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Epps v. Harper

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 13, 2017

TREMAINE EPPS, Plaintiff,
v.
ORLANDO HARPER, COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, CORIZON HEALTH, INC., MICHAEL BARFIELD, and ADDITIONAL UNKNOWN DEFENDANTS, Defendants. Re: ECF Nos. 30, 33

          OPINION

          MAUREEN P. KELLY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Tremaine Epps (“Plaintiff”) brings this civil rights action against Defendants Orlando Harper (“Harper”), County of Allegheny (“the County”), and an unidentified corrections officer (collectively, “the County Defendants”), as well as Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”), Michael Barfield (“Barfield”), and unidentified health care providers (collectively, “the Medical Defendants”). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights provided by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution while he was incarcerated in the Allegheny County Jail (“ACJ”) by failing to provide him with adequate medical care after he was assaulted by another inmate.[1]

         Presently before the Court are two motions to dismiss: a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, submitted on behalf of the Medical Defendants, and the County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. ECF Nos. 30 and 33, respectively. For the following reasons both Motions will be granted.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         According to the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), Plaintiff was incarcerated in the ACJ in February of 2014 and assigned to a cell with an inmate who suffers from mental illness and has a known propensity for violence. ECF 29 ¶¶ 17-18. On February 3, 2014, Plaintiff became aware that his cellmate was becoming aggressive and contacted the guards. Id. The guard on duty, however, ignored Plaintiff's request for help and Plaintiff was subsequently assaulted by his cellmate who “stomped” on Plaintiff's ankle. Id. ¶¶ 17, 20-21. When Plaintiff awoke the next morning, he claims that he was in severe pain and unable to walk. Id. ¶ 23. Consequently, Plaintiff was taken to the prison infirmary where an x-ray of his left ankle was taken. Id. ¶ 24. According to the Progress Note in Plaintiff's medical records dated February 4, 2014, which Plaintiff has attached to the FAC, the x-ray showed that he had a fractured bone and an “ortho referral” was noted. Plaintiff's ankle was placed in a splint and he was provided with crutches and medicine. Id. ¶¶ 24, 27. See ECF No. 29-1. Despite having informed the staff at the infirmary that he continued to be in severe pain, his request to remain in the infirmary was denied and Plaintiff was returned to the general population holding cells. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. There, Plaintiff alleges that he not only continued to suffer severe pain but had difficulty climbing the stairs to his cell. Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff's subsequent requests for additional medical treatment, however, went unheeded and he was not referred to an orthopedic surgeon. Id. ¶¶ 28-31.

         On February 19, 2014, Plaintiff's counsel apparently sent a letter to Defendant Harper, the Warden at the ACJ, stating that Plaintiff believed he had a broken leg and needed medical attention. Id. ¶ 30. Thereafter, on February 26, 2014, Plaintiff was treated at UPMC Mercy by Dr. Lisa Blackrick who performed surgery for a left distal fibula fracture. Id. ¶¶ 31, 32, 35. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of the ACJ and Corizon's refusal to provide adequate medical care, his ankle had to be re-broken because the bone had begun to heal improperly. Id. ¶¶ 35, 36. Plaintiff also contends that as a result of the delay in receiving proper medical care, the health of his left ankle is significantly and permanently impaired. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff also claims that because of the ACJ's failure to provide him with mobility assistance and safe and appropriate housing, he suffered diminished access to prison programming and services as well as “further physical injury, mental anguish, anxiety and fear that he would be further injured.” Id. ¶¶ 39, 40.

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint on February 2, 2016, bringing claims pursuant to the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution against all Defendants for being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs (Count I); a claim for negligence against Corizon and the unidentified health care providers (Count II); a claim for negligence against Harper and Barfield (Count III); an Eighth Amendment claim for failure to protect against Defendants Harper, the County, and the unidentified corrections officer (Count IV); and a claim for negligence against Corizon (Count V).

         The Medical Defendants and the County Defendants both filed Motions to Dismiss the Complaint. ECF Nos. 4, 17. In an Opinion and Order dated October 24, 2017, the Court granted both Motions finding that Plaintiff had failed to state Eighth Amendment claims for deliberate indifference and/or failure to protect and declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims for negligence. ECF No. 28. Plaintiff, however, was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint to the extent he could cure the deficiencies identified by the Court as to his deliberate indifference claim brought at Count I. Id.

         Accordingly, Plaintiff filed the FAC on November 7, 2016, reasserting his Eighth Amendment claim against all Defendants for being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs (Count I); his claim for negligence against Corizon and the unidentified health care providers (Count II), his negligence claim Harper and Barfield (Count III); and his claim for negligence against Corizon (Count V).[2] The Medical Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on November 14, 2016 and the County Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint on November 21, 2016. ECF Nos. 30, 33. Plaintiff filed Responses in Opposition to the Motions on December 8, 2016 and December 14, 2016, respectively. ECF Nos. 38, 39. A Reply by the County Defendants has also been filed. ECF No. 41. As such, both Motions are ripe for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Odd v. Malone, 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court, however, need not accept bald assertions or inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. See Cal. Pub. Empl. Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id., citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has held that a complaint is properly dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) where it does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” id. at 570, or where the factual content does not allow the court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). See Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding that, under Twombly, “labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not suffice but, rather, the complaint “must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct” and that are sufficient “to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s] of his claim”).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference Claims (Count I)

         Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section ...


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