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Jeffries v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 30, 2015

JOHN W. JEFFRIES, Plaintiff,
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al., Defendants




A. Relevant Procedural History

On June 9, 2014, Plaintiff John W. Jeffries, an adult individual formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Mercer"), initiated this civil rights action by filing a complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following named Defendants: Wexford Health Services, Inc., the health care service provider that was under contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") to provide medical services to inmates at SCI-Mercer ("Wexford") at all times relevant to this case; Joseph Koch, DDS, a dentist employed by the DOC at SCI-Mercer ("Koch"); Scott Morgan, M.D., a former employee of Wexford who served as medical director at SCI-Mercer at all times relevant to this case ("Morgan"); Mark Baker, D.O., who served as the Strategic Clinical Initiatives Director of Wexford at all times relevant to this case ("Baker"); and Kimberly Boal, the Corrections Health Care Administrator at SCI-Mercer ("Boal"). For ease of reference, Defendants Koch and Boal will be collectively referred to as "Corrections Defendants, " and Defendants Wexford, Morgan, and Baker will be collectively referred to as "Wexford Defendants."

In his complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Morgan, Baker, and Boal were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution, and that Defendants Wexford, Morgan, and Koch committed professional negligence under Pennsylvania state law. As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

On August 18, 2014, the Corrections Defendants filed a (partial) motion to dismiss [ECF No. 20] seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Boal only. On September 9, 2014, Plaintiff filed a response to this motion voluntarily dismissing his claims against Defendant Boal only, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(A). As a result, the Corrections Defendants' motion [ECF No. 20] will be dismissed as moot and Defendant Boal will be terminated from this case.

On September 17, 2014, the Wexford Defendants filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 23], arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state an Eighth Amendment claim upon which relief may be granted against them.[2] Plaintiff has since filed a brief in response to this motion. [ECF No. 25]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Relevant Factual History[3]

On March 6, 2013, while incarcerated at SCI-Mercer, Plaintiff had six upper teeth removed by Defendant Koch. (ECF No. 1, Complaint, at ¶ 11). The next day, Plaintiff complained of blood coming from his nose when he cleared his sinuses, and of blood coming from the site where his upper right second molar had been extracted. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14). Defendant Koch examined Plaintiff and noted that Plaintiff suffered an oral-antral fistula, which is a hole formed between the mouth and the maxillary sinus in the cheekbone that was likely created by the tooth extraction. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-19). The fistula in Plaintiff's mouth was approximately ¼ inch in diameter, and allowed food and liquids to freely enter Plaintiff's sinus cavity any time he ate, drank, or brushed his teeth. (Id. at ¶ 20).

On May 16, 2013, Defendant Koch took final impressions for upper dentures that were to be placed in Plaintiff's mouth over the area of the fistula. (Id. at ¶ 29).[4] On May 20, 2013, Plaintiff reported waking with "a sudden and extremely painful throbbing toothache, " and a nurse was summoned, who observed that a foreign substance had become lodged in Plaintiff's sinus. (Id. at ¶¶ 35-36). Later the same day, Plaintiff was seen by a dental hygienist, who observed "blue dental impression material lodged in an unhealed perforation into the sinus, " but was unable to remove it. (Id. at ¶ 38). Plaintiff was then transported to Sharon Regional Medical Center ("SRMC"), where a CT scan of Plaintiff's sinuses revealed that foreign material had passed through the oral-antral fistula and had become lodged in Plaintiff's sinus cavity; however, the material was lodged so tightly that emergency room personal were unable to remove it. (Id. at ¶¶ 41-42).

On May 23, 2013, Dr. Valeri Roth, an ear, nose, and throat specialist employed by SRMC, attempted to remove the foreign material without surgery, but was unsuccessful. Dr. Roth noted that the material was causing widespread infection in Plaintiff's sinus and recommended that the material be surgically removed, and the fistula closed surgically, as soon as possible. (Id. at ¶¶ 43). Dr. Roth's recommendation, stating "Must schedule consult no later than: ASAP per Dr. Roth, " was reviewed and signed by Defendant Morgan on May 24, 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 44). Six days later, on May 30, 2013, Defendant Baker approved funding for the surgery. (Id. at ¶ 45).

On June 4, 2013, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Morgan and complained that his infection was worsening and he was emitting bloody pus from his nose. Defendant Morgan issued Plaintiff a "significant number of Motrin tablets" and tablets of Augmentin, but noted that removal of the foreign material from Plaintiff's sinus was likely the only remedy for his pain and infection. (Id. at ¶¶ 50-51). On June 12, 2013, a massive discharge of bloody pus erupted from Plaintiff's nose while he was attempting to eat lunch. After this eruption, the foreign material that had been previously sticking out of his tooth socket was no longer visible, as it had become dislodged and disappeared into a void left by the absence of bone and tissue that had allegedly been destroyed by the infection. (Id. at ¶ 53). Plaintiff reported the episode to Drs. Koch and Morgan later the same day, but they simply told him to keep taking his antibiotics and returned him to his housing unit less than five minutes later. (Id. at ¶¶ 55-56). Plaintiff was ultimately transported to the hospital for surgery to remove the foreign material from his sinus cavity on July 5, 2013. (Id. at ¶ 60).

C. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). 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 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 ...

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