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Robinson v. Prison Health Care Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 29, 2018



          SLOMSKY, JUDGE


         Plaintiff David Robinson, an inmate at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford (“SCI-Graterford”), brings this counseled action against Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”), prison healthcare providers, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He alleges violations of his constitutional rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, together with several state law tort claims. Defendants are Corizon; Bruce Blatt, M.D.; Raymond Machak, P.A.; Richard Kosierowski, M.D.; Margarita McDonald, M.D.; Richard Stefanic, M.D.; John Zaro, D.O.; Frank Masino, P.A.-C. (“Medical Defendants”); and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff's claims relate to Defendants' failure to diagnose and treat his kidney cancer.

         In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that the Medical Defendants' treatment of him violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[1] In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Corizon had a custom, policy, and practice of deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[2] In Count IV, Plaintiff alleges corporate negligence against Corizon, and in Count V, he alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants.[3]

         Defendants Corizon, Dr. Blatt, Dr. McDonald, Dr. Kosierowski, Dr. Zaro, and P.A. Machak move for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 94.)[4] Plaintiff has filed a Response in which he states that he is unable to respond in good conscience to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment because any response would be without factual basis or merit. (Doc. No. 112.) For reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion for Summary Judgment.


         A. Factual Background[5]

         Since 1975, Plaintiff David Robinson has been incarcerated at SCI-Graterford. (Doc. No. 95 ¶ 59.) He is serving a life sentence. As noted, Plaintiff's claims center on Corizon and the Medical Defendants' failure to detect and treat his kidney cancer.

         1. Plaintiff's Medical History and Care

         As an inmate at SCI-Graterford, Plaintiff received medical treatment through the Chronic Care Clinics (“CCC”) run by Corizon. (Doc. No. 64 ¶¶ 31, 34.) In 2000, Plaintiff saw Dr. Kosierowski and was told that he had high blood pressure after suffering from a nosebleed. (Doc. No. 94-4 at 53:13-54:13.) From that point on, Plaintiff was prescribed medication for high blood pressure. (Id. at 54:10-13.)

         Throughout the next approximately eleven years, Plaintiff was seen by various medical providers at SCI-Graterford for high blood pressure and other issues. In his deposition, Plaintiff testified that around 2006, he asked Dr. Kosierowski if his blood pressure medicines could cause cancer, but that Dr. Kosierowski did not answer him. (Doc. No. 94-4 at 59:22-60:2.) Plaintiff did not speak to any other doctor, including Drs. Blatt, McDonald, and Zaro and P.A. Machak, about whether the medicine he took caused cancer. (Id. at 60:6-21.)

         On March 15, 2006, Plaintiff again was seen in the CCC for hypertension. (Id. ¶ 11.) On Plaintiff's medical chart from that day is the following notation: “UA: Trace protein Micro Albumin [sic] 5.2 Hi.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that when the kidneys are damaged, small amounts of albumin leak into the urine, a condition known as microalbuminuria. (Doc. No. 64 ¶ 52.) This condition can be caused by high blood pressure, and if not treated can lead to kidney disease. (Id. ¶ 53.) Almost one month later, because of the protein that had been seen in Plaintiff's urine analysis, Dr. Zaro added ACE inhibitors for renal protection. (Doc. No. 95 ¶ 14.) He was seen two more times in 2006. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16.)

         On February 27, 2007, a doctor ordered Plaintiff to receive the medications Mevacor, HCTZ, Prinivel, ASA, and Elavil. (Id. ¶ 19.) About two weeks later, he was seen for hard stools and blood in his stool. (Id. ¶ 20.) On August 14, 2007, when P.A. Korszniak examined Plaintiff, his blood pressure was 128/66. (Id. ¶ 21.) From 2007 to 2009, the Mevacor, HCTZ, Prinivel, ASA, and Elavil medications were renewed. (See id. ¶¶ 22, 25-27, 32, 35-36.) Throughout that period of time, Plaintiff was seen periodically by the medical professionals, and his blood pressure fluctuated. (See id. ¶¶ 24, 37, 88.)

