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Minch v. Abbott

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 13, 2015

JOHN D. MINCH, Plaintiff,
VALERIE ABBOTT, former Director, Allegheny Correctional Health Services, Defendant.


Cynthia Reed Eddy, United States Magistrate Judge

Presently pending is Defendant Valerie Abbott’s Motion for Summary Judgment with brief in support (ECF Nos. 49 and 50), the Response in Opposition filed by Plaintiff, John D. Minch (ECF No. 57), and the Reply filed by Defendant (ECF No. 59). For the reasons that follow, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.[1]

On October 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, which remains the operative complaint. (ECF No. 27). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by refusing dental care. According to the Amended Complaint, from June 2011 until October 2013, Plaintiff had been in “severe, near constant pain” as a result of “broken teeth cutting into [his] gums.” Amended Complaint at 5. Plaintiff contends that he repeatedly requested to be seen by a dentist, but his request was refused “presumably as a cost-saving measure.” Id. He seeks monetary compensation for “real” and punitive damages and completion of all necessary dental work. (Amended Complaint at 3).

Originally named as Defendants were Valerie Abbott -- alleged to be the former Director of Allegheny Correctional Health Services (“ACHS”), and Orlando Harper, the Warden of Allegheny County Jail (“ACJ”). On April 25, 2014 we granted Defendant Harper’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and denied Defendant Abbott’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (ECF No. 38) Thus, Defendant Abbott is the sole remaining Defendant.

Defendant Abbott has filed a motion for summary judgment. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

Standard Of Review Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted 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.” When applying this standard, the court must examine the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Burton v. Teleflex Inc., 707 F.3d 417, 425 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 470 F.3d 535, 538 (3d Cir. 2006)).

A party claiming that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support that assertion either by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

Moreover, a “party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); UPMC Health Sys. v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004). The burden then shifts to the non-movant to come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Williams v. Bor. of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460–461 (3d Cir. 1989) (non-movant must present affirmative evidence - more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance - which supports each element of his claim to defeat a properly presented motion for summary judgment).

The non-moving party cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument, but must “put up or shut up.” Berckeley Inv. Group., Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Lacey Twp., 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985)). Plaintiff must go beyond the pleadings and show specific facts by affidavit or by information contained in the filed documents (i.e., depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions) to meet his burden of proving elements essential to his claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; see also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). The non-moving party “must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue.” Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The inquiry, then, involves determining "'whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1218 (1991) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). “After making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.” Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 593 F.3d 265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Reliance Ins. Co. v. Moessner, 121 F.3d 895, 900 (3d Cir. 1997)).

With this standard in mind, we review the evidence of record. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1343(a).

Factual Background

Except as otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed.

Plaintiff, John D. Minch, is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at SCI Albion. He was admitted to the Allegheny County Jail on April 28, 2009. On that day he signed a consent for medical treatment, received a psychiatric examination, and was prescribed Zoloft for depression, Neurontin for control of his diabetic neuropathy, Metformin for control of diabetes and Ultram. (Medical Records filed under seal, ECF No. 47, at 183-187-88) (“Medical Records”). Plaintiff is allergic to penicillin and tetracycline. (Medical Records at 5).

Shortly thereafter Plaintiff was prescribed Naprosyn to be taken daily. At that time Plaintiff was diagnosed with depression, diabetes, and back pain. (Medical Records at 169). Naprosyn is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and is used to relieve pain caused by various conditions such as headaches, muscle aches, tendonitis, dental pain, and menstrual cramps. It also reduces pain, swelling, and joint stiffness caused by arthritis, bursitis, and gout attacks. (ECF No. 49-2 at 1)

The central issue in this lawsuit concerns Plaintiff’s dental, rather than overall mental or medical, health. The record evidence shows no complaints from Plaintiff about dental problems from the date ...

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