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Douglas v. Jin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 7, 2014

DR. BYUNGHAK JIN, Medical Director, SCI GREENE, Defendant.


CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Lamar Nelson Douglas, is a Pennsylvania inmate housed at the State Correctional Institution at Greene, located in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. He commenced this action pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, against a number of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections officials and medical care providers at SCI-Greene, including a claim against its Medical Director, Dr. Byunghak Jin, the sole remaining defendant, for deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Before the Court are Dr. Jin's Motion in Limine Regarding Mitigation (ECF No. 172) and Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Allow REA's Records Into Evidence Under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(6) or Alternatively, Through Dr. Friberg or Dr. Jin (ECF No. 174). The factual background and legal framework for evaluating these motions have been set forth in previous Opinions and Orders of this Court, and need not be repeated herein. See (ECF Nos. 115, 126 and 163).

Motion in Limine Regarding Mitigation (ECF No. 172)

Defendant "seeks to elicit testimony as to the opportunities available to plaintiff at SCI Greene to raise questions or inquiries about his medical care and that his failure to pursue those opportunities should be considered by the jury as a failure to mitigate damages." Motion in Limine Regarding Mitigation (ECF No. 172), at 1. The witness who would render such testimony, Deputy Superintendant Lorinda Winfield, is:

the deputy superintendent at SCI Greene who is familiar with the grievance [process] utilized at SCI Greene and also familiar with the timeline and protocol to be utilized by the Department of Corrections and any vendors relating to the transfer of inmates from SCI Greene to the Michigan Correctional System in late 2009/early to mid-2010. Depending on the outcome of discovery designations and motions in limine, she will describe the grievance process available to inmates, what was used by Mr. Douglas and also describe the selection criteria for transfers to Michigan and the expectation as to what inmates would be stricken from the selection list.

Dr. Jin's Final Witness List and Offers of Proof (ECF No. 130), at 2-3.

Previously, this Court rejected Dr. Jin's argument for summary judgment that Mr. Douglas' claims are foreclosed because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies via the DOC's inmate grievance procedures. In a Memorandum Opinion in Support of Denial of Motions for Summary Judgment dated January 27, 2014 (ECF No. 115), this Court reviewed several grievances made part of the summary judgment record, and held: Dr. Jin's "argument that Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies because his grievances were not specific enough to encompass the deliberate indifferent claims raised in this lawsuit is without merit.... The Court finds the pro se prisoner's detailed grievances complaining about delay and denial of treatment in his right eye adequate to have preserved the deliberate indifference claim which is now before this Court." Id . at 12-13.

On March 3, 2014, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Defendant's Motion For Reconsideration (ECF No. 126), which vigorously pressed the Court to reconsider the exhaustion argument. The Court did so, but found that Mr. Douglas' compliance with the DOC's grievance procedure was substantial, and that exhaustion is a threshold issue for the Court, not the jury. In denying Dr. Jin's motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 116), this Court explained:

In light of defendant's motion for reconsideration, it is appropriate to flesh out these Grievances. It is also appropriate to discuss several additional grievances which, although not fully grieved through all three steps, provide context for his subsequent grievances and inform the Court's judgment that Plaintiff was complaining about the pain and discomfort in his eyes and Dr. Jin's delays and deliberate indifference with regard to his vision and eyesight since April 2009 .
* * *
[Individual grievances] should not be viewed in a vacuum, but rather, as part of a continuing series of grievances where [Plaintiff] complained about Dr. Jin's continued delays and indifference to his medical eye care needs, pain and visual impairments, as evaluated by outside medical professionals. Some of Plaintiff's grievances were filed before and shortly after his UPMC procedure in September 2009.
... Mr. Douglas' civil rights claim and his grievances are about a "larger-scale denial of adequate medical care." Under all of the circumstances, the Court quite agrees with Plaintiff's assessment of the nature of Mr. Douglas' constitutional claim for deliberate indifference with regard to Dr. Jin's care and treatment of his eyes and vision and the administrative grievances he filed with regard thereto.
Plaintiff's medical condition was a continuing issue, not one that occurred on a specific date, and the emulsification of silicone oil was a gradual process. Dr. Jin's failure to follow Dr. Eller's explicit after care instructions was also of a continuing nature. Furthermore, Mr. Douglas, a layman, did not have the education or training to be able to pinpoint the exact cause of his pain and deteriorating vision or accurately diagnose its etiology. Mr. Douglas made repeated complaints to prison medical staff and officials, both before and after September 2009, about his pain, deteriorating vision, and the delay and indifference to his treating UPMC physician's recommendations for necessary follow up care. Given Mr. Douglas' lack of expertise, his ...

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