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Beard v. Corizon Health, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 24, 2017



          O'NEILL, J.

         While plaintiff was imprisoned in the Philadelphia prison system, with which defendant Corizon Health, Inc. contracts to provide health care, he underwent a biopsy of his prostate for diagnostic purposes. He then waited three-and-a-half months before defendants scheduled him a follow-up visit with the surgeon who had performed the biopsy. Plaintiff brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Corizon and Elmeadas Frias, a health care administrator employed by Corizon, for violation of his Eighth Amendment right to medical care, Dkt. No. 21 (First Am. Compl.), and defendants move for summary judgment, Dkt. No 30. Plaintiff, now proceeding pro se, has not filed a response.[1] I will grant defendants' unopposed motion because, on the record before me, there is no dispute about any material fact relating to plaintiff's medical treatment and no reasonable jury could find that it amounted to a violation of plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights.


         While incarcerated in the Philadelphia prison system from April 5, 2012 to July 18, 2013, plaintiff had a series of health issues related to his prostate. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. B (Beard Dep.) at 7:3-6 (giving the dates of his incarceration in Philadelphia). After several in-prison doctors' visits and an appointment with a urology specialist outside the prison, plaintiff was scheduled to receive a biopsy on his prostate with Dr. Walter Gerber of the Urological Consultants of Southeastern Pennsylvania at Einstein Hospital.[2] On March 12, 2013, Dr. Gerber performed a surgical biopsy. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. C, 50-56 (Prison Medical Records March 12, 2013); Beard Dep. at 81:15-18.

         After the biopsy, plaintiff attempted to learn the results of the test. Beard Dep. at 54:21- 18; 46:18-47:3. He requested the results on April 23, 2013 by submitting a sick call request. Beard Dep. at 55:2-18; Dkt. No. 30, Ex. E (Sick Call Request, April 23, 2013). He saw a nurse two days later and again inquired about the biopsy result. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. C, 66 (Prison Medical Record April 25, 2013). He was told that his biopsy showed that his tissue was noncancerous. Id.; Beard Dep. at 55:19-20.

         On June 3, 2013, plaintiff received a letter from Urological Consultants of Southeastern Pennsylvania which stated that the organization had been trying to get in touch with him by phone. Beard Dep. at 49:4-10; Dkt. No. 30, Ex. F (Letter from Urologic Consultants to Beard, May 24, 2013). The letter-a form letter with blanks for plaintiff's name and the date filled in by hand-explains that “[i]t is important to be followed after a surgical procedure to prevent any complications. Please call the office as soon as possible to schedule a follow up appointment.” Id. On June 4 and 6, plaintiff managed to confront defendant Elmeada Frias, a health services administrator, and show her the letter. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. G, 1 (Phila. Prison System Inmate Grievance Form, June 20, 2013). He asked her why he had not been sent back to the hospital for his follow-up visit. Id. She told him she would get back to him. Id. On June 20, having still not received notice that a follow-up appointment had been scheduled, plaintiff filed an inmate grievance describing his encounters with Frias and requesting to be seen by Dr. Gerber. Id.; Beard Dep. at 14:9-20; 48:15-49:9.

         On July 2, Frias met with plaintiff to discuss his grievance. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. G, 2 (Phila. Prison System Finding of the Inmate Grievance, July 2, 2013); Beard Dep. at 14:20-15:19. She told him she already had a copy of Dr. Gerber's letter describing his need for a follow-up appointment. Beard Dep. at 12:6-13. She claimed to have spoken with plaintiff's doctor and told plaintiff that it might be difficult to schedule his follow-up visit because he was soon to return to state jail. Phila. Prison System Finding of the Inmate Grievance, July 2, 2013; Beard Dep. at 14:20-15:1. The same day, Dr. Blatt completed a referral form to request plaintiff's follow-up appointment with Dr. Gerber. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. C, 84 (Utilization Management Referral Review Form, July 2, 2013).

         The appointment was scheduled for July 22, 2013. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. C, 85 (Utilization Management Referral Form with Note, July 22, 2013). This was four days after plaintiff's scheduled transfer out of the Philadelphia prison system. Beard Dep. at 100:6-11. Plaintiff was not told about this appointment. Beard Dep. 97:20-98:2. After leaving the Philadelphia prison system-and therefore leaving Corizon's care-plaintiff was transferred to several different state and county jails and prisons. Beard Dep. at 32:16-20, 100:12-15, 106:21-107:10, 108:10-19. On August 16, 2013, he met with a nurse and explained that he had had prostate surgery and had not had a follow-up appointment. Dkt. No. 30, Ex. H, 2 (Pa. Prison System Medical Records, August 16, 2013). He ultimately underwent prostate surgery on October 20, 2014. Beard Dep. at 109:8-110:6; Dkt. No. 30, Ex. H, (Pa. Prison System Medical Records) 24-26.


         Although defendants' motion is unopposed, I must review the merits of its motion to determine whether the defendants are entitled to summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 56(c); Blasi v. Attorney Gen., 30 F.Supp.2d 481, 484 (M.D. Pa. 1998) (“[T]he district court may not grant a motion for summary judgment . . . solely because the motion is unopposed; such motions are subject to review for merit.”).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating 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). Summary judgment will be granted “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id.

         To establish “that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed, ” a party must:

(A) cit[e] 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) show[ ] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce ...

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