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Woodell v. Wenerowicz

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 30, 2019

RANCOURT WOODELL, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT WENEROWICZ, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EDWARD G. SMITH, J.

         The pro se plaintiff, a life prisoner currently incarcerated in a state correctional institution, in another attempt to plead a claim for relief, brings the instant action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against more than 70 defendants. In the amended complaint, the plaintiff alleges that these defendants, who are either medical services professionals or state correctional employees, violated his civil rights because they changed the prison's grievance policy, interfered with his ability to challenge his criminal conviction, acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, and-as to the institutional defendants-are liable pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).

         Most of the named defendants, and several unnamed individuals, moved to dismiss the amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The moving defendants argue that the court should dismiss the amended complaint because the two-year statute of limitations bars the lion's share of his claims and any timely allegations fail to state a claim for relief. The plaintiff failed to file a response to the motions to dismiss; however, he filed two motions requesting a variety of relief, namely that the court consider certain facts not averred in his amended complaint (via supplementation of his complaint or judicial notice), two forms of injunctive relief, and discovery. After a thorough review of the 58-page amended complaint and supplemental filings, the court agrees with the moving defendants and grants their motions to dismiss because several o f the plaintiff's claims are untimely and, with respect to his timely claims, he fails to state a claim for relief.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 11, 2018, the pro se plaintiff, Rancourt Woodell (“Woodell”), commenced this action by filing an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), prisoner trust fund account statement, complaint, and motion for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”).[1] Doc. Nos. 1, 2. Because Woodell failed to file a certified prisoner account statement covering the relevant six-month period, the court entered an order on March 16, 2018, denying the IFP application without prejudice to Woodell filing a proper certified account statement. See Order at 2-3 & n.1, Doc. No. 3. Woodell promptly filed a new IFP application and certified account statement on March 26, 2018. Doc. Nos. 4, 5. The court entered an order on March 28, 2018, which, inter alia, granted the IFP application and directed the clerk of court to docket the complaint. See Order 1- 2, Doc. No. 6. On the same date, the clerk of court docketed the complaint. Doc. No. 7.

         Concerning the complaint, Woodell identified numerous defendants in the caption of the complaint.[2] Compl. at ECF pp. 1-6. Woodell generally alleged that the defendants violated his constitutional rights because they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs from 2011 until August 2015. Id. at ECF pp. 3-24. However, he also included a single reference that certain unspecified acts were occurring in 2018. Id. at ECF p. 3.

         Woodell filed a motion seeking the appointment of counsel and a “Motion for Judicial Notice” that the clerk of court docketed on April 18, 2018. Doc. Nos. 12, 13. In the “Motion for Judicial Notice, ” Woodell alleged that he had an emergency right temporal lobectomy on March 28, 2016. Mot. for Judicial Notice at 1, Doc. No. 13. He also asserted that he had not visited with the assigned neuro-science specialist from Temple University since December 2017, despite the specialist requiring 60-day follow-up appointments. Id. He also mentioned an incident in April 2018, where he indicated to a corrections officer that he was going to have a seizure. Id. at 2. Woodell alleged that a nurse evaluated him, but an altercation occurred after which the nurse created an incident report. Id. Based on these allegations, Woodell requested that the court enter a TRO or preliminary injunction to allow an independent medical facility to examine him. Id.

         On April 20, 2018, the court entered an order which, inter alia, (1) referred the matter to the Prisoner Civil Rights Panel (“Panel”) for a period of 60 days to see if a Panel member would represent Woodell and (2) scheduled a telephone conference to discuss the “Motion for Judicial Notice.” See Order at 1-2, Doc. No. 14. The court held a telephone conference with Woodell and defense counsel of record on May 3, 2018. Doc. No. 27. After the conference, the court set a deadline for the defendants to respond to the “Motion for Judicial Notice, ” stayed the time for the defendants to file responses to the complaint, and scheduled another telephone conference to discuss the motion. Order at 1, Doc. No. 28. Thereafter, various defendants timely filed responses to the “Motion for Judicial Notice.” Doc. Nos. 37-40, 42.

