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Melendez v. Long

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 30, 2015

GILBERTO MELENDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
MEDICAL DIRECTOR RONALD LONG, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM J. NEALON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Background

On August 9, 2013, Plaintiff, Gilberto Melendez, an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (“SCI- Huntingdon”) filed this instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). On January 10, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment, a brief in support, and a statement of facts. (Docs. 15, 16, 17). On February 3, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 18). On February 11, 2014, this Court issued an Order dismissing Defendants’ motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, accepting Plaintiff’s amended complaint as filed, and directing service of the amended complaint on Defendants. (Doc. 19). On March 14, 2014, Defendants filed a second motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, a brief in support, and a statements of facts. (Docs. 20, 21, 22). On March 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition. (Doc. 23). The motion is now ripe for review, and will be construed as a motion for summary judgment in accordance with Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment will be granted.

Standard of Review

“A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense - or each part of each claim or defense - on which summary judgment is sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a moving party must show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rest initially on the moving party. A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

If no material fact is in dispute, a moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). However, where there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if “a reasonable jury . . . could find for the nonmoving party.” Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988). “This burden . . . may be discharged by ‘showing’ . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

If a properly supported motion for summary judgment has been made, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. “No issue for trial exists unless a nonmoving party can demonstrate sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in that party’s favor.” Metsopulos v. Runyon, 918 F.Supp. 851, 860 (D.N.J. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249).

It is noted that, “where a nonmoving pro se litigant fails to file a responsive Local Civil Rule 56.1 statement of undisputed material fact, a court may draw the relevant facts underlying the claims from available sources such as the complaint, deposition testimony, [and] the moving litigant's Local Civil Rule 56.1 statement of undisputed material facts and supporting exhibits.” Athill v. Speziale, No. 06-4941(SDW), 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55446, *5 (D.N.J. June 30, 2009) (citing Jordan v. Allgroup Wheaton, 218 F.Supp.2d 643, 646 n.2 (D.N.J. 2002), aff'd, 95 Fed.Appx. 462 (3d Cir. 2004)). This is consistent with a plethora of case law applying leniency to pro se litigants’ compliance with procedural requirements. See, e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972).

Summary judgment should be granted by a federal court “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278 (3d Cir. 2000). “[A] court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party’s favor” in making this determination. Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994). The court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court’s function is not to make credibility determinations, weigh evidence, or draw inferences from the facts. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Rather, the court must “determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact.” Id.

Discussion

In his amended complaint, Plaintiff is alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to medical care because: (1) Defendant Dr. Poland failed to prescribe the prescription drug Relafen, which had been prescribed for Plaintiff in the past to treat pain caused by degenerative joint disease; (2) Defendant Nurse Practitioner Gonzales did not give him access to Dr. Poland or review Plaintiff’s medical records that showed he had previously been prescribed Relafen; and (3) Dr. Long failed to inform him that the Relafen he prescribed for Plaintiff was available to be picked up by Plaintiff, and “failed to investigate this situation” after Plaintiff sent him a request slip. (Doc. 18, pp. 3-6). He argues that, after several request slips were submitted, none of these Defendants told him to come pick up his medicine. (Id. at 6). For relief, Plaintiff requests: (1) a declaration that Defendants violated his rights; (2) compensatory and punitive damages; (3) a jury trial on all issues triable by jury; and (4) any other relief deemed necessary. (Id. at 7).

In the summary judgment motion, Defendants argue that the amended complaint fails to state a cognizable claim because Defendants were not deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need. (Doc. 20). With regards to Defendant Dr. Poland, it is asserted that his only involvement in the matter related to one (1) sick call visit on December 7, 2012, for renewal of Plaintiff’s pain management medications, and that the record reflects that Defendant Dr. Poland ordered medications, including Extra Strength Tylenol and Perrigo Ammonium Lactate lotion, that were picked up by Plaintiff in December of 2012. (Id. at pp. 2-4). Thus, it is argued that Plaintiff failed to set forth facts sufficient to support the allegation that Defendant Dr. Poland acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need because this Defendant provided Plaintiff with medical care. (Id.).

With regards to Defendant Gonzales, it is asserted that Plaintiff has failed to set forth sufficient facts that she acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need because Defendant Gonzales saw him for a sick call on December 17, 2012. (Id. at 6). Her refusal to let Plaintiff speak with Defendant Dr. Poland and to order medications that had already been ordered did not amount to deliberate indifference because she had provided medical care to Plaintiff. (Id.).

Regarding Defendant Dr. Long, Defendants assert that Plaintiff has failed to set forth sufficient facts that Dr. Long acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need because Plaintiff only asserts that Defendant Dr. Long failed to investigate complaints submitted by Plaintiff as to why he was not told to pick up the Relafen Dr. Long prescribed. (Doc. 20, p. 6). Defendants argue that Dr. Long provided ...


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