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James v. Varano

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 7, 2017

PARIS L. JAMES, Plaintiff
DAVID VARANO, et al., Defendants


          Kane Judge

         I. Background

         On October 8, 2014, Plaintiff Paris L. James, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Coal Township”) filed a 51-page complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against 16 named individual defendants and 14 “John and Jane Doe” defendants, all employees of the Department of Corrections at SCI-Coal Township.

         The complaint alleges that in October, 2012, he was denied adequate medical care, subjected to substandard conditions of confinement, [1] subjected to excessive force, and retaliated against for complaining about the quality of the medical treatment, the conditions of confinement, and the excessive force inflicted. Plaintiff alleges that two defendants, Physician Assistants Davis and Daya failed to provide him with adequate medical care and treatment for breathing difficulties, and that they conspired with other Defendants to deprive Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) inmates of proper intake examinations or access to health care and intentionally refused medical care to reduce transportation costs from the RHU. Plaintiff claims violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. On September 25, 2015, the court accepted Plaintiff's amended complaint. On August 31, 2016, this court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Doc Nos. 55, 56.)[2] The court dismissed Plaintiff's conspiracy claims, equal protection claims and the condition of confinement claims[3] but permitted the Eighth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need to proceed. The court dismissed the verbal harassment, retaliation and conspiracy claims except with respect to Defendants Mosier, Tripp and Else; the court dismissed the equal protection claims; and the court dismissed the condition of confinement as well as the medical care claims asserted against Defendants Verano and McCarthy on the basis of lack of personal involvement.

         Pending before the court is a motion filed on May 9, 2016, entitled “Motion for Order to Show Cause and Temporary Restraining Order and or Preliminary Injunction.” (Doc. No. 49.) Along with the motion, Plaintiff filed a supporting brief (Doc. No. 50) and an unsworn declaration under penalty of perjury. (Doc. No. 51.) Subsequently, on June 6, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second declaration which reiterates some of the information set forth in the first one. (Doc. No. 54.) In the first declaration Plaintiff alleges that:

(1) he is subject to threats of harm against his physical safety and taunts, which impede his access to the law library;
(2) corrections personnel will not enforce a separation between him and the numerous defendants he sued; and
(3) on February 21, 2016, he had a serious “psychiatric episode” during which time he was subjected to oleoresin (“OC”) spray and an unnecessary use of force and was not properly decontaminated afterword;
(4) on February 21, 2016, medical personnel made an “ineffective effort” to provide him with his asthma inhaler, which he could not use on his own because his airways were obstructed by mucus from the OC spray; and
(5) since February 21, 2016, he has been housed in the restrictive housing unit where he has been deprived of his inhaler causing him unnecessary pain and suffering and preventing him from being able to work out physically.

(Doc. No. 51, ¶¶ 6-13.) Plaintiff seeks as relief (1) an order that he be given his inhaler and the ability to retain it in his cell; (2) he be separated from all defendants; and (3) he not be subjected to sensory deprivation caused by 24 hour illumination in his cell. (Id. at ¶ 15.) The second declaration as noted is a reiteration of the first.

         On May 20, 2016, the Corrections Defendants filed a brief in opposition along with evidentiary materials, including a declaration under penalty of perjury from Thomas S. McGinley, the Superintendent at SCI-Coal Township. (Doc. No. 52.) The declaration of Superintendent McGinley and the evidentiary materials assert that Plaintiff was taken to the medical department after having been exposed to OC spray; while seated in the medical department Plaintiff ignored staff direction and yelled unintelligible sounds for unknown reasons; Plaintiff continually asked for water not his inhaler; nurses attempted to provide him with his inhaler; a nurse attempted to place it in his mouth at which point Plaintiff jerked his head back to avoid the medication; and the nurse a second time attempted to place the inhaler in his mouth and Plaintiff remained uncooperative. (Doc. 52, at 12.) Superintendent McGinley in his declaration indicates that he viewed the videotape of the incident and further states in pertinent part as follows:

7. Some inmates in the Restrictive Housing Unit are not permitted to retain their asthma inhalers on their person; in those cases, the inhalers are kept near the unit at the officers' station.
8. Inmates with mental health issues, such as Plaintiff, are among those who may not be permitted to ...

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