         The court held a telephonic hearing with Woodell and defense counsel of record on June 20, 2018. Doc. No. 43. After the hearing, the court entered an order which, inter alia, denied the “Motion for Judicial Notice” insofar as it sought a TRO or preliminary injunctive relief, and directed the defendants of record to file responses to the complaint.[3] See Order at 1-2, Doc. No. 44.

         On June 22, 2018, Woodell filed another “Motion for Judicial Notice” related to his claims of unconstitutionally deficient medical treatment in May 2018. See Mot. for Judicial Notice, Doc. No. 46. On the same date, the defendants, Stephen Kaminsky (“Kaminsky”), Dr. Frederick Klemick (“Dr. Klemick”), Dr. Mohammed Golsorkhi (“Dr. Golsorkhi”), [4] Barbara Ruminski (“Ruminski”), Jeanne DeFrangesco (“DeFrangesco”), Dr. Haresh Pandya (“Dr. Pandya”), and Dr. Stephen Wiener (“Dr. Wiener”), [5] filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Doc. No. 45. Shortly thereafter, on June 28, 2018, the defendant, Dr. Elisabeth Vonzemensky (“Dr. Vonzemensky”), filed (1) a response to the “Motion for Judicial Notice, ” and (2) a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment.[6] Doc. Nos. 47, 48. Woodell filed a response to the two motions to dismiss on July 2, 2018. Doc. No. 49.

         The defendants, Michael Wenerowicz (“Wenerowicz”), Dorina Varner (“Varner”), Gerald Galinski (“Galinski”), Suzanne Karpinski (“Karpinski”), Laura Banta (“Banta”), George Ondrejka (“Ondrejka”), Joseph Terra (“Terra”), Jeffrey Baker (“Baker”), Althea King (“King”), Donald Whitfield (“Whitfield”), Joseph Korszniak (“Korszniak”), Robert Grossman (“Grossman”), Rhonda House (“House”), Louis Bozelli (“Bozelli”), Kenneth Randolph (“Randolph”), Debra Hawkinberry (“Hawkinberry”), Joseph Trempus (“Trempus”), Ida DiCio (“DiCio”), [7] Noel Ranker (“Ranker”), Carl Walker (“Walker”), Eric Armel (“Armel”), Brian Coleman (“Coleman”), Susan Berrier (“Berrier”), Steven Gates (“Gates”), Edward Manchas (“Manchas”), [8] Michael Zaken (“Zaken”), [9] Shirley Moore-Smeal (“Moore-Smeal”), Raymond Moore (“Moore”), Robert Marsh (“Marsh”), Cynthia Link (“Link”), Jay Lane (“Lane”), and Marirosa Lamas (“Lamas”), filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on July 11, 2018. Doc. No. 50. A day later, Dr. Martinez, Dr. Mohata, Dr. Saavedra, and Dr. Burke collectively filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.[10] Doc. No. 51. On July 20, 2018, the defendant, Robert Ellers (“Ellers”), filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Doc. No. 54. The defendants, Raymond Machak (“Dr. Machak”)[11] and Dr. Ferdinand Christian (“Dr. Christian”), filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment, on July 24, 2018. Doc. No. 58. DeFrangesco and Kaminsky jointly filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment on August 7, 2018. Doc. No. 64. On August 15, 2019, Woodell filed a supplemental response to the pending motions, including the motions for summary judgment. Doc. No. 66.

