff filed a joint Response to Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss. (Pl.’s Resp., ECF No. 29.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), “a pleading that states a claim for relief must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A motion under Rule 12(b)(6), therefore, tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint that merely alleges entitlement to relief, without alleging facts that show entitlement, must be dismissed. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Courts need not accept “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements . . . .” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679. This ‘“does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ’ but instead ‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of’ the necessary element.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

In determining whether dismissal of the complaint is appropriate, courts use a two-part analysis. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. First, courts separate the factual and legal elements of the claim and accept all of the complaint’s well-pleaded facts as true. Id. at 210-11. Next, courts determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a ‘“plausible claim for relief.”’ Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Given the nature of the two-part analysis, “‘[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.’” McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff asserts a section 1983 claim against all Defendants and a state law malpractice claim against CMC and Dr. Carillo. With respect to the section 1983 claim, Plaintiff alleges that he suffered permanent injuries as a result of being denied appropriate medical care while housed as a pretrial detainee at the Prison. Plaintiff contends that Defendants’ failure to provide adequate medical care was a direct result of policies, practices, and customs at the Prison that were implemented, enforced, and ratified by Defendants. Plaintiff further contends that these policies, practices, and customs evidence a deliberate indifference on the part of Defendants to Plaintiff’s serious medical needs. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants: (1) failed to establish and maintain a system that allowed inmates with serious medical conditions to receive treatment; (2) failed to train and supervise their prison and medical staff to recognize emergency medical situations and secure immediate care for individuals with such medical needs; and (3) failed to establish a proper system for review and consideration of an inmate’s refusal of medication. Plaintiff’s state law claims against Dr. Carillo and CMC sound in negligence. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Carillo and CMC owed a duty to Plaintiff to exercise the proper degree of care and skill in the medical treatment of Plaintiff, that they breached that duty by failing to exercise reasonable care and diligence, that Defendants’ breach of duty proximately caused Plaintiff’s injuries, and that Plaintiff is left permanently injured and impotent as a result.

All Defendants seek dismissal of the section 1983 action, and Dr. Carillo and CMC seek dismissal of the state law claims. In addition, Dr. Carillo and CMC seek to strike Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages, and Dr. Carillo seeks to strike allegations in the Amended Complaint that relate to deliberate indifference, reckless behavior, and/or willful misconduct.

A. Section 1983 Claim for the Denial of Medical Care

1.The County of Montgomery and CMC

Generally, a municipality and private corporation cannot be held vicariously liable under section 1983. Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978).[5] A plaintiff seeking to hold a public entity or municipality liable for the actions of its agents under Monell must show that a custom or policy of the entity caused the constitutional violation. Id. at 694. To state a Monell claim for inadequate medical care against a municipality or a corporation acting under color of state law, a plaintiff must show a relevant policy or custom attributable to the municipality and “a direct causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of federal rights.” Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Bryan Cnty., Okl., v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997). “Policy is made when a ‘decisionmaker possess[ing] final authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the action’ issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict.” Andrews v. City of Phila., 895 F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 481 (1986)). “Custom, on the other hand, can be proven by showing that a given course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually to constitute law, ” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1480), and “may be established by proof of knowledge and acquiescence, ” Fletcher v. O’Donnell, 867 F.2d 791, 793-94 (3d Cir. 1989).

Thus, a municipality, such as the County of Montgomery, or a private corporation acting under color of state law, such as CMC, may be liable under section 1983 in situations where a policymaker “made a deliberate choice to follow a course of action . . . from among various alternatives, and the policy chosen reflects a deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights” of citizens. Stoneking v. Bradford Area Sch. Dist., 882 F.2d 720, 725 (3d Cir. 1989) (internal quotations omitted). However, “[p]roof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability under Monell, unless proof of the incident includes proof that it was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy, which policy can be attributed to a municipal policymaker.” Okla. City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823-24 (1985).

Plaintiff argues that Defendants failed to adopt and implement policies and procedures necessary to ensure ...


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