         In 2009 and 2010, Plaintiff was seen at times for annual exams, hypertension, and high blood pressure, which continued to fluctuate. (See id. ¶¶ 37, 39, 41, 42, 47, 49.) In those years, Plaintiff continued to smoke cigarettes but reported no shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, or dizziness. (See id. ¶¶ 37, 49.) On August 24, 2009, Dr. Zaro decreased his dose of HCTZ medicine, added the medication Norvasc, ordered him to have his blood pressure checked twice weekly for three weeks, and told him to stop smoking. (Id. ¶ 37.) On December 14, 2009, Dr. McDonald ordered that Plaintiff have his blood pressure checked twice weekly for four weeks. (Id. ¶ 41.) Just over a month later, his HCTZ and Elavil doses were increased. (Id. ¶ 43.)

         On February 3, 2010, P.A. Machak ordered laboratory studies and renewed Plaintiff's blood pressure medications. (Id. ¶ 45.) On August 18, 2010, Plaintiff complained t o D r. McDonald that he had not received his HCTZ since May 2010. (Id. ¶ 47.) Dr. McDonald discontinued the Mevacor, restarted the HCTZ, and ordered blood pressure checks twice weekly for four weeks. (Id.) She also ordered Prinivel, ASA, increased Elavil, and Norvasc, as well as laboratory studies. (Id. ¶ 48.) On September 23, 2010, Plaintiff's Norvasc dosage was increased. (Id. ¶ 49.) Plaintiff was examined in January and February 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 50, 51.) In February 2011, Plaintiff complained of blood in his urine. (Id. ¶¶ 77, 78.) Dr. Kosierowski told Plaintiff that it would clear in a couple of days, and in three days, it did. (Id. ¶ 79.)

         On March 9, 2011, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Stefanic, after complaining about diffuse abdominal pain for three days. (Id. ¶ 52.) Dr. Stefanic examined Plaintiff's stomach and believed that he had possible constipation. (Id.) He gave Plaintiff a laxative and told him to return that evening if no improvement occurred. (Id.) The same day, a different doctor saw Plaintiff for abdominal pain. (Id. ¶ 53.) Plaintiff reported vomiting the previous night, and his last bowel movement was on March 7, 2011. (Id.) Plaintiff was transferred to the emergency room for possible acute bowel obstruction. (Id.)

         Two days later, Plaintiff returned from the hospital with a diagnosis of possible kidney cancer, and three days after, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer and transferred to SCI-Pittsburgh. (Id. ¶¶ 54, 55.) On May 21, 2011, he underwent a right nephrectomy, which is the surgical removal of his right kidney. (Id. ¶ 56.) Then, on September 27, 2011, a portion of his left kidney was removed. (Id. ¶ 57.) In his deposition, Plaintiff testified that none of his family members had kidney cancer. (Id. ¶ 61.) He never asked his surgeon how people get kidney cancer. (Id. ¶ 110.) Plaintiff believes, however, that the different blood pressure medicine he was prescribed caused him to develop kidney cancer. (Id. ¶ 92.)

         The cancer physician who saw Plaintiff in 2011 did not state whether he had cancer in 2006, and Plaintiff does not know if Dr. Kosierowski knew in 2006 whether Plaintiff had cancer when he spoke to him about the condition. (Id. ¶¶ 93, 94.) Further, no medical professional ever told Plaintiff that his cancer could be traced to 2006. (Id. ¶ 95.) He has no evidence that Drs. Kosierowski, McDonald, and Zaro, or P.A. Machak knew in 2006 that he had cancer. (Id. ¶¶ 97-100.)

         2. Plaintiff Did Not Exhaust the Grievance Process

         The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) policy DC-ADM 804 applies to every inmate and establishes the procedures for the review of inmate grievances. (Doc. No. 94-11.) The policy outlines a three-step system for handling inmate grievances. First, initial grievances must be submitted to the Facility Grievance Coordinator using the DC-ADM 804, Part 1 Form. (Id., Part IV.A.6.) The policy provides:

7. The inmate will include a statement of the facts relevant to the claim. The text of the grievance must be legible, understandable, and presented in a courteous manner . . . . The inmate will identify any person(s) who may have information that could be helpful in resolving the grievance. . . .
8. The inmate must submit a grievance for initial review to the Facility Grievance Coordinator within 15 working days after the event upon which the claim is based.
* * *
14. The inmate must sign and date the grievance or appeal.

(Id., Part IV.A.7-8, 14 (emphasis in original).) A Grievance Officer will provide to the inmate an Initial Review decision within ten days of receipt of the grievance. (Id., Part IV.B.)

         Second, “[a]n inmate may appeal an Initial Review decision . . . to the Facility Manager in writing, within 10 working days from the date of the Initial Review decision . . . ...

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