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Gaines v. Sena

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

May 19, 2014


Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge


Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge


For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16), which has been converted into a Motion for Summary Judgment, be granted.


A. Relevant and Material Facts

Plaintiff, Lawrence Gaines, is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) confined at SCI-Pittsburgh. He commenced this action with the filing of a complaint. The Court initially denied his motion to proceed in forma pauperis for failure to include the appropriate financial documentation, but the motion was later granted upon Plaintiff’s compliance with the statutory requirements. (ECF Nos. 1, 2, and 7.)

Plaintiff brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act (“MHPA”), 50 P.S. § 7101, et seq., and common law claims of medical malpractice / negligence, and “state law vicarious liability / respondent superior.” Named as defendants are Psychiatrist Robert J. Sena, the psychiatrist at SCI-Pittsburgh, and Mental Health Management, Dr. Sena’s employer and the private mental health provider servicing SCI- Pittsburgh inmates. Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that Dr. Sena was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, because even though Dr. Sena was aware of his many psychological impairments, he took Plaintiff off his medications, namely Wellbutrin and Benadryl, in September 2012, which reportedly led to Plaintiff’s attempted suicide. As to Mental Health Management, Plaintiff alleges that it permitted Dr. Sena to maintain his improper practice of “tampering with medications.” Defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Because Defendants presented material outside of the Complaint, the Court converted the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, and allowed the parties time to submit additional briefing and evidence. The issues now have been fully briefed and the factual record has been thoroughly developed. (ECF Nos. 20, 21, 22, 25, 28, and 29.) The matter is ripe for disposition.

Upon careful consideration, the Court finds that the summary judgment record clearly supports Defendants’ assertion that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. As discussed below, none of Plaintiff’s explanations for his failure are sufficient to excuse the exhaustion requirement and it is, therefore, recommended that summary judgment in Defendants’ favor is warranted.

B. Standard of Review[1]

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” When applying this standard, the court must examine the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. ., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007). The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460–461 (3d Cir. 1989) (the nonmovant must present affirmative evidence-more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance-which supports each element of his claim to defeat a properly presented motion for summary judgment). The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show specific facts by affidavit or by information contained in the filed documents (i.e., depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions) to meet his burden of proving elements essential to his claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). The non-moving party “must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue.” Garcia v. Kimmell, 2010 WL 2089639, at * (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005)).

C. The Prison Litigation ...

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