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Weathers v. Baker

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

September 24, 2014

MARK BAKER, et al, Defendants


NEALON, Judge.


Idrees Weathers, 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. The action proceeds via an amended complaint. (Doc. 17). The named Defendants are Mark Baker, D.O., Wexford Clinical Director for SCI-Huntingdon; Traci Parkes, Health Care Administrator at SCI-Huntingdon; Tabb Bickell, Superintendent of SCI-Huntingdon; Paula Price, Health Care Administrator of SCI-Huntingdon; Trevor Wingard, Superintendent of SCI-Laurel Highlands; Annette Kowalewski, Health Care Administrator at SCI-Laurel Highlands; Marjorie Lechene, Registered Nurse Supervisor at SCI-Laurel Highlands; and Roger Mason, Physical Therapist at SCI-Laurel Highlands. Id.

Presently pending is the Corrections Defendants' motion to dismiss, filed on behalf of Defendants Bickell, Price, Wingard, Kowalewski, and Lechene.[1] (Doc. 36). 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

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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), the court 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. ClV. 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 and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (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, the court must "conduct a two-part analysis." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. First, the factual elements are separated from the legal elements, and legal conclusions are disregarded. Id. at 210-11. Second, the court must "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 screening provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") that fails 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 id.; Dare v. U.S., 2007 WL 1811198, *4 (W.D. Pa. 2007), affd. 264 Fed.Appx. 183 (3d Cir. 2008).

III. Allegations in Plaintiffs Amended Complaint and Attached Exhibits.

Plaintiff claims that on March 14, 2012, he tore his patellar tendon playing basketball at SCI-Huntingdon. (Doc. 17 at 4). He states that he was "taken to an emergency room in a hospital in Altoona immediately that day" and "a brace was put on Plaintiffs leg and he returned to the prison a few hours later." Id.

On March 22, 2012, he was taken back to the Altoona Hospital where "a doctor told the escorting officers that Plaintiff had to have surgery immediately"; however, he was "returned to the prison that day without having the surgery." Id.

On March 24, 2012, Plaintiff was "taken to a hospital in State College and given the surgery on his knee." (Doc. 17 at 5).

On April 2, 2013, Plaintiff was taken to J.C. Blair Orthopedic Center for physical therapy. Id.

On April 13, 2012, Plaintiff was taken to the University Orthopedic Center for his appointment with Dr. Stauff, the surgeon who operated on his knee. Id-When asked about physical therapy, Plaintiff told the doctor that he had been to physical therapy only one time. Id. Dr. Stauff then "wrote a treatment plan for Plaintiff to do physical therapy three times a week, and made an appointment to see Plaintiff again in two weeks to see and monitor how his knee was coming along." Id. He also told Plaintiff that the "immobilizer brace and the crutches" he was using "were going to be taken from him in a few weeks; possibly when [Plaintiff] saw Dr. Stauff at the next appointment he made for two weeks later." Id.

Plaintiff alleges that "the medical staff responsible for health care at SCI-Huntingdon made the decision for him to be temporarily transferred to SCI-Laurel Highlands to do physical therapy", and on April 16, 2012, he was temporarily transferred to SCI-Laurel Highlands. Id.

Plaintiff states that he was not brought for his two week follow-up with Dr. Stauff, and "brought the appointment to the attention of Roger Mason, the Laurel Highlands physical therapist" and to "the attention of Annette Kowalewski and Marjorie Lechene." (Doc. 17 at 6). Plaintiff claims that when he asked Roger Mason about when he was going to go to his appointment, Mason would respond "soon", and that although Plaintiff told Mason he needed to remove the immobilizer and walk without the crutches, Mason "told him that he had to keep the brace on and walk with the crutches until he went to his appointment, or else he would receive a misconduct." Id.

On June 7, 2012, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Stauff. Id. He claims that Dr. Stauff was "mad" because Plaintiff was to have seen him "a long time ago and because [Plaintiff] had the brace on and was walking on crutches for far too long." Id. Dr. Stauff "immediately took the brace off [Plaintiffs] leg and took [him] off the crutches" and prescribed "aggressive physical therapy three days a week" and made an appointment to see Plaintiff in two weeks. Id.

On August 12, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an Inmate's ELequest to Staff Member to Defendant Health Care Administrator Annette Kowalewski, complaining that he missed his follow-up appointment with Dr. Stauff and that his knee was not getting any better. (Doc. 17 at 24, Inmate's Request to Staff Member). On August 15, 2012, Defendant Kowalewski responded that she reviewed Plaintiffs chart, and that Plaintiff had not "put in any sick call slips about this complaint" and that "the notes from PT dated 6-12, 7-13 & 8-10-12 all show increasing flexibility in your knee with noted improvement each time." Id. (emphasis in original). She advised Weathers that "if you are having problems please submit a sick call slip." Id.

On August 27, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an Inmate's Request to Staff Member to Defendant Registered Nurse Supervisor Marjorie Lechene, stating that he "had an appointment way back in June to see the surgeon that did the surgery on [his] knee" and he "hasn't been to that appointment." (Doc. 17 at 23, Inmate's Request to Staff Member). Plaintiff further complains that even though he goes "to physical therapy and work it out on the unit everyday", it's "messed up." Id.

Thus, Weathers requests that he be sent to see the surgeon that [he] was supposed to see back in June or send [him] back to Huntingdon" and advised that he was "not going back to physical therapy until [he] hear[s] from you." Id.[2]

On August 28, 2012, Defendant Lechene responded with the following:
You did see the Altoona Orthopedic surgeon on 6-7-12 & you were prescribed aggressive exercises & the brace & crutches were to be discontinued & you are to walk but not run.
We called the office today & they stated no scheduled follow-up is needed. You are making improvement in PT per Mr. Mason. Please discuss your concerns with Mr. Mason or place a sick ...

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