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Jordan v. SCI Houtzdale Medical Department

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 9, 2015

GERALD JORDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SCI HOUTZDALE MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, STATE COLLEGE EYE DOCTOR, CENTRE EYE PHYSICIANS, and DR. MARCOURTCH, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN E. SCHWAB, Magistrate Judge.

In this civil action, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, the pro se plaintiff, Gerald Jordan ("Jordan"), a prisoner at SCI Houtzdale, has filed a complaint, which, liberally construed, includes claims of inadequate medical care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and professional malpractice or simple negligence. Doc. 3. For the following reasons, we recommend that this case be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 83.3.1.

I. Background and Relevant Procedural History.

Jordan initiated this lawsuit on July 5, 2013, in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Doc. 1. The District Court for the Eastern District, however, transferred the case to this Court and also granted Jordan's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. 2. Thereafter, on December 15, 2014, we issued an Order directing the Clerk of Court to send waiver forms to the defendants. Doc. 8. In complying with our Order, the Clerk of Court also sent a letter to Jordan advising him that the waiver was not served upon one of the defendants. Doc. 10. That letter was returned to the Court as undeliverable, and it was noted on the envelope that Jordan was not at the address provided for him on the Docket. See Doc. 12. As a result, we issued an Order requiring to Jordan to update his address on or before January 12, 2015. Doc. 13. To date, we have not heard from Jordan. Moreover, the latter Order was also returned to the Court as undeliverable. Doc. 14.

With respect to the contents of Jordan's complaint, he names the following four defendants: (1) SCI Houtzdale Medical Department; (2) State College Eye Doctor; (3) Centre Eye Physicians; and (4) Dr. Marcourtch. Docs. 1 & 3. According to Jordan, in February 2013, while he was imprisoned at SCI Houtzdale, he received an "eye spray" and underwent eye surgery that ultimately resulted in blindness in his right eye. Jordan claims that after the surgery, he was told that he would regain his eye sight a few hours after the procedure. Apparently, though, Jordan's eye sight in the right eye did not return, and he is "always bumping into things." Moreover, Jordan wrote a sick call request at the prison, but he was told that nothing else could be done for him there. Upon these factual allegations, we liberally construe Jordan's complaint to include an Eighth Amendment claim for inadequate medical care in addition to a state law claim for professional malpractice or negligence. As a remedy, Jordan seeks to recover monetary damages.

II. Discussion.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) provides that an action may be involuntarily dismissed "[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order." Under Rule 41(b), the Court may dismiss a complaint sua sponte. Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-31 (1962); Hewlett v. Davis, 844 F.2d 109, 114 (3d Cir. 1988) (same). When determining whether to sua sponte dismiss a complaint, as a sanction for failure to prosecute and failure to comply with court orders, a district court must balance the following six factors:

(1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense.

Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir.1984). None of the six factors is dispositive. Ware v. Rodale Press, Inc., 322 F.3d 218, 222 (3d Cir. 2003). A district court may also dismiss a complaint where not all six factors are satisfied. Mindek v. Rigatti, 964 F.2d 1369, 1373 (3d Cir.1992). Ultimately, the decision to dismiss remains within the discretion of the district court. Id.

In addition to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules, Local Rule 83.3.1 provides that a failure to comply with any of the Court's Local Rules "may be considered an abandonment or failure to prosecute or defend diligently." Moreover, Local Rule 83.18 provides that parties not represented by counsel "shall maintain on file with the clerk a current address at which all notices and copies of pleadings, motions or papers in the action may be served...." We will discuss the Poulis factors seriatim.

A. The extent of Jordan's personal responsibility.

This factor weighs in favor of dismissal because Jordan is personally responsible for complying with the Local Rules and orders from this Court. Moreover, in our Order directing the Clerk of Court to send waiver forms to the defendants, we specifically informed Jordan of his obligation to keep his address current. See Doc. 8 at 4. We subsequently provided Jordan with the same obligation when we Ordered him to update his address on or before January 12, 2015. See Doc. 13. Thus, Jordan had personal knowledge of his obligation to keep this Court informed of his current address. Nonetheless, Jordan has failed to comply our Orders and, simultaneously, the Court's Local Rules.

B. Prejudice to the defendants.

Generally, "prejudice" here means "the irretrievable loss of evidence, the inevitable dimming of witnesses' memories or the excessive and possibly irremediable burdens or costs imposed on the opposing party." Adams v. Trustees of N.J. Brewery Employees' Pension Trust Fund, 29 F.3d 863, 874 (3d Cir. 1994). While, in the time that our Orders and other correspondence have been returned as undeliverable, some of the defendants have waived service, we find that this factor actually weighs against dismissal. Indeed, ...


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