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Roberts v. Wilson

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 30, 2018

DEBBORAH WILSON, et al., Defendants

          Arbuckle, Magistrate Judge


          Kane, Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Arbuckle (Doc. No. 93), recommending that the Court deny a motion for summary judgment filed by Dr. Deborah Wilson, Registered Nurse Patty Bunting, Health Care Administrator Jackie Gregory, and other medical personnel (the “Medical Defendants”) (Doc. No. 84), to which the Medical Defendants have filed objections (Doc. No. 94). Upon consideration of the briefing filed in connection with the Medical Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Magistrate Judge Arbuckle's Report and Recommendation, the Medical Defendants' objections, and the applicable law, for the reasons provided herein, the Court will adopt the recommendation set forth in the Report and Recommendation, and will deny the Medical Defendants' motion for summary judgment, but for reasons different than those offered by Magistrate Judge Arbuckle.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         August 14, 2015, Plaintiff Keith Alan Roberts initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that members of Pike County Correctional Facility (“PCCF”)'s medical staff and PCCF's contracted medical provider, PrimeCare Medical, Inc. (“PrimeCare”), exhibited deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs by denying him recommended treatment for his diagnosed Hepatitis C condition in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Following service of the complaint, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On December 16, 2015, Magistrate Judge Carlson entered a Report and Recommendation, wherein he recommended that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 30.) Specifically, Magistrate Judge Carlson recommended that the Court dismiss PrimeCare from the action due to Plaintiff's failure to state a claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) and its progeny (Doc. No. 30 at 18-21), but permit Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim to proceed against the Medical Defendants. Magistrate Judge Carlson noted that while Plaintiff “barely . . . pleaded sufficient facts to allow his Eighth Amendment claims to proceed forward against the individual [D]efendants” (Id. at 20), an “assessment of the nature, extent and quality of” the care received by Plaintiff at this juncture in proceedings “would entail consideration of the facts beyond the pleadings, something which can only be done in a properly documented motion for summary judgment.” (Id. at 18.) On June 7, 2016, the Court adopted the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Carlson. (Doc. No. 57.)

         At the conclusion of the discovery period, the Medical Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (Doc. 84), together with a supporting brief (Doc. No. 85), a statement of material facts (Doc. No. 87), and an appendix of exhibits (Doc. No.). On February 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a three-page, handwritten brief in opposition to the Medical Defendants' motion for summary judgment along with seventy-one pages of record evidence. (Doc. No. 84). On September 27, 2017, Magistrate Judge Arbuckle issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that the Medical Defendants' motion for summary judgment be denied. (Doc. No. 93.) The Medical Defendants filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on October 6, 2017. (Doc. No. 94.)


         A. Standard of Review of a Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation

         The Magistrate Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636 et seq., and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that any party may file written objections to a magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations. The written objections must “specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations or report to which objection is made and the basis for such objections.” L.R. 72.3. When a party objects to a report and recommendation of a magistrate judge, this Court must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); M.D. Pa. L.R. 72.3. The Court may also “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id.

         B. Legal Standard on Motion for Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the court to render summary judgment "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). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). A factual dispute is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law, and is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248-49. Thus, where no material fact is in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 248. Conversely, where there is a dispute as to an issue of material fact, the moving party must establish that the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Id.

         The party moving for summary judgment bears an initial burden of identifying evidence that it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004). Once the moving party has carried this initial burden, “the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). If the non-moving party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial, ” summary judgment is warranted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. With respect to the sufficiency of the evidence that the non-moving party must provide, a court should grant summary judgment where the non-movant's evidence is merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. There must be more than a scintilla of evidence supporting the non-moving party and more than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id. at 252; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         C. Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference Standard

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, ” which includes “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976)). To prevail on a claim of deliberate indifference, Plaintiff must establish that the Medical Defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical need. This standard is two-fold, requiring Plaintiff to make an “objective” showing that the deprivation was sufficiently serious, and a “subjective” showing that the Medical Defendants acted with a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Montgomery v. Pinchak, 294 F.3d 492, 499 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)); see West v. Keve, 571 F.2d 158, 161 (3d Cir. 1978) (“This standard is two-pronged. It requires deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials and it requires the prisoner's medical needs to be serious.”). “[T]o establish a violation of [an ...

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