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Valdez v. Showalter

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 24, 2014

MARY LOU SHOWALTER, et al., Defendants.


MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.


Andres Valdez, an inmate confined in the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon ("SCI-Huntingdon"), Pennsylvania, filed the above captioned civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. (Doc. No. 1) The named Defendants are former SCI-Huntingdon Corrections Health Care Administrator Mary Lou Showalter; SCI-Huntingdon Superintendent Tabb Bickell; Secretary for the Department of Corrections John Wetzel; and Nurses Trice, Hartzler, Dively and Chew. Id.

Presently before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of Defendants Showalter, Bickell, Wetzel, Trice, and Hartzler.[1] (Doc. No. 11). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.

II. Motion to Dismiss

Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Rule 12(b)(6), we 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." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir.2008)). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id . (quoted case omitted). Thus, "a judicial conspiracy claim must include at least a discernible factual basis to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal." Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of New Jersey , 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir.2009) (per curiam).

In resolving the motion to dismiss, we thus "conduct a two-part analysis." Fowler, supra , 578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, we "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief". Id. at 211 (quoted case omitted).

In addition, because Plaintiff complains about "prison conditions, " the screening provisions of 42 U.S.C. §1997e apply, as do the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1915(e), given that he was granted in forma pauperis status to pursue this suit. The court's obligation to dismiss a complaint under the PLRA screening provisions for complaints that fail to state a claim is not excused even after defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 n. 6 (9th Cir.2000). Hence, if there is a ground for dismissal which was not relied upon by a defendant in a motion to dismiss, the court may nonetheless sua sponte rest its dismissal upon such ground pursuant to the screening provisions of the PLRA. See Lopez; Dare v. U.S., Civil No. 06-115E , 2007 WL 1811198, at *4 (W.D. Pa. June 21, 2007), aff'd, 264 Fed.Appx. 183 (3d Cir.2008).

III. Allegations in Complaint

On September 20, 2012, Plaintiff claims that he fell in the main exercise yard and "was rushed to the hospital for an emergency evaluation that was conducted by licensed practical nurse Trice, who took all his vital signs and referred him to the attending physician's assistant", however, he was "only treated for the wound sustained from the fall and ordered to submit to a Tetanus/Diphtheria Booster Injection'." Id . Valdez states that "the initial problems of dizziness, numbness in the left arm, nausea and loss of coordination was never treated and/or addressed by the Physician's Assistant Trice" and "Valdez was told to return to his cell." Id . Plaintiff alleges that "this misdiagnosis and improper and inadequate medical treatment caused him to suffer a multiple life-threatening, debilitating medical problem." Id.

On September 24, 2012, Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Angela Dively. He states that "after complaining of being disoriented, another neurological assessment was made that completely ignored the vital signs of a possible heart attack." Id . He claims that he was "given another CAT scan, and on September 30, 2012, upon being reviewed by Nurse Hartzler, due to the debilitating pain he was enduring and suffering, she evaluated him and checked for any vital signs and ordered a Orthostatic Blood Pressure Test" and told him that he "needed to put in another sick-call slip if he required further treatment." Id.

On October 1, 2012, Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Tanya Chew, who Plaintiff states told him "that he needed to sit up or lay down because there was nothing she could do until the results of the last CAT scan returned and if the symptoms worsen that he was to scream out Man Down' (this is the general population stress call) since there is no call buttons in the cells for medical or any emergency." (Doc. No. 1, complaint at ¶ B).

Plaintiff states that "on October 2, 2012, after numerous requests to the staff complaining of nausea and dizziness, along with severe headaches, Valdez was allowed to go to the in-house hospital where he was examined by Dr. Coles, who stated that something was seriously wrong and immediately ordered' Valdez to be sent to the Blair Medical Center, where he under went numerous tests, including but not limited to a blood test, and after over two hours of examinations they couldn't find anything and transferred him to the Altoona Regional Health System, where they immediately gave him another CAT scan, discovering that Valdez had a 100% blockage of a major artery that required him to undergo surgery." Id . Valdez claims that it was "this thorough diagnosis that found that Valdez was also a High Risk Cardiac Profile Patient' suffering from among other things, Hypertension, ...

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