United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
John E. Jones III, Judge.
Daniel Clarence Wesley (“Wesley”), a Pennsylvania
state inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional
Institution at Rockview, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, commenced
this action on June 17, 2016, stating that “[t]his is a
certified complaint filed by Plaintiff, Daniel Clarence
Wesley, a state prisoner for damages and injunction 42 U.S.C.
1983, alleging that Defendants delayed recommended surgeries
of a colostomy reversal/hernia repair revision because of
cost in violation of my 8th Amendment right under
the United States Constitution.” (Doc. 1, p. 1).
pending is a motion (Doc. 18) to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed on behalf of
Defendants Dr. Mark Baker (“Baker”) and Dr. John
Popick (“Popick”), on the ground that the action
is barred by the doctrine of res
judicata. For the reasons set forth below, the
motion will be granted.
August 23, 2013, Wesley commenced a civil action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming a number of defendants,
including Defendants Baker and Popick. (Wesley v.
Wetzel, M.D. Pa. Civil No. 1:13-cv-2226, Doc. 1). In the
introduction section of the complaint, Wesley stated
“[t]his is a civil action…for damages and
injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging defendants
had actual knowledge of the substantial risk of Danial
Wesley['s] colostomy condition and delayed fixing the
condition and deliberate indifference of his serious medical
needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United
States Constitution.” (Id. at Doc. 1, p. 1).
Wesley claimed that Baker and Popick were deliberately
indifferent in providing him medical treatment for his
colostomy condition and in not approving surgery to reverse
the colostomy. (Id. at Doc. 1, ¶¶ 2-5, 7,
8, 10-16, 19, 24-27, 29, 30, 32-38, 40, 44, 47-53, 55-58). He
also alleged that economic considerations motivated the
decision not to approve the surgery reversing the colostomy.
(Id. at Doc 1, ¶¶ 6, 9, 19, 28, 31, 39,
54, 62). The matter proceeded through discovery and, on July
22, 2016, this Court issued a Memorandum and Order disposing
of Defendants Baker and Popick's motion for summary
judgment. (Docs. 164, 165). After thorough consideration of
the record, this Court concluded that Defendants Baker and
Popick were not deliberately indifferent with respect to the
treatment of Wesley's colostomy condition, including the
decision not to approve colostomy reversal surgery.
Additionally, Wesley's contention that the decision not
to approve the surgery was economically motivated was
rejected as wholly unsupported by the record. The Memorandum
detailed the medical treatment afforded Wesley over the
course of approximately seven years and addressed the
rationale for the numerous treatment and surgical decisions
made by various medical providers during that time period.
(Wesley v. Wetzel, M.D. Pa. Civil No. 1:13-cv-2226,
Doc. 164). An order issued granting Defendants Baker and
Popick's motion for summary judgment and closing the
case. (Id. at Doc. 165). Wesley did not appeal that
filed the instant complaint on June 17, 2016, reiterating the
very claims that were raised in his prior action, Wesley
v. Wetzel, M.D. Pa. Civil No. 1:13-cv-2226, Doc. 1).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
resolving a motion to dismiss, the court conducts a two-part
analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203,
210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the factual elements are separated
from the legal elements and legal conclusions are
disregarded. Id. at 210-11. Second, the court
determines whether the facts alleged in the complaint are
sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible
claim for relief.” Id. at 211.
doctrine of res judicata ‘protects litigants
from the burden of relitigating an identical issue with the
same party or his privy and promotes judicial economy by
preventing needless litigation.' ” Post v.
Hartford Ins. Co., 501 F.3d 154, 169 (3d Cir. 2007),
abrogated in part, on other grounds, by Doroshow v.
Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 574 F.3d 230,
233-34 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Parklane Hosiery Co. v.
Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326 (1979)). Three elements are
required for the doctrine to take effect: (1) a final
judgment on the merits must have been rendered in a prior
suit; (2) the same parties or their privies must have been
involved in both suits; and (3) the subsequent suit must have
been based on the same cause of action as the original.
Lubrizol Corp. v. Exxon Corp., 929 F.2d 960, 963 (3d
Cir. 1991). Each element is met in this case. First, an entry
of summary judgment is a final judgment on the merits for
res judicata purposes. See Hubicki v.
ACF Inds., Inc., 484 F.2d 519, 524 (3d Cir. 1973)
(finding that “the law is clear that summary judgment
is a final judgment on the merits sufficient to raise the
defense of res judicata in a subsequent action
between the parties.”). Second, Wesley is the plaintiff
in both, and all of the defendants in the present action were
also defendants in Wesley v. Wetzel, M.D. Pa. Civil
No. 1:13-cv-2226. Finally, the same civil rights causes of
action arising out of the treatment of Wesley's colostomy
care and the decision not to perform colostomy reversal
surgery are at issue in both cases. And, to the extent that
his present complaint can be construed as raising issues not
presented in Wesley v. Wetzel, M.D. Pa. Civil No.
1:13-cv-2226, res judicata also gives dispositive
effect to an issue that could have been raised in the earlier
proceeding, whether or not Plaintiff chose to do so.
Corestates Bank, N.A. v. Huls America, Inc., 176
F.3d 187, 194 (3d Cir. 1999).
having found that there has been a prior judgment on the
merits in a suit involving Plaintiff and all Defendants
seeking to assert res judicata, and based on the
same cause of action, the Court finds that Wesley's
action is barred by res judicata.