United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge
Christian Smith (“Smith”) is a former inmate who
was housed at all relevant times at the State Correctional
Institution, Retreat, in Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania
(“SCI-Retreat”). Smith commenced this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). The matter is
proceeding via an amended complaint. (Doc. 18). Smith names
two groups of defendants: Dr. Stanley Stanish
(“Stanish”) and physician assistant Donald J.
O'Brien (“O'Brien”), whom we will refer
to as the “medical defendants, ” and
Superintendent Vincent Mooney (“Mooney”) and
Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel (“Wetzel”),
whom we will refer to as the “corrections
defendants.” Before the court are two Rule 12(b)
motions (Docs. 25, 26) to dismiss filed by the corrections
defendants and the medical defendants,
respectively. For the reasons set forth below, the court
will grant each pending motion.
of the Amended Complaint
alleges that on October 6, 2017, he was exercising in the
recreational yard at SCI-Retreat when a stepper bench
collapsed and his left leg was caught underneath, causing a
10-centimeter laceration. (Doc. 18 ¶ 9). Smith was
transported to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and received 22
stiches in his leg. (Id. ¶ 10). A doctor at the
hospital allegedly opined that Smith may suffer from nerve
returning to SCI-Retreat, defendant Stanish treated Smith and
advised that he would recheck the stitches in two weeks.
(Id. ¶ 12). At the next visit, Stanish removed
some stitches but left others in place because they were not
ready for removal. (Id. ¶ 15). Smith alleges
that he subsequently removed the remaining stiches on his own
because “his skin was concealing the stiches” and
Stanish did not answer his sick calls. (Id. ¶
16). Smith further contends that Stanish failed to order
physical therapy in a timely manner; that Smith complained to
O'Brien on June 3, 2018, about the delay in receiving
physical therapy and was thrown out of O'Brien's
office; and that his appointment with physical therapy on
July 5, 2018, was inadequate. (Id. ¶¶ 19,
24, 25, 29).
also alleges that the medical defendants denied him medical
treatment because he refused to pay the $5.00 co-payment fee.
(Id. ¶ 16). He believes that his leg condition
requires chronic care and, therefore, he should not have to
pay the co-payment fee. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 20,
24). Smith alleges that the medical defendants' actions
constitute deliberate indifference in violation of his Eighth
Amendment rights. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18).
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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The burden of
proof is on 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The court is to view the
evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor.” Thomas v. Cumberland County, 749 F.3d
217, 222 (3d Cir. 2014). 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). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action
proceed. Pappas, 331 F.Supp.2d at 315.
defendants argue that Smith failed to properly exhaust his
administrative remedies prior to filing the instant action.
(Doc. 27 at 3-15; Doc. 49). The Prison Litigation Reform Act
of 1996 (the “PLRA”) requires a prisoner to
pursue all avenues of relief available within the
prison's grievance system before bringing a federal civil
rights action concerning prison conditions. See 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d
289, 291 (3d Cir. 2000). Section 1997e(a) establishes the
requirement of administrative exhaustion:
No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions
under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law,
by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other
correctional facility until such administrative remedies as
are available are exhausted.
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
PLRA “exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate
suits about prison life, whether they involve general
circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege
excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). It has been made clear
that the exhaustion requirement is mandatory. See
Williams v. Beard, 482 F.3d 637, 639 (3d Cir. 2007);
see also Boothv. Churner, 532 U.S. 731,
741 (2001) (holding that the exhaustion requirement of the
PLRA applies to grievance procedures “regardless of the
relief offered through administrative procedures”);
Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65, 67 (3d Cir. 2000)
(same). “[I]t is beyond the power of [any] ...