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Foye v. Prime Care Medical, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 14, 2015



R. BARCLAY SURRICK, District Judge.

Presently before the Court are Defendants Warden Dale Meisel and County of Lehigh's Motion for Summary Judgment (Meisel Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 55), and Defendants PrimeCare Medical, Inc., Josie Bahnick, R.N., and Dr. Erik Von Kiel, D.O.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (PrimeCare Mot. Summ. J., ECF Nos. 56, 57, 58), as well as exhibits and Plaintiff's response thereto (Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 61). For the following reasons, the Motions will be granted.


A. Factual Background

On the evening of August 13, 2008, [1] Plaintiff Inell Foye was struck in the head with a golf club during an assault and attempted robbery in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Foye Dep., ECF No. 55-2 at 76-77.) Plaintiff sustained a laceration to the left side of his head as a result of the attack. (Sacred Heart Medical Records, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. A at 00022.) Following the attack, Plaintiff was admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown ("Sacred Heart"), and evaluated by medical staff. (Id.) Although Plaintiff was upset and anxious after the events of the evening, he was in stable physical condition, and remained conscious and alert at all times. (Id.) Sacred Heart doctors repaired Plaintiff's laceration using staples and sutures, performed a series of radiological tests, and treated Plaintiff with several medications to prevent infection and alleviate his pain. (Id. at 00023-00024.)

Over the course of the next several days, Plaintiff discussed options for further treatment with Ghodrat Daneshdoot, M.D., a neurosurgeon associated with Sacred Heart. (Id. at 00039.) After considering the available options, Plaintiff elected to undergo surgery to remove a depressed skull fracture and repair affected areas. (Id.) On August 18, 2008, surgeons performed a craniectomy, removing the depressed skull fracture, as well as bone shards that could potentially damage Plaintiff's brain and necrotic brain tissue. Surgeons subsequently performed a duraplasty and cranioplasty. (Id.) According to doctors, the surgery was "uneventful." (Id. at 00132.)

Following surgery, Plaintiff was transferred to Sacred Heart's Intensive Care Unit for recovery, and both a CT scan and an MRI showed edema and swelling present in the area of the surgery. (Id. at 00039.) Among the symptoms Plaintiff experienced at this point were hesitancy of expression and occasional slurred speech, though neurological exams showed no serious problems or deficits. (Id.) Prior to being discharged on August 26, 2008, Plaintiff was prescribed Dilantin, a prescription medication to prevent seizures, as a prophylactic measure for a period of six to twelve months.[2] (Id.) Plaintiff was also told to return in one month for a repeat MRI. (Id.) Plaintiff's radiologist, Paul DuPont, M.D., recommended a "6 month follow-up" to assess any potential changes in the size of Plaintiff's pineal gland region. (Id. at 00160.)

Plaintiff's condition gradually improved over the course of subsequent months. (Foye Dep. 21; Pl.'s Resp. 4.) Although Plaintiff's speech problems disappeared, Plaintiff still experienced pain, migraines, and dizziness. (Foye Dep. 22; Pl.'s Resp. 5.) Plaintiff did not suffer from any seizures during this period. (PrimeCare Mem. 3.) Nevertheless, Plaintiff's symptoms affected his regular activities, and he had difficulty sleeping, standing, and driving. (Foye Dep. 22-23.) However, Plaintiff did not follow up with medical professionals regarding to these symptoms. (LCP Medical Records, Prime Care Mem. Ex. C at 14.)

On February 11, 2009, Plaintiff was sent to Lehigh County Prison ("LCP") following his arrest on drug charges. (Foye Dep. 13.) Plaintiff's incarceration was lengthy. He was ultimately sentenced to a prison term of 9 3/4 to 25 years.[3] (Id.) At LCP, Plaintiff received an initial medical screening by Megan Hughes, [4] an employee of Defendant PrimeCare, which manages health services for LCP.[5] (LCP Medical Records 14.) Plaintiff informed Hughes about his injury and surgery, and told her about his lingering symptoms. (Foye Dep. 26, 34; LCP Medical Records 14.) Plaintiff stated that he had been prescribed various medications, and that he needed a follow-up MRI, though he could not remember the names of the specific medications he had been prescribed. (Foye Dep. 26; LCP Medical Records 14.) Plaintiff admitted that he did not regularly comply with the instructions for his medications during the period between his surgery and incarceration. He also admitted that he did not follow up with doctors during that time. (LCP Medical Records 14.) After obtaining Plaintiff's consent, PrimeCare employees requested, and subsequently received, the records of Plaintiff's treatment at Sacred Heart. (Id.)

Following his admission to LCP, Plaintiff was assigned to "bottom bunk, bottom tier" status, due in large part to the residual effects of his injury. (Foye Dep. 32-33.) Having been so designated, Plaintiff was prevented from holding a job in the prison, and his ability to participate in physical activities with other inmates was limited.[6] (Id. 33.)

