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Hampton v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 5, 2017

JOHN E. WETZEL, et al., Defendants


          Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Shawn Hampton (“Hampton”), an inmate currently confined at the Rockview State Correctional Institution in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Rockview”), commenced this action on May 8, 2015 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Remaining defendants are Wetzel, Lewis, Glunt, Eby, Young, and Bernard and Koltay, physician assistants at SCI-Rockview.[1] Before the court is a motion (Doc. 40) for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by defendants Bernard and Koltay. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the motion.

         I. Legal Standard

         Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a “genuine issue as to any material fact” and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The burden of proof is upon the non-moving party to come forth with “affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings, ” in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (e). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F.Supp.2d at 315.

         II. Statement of Material Facts

         Hampton first presented to sick call with complaints of back pain on May 6, 2010. (Doc. 41 ¶ 4; Doc. 42-1 at 10; Doc. 44 ¶ 4). On examination, the medical provider noted that Hampton had full strength and found no non-anatomical tenderness. (Id.) The medical provider ordered an x-ray of the lumbar spine. (Id.) The x-ray revealed mild degenerative disc disease at the lumbosacral joint. (Id.)

         On June 23, 2010, Hampton presented to sick call with complaints of left wrist pain after scooping oatmeal. (Doc. 41 ¶ 5; Doc. 44 ¶ 5). He reported that the pain was exacerbated by dorsi-flexion exercises, and ibuprofen did not relieve his pain. (Id.) Examination revealed full range of motion and strength. (Id.) Physician assistant (“PA”) Julie Pensiero treated Hampton and diagnosed him with left wrist pain and possible tendonitis and recommended that he continue taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (“NSAIDs”). (Id.) Hampton returned to sick call on July 12, 2010, again complaining of left wrist pain. (Id. at ¶ 6). During this visit, Hampton again treated with PA Pensiero. (Id.) Hampton reported that his pain improved when he stopped the repetitive job of scooping and began wrapping his wrist with an ACE bandage. (Id.) An examination of Hampton's wrist revealed full range of motion and full strength. (Id.) PA Pensiero diagnosed left wrist pain with possible overuse syndrome and recommended that Hampton continue using the ACE wrap. (Id.)

         On August 5, 2010, Hampton presented to sick call for an eye injury that was sustained as a result of being hit by a softball. (Doc. 41 ¶ 7; Doc. 44 ¶ 7). He was examined by nurse Brianne Gillmen, who found him in no acute distress, with a swollen right eye, some small abrasions, and normal vital signs. (Id.) Nurse Gillmen gave Hampton ice for his face and advised him to take Motrin for any pain and return if his vision worsened. (Id.)

         On August 24, 2010, Hampton presented to sick call requesting a bottom bunk due to low back pain. (Doc. 41 ¶ 8; Doc. 44 ¶ 8). He denied a recent injury to his back. (Id.) He stated that the only prior injuries to his back occurred when he fell down a flight of stairs when he was ten years old and thirteen years old. (Id.) The parties dispute whether Hampton reported that he was taking Motrin for pain, which he purchased from the commissary. (Id.) PA Pensiero examined Hampton and noted that he was able to ambulate without difficulty, exhibited no muscle spasms, had full range of motion and strength, and was able to move without pain. (Id.) PA Pensiero found no indication for a bottom bunk. (Id.) PA Pensiero ordered Hampton a back brace and encouraged him to perform stretching and range of motion exercises. (See id.)

         Hampton next complained of back pain on February 1, 2011, after a reported fall. (Doc. 41 ¶ 9; Doc. 44 ¶ 9). Nurse B. Dunlap treated Hampton, and noted that an examination was unremarkable and Hampton did not appear to be in distress. (Id.) Nurse Dunlap advised Hampton to rest and gave him Motrin for pain. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, on February 24, 2011, while on a hunger strike, Hampton was evaluated by Nurse Robert Somich. (Doc. 41 ¶ 10; Doc. 44 ¶ 10). Hampton told Nurse Somich: “All I want is bottom bunk.” (Id.) He reported that he would eat once given a bottom bunk restriction. (Id.) Hampton was also seen by a PA, who reviewed his most recent x-ray and observed that it revealed only mild degenerative disc disease. (Id.) Therefore, the PA did not believe that a bottom bunk restriction was medically necessary. (Id.)

         On September 4, 2013, Hampton submitted a sick call for a replacement back brace and treated with defendant Koltay. (Doc. 41 ¶ 11; Doc. 42-1 at 24; Doc. 44 ¶ 11). The parties dispute whether Hampton reported that the brace provided him with pain relief and that, with the brace, he had less need for NSAIDs. (Id.) After examination, Koltay ordered Hampton a new back brace. (Doc. 41 ¶ 11). She also instructed him on weight loss and exercise and told him to return as needed. (Id.)

         On October 11, 2013, Hampton returned to sick call and was again seen by defendant Koltay. (Doc. 41 ¶ 12; Doc. 42-1 at 25; Doc. 44 ¶ 12). Hampton requested a clarification regarding his medical restrictions. (Id.) He reported that corrections officers told him that he was not allowed to have carpal tunnel braces. (Id.) Hampton therefore wanted to have this equipment verified or approved. (Id.) Koltay wrote an order with an instruction to “confirm [that] carpal tunnel braces are included in patient's equipment list.” (Doc. 41 ¶ 12).

         Defendant Koltay next saw Hampton on January 21, 2014, for complaints of pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome. (Doc. 41 ¶ 13; Doc. 42-1 at 22; Doc. 44 ¶ 13). Hampton stated that he recently started a new job involving repetitive movement. (Id.) He further stated that he was never issued carpal tunnel braces. (Id.) Hampton reported bilateral pain that was greater in his dominant right wrist. (Id.) Koltay noted no recent complaints of carpal tunnel syndrome and ordered a trial of wrist splints. (Id.) Koltay also updated Hampton's medical restrictions to reflect that Hampton should avoid activities with repetitive motion. (Id.)

         On February 18, 2014, Hampton was placed in the RHU at SCI-Rockview following an altercation with the Library “Trusty.” (Doc. 41 ¶ 14; Doc. 44 ¶ 14). Prison staff confiscated Hampton's ...

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