         After reviewing the complaint and the various motions to dismiss and, to streamline this matter, the court held another telephonic hearing with Woodell and defense counsel of record on August 14, 2018. Doc. No. 65. During the hearing, the court identified the various issues with the complaint and heard from both Woodell and defense counsel. Woodell agreed that he would attempt to remedy the identified deficiencies by amending his complaint. As such, the court entered an order on August 15, 2018, in which the court (1) provided Woodell with an ample period to file an amended complaint, (2) denied the motions to dismiss without prejudice, and (3) denied the “Motion for Judicial Notice” without prejudice. See Order at 1-2, Doc. No. 67. In the order, the court also explained to Woodell that he

must allege specifically how any defendant named in the caption of the amended complaint acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs-i.e. reckless disregard of a substantial risk of serious harm. See Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 330 (3d Cir. 2009). Additionally, as explained to Woodell during the telephonic hearing, he should be cognizant of the applicable statute of limitations in determining the allegations he wishes to raise in the amended complaint.

Id. at 1.

         Woodell filed an amended complaint on October 17, 2018.[12] Doc. No. 72. Unfortunately, whereas Woodell named numerous defendants by attaching five additional pages of names to append to the caption of the original complaint, here, he referenced one named defendant in the caption and then used “et al.” See Am. Compl. at ECF p. 1, Doc. No. 72. In a supplemental filing, Woodell claims the amended complaint asserts claims against “[s]eventy-two [d]efendants[.]” Mot for Leave to File Supp., Prelim. Injunction and/or Judicial Notice to Am. Compl. (“Second Supp.”) at 1, Doc. No. 81. Nonetheless, after reviewing the body of the amended complaint, it appears that Woodell attempts to assert claims against approximately 76 defendants, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”), State Correctional Institution-Graterford (“SCI-Graterford”), State Correctional Institution-Rockview (“SCI- Rockview”), State Correctional Institution-Fayette (“SCI-Fayette”), Wexford Health Care (“WHC”), Correct Care Solutions (“CCS”), and the “Bureau of Health Care Services.”[13] Id. at ¶¶ 13-24, 26. With respect to the individual defendants, Woodell appears to assert claims against the following individuals (grouped by employer/place of employment):[14]

SCI-Fayette: Manchas, Trempus, Counselor Clark (“Clark”), Zaken, DiCio, RN Nole (“Nole”), Coleman, Walker, Chris Myers (“Myers”), Hawkinberry, Dr. Bolk, Dr. Savareedra, Armel, Randolph, Bozelli, M. Bzelte, Michelle Howard-Biggs (“Howard-Biggs”), Moore, House, Marsh, [15] Moore-Smeal, Gates, and Berrier (collectively, the “Fayette Defendants”). Id. at ¶¶ 22, 23.
SCI-Rockview: Coffman, Dr. Burke, Dr. John Synmons (“Dr. Synmons”), Franklin Tennis (“Tennis”), Marsh, Lamas, and Ellers (collectively, the “Rockview Defendants”). Id. at ¶ 24.
SCI-Graterford:[16] King, Link, Dr. Martinez, Dr. Mohata, Dr. Vonzemensky, Korszniak, Major Dohman (“Dohman”), and Wenerowicz.[17] Id. at ¶¶ 13, 14, 17, 21, 60.[18]
DOC: Varner and Tracey Williams (“Williams”). Id. at ¶ 22.
CCS: Dr. Schariff and Dr. Wiener. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 18, 19, 20, 58, 60, 75.
WHC: Dr. Banbridge, Dr. Pandya, Dr. Golsorkhi, Dr. Biggie, Dr. Blatt, Dr. Lewis, Dr. Machak, Dr. Smith, Dr. Tobin, Dr. Klemick, and Dr. Gek.[19] Id. at ¶ 18.[20]
Bureau of Health Care Services: Dr. Balk and Ruminski. Id. at ¶ 20.
Unaffiliated: John/Jane Does, Bolger, Dr. Christian, Ondrejka, Galinski, Lane, DeFrangesco, Baker, Terra, Banta, Karpinski, and Grossman.

