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Dinsmore v. County of Butler

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 31, 2017

ADAM HALFSTEP DINSMORE, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF BUTLER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1] ECF NO. 33

          Lisa Pupo Lenihan United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by Adam Halfstep Dinsmore (“Plaintiff”) regarding medical treatment he received while he was a pretrial detainee at the Butler County Prison. Named as defendants are the County of Butler; Richard T. Shaffer, individually and in his former capacity as the Warden of the Butler County Prison; Mike Bartlett, individually and in his official capacity as a Corrections Officer for the Butler County Prison; Corey Helfrich, [2] individually and in his official capacity as a Corrections Officer for the Butler County Prison; Desmond Foringer, individually and in his official capacity as a Corrections Officer for the Butler County Prison (collectively, the “Corrections Officer Defendants”); Wexford Health Sources, Inc.; Becky Watterson, individually and in her official capacity as a nurse for Wexford Health Sources, Inc. and Butler County Prison; and Maureen Scott, individually and in her official capacity as a nurse for Wexford Health Sources, Inc. and Butler County Prison (collectively, the “Wexford Health Defendants”). Pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Shaffer[3] and the Corrections Officer Defendants (ECF No. 33). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         At the time of the events alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Butler County Prison. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. He is no longer in custody. Id. ¶ 19. On June 3, 2014, “Plaintiff began experiencing acute symptoms of a severe and life-threatening illness, including but not limited to: right-sided chest pains; fever; chills; cough productive of white sputum . . .; shortness of breath; wheezing; significant weight loss; and diaphoretic spells (sweating heavily).” Id. ¶ 20. “Following administration of various antibiotics by Prison medical staff, Plaintiff's symptoms worsened.” Id. ¶ 21. He alleges that, “[f]rom the onset of [his] symptoms . . . [he] was in obvious need of diagnostic testing and medical treatment, which, ” he claims, “could have only been provided by an outside hospital.” Id. ¶ 22. He claims that, on unspecified dates, he “made numerous requests to be taken to a hospital for diagnostic testing[, ]” id. ¶ 23, though he does not specify to whom those requests were made.

         On July 6, 2014, Plaintiff submitted an “Inmate Request Form, ” in which he wrote:

Ever since my return from Armstrong County, I have been sick and in pain. I have requested to be taken to the hospital to have specific tests done. I have been denied. I do not feel I have been receiving competent or adequate treatment and [do not] feel my condition has been completely diagnosed and handled. Could you please come talk to me about this matter.

Id. ¶ 24. After Plaintiff submitted the request form, “[t]he prison staff spoke to the medical staff and Plaintiff was advised to submit a Sick Call Slip.” Id. ¶ 25. The next day, Scott administered additional antibiotics to Plaintiff, and he again requested to be taken to a hospital. Id. However, “[a]ll of [his] requests to be taken to the hospital were denied and/or ignored.” Id. ¶ 28.

         On July 10, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred to the Indiana County Jail related to a matter pending in that county. Once there, he repeated his medical complaints and received medication. Id. ¶ 29. On July 14, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred from the Indiana County Jail to Indiana Regional Medical Center. Id. ¶ 31. Due to the severity of his condition, he was eventually transported to UPMC Mercy, where he was placed in intensive care. Id. ¶ 35. A CT scan showed the he had “a buildup of fluid between the tissues that line the lungs and the chest” and “a complete or partial collapse of a lung or a section/lobe of a lung, ” as well as “a complex lesion upon the dome of the liver.” Id. ¶ 36. He spent nearly two weeks in the hospital. Id. ¶ 36.

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on June 6, 2016, against Shaffer, the Corrections Officer Defendants, Wexford Health, Watterson, and Jane Doe 1, alleging claims for deliberate indifference against all defendants and negligence against Wexford Health, Watterson, and Jane Doe 1. ECF No. 1. Butler County, Shaffer, and the Corrections Officer Defendants filed an answer on August 5, 2016, and the Wexford Health Defendants filed an Answer on October 12, 2016. ECF Nos. 13, 19. On December 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, so that he could name Scott as a defendant in place of “Jane Doe 1.” ECF No. 28. The Court granted his motion, ECF No. 29, and the amended complaint was filed on December 14, 2016, ECF No. 30. The Wexford Health Defendants filed an answer on December 21, 2016. ECF No. 31. Butler County filed an answer one week later. ECF No. 32. That same day, Shaffer and the Corrections Officer Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, along with a brief in support. ECF Nos. 33-34. Plaintiff filed a response and brief in opposition on January 18, 2017. ECF No. 37-38. The Correction Officer Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 42. Having been fully briefed, the motion is ripe for disposition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must allege “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “The District Court must accept the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In short, a motion to dismiss should be granted if a party does not allege facts which could, if established at trial, entitle him to relief. See Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff alleges that the Corrections Officer Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.[4] The Corrections Officer Defendants move to dismiss the claims against them, arguing that there is no evidence of deliberate indifference on their part because, as non-medical officials, they were entitled to defer to the judgment of the prison's medical personnel who were treating Plaintiff.

         To state a claim for deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must satisfy the two-part test drawn from Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976) (citing Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). “First, plaintiff must make an ‘objective' showing that the deprivation was ‘sufficiently serious, ' or that the result of defendant's denial was sufficiently serious. Additionally, the plaintiff must make a ‘subjective' showing that defendant acted with ‘a sufficiently culpable state of mind'” - ...


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