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Thompson v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 12, 2017

TREZJUAN THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          C. Darnell Jones, II J.

         While incarcerated at a Philadelphia detention center, Plaintiff underwent surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. Thereafter, Plaintiff alleges that the prison staff provided him with such substandard care that Plaintiff developed recurrent, severe infections, which rendered Plaintiff disabled. Plaintiff brings the present action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging Pennsylvania state law claims of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Presently before the court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion, all responses and replies thereto, and for the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend within fourteen (14) days.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following facts are recited in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. At all times material, Plaintiff Trezjuan Thompson was incarcerated in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia (“FDC”), a facility operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). (Compl., ¶ 9). Plaintiff ruptured his right Achilles tendon while playing basketball on FDC grounds and was advised that the injury required surgery. (Compl., ¶ 11). About a month thereafter, Plaintiff underwent the recommended surgery at Hahnemann Hospital and Plaintiff's right leg was put in a cast to heal. (Compl., ¶ 12). Against medical advice, FDC corrections officers transported Plaintiff back to the FDC immediately following his surgery. (Compl., ¶ 15). Upon discharge, Plaintiff's surgeon instructed the corrections officers to bring Plaintiff back to the hospital for a follow-up evaluation in the next five to seven days. (Compl., ¶ 16). The doctor's orders concerning the follow-up visit were put in writing and sent to BOP staff, who forwarded the written instructions on to medical personnel in the FDC. (Compl., ¶ 17). The instructions further stated that if Plaintiff's cast got wet or began to leak, the cast would need to be removed and replaced. (Compl., ¶ 18).

         FDC medical staff scheduled Plaintiff's follow up appointment for two weeks later. (Compl., ¶ 21).

         One week following the surgery, Plaintiff informed FDC medical personnel that he “felt blood running out of his cast.” (Compl., ¶ 19). Despite Plaintiff's complaints, no one at the FDC evaluated or treated Plaintiff's leg for the two weeks between Plaintiff's discharge from the hospital and Plaintiff's scheduled follow-up at Hahnemann Hospital. (Compl., ¶ 22). On the day of Plaintiff's follow-up appointment, a reported fire near the appointment site prevented Plaintiff from meeting with his surgeon. (Compl., ¶ 23-24). Plaintiff was returned to FDC without being evaluated. (Compl., ¶ 25). No one at the FDC made any immediate efforts to reschedule Plaintiff's follow-up appointment. (Compl., ¶ 26).

         In the ten days following Plaintiff's missed appointment, Plaintiff repeatedly complained to FDC correctional and medical staff that he feared his wound was not healing, he was experiencing substantial pain, and there was still blood leaking from his cast. (Compl., ¶ 27). Plaintiff's complaints were ignored. (Compl., ¶ 28).

         Plaintiff's follow-up appointment was re-scheduled for early October, a full three and one half weeks following Plaintiff's surgery. (Compl., ¶ 29). After removing Plaintiff's cast, the surgeon concluded that Plaintiff's surgical site was seriously infected. (Compl., ¶ 30). Plaintiff was readmitted to Hahnemann, where he underwent at least three debridement procedures intended to treat his infection. (Compl., ¶ 31-32). Hospital physicians determined that the first surgical repair of Plaintiff's Achilles tendon had failed as a result of the infection. (Compl., ¶ 33). Plaintiff had to undergo a second surgery to repair the tendon. (Compl., ¶ 34). Plaintiff remained in the hospital for several weeks, after which he was returned to the FDC. (Compl., ¶ 35-36).

         In the following weeks, Plaintiff was readmitted to Hahnemann on at least two other occasions, where he was treated for persistent infection. (Compl., ¶ 39, 40-42).

         Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff initiated suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act against Defendant United States for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Defendant timely filed the present Motion to Dismiss, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Presently before the court is Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff's Response in Opposition, and Defendant's Reply.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), it was established that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). But rather, “a claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard, which applies to all civil cases, “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678; accord Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (“[A]ll civil complaints must contain more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         The instant action arises under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The FTCA provides a mechanism by which plaintiffs can bring claims against the United States based on the actions of Government employees wherever private citizens engaging in analogous behavior would be liable under state law. CAN v. United States, 535 F.3d 132, 138 (3d Cir. 2008). Under the FTCA federal district courts determine liability “in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692, 700 (2004). Accordingly, in the ...


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