Id. at ¶¶ 19, 58.[21]

         On October 31, 2018, Wenerowicz, Varner, Galinski, Karpinski, Banta, Ondrejka, Terra, Baker, King, Whitfield, [22] Korszniak, Grossman, House, Bozelli, Randolph, Hawkinberry, Trempus, DiCio, Ranker, Walker, Armel, Coleman, Berrier, Gates, Manchas, Zaken, Moore-Smeal, Moore, Marsh, Link, Lane, Lamas, and Richard Ellers (“Ellers”) (collectively “Commonwealth Defendants”).[23] Doc. No. 74. On the same day, (1) CCS, Kaminsky, Dr. Klemick, Dr. Golsorkhi, Ruminski, DeFrangesco, Dr. Pandya, and Dr. Wiener (collectively the “CCS Defendants”), (2) Dr. Martinez, Dr. Mohata, Dr. Saavedra and Dr. Burke (collectively the “Mental Health Defendants”), and (3) Dr. Vonzemensky, separately moved to dismiss the amended complaint.[24] Doc. Nos. 73, 75, 76.

         Woodell did not file a response to any of the three pending motions to dismiss; however, he filed a “motion for leave to file supplement, preliminary injunction and/or judicial notice to the amended complaint” on January 24, 2019. Second Supp. at ECF p. 1. The Commonwealth Defendants filed response in opposition to this motion. Doc. Nos. 82. Dr. Vonzemensky, Dr. Savareedra, and the CCS Defendants joined the Commonwealth Defendants' response in opposition. Doc. Nos. 83, 84, 85. Several months later, on June 28, 2019, Woodell moved for an emergency TRO, preliminary injunction, and a medical examination. Doc. No. 86. None of the defendants opposed the motion.[25]

         The motions to dismiss and Woodell's two motions for miscellaneous relief are now ripe for disposition.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review - Motions to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move for dismissal of a complaint or a portion of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests “the sufficiency of the allegations contained in the complaint.” Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted).[26] As the moving party, “[t]he defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented.” Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). In addition, in reviewing a pro se plaintiff's complaint, the court must liberally construe the allegations set forth in the complaint. See Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339-40 (3d Cir. 2011) (explaining that “when presented with a pro se litigant, we have a special obligation to construe his complaint liberally” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         In general, a complaint is legally sufficient if it contains “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “The touchstone of [this] pleading standard is plausibility.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012). Although Rule 8(a)(2) does “not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, ” it does require the recitation of “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). In other words, “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quotation omitted). “In ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, courts can and should reject legal conclusions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted references, unwarranted deductions, footless conclusions of law, and sweeping legal conclusions in the form of actual allegations.” Bright v. Westmoreland Cty., 380 F.3d 729, 735 (3d Cir. 2004) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Ultimately, a complaint must contain facts sufficient to nudge any claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         B. Standard of Review of Complaints Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)

         Because the court has granted Woodell leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court can review the amended complaint to determine whether it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or asserts a claim against a defendant immune from monetary relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii) (providing that “[n]otwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that-- . . . (B) the action or appeal-- (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief”). A complaint is frivolous under section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact, ” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and is legally baseless if it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995). As for whether a complaint is malicious, “[a] court that considers whether an action is malicious must, in accordance with the definition of the term ‘malicious,' engage in a subjective inquiry into the litigant's motivations at the time of the filing of the lawsuit to determine whether the action is an attempt to vex, injure or harass the defendant.” Id. at 1086. “[A] district court may dismiss a complaint as malicious if it is plainly abusive of the judicial process or merely repeats pending or previously litigated claims.” Brodzki v. CBS Sports, Civ. No. 11-841, 2012 WL 125281, at *1 (D. Del. Jan. 13, 2012). The standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Rule 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)).

