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Shelton v. Baker

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 8, 2014

DR. BAKER, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM J. NEALON, District Judge.

Norman N. Shelton, an inmate confined in the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg ("USP-Lewisburg"), Pennsylvania, filed the above captioned Bivens[1] action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. 1, complaint). Shelton names as defendants G. Keith Baker, DDS, Chief Dental Officer; Steve Brown, Health Services Administrator ("HSA"); Francis Fasciana, Physician Assistant (P.A.); and David Young, Associate Warden. Id.

Shelton alleges that Dr. Baker and P.A. Fasciana denied him medical care and pain medication for a dental problem, and HSA Brown and Associate Warden Young were made aware of this situation but failed to take any action over their subordinates. Id . As relief, Shelton seeks injunctive relief, i.e., examination and treatment by an outside professional dentist, revocation of Dr. Baker's license to practice dentistry, and criminal charges of assault and battery against all other defendants; and compensatory damages in the amount of $2, 500, 000.00, plus costs and other relief that the Court deems "just and proper." Id.

Presently pending is Defendants' motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment. (Doc. 23). The motion is fully brief and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion will be granted.

I. Summary Judgment

A. Bivens Standard

Plaintiff's claims are filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, in accordance with Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics , 403 U.S. 388, (1971). Under Bivens, the District Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 to entertain an action brought to redress alleged federal constitutional or statutory violations by a federal actor. Id . Pursuant to Bivens, "a citizen suffering a compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest could invoke the general federal question jurisdiction of the district court to obtain an award of monetary damages against the responsible federal official." Butz v. Economou , 438 U.S. 478, 504 (1978). A Bivens-style civil rights claim is the federal equivalent of an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the same legal principles have been held to apply. See, Paton v. LaPrade , 524 F.2d 862, 871 (3d Cir. 1975); Veteto v. Miller , 829 F.Supp. 1486, 1492 (M.D. Pa. 1992); Young v. Keohane , 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1200 n.16 (M.D. Pa. 1992). In order to state an actionable Bivens claim, a plaintiff must allege that a person has deprived him of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of federal law. See West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Young v. Keohane , 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1199 (M.D. Pa. 1992); Sharpe v. Costello, 2007 WL 1098964, *3 (M.D. Pa. 2007).

B. Summary Judgment

Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine issue as to any material fact" and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The burden of proof is upon the non-moving party to come forth with "affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings, " in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon , 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c), (e). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas , 331 F.Supp.2d at 315.

The pertinent portions of the Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rules of Court, which are set forth in the Standing Practice Order served upon Plaintiff on June 3, 2013 (Doc. 3), provide that, in addition to filing a brief in response to the moving party's brief in support, "[t]he papers opposing a motion for summary judgment shall include a separate, short and concise statement of material facts responding to the numbered paragraphs set forth in the statement [of material facts filed by the moving party]..., as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried." See M.D. Pa. LR 56. 1. The Rule further states that the statement of material facts required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement required to be served by the opposing party. See id. Though Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition[2] to Defendants' pending motion, he failed to file a counter statement of facts, nor requested an enlargement of time within which to do so. Thus, he has failed to controvert the material facts contained in Defendants' statement. As such, Defendants' statement of material facts will be deemed as admitted.

C. Motion to Dismiss

The Court in Williams v. Hull , 2009 WL 1586832, *2-3 (W.D. Pa. 2009), set forth the motion to dismiss standard of review, as annunciated by the Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and as refined in Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009), as follows:

The issue is not whether the plaintiff will prevail at the end but only whether he should be entitled to offer evidence to support his claim. Neitzke; Scheuer v. Rhodes , 419 U.S. 232 (1974). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, ___ , 129 S.Ct. 1937, ___, 173 L.Ed.2d 868, ___, 2009 WL 1361536 (May 18, 2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act). The court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc. , 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir.1985). The Court, however, need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir.2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556, citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."

Id. at 570. In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan , 2008 WL 482469, *1 (D. Del. 2008) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). "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 , 515 F.3d at 232 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556 n.3).

II. Statement of Facts

Shelton was first evaluated by Dental Services on April 13, 2010, for pain in a prior filling, stating that "the old filling I have hurts when I eat or drink." (Doc. 25-1 at 22-25, Bureau of Prisons Dental Health Encounter). Dr. Baker, the Chief Dental Officer, offered to restore the filling, but Shelton refused the treatment because he was feeling light-headed from a hunger strike. Id . Shelton was then advised to seek dental care again once he was ready for treatment. Id.

On May 27, 2010, Shelton returned to Dental Services following the end of his hunger strike. See (Doc. 25-1 at 26, Dental Routine Care Treatment). ...

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