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Classen v. Nutter

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 5, 2017



          Bartle, J.

         Plaintiff Jose Classen was an inmate in the Philadelphia prison system at the time this action was filed.

         He has sued defendants the City of Philadelphia, Aramark Corporation, [1] Corizon Health, and several Philadelphia prison officials.[2] Classen brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against parties responsible for providing and maintaining prison conditions at the Philadelphia correctional facilities where he was housed. He also alleges several supplemental state common law tort claims.

         Before the court are the three motions of the City of Philadephia and the prison officials, Aramark Corporation, and Corizon Health, respectively, for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate “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, 323 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986). Summary judgment is granted where there is insufficient record evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find for the nonmovant. See id. at 252. We view the facts and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See In re Flat Glass Antitrust Litig., 385 F.3d 350, 357 (3d Cir. 2004).


         The following facts are not in dispute or are viewed in the light most favorable to Classen, the nonmoving party. Classen was incarcerated in the Philadelphia Prison System from December 28, 2014 until October 18, 2016. Specifically, he was an inmate at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (“CFCF”) from December 2014 until August 2015 and at the Philadelphia House of Correction (“PHOC”) from August 2015 until June 2016. From June 2016 until his release in October 2016 he was housed at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (“PICC”).

         Classen first focuses on the conditions of his cell while in confinement, particularly his three-person cell while he was he was in PHOC. At PHOC he and other inmates were often housed in three-person cells in which two inmates slept on a bunkbed and one slept on a cot (referred to as a “boat” by the inmates). According to Classen, there was a maximum of thirty consecutive days that an inmate was permitted to be housed in a three-person cell, but that he was housed in a three-person cell for forty-five days at a time, or four to six months out of the ten months that he was at PHOC. There is no evidence that Classen ever complained, formally or informally, about the three-person cells.

         While Classen was in CFCF, from December 2014 to August 2015, and in PICC, from June 2016 to October 2016, the time that he and other inmates were permitted out of their cells was restricted. At CFCF, Classen was allowed out of his individual cell once per day for two hours at a time where he understood that it was the policy to permit an inmate out of his cell three times per day. Excluding meal times and Medical visits, he was generally released from his cell at PICC only once per day for three to four hours. Again, there is no evidence that Classen grieved this complaint either informally or formally.

         Classen also criticizes the sanitation of the kitchens, particularly the kitchen in PHOC where he was housed from August 2015 through June 2016. Defendant Aramark, a private corporation headquartered in Philadelphia, provides food preparation services to all three correctional facilities.[3] All meals are prepared by Aramark at CFCF and then distributed at CFCF, PHOC, and PICC for consumption. At CFCF and PICC, meals are brought from the kitchen to cell blocks for meal time. At PHOC, inmates leave their cell blocks to eat in the community mess hall. At the mess hall they are given trays and stand in line to receive food from Aramark employees through a window that divides the kitchen from the mess hall. Hot food is brought from the kitchen to the cell blocks.

         Classen testified that he often observed mice running around on the ground during meal time at PHOC. According to him, the kitchen was “filthy” and looking through the window into the kitchen he frequently observed mice and roaches running on the floors and over utensils and cutlery as well as dust and debris on the utensils and trays. He spoke with individuals from the kitchen on two separate occasions about the conditions he saw in the kitchen.

         Classen recounted that in 2016, while in PHOC, he found a nut in his Aramark-prepared lunch meal. He reported this to a corrections officer working in the mess hall at the time. She told him she would photograph the meal, but Classen does not believe that she did so. He testified that biting down on this nut caused him to chip his front tooth, although he did not realize that his tooth had been chipped until the following day. He admitted that he did not report this incident to a dentist or Medical at PHOC but stated that he filled out a Grievance Form related to this incident.

         On April 27, 2016 at lunch time while in PHOC, Classen was eating a prepared meal when he soon realized the meal contained mouse feces. He immediately became nauseous and vomited. Classen reported the incident to a corrections officer who was working in the mess hall at the time. The officer told Classen that he would photograph the meal, but again Classen does not think that he did so. Classen immediately visited Medical following the incident and receive medication. Classen continued to vomit and have an upset stomach that day and for a number of days thereafter.

         In addition to the conditions of the kitchen, Classen also objects to the general sanitation conditions of the prisons. He found mold in most, if not all, of the showers in CFCF and PICC. Additionally, the plumbing of PHOC presented a safety hazard to Classen. Pipes were exposed and leaking. Classen and the inmates often placed buckets on the floor around PHOC to collect water leaking from pipes in the ceiling. Classen does not state whether he filed a formal or informal grievance on these issues.

         On May 20, 2016 in PHOC Classen slipped and fell as a result of water on the ground that was leaking from exposed pipes while he was attempting to change the channel on the television in the community area of the cell block. He twisted his ankle as a result of the fall.

         After Classen slipped on the floor, inmates alerted correctional officers of his fall, and he was taken to Medical on a stretcher where he was seen by defendant Corizon Health, which is a private entity contracted by the Philadelphia prison system to provide medical services to inmates, including Classen.[4] At this initial visit he was prescribed medication and scheduled to be transported to CFCF for an x-ray. That day, an order was placed by Corizon Health physician Dr. James Arnone for a prescription for Classen for a muscle relaxant. The order also instructed that Plaintiff was to have “RICE” treatment: “rest, ice, compression, elevation.”

         The following day, May 21, 2016, Classen had an x-ray of his left foot. The impression of the x-ray stated: “Acute nondisplaced fracture base of 5th metatarsal for which fat [sic] is advised to assess the healing process[.] Metallic orthopedic instrumentation transfixing the interphalangeal joint of the great toe[.]”