         C. Factual Allegations

         In general, Woodell asserts that the defendants “deliberately delay[ed] and den[ied] immediate, adequate and proper needed medical treatment to [his] serious diagnosed mental health (‘panic attacks') and medical (‘seizures') conditions” and failed to provide him adequate treatment once he informed them and/or they witnessed a panic attack or a seizure. Am. Compl. at ¶ 2. Woodell claims that the defendants, when contacted by correctional officers, prisoners, or even medical professionals, (1) refused to physically examine or treat him for allegedly visible physical injuries, (2) mocked him, belittled him, and accused him of faking and lying about his medical issues, (3) punished him by placing him in an isolated restricted housing unit or “Psychological Observation Cells” (also referred to as “POC”) for 42 consecutive months, and (4) prescribed him “a number of psychotropic and experimental medications that neurology declared made [his] medical condition worse, led to deterioration, his emergency brain surgery and other medical problems and needed treatments[.]” Id. at ¶¶ 3, 4, 7, 10. Woodell further alleges that his challenges to his underlying criminal convictions became time-barred due to the defendants' conduct. Id. at ¶ 3.

         Along with the aforementioned allegations, Woodell asserts that the defendants failed to properly examine or diagnose him, in part, because they lacked the necessary qualifications to do so insofar as they were not neurologists. Id. at ¶ 7. The defendants also “spread the word amongst medical personnel (e.g., nurses, doctors, etc.) that [he] was faking and lying about having/having [sic] had a ‘panic attack and/or seizure'” despite other individuals witnessing the panic attack or seizure. Id. at ¶ 8. Woodell alleges that these false statements caused the other medical personnel to not respond to calls relating to Woodell's care if the initiating report was that he was suffering from a panic attack or a seizure. Id.

         Generally, Woodell fails to allege when the alleged violations occurred and who committed said violations; however, the court can discern a general timeline based on where Woodell resided at the time of the complained-of behavior. Woodell resided at SCI-Rockview from March 25, 2005 until December 9, 2009. Id. at ¶ 35. At that time, DOC transferred Woodell to SCI-Fayette. Id. Woodell remained at SCI-Fayette from December 9, 2009 until December 20, 2011. Id. at ¶ 12. From December 20, 2011 until July 12-15, 2018, Woodell resided at SCI-Graterford. Id. When SCI-Graterford closed in July 2018, DOC transferred Woodell to SCI-Phoenix. Id.

         D. Analysis

         Woodell asserts several section 1983 claims in his amended complaint and supplemental filing: (1) two Eighth Amendment claims (deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and a conditions of confinement claim), (2) a claim related to DOC's changes to the grievance policy, (3) a First Amendment access to courts claim, and (4) a Monell claim against CCS, WHC, the four SCIs, and the DOC.[27] To sift Woodell's viable claims from the non-viable, the court first discusses whether certain defendants, as state employees and/or arms of the state, are amenable to suit under section 1983, the timeliness of each claim, and the basic section 1983 pleading requirement that a plaintiff allege each defendant's personal involvement.[28] Then the court discusses the merits of Woodell's surviving section 1983 claims-changes to the grievance policy, access to courts, deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, and Monell.

         1. Section 1983 Prerequisites

         a. Bars to Suing State Employees and Entities Under Section 1983[29]

         To state a claim against an individual or entity under section 1983, said party must be a “person” under section 1983 and/or not immune from suit. Here, Woodell alleges that he sues each individual defendant, several of whom are state employees, in their official and individual capacities. Am. Compl. at ¶ 5 (“Each Commonwealth Defendant is sued in their ‘personal/individual capacityies' [sic] . . . .”). Woodell also sues several state entities, namely the four SCIs, the DOC, and the Bureau of Health Services.

