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Clemmons v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 20, 2017

SEAN CHRISTOPHER CLEMMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Hon. John E. Jones III Judge

         Sean Christopher Clemmons (“Clemmons” or “Plaintiff”) originally filed this Bivens[1] and Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) action in the Northern District of Alabama on April 21, 2014 (Doc. 1, p. 33), alleging that he received improper medical treatment for hemorrhoids, while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Schuylkill (“FCI-Schuylkil”), Minersville, Pennsylvania. The matter was received in this Court on or about August 26, 2015. The matter is proceeding via an amended complaint dated January 15, 2016. (Doc. 50).

         Presently before the Court is a motion (Doc. 90) to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) and for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 filed on behalf of National Inmate Appeals Coordinator Harrell Watts (“Watts”), Northeast Regional Director J.L. Norwood (“Norwood”), Warden H.L. Hufford (“Hufford”), Warden Donald Hudson (“Hudson”), Assistant Health Services Administrator Bret Brosious (“Brosious”), Health Services Administrator Jeremy Simonson (“Simonson”), Clinical Director Ellen Mace-Leibson (“Mace-Leibson”), Physician's Assistant David Steffan (“PA Steffan”), Megan Lingenfelter (“PA Lingenfelter”), Financial Specialist Michelle Ladd Kovach (“Ladd”)[2], and Business Administrator Elizabeth Fisher (“Fisher”). For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be granted. Additionally, Clemmons filed a document entitled motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 101). A reading of the motion and supporting brief reveals that it is not a proper motion for summary judgment. He states that the motion is “being filed in opposition against all defendants and their motions to dismiss his complaint or in the alternative for summary judgment.” In his supporting brief he states that the question involved is “[w]hether summary judgment should be denied against all defendants. . . .” (Doc. 104, p. 2). Moreover, the motion is not properly supported with a statement of material facts as required by the Local Rules of Court. Consequently all documents submitted by Clemmons (Docs. 100-106, 109), either in support of his “motion for summary judgment” or in opposition to defendants' motions, constitute his response and will be fully considered in disposing of defendants' motions.

         I. MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. Standard of Review

         A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). In reviewing the legal sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must accept the truth of the factual allegations. Morrison v. Madison Dearborn Capital Partners III L.P., 463 F.3d 312, 314 (3d Cir. 2006). Notably, the assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The controlling question is whether the complaint “alleges enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (rejecting the “no set of facts” language from Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) and requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level”); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (explaining that Rule 8 requires more than “an unadorned, the-defendant unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (stating that the complaint should include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”).

         Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it “may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

         B. Allegations of the Amended Complaint

         Clemmons arrived at FCI-Schuylkill on or about April 24, 2012, with a chronic painful hemorrhoid condition “that he had been subjected to for years.” (Doc. 50, p. 2, ¶ 4; p. 3, ¶ 1, p. 4, ¶ 13). He alleges that “Schuylkill FCI medical department and these named medical defendants/non-medical defendants were negligent, gross negligent, reckless and deliberate indiffrent [sic] in rendering medical treatment…” He generally alleges all defendants failed in the following respects: 1) failing to select physicians competent to treat general medical ailments and hemorrhoid conditions; 2) failing to oversee all persons who practice medicine on behalf of Integrated Medical Solutions (“IMS”) and FCI-Schuylkill medical department; 3) failure to formulate, adopt and enforce rules and policies to ensure quality of care; 4) failure to order appropriate diagnostic tests; 5) failure to promptly refer him to a hemorrhoid specialist; 5) failure to minimize the risk of advancing problems related to the failure to treat conditions; 6) failure to adequately monitor, review, and modify his treatment plan; 7) neglect of patients in failing to utilize hands on care; 8) reckless neglect and gross neglect with regard to the medical needs of Clemmons in refusing or declining to treat his condition; 8) neglect and gross neglect in failing to take proactive action in treating his hemorrhoids; 9) neglect, gross neglect and reckless at law “in other ways.” (Doc. 50, pp. 2, 3, ¶¶ 4).

