United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
CYNTHIA M. RUFE, J.
Eugene Thye Bonner, a prisoner incarcerated at SCI Phoenix,
brings this pro se civil action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, against prison officials and medical
staff employed at the prison. He seeks to proceed in
forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court
will grant Bonner leave to proceed in forma
pauperis, dismiss his claims against four Defendants,
and permit him to proceed on his claims against the remaining
four Defendants for deliberate indifference to his serious
Complaint raises Eighth Amendment claims based primarily on
allegations that the Defendants delayed proper medical care
for a broken jaw he sustained after being attacked by another
inmate. He named as Defendants: (1) Mandy Sipple, identified
as Deputy Superintendent for Centralized Services; (2)
Correctional Officer D. Harris; (3) Sgt. Worth; (4) Nurse Ms.
Jenny; (5) Sgt. Fondi; (6) Mr. Burkholder, who is identified
as a dentist; (7) Superintendent Tammy Ferguson; and (8)
Jeanne Welsh, identified as a correctional healthcare
administrator. Bonner seeks compensatory and punitive
alleges that on August 7, 2018, another inmate hit him in the
face from behind, injuring his jaw. Bonner faults Defendant
Harris for allowing the assault to occur. (Compl. at 8 &
Bonner was taken for medical treatment after the attack and
saw Nurse Jenny. He alleges that Nurse Jenny saw that his
mouth was full of blood and that he could not talk, but only
gave him a cotton ball. (Id. at 9.) She did not
provide him an x-ray or any other medical treatment. Bonner
was then "put in the hole." (Id. at 11.)
August 7 and August 9, Bonner informed Defendants Worth and
Fondi that he was throwing up blood, was not able to eat, and
required medical attention. Bonner alleges that Worth refused
to take him to the medical department and that Fondi also
denied him access to medical care. Fondi did, however,
provide Bonner with a dental sick call slip. It appears that
Bonner was scheduled to see the dentist on August 8, but that
he was not brought to the appointment; although unclear, the
Complaint implies that this may have been a result of the
change in his housing. Dr. Burkholder marked Bonner as a
"no show" for his appointment even though Dr.
Burkholder's supervisors knew Bonner was being housed in
the restricted housing unit. (Id. at 12.) Rather, on
August 8, Bonner saw Sipple, the Supervisor of the Medical
Department, apparently in connection with a review of his
housing, and reported to her that he was not able to eat, was
throwing up blood, and required medical attention.
(Id. at 14.) Bonner alleges that Sipple "failed
to investigate enough to make an informed judgment"
about his need for medical care. (Id.)
August 9, Bonner was taken for a dental visit with Dr.
Burkholder and Dr. Kolber, another dentist. Bonner received
an x-ray at that point, although it is unclear whether Dr.
Burkholder or Dr. Kolber administered the x-ray. (Compare
Id. at 11 with Id. at 14.) Bonner alleges that
Dr. Burkholder threw Bonner's dental sick slip in the
air, reviewed his prison housing file, and "started
yelling at everybody in the dentist office and on the
phone." (Id. at 11; see also Id. at
15.) Bonner alleges that Dr. Burkholder "knew [his]
medical need was serious and fail[ed] to report."
(Id. at 11.) However, on the same day, August 9,
Bonner was rushed to the hospital.
hospital, Bonner received surgery for a fractured lower jaw.
His jaw was wired shut for thirty-four days. He required a
second surgery to remove the wire. Bonner's jaw now
cracks, he has difficulty biting hard food, and he requires
therapy to learn how to move his jaw to properly speak and
chew. Bonner alleges that he is being denied those therapy
services, (id. at 10), and appears to fault Sipple
and Welsh for that failure. (Id. at 12 & 16.) He
also claims that Welsh failed to investigate his claims,
train her staff, or properly respond to his grievances,
(id. at 16), and that Ferguson "fail[ed] to
correct the wrong and unconstitutional conduct by defendants
in this claim." (Id. at 12.) Bonner attached to
his Complaint copies of grievances he filed related to the
events of August 7 through August 9.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court grants Bonner leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of
paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the
Court to dismiss the Complaint if it fails to state a claim.
Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable
to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236,
240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine
whether the complaint contains "sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). Conclusory
allegations do not suffice. Id. As Bonner is
proceeding pro se, the Court construes his
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
For the following reasons, Bonner has failed to state a claim
against Harris, Dr. Burkholder, Ferguson and Welsh. However,
he will be permitted to proceed on his claims against the
remaining Defendants for deliberate indifference to his
serious medical needs during the time period from August 7
through August 9.
Claims Against Harris
Court understands Bonner's claims against Harris to be
based on a theory that Harris failed to protect him from the
assault by another inmate. To state an Eighth Amendment claim
for failure to protect, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege
that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his
health or safety.See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 835 (1994). A prison official is not deliberately
indifferent "unless the official knows of and disregards
an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official
must both be aware of ...