Over the course of his first four months at LCP, Plaintiff contacted PrimeCare employees and prison officials with a variety of complaints. Plaintiff's complaints touched on a wide range of topics, from a number of medical problems to issues with his cell environment and bedding. ( See Pl.'s Resp. Exs. I-N.) Plaintiff repeatedly sent Sick Call Requests-the medium by which LCP inmates typically request medical attention-to PrimeCare employees. On March 18, 2009, Plaintiff complained of headaches, and requested that he receive an MRI. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. I at 1.) Plaintiff repeated this request on April 1, 2009, and PrimeCare employees scheduled Plaintiff for an appointment with a physician. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. J.) Plaintiff also requested an MRI on April 23, 2009, and another doctor's appointment was scheduled. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. K.) Plaintiff's MRI requests were frequently made in association with concerns about his headaches and blood pressure problems. ( See, e.g., id.) Plaintiff's requests and grievances were consistently addressed by PrimeCare employees. (Foye Dep. 40, 42.) In addition, although Plaintiff alleges problems with how PrimeCare employees responded to his pain needs, he also noted that his pain issues were generally addressed.[7] (Id. at 46-49.) According to Plaintiff, the MRI issue is the basis for the instant dispute.[8] (Id. at 86.)

Plaintiff filed a series of grievances with prison administrators to complain about the fact that he had not yet received an MRI. On May 15, 2009, Plaintiff requested relief from administrators, noting that he had repeatedly asked nurses to schedule the test. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. M.) Defendant Bahnick responded to this grievance on May 29, [9] and Plaintiff appealed, reiterating that he had not yet received an MRI. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. O.) On June 11, Defendant Dale Meisel, in his capacity as Warden of LCP, rejected the appeal for failure to comply with the LCP procedural requirements, [10] but noted that Plaintiff had been seen by a physician and that "a consultation for an MRI would occur."[11] (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. P.) Plaintiff subsequently re-submitted an appeal, but it was rejected as time-barred. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. R.) Plaintiff claims that Meisel is responsible for making, or overseeing, these decisions. Meisel does not contest that he is personally involved in investigating and adjudicating grievances. Indeed, he testified that he is informed of every grievance that is filed. (Foye Dep. 63-64; Meisel Dep. 36.) In addition, on June 10, 2009, Plaintiff mentioned the MRI issue to an unidentified member of the prison staff ("white shirt"). (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. N.)

On June 10, 2009, Von Kiel requested that Physician Assistant Angela Napolitano evaluate Plaintiff for an MRI. (LCP Medical Records 7.) On June 19, Plaintiff received an MRI at an outside facility managed by Cedar Crest Imaging. (LCP Medical Records 3.) The results of the MRI showed no new significant damage. It did indicate the presence of a hematoma and scar tissue. (Id.) Specifically, the report indicated that there was "no evidence of residual changes from the prior trauma, no intracranial hemorrhage, [and] cystic changes [to the] pineal gland [had] measurement similar to a prior report." (Id.) Defendant's expert, Carl Ellenberger, M.D., opined that Plaintiff "did not suffer any adverse effects by not having an MRI from February 11, 2009 through June 19, 2009." (Ellenberger Letter.) Plaintiff has not proffered any evidence contradicting Ellenberger's opinion, or demonstrating that he suffered any adverse physical effects because the MRI was conducted in June.[12]

After the MRI, Plaintiff's pain did not abate. Plaintiff's July 4, 2009 Sick Call Request stated that he was "still having headaches due to skull fracture." (LCP Medical Records at 2.) Plaintiff has since been transferred to the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and currently resides at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Pennsylvania.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on June 30, 2009 (ECF No. 1), and subsequently amended that Complaint on two occasions. The most recent version is the Second Amended Complaint, which seeks relief on a number of theories. (ECF No. 29.) Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 30, 33), which were denied in part and granted in part (ECF No. 38).[13] Following discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 55-58.) Plaintiff filed a response with attached exhibits. (ECF No. 61.)

Plaintiff seeks relief on several counts. In Count I, Plaintiff claims that Bahnick, Von Kiel, and Meisel, in their individual capacities, violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that he is therefore entitled to relief, including punitive damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 43-52.) In Count II, Plaintiff seeks relief from Lehigh County for similar violations. (Id. ¶¶ 53-58.) In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that PrimeCare Medical Inc. is liable under the same theory advanced in Counts I and II of his Complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 59-68.) In Count V, Plaintiff alleges that PrimeCare is vicariously liable for the negligence of its employees.[14] (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 69-73.) In Count VI, Plaintiff seeks relief from Bahnick and Von Kiel for negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at ¶¶ 74-78.)


A party is entitled to summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) ("Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted."). Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may identify an absence of a genuine issue of material fact by showing the court that there is no evidence in the record supporting the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); UPMC Health Sys. v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004). If the moving party carries this initial burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) ("A party asserting that a fact is genuinely... disputed must support the assertion by... citing to particular parts of materials in the record."); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (noting that the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts"). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citations omitted). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, courts must view facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Courts must not resolve factual disputes or make credibility determinations. Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1127 (3d Cir. 1995).


A. Eighth Amendment Claim Against Bahnick, Von Kiel, and ...

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