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Rodriguez v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2015

WARDEN J.E. THOMAS, et al., Defendants.


SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Walter Rodriguez, a federal inmate formerly incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"), initiated this action against several Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") officials[1] with a Bivens [2]-styled complaint filed on October 18, 2012, as amended on July 9, 2014. (Doc. 105.) In the amended complaint, Plaintiff claims that his constitutional rights were violated in connection with a physical and verbal assault by Defendant PA Potter and subsequent medical care; that several Defendants subsequently retaliated against him after it was discovered that he wished to pursue legal action against Defendants; and, that he was subjected to atypical and significant hardship in connection with the conditions of confinement in his restricted confinement cell. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and declaratory relief.

Presently before the court are two motions to dismiss, filed by Defendant PA Potter (Doc. 107) and Defendants Eichner, Thomas, Crawley, McClintock, Knapp, and Fosnot ("BOP Defendants") (Doc. 129).[3] For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Facts

In the amended complaint, Plaintiff provides the following factual background with respect to his claims. For purposes of disposition of the instant motions to dismiss, the factual allegations asserted in the amended complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. In addition, all the events in the amended complaint appear to have occurred at various security level facilities at Plaintiff's former place of confinement, USP-Lewisburg.

Plaintiff asserts that he is a chronic care inmate suffering from chronic diabetes and "other chronic ailments." (Doc. 105 ¶ 71.) Plaintiff requires insulin and monitoring to treat his diabetes. ( Id. )

On August 11, 2012, approximately between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m., while located at a unit at the Federal Prison Camp in Lewisburg, Plaintiff started to feel sick, lightheaded, nauseous, dizzy, weak, and disoriented. ( Id. ¶ 14.) He thought he was going to faint. ( Id. ) As a result, he approached CO Ross[4] at the Office Station and asked him to call the paramedics. ( Id. ¶ 15.) CO Ross opened the medical room for Plaintiff and allowed him to check his blood sugar level with a glucometer. ( Id. ) The blood sugar level read "high, " or over 500. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asserts that the normal range is between 90 and 110. ( Id. )

CO Ross called Defendant PA Potter, who was located at the Lewisburg Penitentiary at the time, to inform him of Plaintiff's condition. ( Id. ¶ 16.) According to Plaintiff, PA Potter "showed reluctance" to travel to Plaintiff at the Camp, and instead instructed Plaintiff to drink water and return to bed. ( Id. ) Plaintiff then returned to his unit. ( Id. )

Later, when CO Ross and Defendant CO Eichner came to the unit to perform the inmate count, CO Ross called in a "medical emergency" for Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 17.) Two inmates assisted Plaintiff to the medical room at the Camp's Administration Building, where Plaintiff laid down on a medical bed. ( Id. ) CO Eichner remained in the room with Plaintiff until PA Potter and Defendant Lieutenant Knapp arrived. ( Id. ) Fifteen (15) minutes after CO Ross called in the "medical emergency", and approximately twenty-five (25) minutes after Plaintiff first notified CO Ross about his condition, PA Potter and Lieutenant Knapp arrived at the medical room. ( Id. )

Upon arriving at the medical room, PA Potter yelled, "What the f*** am I here for? What the f*** you expect me to do?" ( Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff responded, "help me." ( Id. ) PA Potter then asked Plaintiff to extend his left arm in order to "finger stick" him. ( Id. ¶ 19.) After he did this, PA Potter grabbed Plaintiff's wrist and threw his arm back aggressively. ( Id. ) PA Potter then prepared a syringe and injected Plaintiff "with force, " causing Plaintiff pain. ( Id. ¶ 20.) PA Potter then grabbed Plaintiff by his shirt and pulled him to a sitting position. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asserts that he feared for his safety and physical well-being and believed PA Potter would strike him. ( Id. ¶ 21.) When Plaintiff stood up, PA Potter struck him on the back of his neck and shoved him forward, causing Plaintiff further pain. ( Id. ¶ 22.) PA Potter then cursed at Plaintiff, "Get the f**k out of my office, " and pushed Plaintiff out of the room. ( Id. ¶ 23.)

After he left the office and was staggering down the hallway, Plaintiff heard PA Potter asking CO Eichner, "Where did he go? Where did he go?" ( Id. ¶ 24.) PA Potter then threw a sandwich at Plaintiff that struck him on his back as he walked down the hallway. ( Id. ¶ 25.) CO Eichner and Lieutenant Knapp witnessed these events and did not intervene at any point. ( Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff also avers that PA Potter never monitored or followed up with Plaintiff's condition after treatment. ( Id. ¶ 27.)

After this incident, on the same night between approximately 9:50 p.m. and 10:05 p.m., Plaintiff called his brother, Pablo Rodriguez, to tell him about the incident with PA Potter and ask that he search for an attorney for legal advice. ( Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff also told his brother that he planned to write everything down in detail and mail the account to him for use by an attorney. ( Id. ) Plaintiff avers that it is BOP policy to monitor and record telephone calls. ( Id. )

The next morning, August 12, 2012, Plaintiff went to the medical department to get his insulin shot and notified the PA on duty that he was having pain in the back of his neck. ( Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff asked for painkillers, but was told to buy aspirin from commissary instead. ( Id. ) He was not further treated for his neck pain. ( Id. ) Plaintiff saw CO Wagner at his cell when he returned from medical and told her about his distress over his condition. ( Id. )

On August 13, 2012, at 3:55 p.m., Plaintiff went to see the facility's psychologist, Dr. Banks, to seek help for the depression and emotional distress he was suffering as a result of the incident with PA Potter. ( Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff avers that he was still in shock and was suffering from nightmares and panic attacks. ( Id. )

Two days after Plaintiff placed the telephone call to his brother, on August 14, 2012, at approximately 8:00 a.m., a correctional officer arrived at Plaintiff's prison workplace, Unicor Recycling, and detained him. ( Id. ¶ 32.) Plaintiff was separated from general population and placed in administrative detention in a restricted housing unit at USP-Lewisburg, also known as the SHU. ( Id. ) Plaintiff avers that Defendant SIS Agent Fosnot made this decision and specifically placed Plaintiff in "G" block, which holds gang members and violent inmates. ( Id. ) Plaintiff further asserts that he was "distressed" about the move to the SHU because he knew PA Potter worked there. ( Id. ¶ 34.)

Once Plaintiff arrived at the SHU, he was placed in a temporary cell and interviewed by Agent Fosnot and a psychologist. ( Id. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff told them about the incident with PA Potter and about his health issues. ( Id. ) At the end of the interview, Agent Fosnot told Plaintiff, "it sucks to be you now." ( Id. ) Plaintiff was then placed in an SHU cell. ( Id. )

On August 18, 2012, Defendant PA McClintock approached Plaintiff in the SHU and told him that Plaintiff would be staying in the SHU program for eighteen (18) months. ( Id. ¶ 36.) Before walking away, PA McClintock laughed and said, "Potter will see you soon." ( Id. ) Further, each time PA McClintock came to Plaintiff's SHU cell to administer Plaintiff's insulin and other medication, [5] he told Plaintiff, "this is your new home for the next 18 months." ( Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff asserts that, because he did not trust PA McClintock with his medication and feared harm, he refused to take his medication. ( Id. ¶ 39.) However, on approximately four (4) occasions, Plaintiff took insulin and other medication from a correctional officer he did not recognize. ( Id. ¶ 40.) ...

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