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Hernandez v. Palackovich

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 14, 2015

CLAUDIO HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN A. PALACKOVICH, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

Kane, Judge.

The instant civil rights action was filed by Claudio Hernandez, who was an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield (“SCI-Smithfield”). In his amended complaint, Plaintiff seeks compensation and equitable relief for injuries stemming from complications during cataract surgery he received on his left eye. (See Doc. No. 105.) Currently before the court are two motions for summary judgment by Dr. Ronald M. Long and George Weaver, the remaining defendants in this case. (Doc. Nos. 204, 208.) For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be denied in part, and the matter will be referred to a magistrate judge for mediation.

I. Background

In early 2004, Plaintiff was sent by SCI-Smithfield officials to J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital due to irritation and burning sensations he had been feeling in his left eye. (Doc. No. 105 at 2.) There, he was advised that he had a cataract in his left eye that would need to be removed. (Id.) On March 22, 2004, Plaintiff underwent cataract removal surgery at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, which resulted in Plaintiff suffering an injury to his cornea. (Id. at 3, Doc. No. 207-23 at 13.) Plaintiff was prescribed a series of eye drops to aid the healing process after his surgery, but they were ultimately ineffective and Plaintiff’s left eye became infected. (Doc. No. 105 at 3.) When Plaintiff notified SCI-Smithfield officials about the worsening condition of his eye, they did not provide him with medical treatment for one week. Plaintiff’s eye infection eventually led to a loss of vision in his left eye. (Id.)

On December 16, 2004, Plaintiff was taken to see Dr. John Schietroma, who recommended the surgical removal of Plaintiff’s left eye. (Id. at 4.) Dr. Schietroma suggested that the removal of Plaintiff’s left eye would remove the infection and prevent it from spreading to his right eye. (Id.) The surgery was scheduled for January 7, 2005. (Id.)

On December 24, 2004, several nurses at SCI-Smithfield presented Plaintiff with a consent form to sign and told Plaintiff that he would need to sign the form in order to undergo surgery. (Id.; Doc. No. 207-24 at 1.) Plaintiff requested to speak with an attorney before signing the forms because he could not read or understand them, as he does not speak English. (Doc. No. 105 at 4) The nurses informed him that he would not be provided counsel to help him understand the forms, and Plaintiff refused to sign them. (Id.) Because of this, the surgery to remove Plaintiff’s eye was never performed. (Id.) Plaintiff has since lost all vision in his left eye, and the vision in his right eye has also begun to deteriorate. (Id. at 5.)

Plaintiff also alleges that he was prescribed a set of protective tinted glasses due to the deteriorating condition of his left eye, and that he did not receive those glasses for over two years. (Id. at 3.) He further alleges that the glasses initially provided to him did not have the necessary protective tint. (Id.)

Plaintiff initially filed this civil rights action against several employees of SCI-Smithfield as well as Holy Spirit Hospital and an unnamed surgeon at that hospital. (See Doc. No. 1.) Holy Spirit Hospital and the unnamed surgeon were later dismissed and Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against the other defendants. (Doc. Nos. 99, 105.) This court later dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against two more defendants, leaving George Weaver, the Health Care Administrator at SCI-Smithfield, and Dr. Ronald Long, a physician at SCI-Smithfield, as the remaining defendants. (Doc. Nos. 201, 202.) Presently before this court are Defendants’ respective motions for summary judgment. (Doc. Nos. 204, 208.) For the reasons that follow, the motions will be granted.

II. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, “the movant shows that there is no genuine issue 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 Melrose, Inc. v. Pittsburgh, 613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir. 2010).

A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the suit under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, (1986); see also Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011). Disputes must be both (1) material, meaning concerning facts that will affect the outcome of the issue under substantive law, and (2) genuine, meaning there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute “to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” In re Lemington Home for Aged, 659 F.3d 282, 290 (3d Cir. 2011); see also S.H. ex rel. Durrell v. Lower Merion School Dist., 729 F.3d 248, 256 (3d Cir. 2013).

A party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of supporting its assertion that fact(s) cannot be genuinely disputed by citing to particular parts of materials in the record-i.e., depositions, documents, affidavits, stipulations, or other materials- or by showing that: (1) the materials cited by the non-moving party do not establish the presence of a genuine dispute, or (2) that the non-moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support its fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The moving party may discharge its burden by “pointing out to the district court” the “absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case” when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof for the claim in question. Conoshenti v. Public Service Elec. & Gas Co, 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections, 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001)).

Conversely, in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must support its assertion that fact(s) are genuinely disputed by citing to particular parts of materials in the record, or by showing that: (1) the materials cited by the moving party do not establish the absence of a genuine dispute, or (2) the moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support its fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact, the court “should view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.” S.H. v. Lower Merion School Dist., 729 F.3d at 256.

In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court does not make credibility determinations, and summary judgment is “inappropriate when a case will turn on credibility determinations.” El v. Southeastern ...


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