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Beckton v. Francis

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 21, 2017

REGGIE ANDRE BECKTON, Plaintiff
v.
FASCIANA FRANCIS, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Reggie Andre Beckton, an inmate confined in the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, (“USP-Lewisburg”), Pennsylvania, filed the above captioned Bivens[1] action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331. (See Doc. 1, complaint). The named Defendants are Steve Brown, Assistant Health Service Administrator, and Fasciana Francis, Housing Unit Physician. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that “he gave notice and/or disclosed to medical staff on numerous occasions that he was experiencing the following conditions: abdominal pains, abnormal and or irregular bowel movement, dark red blood in stool, excessive mucus discharge from rectum in the absence of a bowel movement, no bowel movement after consuming moderate doses of laxative, black colored stool(s), burning sensation and or pain in epidgastric area.” Id.

         In response, Plaintiff claims that Defendants “provided [him] with stool sample cards to corroborate this fact, and then directed him to return the cards after completing any future bowel movements.” Id. “All (3) cards were sent to the labs for testing, all (3) cards returned revealing positive indications for blood being present in Plaintiff's stool.” Id. Plaintiff claims that “Medical Staff, having formal indication return from Plaintiff's lab results corroborating a finding that blood was indeed present in the Plaintiff's stool, a request was made by medical staff to have Plaintiff scheduled to undergo an outpatient colonoscopy exam, ” which was “approved by the Assistant Health Service Administrator” as well as the institution's warden. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that “despite having been approved and scheduled to be sent out to an outside hospital to undergo a colonoscopy examination, Plaintiff continued to make several complaints to medical staff regarding his health conditions, most notably Plaintiff complained of the following conditions: abdominal pains, abnormal and or irregular bowel movement, dark red blood in stool, excessive mucus discharge from rectum in absence of bowel movement, no bowel movement(s) after consuming moderate doses of laxative, black colored stool(s), burning sensation and or pains in epidgastric area; medical staff however failed or refused to act on the Plaintiff's health concerns and essentially made efforts to justify such failure or refusal by assuring the plaintiff that he would eventually be sent out to undergo his colonoscopy exam”. Id. “Dissatisfied with medical failure to act and or make a consistent and complete record of the Plaintiff's medical concerns, prompted Plaintiff to initiate the institution's administrative remedy process against medical staff.” Id.

         On January 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action in which he requests “the court to determine whether its constitutionally permissible for health care providers in a prison institution to receive notice of a medical complaint filed by a prisoner asserting the following conditions: abdominal pains, abnormal and or irregular bowel movement, dark red blood in stool, excessive mucus discharge from rectum in absence of bowel movement, black tarry stools, no bowel movement(s) after consuming moderate doses of laxative, black colored stool(s), burning sensation and or pains in epidgastric area. . .and essentially fails in its capacity”. Id.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss and, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 12). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted

         II. Standards of Review

         A. Bivens Standard

         Plaintiff's claims are filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331, in accordance with Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, (1971). Under Bivens, the District Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 to entertain an action brought to redress alleged federal constitutional or statutory violations by a federal actor. Bivens, supra. Pursuant to Bivens, “a citizen suffering a compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest could invoke the general federal question jurisdiction of the district court to obtain an award of monetary damages against the responsible federal official.” Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504 (1978). A Bivens-style civil rights claim is the federal equivalent of an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the same legal principles have been held to apply. See, Paton v. LaPrade, 524 F.2d 862, 871 (3d Cir. 1975); Veteto v. Miller, 829 F.Supp. 1486, 1492 (M.D.Pa. 1992); Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1200 n. 16 (M.D.Pa. 1992). In order to state an actionable Bivens claim, a plaintiff must allege that a person has deprived him of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of federal law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1199 (M.D.Pa. 1992).

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant's pending dispositive motion is supported by evidentiary materials outside the pleadings. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) provides in part as follows:

If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(d).

         This Court will not exclude the evidentiary materials accompanying the Defendant's motion. Thus, the motion will be treated as solely seeking summary judgment. See Latham v. United States, 306 Fed.Appx. 716, 718 (3d Cir. 2009) (when a motion to dismiss has been framed alternatively as a motion for summary judgment such as in the present case, the alternative filing “is sufficient to place the parties on notice that summary judgment might be entered.”)

         C. Summary Judgment

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

         When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, parties may not rely on unsubstantiated allegations. Parties seeking to establish that a fact is or is not genuinely disputed must support such an assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, ” by showing that an adverse party's factual assertion lacks support from cited materials, or demonstrating that a factual assertion is unsupportable by admissible evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (requiring evidentiary support for factual assertions made in response to summary judgment). The party opposing the motion “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Parties must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case that they bear the burden of proving at trial, for “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992). Failure to properly support or contest an assertion of fact may result in the fact being considered undisputed for the purpose of the motion, although a court may also give parties an opportunity to properly provide support or opposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         III. Statement of Facts[2]

         On October 16, 2014, Plaintiff reported to sick call, stating his “hemorrhoids acting up” and “requests suppositories.” (Doc. 17-1 at 113, Clinical Encounter). Defendant Fasciana ordered hydrocortisone Acetate Suppositories for Plaintiff to address his complaint, and advised him to seek out further medical assistance if his problem persisted. Id.

         On December 30, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Practitioner Zimmerman, who recorded the following:

Inmate presents to sick call stating that he has had abnormal bowel movements for a “lengthy period of time”. States when he defecates he gets traces of blood and excessive mucus in his stool. Sometimes only gets mucus as a discharge. Inmate shows me toilet paper with both blood and mucus on this. Has not had recent bloodwork. Denies any abdominal pain/distention. Has a history of external hemorrhoids.

(Doc. 17-1 at 108, Bureau of Prisons Health Services Clinical Encounter). In response to Plaintiff's complaints, a Comprehensive Metabolic Profile, CBC w/diff and Occult Blood x3 was ordered. Id.

         On January 26, 2015, Plaintiff appeared for his blood work and a report was issued on January 27, 2016. (Doc. 17-1 at 106, Blood Work Results).

         On February 23, 2016, an Administrative Note was added to Plaintiff's medical file, stating the following:

I/M Beckton #55374-056 was given FOB cards X3 on 1-26-15. I/M was instructed to return the FOB cards within one week. I/M refused to complete the cards and return them.

(Doc. 17-1 at 102). Plaintiff was counseled that a refusal of treatment could result in a “deterioration of your current health status which could cause undetectable illness, increased illness and also your own death.” (Doc. 17-1 at 101, Medical Treatment Refusal).

         On March 20, 2015, Plaintiff reported to sick call with the following complaint:

Inmate reports to sick call with c/o “a shortage of blood circulation in my legs”. Also states he gets headaches, dizzy spells and light headedness when he bends forward to pick up something and his legs go numb at the same time and this comes and goes. Has been going on for “a long time”. Thinks he may have a pinched nerve or clogged artery??

(Doc. 17-1 at 95, Clinical Encounter). Physician Assistant Seroski noted the following:

Per chart review IM has hx of feigning an illness and non compliance with medications as well as lab work, however he did not refuse last lab work and WBC count was abnormal, therefore I am ordering a repeat on CBC. If WBC still abnormal may consider HIV testing or vitamin deficiency?? Exam normal today which I discussed with him however he did not like that answer. Encouraged OTC meds for headache. Will f/u after lab work if abnormal otherwise RTC if worsens or changes.

Id.

         Plaintiff's repeat bloodwork was performed on April 9, 2015. (Doc. 17-1 at 92, Blood Work Results). An Administrative Note was entered into his file on April 10, 2015, indicating that “WBC abnormal however improved from previous ...


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