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Thomas v. Varano

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 10, 2015

DAVID VARANO, ET AL., Defendants.


WILLIAM J. NEALON, District Judge.


On November 1, 2010, Plaintiff, Antonio Thomas, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Coal Township, Pennsylvania, ("SCI-Coal Twp."), filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff subsequently submitted a lengthy amended complaint naming multiple Defendants which centers around diagnostic services and treatment which were provided to him for prostate cancer. (Doc. 33).

This Court granted Defendant Muhammad Ikram M.D.'s unopposed motion to dismiss the amended complaint by Memorandum and Order dated January 3, 2012. (Doc. 69). Dismissal was granted in favor of Defendants Superintendent David Varano; Health Care Administrator Kathryn McCarty; Nurse Supervisors Christopher Yackiel and Mary Hensler; Nurses Melissa DiRienzo, Ellen Hill, and Sherri Mummy; as well as Correctional Officers Jill Whipple, William Reitz, and James Delbaugh on March 12, 2012. (Docs. 74 and 75).

Defendants Prison Health Services (PHS) and PHS employees; Rodney Companion, M.D.; Stanley Stanish, M.D.; Miguel Salomon, M.D.; and Physician Assistant (PA) Brian Davis' motion to dismiss was granted by Memorandum and Order dated March 26, 2012. (Docs. 76 and 77).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff's action with exception of two (2) claims. See Thomas v. Varano, 532 Fed.Appx. 142 (3d Cir. 2013). The Court of Appeals concluded that only the Eighth Amendment claims against Defendant Health Care Administrator McCarty and Defendant Doctor Stanley Stanish should proceed. See (Doc. 90).

On November 15, 2013, this Court conditionally granted Plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel, pro bono counsel subsequently entered an appearance on behalf of Thomas. Defendant McCarty's motion for summary judgment was recently granted by Memorandum and Order dated February 23, 2015. See Docs. 143 & 144. Presently pending is Remaining Defendant Doctor Stanish's motion for summary judgment. See Doc. 112. The motion, which has been opposed, is ripe for consideration.

By way of background, the amended complaint asserts that Plaintiff was transferred to SCI-Coal Twp. in 2005 accompanied by his medical records from his former place of incarceration. See (Doc. 33). Those records purportedly included detailed information showing that Thomas was diagnosed as having cardiac problems and "blood work results which clearly indicated that plaintiff's prostate specific antigen ("PSA") levels were rising."[1] Doc. 33, ¶ 19. While under the care of SCI-Coal Twp. medical staff other than Doctor Stanish, a PSA test was performed on July 21, 2007. See id. at ¶ 34. On July 26, 2007, the prison's Medical Department was notified that based upon Plaintiff's PSA test results he "most likely had cancer that has spread beyond the prostate." Id. at ¶ 35. According to the Amended Complaint, Thomas was informed of that determination during a September 14, 2007 consultation with Doctor Salomon. A biopsy performed on October 23, 2008. confirmed that Thomas had advanced prostate cancer. See Doc. 33, ¶ 53.

With respect to the Remaining Defendant, it is alleged that Doctor Stanish became involved in Plaintiff's care at SCI-Coal Twp. after he was diagnosed with cancer. It is alleged that during December of 2009, Doctor Stanish falsely accused Thomas of "cheeking his pain pills." Id. at ¶ 82. Although that accusation was allegedly proven to be meritless via a urine test, Plaintiff claims that Remaining Defendant Stanish prescribed him a weaker pain medication as a punitive measure which exacerbated the prisoner's condition. The amended complaint elaborates that Doctor Stanish and Thomas did not get along, and there was no valid reason for prescribing a weaker pain medication.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp. , 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana , 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp. , 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Township of Clinton , 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id . (internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana , 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322-23. "Such affirmative evidence - regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial -must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'" Saldana , 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester , 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)).


Doctor Stanish argues that he is entitled to entry of summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his available administrative remedies; (2) Thomas cannot prove deliberate indifference to a serious medical need; and (3) Plaintiff has failed to establish ...

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