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Adefumi v. Lim

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2018



         Olaniyan Adefumi brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that he was touched inappropriately by Dr. Sharon Lim while seeking treatment in a health clinic run by the City of Philadelphia. Dr. Lim has filed a motion for summary judgment with four supporting contentions. For the reasons that follow, Dr. Lim's motion will be granted.


         On November 19, 2014, Mr. Adefumi visited Health Center No. 5, located at 20thand Berks Streets in Philadelphia, seeking treatment for right shoulder stiffness and a rash on his upper left thigh.[2] After being brought into an examination room, a nurse took his vital signs, but did not offer him a robe to wear. Mr. Adefumi then met with Dr. Lim and Zach Sementz, a patient advocate who was shadowing Dr. Lim at the time.[3]

         Mr. Adefumi told Dr. Lim about his complaints regarding his right shoulder and left thigh. Dr. Lim asked Mr. Adefumi to remove his shirt and checked the range of motion of his right shoulder. Dr. Lim then instructed Mr. Adefumi to take off his trousers and underpants and lie down on a stretcher. He says she then touched him in a way he felt was inappropriate for between twenty-eight and thirty-eight minutes. Although he did not object at the time, Mr. Adefumi now complains that Dr. Lim injured him and he “became sick, suicidal, and hospitalized.” Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. at 13. He also alleges that he “lost [the] chance to attend medical school, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences, as a result of this negative encounter.” Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. at 23.


         The standard for summary judgment is well established. I must consider the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. If there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment is appropriate. An issue is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. In deciding the motion for summary judgment, it is not the function of the court to decide disputed questions of fact, but only to determine whether genuine issues of fact exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-249 (1986).

         However, the non-moving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions to defeat a summary judgment motion. Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852 (3d Cir. 1992). Here, Mr. Adefumi must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Corp. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). He “must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion” and cannot “simply reassert factually unsupported allegations.” Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1992); see also Harter, 967 F.2d at 852.

         It is well settled that the allegations of a pro se plaintiff, “however inartfully pleaded, ” are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Notwithstanding, “any layperson choosing to represent himself in a legal proceeding must, to some reasonable extent, assume the risk that his lack of expertise and legal training will prove his undoing.” Groch v. Com., Unemployment Compensation Bd. of Review, 472 A.2d 286, 288 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1984). “A pro se litigant assumes the risks and hazards that accompany self-representation.” Carter v. Grambau, 2016 WL 5257438, at *4 n.1 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 29, 2016) (citing Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2000)).


         A. Constitutional Violation

         Dr. Lim contends that Plaintiff has not pled a cause of action giving rise to a cognizable right to relief. She points out that pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Mr. Adefumi must have alleged that “a person acting under color of state law engaged in conduct that violated a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”[4] Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013). She maintains he has not done so. However, Mr. Adefumi has asserted his claim against Dr. Lim, a doctor employed by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and therefore, a state actor. Mr. Adefumi also claimed that Dr. Lim touched him inappropriately, asserting a violation of his right to bodily integrity protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 235 (3d Cir. 2008) (“[i]ndividuals have a constitutional liberty interest in bodily integrity that is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment”) (citations omitted); see generally U.S. Const. Amend. XIV (“[n]o state shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”). As I previously determined in denying Dr. Lim's motion to dismiss, Mr. Adefumi has set forth a cognizable constitutional claim worthy of review.

         B. Contentions Supporting Alleged Constitutional Violation

         To respond to Defendant's motion for summary judgment, Mr. Adefumi as the non-moving party and as the plaintiff, must refer to evidence which, if believed, would establish liability on Dr. Lim's part and his entitlement to damages.

         For purposes of the present motion, I will accept as true all of ...

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