         He specifically alleges that on April 30, 2012, he sought medical treatment for his chronic hemorrhoid condition. (Id. at p. 4, ¶ 13). PA Steffan did not examine, diagnose, treat or prescribe any medication, and denied him a “soft boot shoe profile.” (Id. at 15). He instructed Clemmons to use the ointment he purchased at the commissary. (Id.).

         On May 7, 2012, Clemmons sought treatment for pain and discomfort associated with the hemorrhoids and for “minimal bleeding from his bowel movements.” (Id. at 16). PA Steffan instructed him to continue to use the hemorrhoid cream. (Id.) Clemmons explained to PA Steffan and Mace-Leibson that the cream was ineffective; they failed to administer any diagnostic tests, failed to examine him, failed to refer him to a specialist, and did not provide him alternative treatment. (Id. at p. 5, ¶¶ 17, 21-24). He alleges that PA Steffan and Mace-Leibson failed to give him any form of treatment for two years. (Id. at 26).

         On that same day, Clemmons filed a BP-8 informal resolution requesting surgery for his hemorrhoids and approval for a soft boot shoe profile. (Id. at 19). In response to the BP-8, Brosious denied the soft boot shoe profile and did not mention the surgery. (Id. at 19). Hufford denied his BP-9 appeal, Norwood denied his BP-10, and Watts denied his final appeal. (Id. at p. 6, ¶¶ 27-32).

         Clemmons next sought treatment on June 11, 2013, at which time PA Lingenfelter denied him treatment and medication. (Id. at 34). He became so emotionally upset that he did not seek treatment for months. (Id. at 35).

         On July 21, 2014, Clemmons sought treatment for jock itch. (Id. at p. 7, ¶ 37). PA Steffan denied him treatment and medication and instructed him to purchase cream from the commissary. (Id. at 38). He advised Steffan that he had no available money in his inmate account. (Id. at 39). Steffan did not provide him with alternative treatment.

         On July 29, 2014, and August 5, 2014, Clemmons returned to medical with complaints of jock itch and inflamed protruding hemorrhoids accompanied by rectal bleeding. (Id. at 42; Id. at p. 8, ¶56). Steffan directed him to purchase medication from the commissary. (Id. at 44; Id. at 56). He advised Steffan that he had no available money in his inmate account. (Id.) Steffan did not provide him with alternative treatment. (Id. at 45, 56). He alleges that Steffan and Mace-Leibson acted with “conscious flagrant indifference to the rights and safety of plaintiff.” (Id. at p. 8, ¶ 48).

         On August 1, 2014, his mother deposited twenty dollars in his inmate account for the purpose of purchasing medication at the commissary. (Id. at p. 9, ¶ 61). Defendants Ladd and Fisher froze the money in “debt encumbrance” to meet the Court's $350.00 filing fee. (Id.) He sent emails to Defendants Ladd and Fisher explaining that they “were violating the court order.” (Id. at 62). The account remained frozen. He alleges that Defendants Ladd and Fisher “have a causal link in causing him physical and mental injury by withholding plaintiff [sic] money and hindering plaintiff from being able to purchase needed medication.” (Id. at 64).

         He “wrote a (7) seven page complaint to E. Mace-Leibson DO concerning how plaintiff was being denied medical treatment and medication and Mace agreed with Steffan.” (Id. at p. 8, ¶¶ 50-55). In email messages sent to Defendants Simonson and Hudson, Clemmons complained of denial of treatment for his medical conditions. (Id. at pp. 8-9, ¶¶ 57-60). Neither defendant responded. (Id.)

         He was transferred to a different facility on August 11, 2014. (Id. at p. 9, ¶ 67).

         Based on the foregoing facts, Clemmons brings an FTCA claim against the United States (Id. at pp. 10-12, ¶¶ 77-92), and a Bivens claim asserting “deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment” against Watts, Norwood, Hufford, Hudson, ...


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