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Blaise v. Ebbert

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 26, 2015

DAVID J. EBBERT, WARDEN, et al., Defendants



Plaintiff Thomas Blaise (“Blaise”), a federal inmate currently incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp at the United States Penitentiary at Canaan (“USP-Canaan”), Waymart, Pennsylvania, commenced this Bivens[1] action on November 19, 2012. The matter is proceeding via an amended complaint (Doc. 33), wherein plaintiff alleges that the following individual defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care: David J. Ebbert, A. Dunbar, D. Holloway, B. Sullivan (also listed on the docket as Barb Sullivan), T. Horeis, K. Kaiser, S. Tucker, J. Vander Hey-Wright, N. DeRoberto, and D. Cook. Presently pending is defendants’ motion (Doc. 54) to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (Doc. 54). For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

I. Standard of Review

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). “‘The non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in the complaint; instead, it must “go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’ Celotex [ ], 477 U.S. [ ] 324 [ ] (1986) (internal quotations omitted).” Schiazza v. Zoning Hearing Bd., Fairview Twp., York County, Pa, 168 F.Supp.2d 361, 365 (M.D. Pa. 2001). 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.

II. Statement of Material Facts

“A motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 shall be accompanied by a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts . . . as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried.” See L.R. 56.1. The opposing party shall file a separate statement of the material facts as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried. Id. “All material facts set forth in the statement 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.” Id. Because Blaise failed to oppose defendants’ statement of material facts, despite being ordered to do so (Doc. 60), all facts contained therein are deemed admitted.

Blaise brings Bivens claims against defendants by alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs with regard to medical care and treatment for a knee injury. (Doc. 55. ¶ 4). He alleges that defendants, as members of the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”) at USP Canaan, and the “Regional Director, ” “denied his request for knee surgery.” (Id.)

Blaise claims that in April 2009, after he injured his left knee while playing basketball, he sought medical services. (Id. at ¶ 5). He was treated and x-rays were taken of his knee. (Id.)

Eighteen months later, after receiving an MRI of his knee, Blaise alleges that he was seen by an orthopedic surgeon, who told him that he had injured his ACL in his left knee and that surgery “was the only way of correction [sic] the ALC [sic] or that [he] will suffer further consequences. . . .” (Id. at ¶ 6, citing Doc. 33, pp. 2-3). He alleges that he discovered that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) denied the request for surgery in February 2011 “because the Utilization Review Committee (URC) did not f[i]nd the surgery necessary.” (Id. at ¶ 7, citing Doc. 33, pp. 3, 4). However, he acknowledges that the BOP recommended he “go to sickcall every time that he feels pain” and “gave [him] painkillers.” (Id., citing Doc. 33, pp. 2, 5). He alleges that because BOP policy categorizes his knee injury as “medically necessary, non-emergent, ” the surgery should be considered “medically necessary, ” and failure to provide it violates the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at ¶ 8, citing Doc. 33, p. 4).

The following medical history is derived from the BOP’s Electronic Medical Records system (BEMR) and represents a complete summary of Blaise’s contact with Health Services staff regarding his left knee injury. (Id. at ¶ 9).

Blaise was first seen for a knee injury on May 5, 2009, at which time he informed Health Services staff that he injured his knee while playing basketball. (Id. at ¶ 11). Medical staff evaluated Blaise’s knee, prescribed him Naproxen in 500mg doses, and instructed him to return to sick call if his condition did not improve. (Id.)

He returned to Health Services on May 24, 2009, complaining of a new knee injury he suffered while playing basketball the prior day, despite his earlier knee injury. (Id. at ¶ 12). Medical staff again examined his knee, instructed Blaise to ice the affected area, and supplied him with an Ace wrap. (Id.)

On May 26, 2009, Blaise returned with complaints of knee pain, but denied that his knee was “locking or giving out.” (Id. at ¶ 13). After the examination, medical staff prescribed him with Indomethacin capsules in 50 mg doses and ordered an X-ray. (Id.) Blaise declined crutches. (Id.)

A June 3, 2009 radiology report indicated that the x-ray results were negative. (Id. at ¶ 14). A few months later, on August 20, 2009, Blaise returned to Health Services complaining of knee pain. (Id. at ¶ 15). Medical staff ordered an MRI and specifically instructed Blaise to not “play strenuous sports until MRI done.” (Id.) After another period of several months, on December 3, 2009, Blaise visited Health Services with various ailments, including lightheadedness, popping in his right shoulder, and some continued pain in his left knee. (Id. at ΒΆ 16). Among other things, medical staff prescribed ...

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