         On May 24, 2016 Classen returned to Medical at PHOC. He was diagnosed with a fracture of his left foot in accordance with the x-ray report. The report also stated that Classen “admits to work yesterday and today, ” that “[a]dditional support provided at this time, counselled on bed rest except for food, medicine and bathroom . . . [n]o work for 4 weeks (minimum) until cleared, ” and that “closed fracture of unspecified bone(s) of foot (except toes).” Classen was prescribed medication for fifteen days and referred to “Podiatry - Surgical Chiropody (Pending Approval)” at the Rothman Institute for “possible immobilization/need for surgery.”

         On May 26, 2016 Classen filled out a Sick Call Request complaining that the medication he was receiving was insufficient to control his pain. The next day Classen reported in the morning to Medical at PHOC complaining about bruising in his left foot and ankle. He was examined by a nurse and an ace bandage was applied to his left foot. He was instructed to continue taking his medication. Later that day on May 27, 2016 he filled out a Sick Call Request. He stated that he reported to Medical and complained of bruising, “but they never told me wat [sic] was wrong or what to do. I need a medical staff to arrange for me to be seen.” On the same Sick Call Request form, he requested a response in writing to his previous Sick Call Request of May 26, 2016. Additionally, he wrote “I was also called to sick call today 5-27-16 and the medical staff . . . sent me back to my housing unit without seeing me, and I was told that I will be called down again on the weekend. I have a broken bone and need medical care.” In response on May 30, 2016, ten days after his slip and fall, on the Sick Call Request form a nurse wrote: “Written Response[.] You have a referral to see podiatry. Please be patient as you will be called.”

         On June 7, 2016 a Consultation Request and Hospital Transfer Form was completed. Classen was seen by Dr. Taweel, an offsite orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Rothman Institute. A boot was placed on his left foot and was to be worn for six weeks. He was scheduled for another appointment on July 19, 2016. Following the June 7 appointment he was seen at Medical at PHOC and examined again by a nurse who referred him to Corizon Health's physician, Dr. Arnone. Dr. Arnone entered orders for a follow-up appointment in six weeks with Dr. Taweel as previously prescribed.

         Classen was again seen by Dr. Arnone at PHOC the next day, June 8, 2016. The report noted that the walking boot was placed on Classen the day before at the offsite clinic. It further provided: “Pt states he was told bone gap widened to 3.1mm (probably secondary to insistence on working right after injury occurred, pt was eventually fired from job). . . . Plan is to have walking boot in place for 6 wks [sic] and reevaluate at that time.” He was prescribed medication.

         In June 2016 Classen was moved from PHOC to PICC. On June 20, 2016 Classen was seen by Medical at PICC. He complained that the medication was not helping his pain and requested stronger medication. The progress report completed by a physician's assistant stated that the issue was addressed by Dr. Arnone in prior visit and that Classen was “good until 08/08/2016[.]”

         On June 24, 2016 Classen completed a Sick Call Request requesting a resolution to his complaints. He also wrote: “I have to be going up and down the steps in here and my foot is in a lot of pain. I don't want my leg to go out on me do [sic] to the pain and I fall down the stairs. Please give me a response.”

         A progress note was entered later that day by the physician's assistant. The report states that Classen “agrees to take [medication] as ordered by [doctor] ¶ 06/08/2016 for another week[.]” The physician's assistant referred him to surgical chiropody and counseled Classen on the side effects of strong medications.

         Also on that day, June 24, 2016, Classen filled out a Philadelphia prison system Inmate Grievance Form relating to medical services and submitted the form the following day. Classen detailed the history of breaking his foot while in PHOC and being given a walking boot and x-ray. He wrote that while he was instructed to stay off of his broken foot, he was not able to “because this is not a medical block.” He complained that his medication was not working and that he had reported this numerous times. In response, factual findings were documented by PICC on June 28, 2016. The factual findings stated: “Inmate states that he is in a lot of pain with his foot that the medication is not working. Mr. Classen has seen the mid-level provider on 6/26/16. He indicated to the PA that he wants a narotic [sic]. PA educated him he is not in need of a narcotic medication. Mr. Classen agree [sic] to take his [medication] as ordered on 6/8/16.” In the City's file relating to this Grievance, it marks the issue as “resolved.” On July 9, 2016 Classen filled out a Sick Call Request form. He stated that he was taken off of his medication and that he was still in pain. On July 19, 2016 Classen was seen by Dr. Taweel of the Rothman Institute for a previously-scheduled follow-up podiatry appointment. Notes from the appointment state that his foot was “partially healed” and instructed that he was to continue to wear the walking boot for four weeks and limit activity. Classen was evaluated by Medical at PICC upon his return.

         On July 20, 2016, Siddharth Sagreiya, M.D. completed a progress note. Classen reported that he was “o.k.” and the report noted a “status post-left fifth metatarsal fracture.” The order instructed that chronic clinic care was to be discontinued and a follow-up orthopedist appointment was to be scheduled.

         The next month, on August 17, 2016, Classen completed a Sick Call Request. He wrote: “I wanna [sic] know what's going on with my trip to take this boot off my foot.” Two days later, an individual from Medical wrote on this Sick Call Request that an orthopedics appointment for Classen was pending approval.

         On August 23, 2016 Classen returned to Dr. Taweel for a follow-up appointment. Notes from the appointment state that Classen's fractured left fifth metatarsal bone was “clinically healed” and no further treatment was needed. The walking boot was taken off on this date. He was also seen by a ...

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