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Cornish v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 30, 2015




Plaintiff John Cornish (“Cornish”), a state prisoner, seeks damages for violations of: the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.; and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986. His first amended complaint also pleads state law negligence and state law constitutional claims. The gravamen of the action concerns the allegedly inadequate eye care he has received while incarcerated which has left him seriously visually impaired.

Defendants Christopher Oppman (“Oppman”), the Director of Health Services at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”), and Joseph Korszniak (“Korszniak”), a Corrections Health Care Administrator for the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, have moved to dismiss the federal claims for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and to dismiss the state-law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). They have also moved to dismiss the crossclaims of defendants Prison Health Services, Inc. and Corizon under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Cornish has filed a response to the instant motion but Prison Health Services, Inc. and Corizon have not.

Cornish concedes that we should dismiss his claim against Oppman and Korszniak under the ADA as well as his claims against them under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 to the extent that the two are sued in their official capacities. Nor is the motion to dismiss the crossclaims opposed. We therefore grant the motion of Oppman and Korszniak to this extent. This leaves Cornish’s claims under §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 for damages against Oppman and Korszniak in their individual capacities as well as his supplemental state common law and constitutional claims.


When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Servs., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). We must then determine whether the pleading at issue “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim must do more than raise a “‘mere possibility of misconduct.’” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

Under this standard, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 578. Instead, the complaint must contain factual matter sufficient to state a claim that is facially plausible, meaning that “the plaintiff [has] plead[ed] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This plausibility standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A complaint which “pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability . . . ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility.’” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Defendants, as noted above, seek to dismiss the state law claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When considering, as we do here, a facial attack on the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, “the trial court must accept the complaint’s allegations as true.” Turicentro, S.A. v. Am. Airlines Inc., 303 F.3d 293, 300 n.4 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing NE Hub Partners, L.P. v. CNG Transmission Corp., 239 F.3d 333, 341 & n.7 (3d Cir. 2001)). As in a Rule 12(b)(6) setting, the court should draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. NE Hub Partners, 239 F.3d at 341.


The facts set forth in the first amended complaint, taken in the light most favorable to Cornish, are as follows. The moving defendants, Oppman and Korszniak, are both DOC officials. Oppman serves as DOC’s Director of Health Services, while Korszniak is the Corrections Health Care Administrator for the State Correctional Institution at Graterford (“SCI Graterford”). DOC, in operating its correctional facilities, contracts with private healthcare corporations in order to provide medical care to inmates.[1] The healthcare corporations, in turn, employ the practitioners who administer health care services. These corporations sometimes refer prisoners to outside specialists pursuant to their contracts with DOC.

Cornish avers that “the medical vendors and the prison systems understand and agree that serious illness . . . is expensive to treat, and will be handled by outside providers only when the condition can no longer be ignored.” He notes that the records of outside providers frequently contain notations that the DOC has failed to pay for necessary care. He also states that despite repeated lawsuits alleging substandard medical care within the Commonwealth prison system, the DOC has not taken steps to modify its practices.

Cornish has been housed in DOC facilities since spring 2013, when he was transferred to the custody of the Commonwealth from the custody of the City of Philadelphia. Since that time he has been confined at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill (“SCI Camp Hill”) or at SCI Graterford.

At some point during his time in City custody, Cornish began to experience problems with his eyes, particularly his left eye. His early symptoms included blurred vision, sensitivity to bright light, difficulty seeing at night, and headaches, as well as significant pain in the eye itself. Cornish was diagnosed with keratoconus[2] and ultimately required a type of eye surgery known as penetrating keratoplasty.[3] At one point he also suffered from a hordeolum, which is a painful infection afflicting the eyelid.[4]

While in City custody and after being transferred to the custody of DOC, Cornish has repeatedly sought care for his condition. The care he has received, according to Cornish, has been sporadic and inadequate. Specifically, he recounts that he experienced significant delays when attempting to obtain necessary care from outside specialists. When he was seen by those specialists, DOC frequently rendered him unable to schedule follow-up appointments, even when his doctors recommended them. At one point while Cornish was housed at SCI Camp Hill, his doctor warned that “it is CRITICAL you see your ophthalmologist at Wills Eye” within a week. Nonetheless, he was not scheduled to see the ophthalmologist for more than two months. On another occasion, while Cornish was housed at SCI Graterford, his doctor recommended during an appointment that Cornish be scheduled for a follow-up visit within four to six ...

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