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Deshields v. Moclock

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 29, 2019

DR. MICHAEL MOCLOCK, et al., Defendants




         On July 18, 2018, pro se Plaintiff Robert DeShields (“Plaintiff”), an inmate currently housed at the State Correctional Institution, Coal Township, Pennsylvania (“SCI Coal Township”), initiated this action by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Court of Common Pleas for Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 1-2.) Defendants Dr. Michael Moclock (“Dr. Moclock”) and Karen Merritt-Scully (“Merritt-Scully”) filed a notice of removal on August 28, 2018. (Doc. No. 1.)

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on January 4, 2018, he saw Dr. Moclock for peripheral and central vertigo. (Doc. No. 1-2 ¶ 12.) Dr. Moclock examined Plaintiff and noted that he had “a left ear leak which was not consistent with inner ear infection.” (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff asked to be tested for peripheral and central vertigo, but Dr. Moclock did not provide such testing, noting that “in most cases these test[s] wouldn't reveal much [due] to the nature of this condition.” (Id.) Dr. Moclock offered to prescribe Plaintiff Prednisone, but Plaintiff declined “due to [past] treatment failure.” (Id. at 8, 10.) Dr. Moclock also “agreed to the Epley Maneuver as an effective treatment plan but informed [Plaintiff] that he was not trained in its execution therefore he would not order such treatment.” (Id.; see Id. ¶ 12.)

         Plaintiff filed a grievance on January 19, 2018, alleging that Dr. Moclock had denied his requests for medical treatment. (Id. ¶ 13; id. at 8.) As relief, Plaintiff asks that Dr. Moclock be directed to perform the Epley Maneuver and order testing. (Id. at 8-9.) Defendant Merritt-Scully denied Plaintiff's grievance on February 13, 2018. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff appealed the denial of his grievance on February 23, 2018. (Id. ¶ 15; id. at 11-12.) In that appeal, Plaintiff told the Facility Manager that he was suffering from constant headaches, dizziness, an uncomfortable feeling running down to his groin, an uncomfortable feeling in the base of his skull, slurred speech, hearing loss, ringing in one ear, and double vision. (Id. ¶ 15; id. at 11-12.) Plaintiff claimed to have “[fallen] and collapsed from the pain several times.” (Id. ¶ 15.) He asked to be seen by a specialist. (Id. at 11-12.) On February 27, 2018, the Facility Manager upheld Defendant Merritt-Scully's initial response to Plaintiff's grievance. (Id. ¶ 18; id. at 13.) On July 3, 2018, the Chief Grievance Officer upheld the previous responses. (Id. ¶ 20; id. at 16.)

         Based on the above allegations, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution by not providing treatment for his vertigo. (Id. at 5.) Merritt-Scully filed an answer to the complaint on September 6, 2018. (Doc. No. 8.) Dr. Moclock filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 10) on October 29, 2018. On April 8, 2019, the Court received a motion for stay and abeyance from Plaintiff, requesting a stay of this action until his release from incarceration on May 1, 2019. (Doc. No. 13.) On April 9, 2019, the Court granted Dr. Moclock's motion to dismiss and granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days. (Doc. Nos. 14, 15.)

         Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint within that time. By Order entered on May 2, 2019, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion for stay and abeyance to the extent he sought a stay of this matter but granted it to the extent that the Court provided a thirty (30)-day extension for Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 16.) Plaintiff did not do so. Accordingly, in an Order entered on June 11, 2019, the Court, observing that the discovery deadline as to Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Merritt-Scully had closed, directed that the parties file any dispositive motions they wished to file within forty-five (45) days. (Doc. No. 18.)

         Defendant Merritt-Scully filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 19) and supporting materials (Doc. Nos. 20, 21) on July 26, 2019. To date, Plaintiff has neither filed a brief in opposition nor a motion for an extension of time to do so. Accordingly, because the time period for filing an oppositional brief has expired, Defendant Merritt-Scully's motion for summary judgment is ripe for disposition.


         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).

         A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Id. at 248; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Bhd. of Carpenters and Joiners of Am., 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

         When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consol. Rail Corp., 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, the nonmoving party may not rest on the unsubstantiated allegations of his or her pleadings. When the party seeking summary judgment satisfies its burden under Rule 56 of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party is required by Rule 56 to go beyond his pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The party opposing the motion “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). When Rule 56 shifts the burden of production to the nonmoving party, that party must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case which it bears the burden of proving at trial, for “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. See Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992).

         In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. White, 826 F.2d at 59. In doing so, the Court must accept the nonmovant's allegations as true and resolve any conflicts in his favor. Id. (citations omitted). However, a party opposing a summary judgment motion must comply with Local Rule 56.1, which specifically directs the oppositional party to submit a “statement of the material facts, responding to the numbered paragraphs set forth in the statement required [to be filed by the movant], as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried”; if the nonmovant fails to do so, “[a]ll material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted.” L.R. 56.1. A party cannot evade these litigation responsibilities in this regard simply by citing the fact that he is a pro se litigant. These rules apply with equal force to all parties. See Sanders v. Beard, No. 09-CV-1384, 2010 WL 2853261, at *5 (M.D. Pa. July 20, 2010) (pro se parties “are not excused from complying with court orders and the local rules of court”); Thomas v. Norris, No. 02-CV-01854, 2006 WL 2590488, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2006) (pro se parties must follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).

         III. STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS[1]Defendant Merritt-Scully is a Health Care ...

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