         To the extent that Woodell seeks to exert claims for money damages against the DOC, the Bureau of Health Care Services, and the four SCI institutions, said entities are not amenable to suit under section 1983 because they have Eleventh Amendment immunity and are not “persons” under section 1983. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989) (“Section 1983 provides a federal forum to remedy many deprivations of civil liberties, but it does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy against a State for alleged deprivations of civil liberties.” (citation omitted)); see also Green v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., Civ. A. No. 16-3630, 2016 WL 7239891, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 14, 2016) (holding Eleventh Amendment immunity barred section 1983 claims against DOC); Sloan v. Chambers, Civ. No. 3:CV-12-1954, 2016 WL 4245550, at *13 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2016) (holding Eleventh Amendment immunity “applies to a ‘subordinate agency' like the Bureau of Health Services and dismissal is appropriate under this theory” (citation omitted)).[30]

         The DOC, the four SCIs, and the Bureau of Health Care Services are also not amenable to suit under section 1983 because they are not “persons” as defined in the statute. See Sloan, 2016 WL 4245550, at *14 (“It is well settled that a prison or correctional facility is an arm of the state and thus is not a ‘person' subject to suit under § 1983. The Bureau of Health Care Services, is a department within the DOC, thus is also not considered a ‘person' amenable to suit under § 1983.” (internal citations omitted)). As such, Woodell cannot assert a Monell claim against the DOC, Bureau of Health Care Services, or any of the SCIs. Woodell also cannot sue employees of DOC, Bureau of Health Care Services, or any of the SCIs in their official capacities for monetary damages. See A.W. v. Jersey City Public Sch., 341 F.3d 234, 238 (3d Cir. 2003) (explaining that Eleventh Amendment's “protection from suit extends to state agencies as well as state officials sued in their official capacities for monetary damages” (citation omitted)).[31] Accordingly, the court dismisses Woodell's Monell claims against the DOC, Bureau of Health Care Services, and the four SCIs with prejudice, and any official capacity claims against individual state employees without prejudice.[32]

         As for the first exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity, Congress did not intend to abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity by enacting 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 344-45 (1979) (stating that “§ 1983 does not explicitly and by clear language indicate on its face an intent to sweep away the immunity of the States; nor does it have a history which focuses directly on the question of state liability and which shows that Congress considered and firmly decided to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the States”). Concerning the second exception, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has enacted 42 Pa. C.S. § 8521(b), which expressly indicates that the Commonwealth has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal courts. See 42 Pa. C.S. § 8521(b) (“Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to waive the immunity of the Commonwealth from suit in Federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”); see also Lavia v. Pa., Dep't of Corr., 224 F.3d 190, 195 (3d Cir. 2000) (explaining that Pennsylvania has not waived Eleventh Amendment immunity). For the final exception, to the extent Woodell seeks injunctive relief from individual state employees sued in their official capacities, he may do so in his second amended complaint. See Sloan, 2016 WL 4245550, at *13 (“The Eleventh Amendment, however, does not bar claims for prospective injunctive relief brought against state officials in their official capacities.”).

         b. Section 1983 Statute of Limitations[33]

         “In actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, federal courts apply the state's statute of limitations for personal injury[]” and “Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for personal injury is two years[.]” Sameric Corp. of Del., Inc. v. City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). While the state's limitations period determines how long a party may wait until bringing suit, “[f]ederal law . . . governs when a § 1983 action accrues, under which the limitations period begins to run from the time when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the section 1983 action.” Harry v. City of Phila., No. Civ.A. 03-661, 2004 WL 1387319, at *10 (E.D. Pa. June 18, 2004) (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Sameric Corp. of Del., 142 F.3d at 599 (“A section 1983 cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action is based.” (citation omitted)). With respect to section 1983 claims brought by prisoners, “the [Prison Litigation Reform Act (‘PLRA')] is a statutory prohibition that tolls Pennsylvania's statute of limitations while a prisoner exhausts [his or her] administrative remedies[.]” Pearson, 775 F.3d at 603.

         In addition to the automatic tolling during PLRA exhaustion, in some circumstances, courts may toll the statute of limitations if a defendant's conduct constitutes a “continuing violation.” Cowell v. Palmer Twp., 263 F.3d 286, 292 (3d Cir. 2001). This “equitable exception” applies “when a defendant's conduct is part of a continuing practice[.]” Id. Under this exception, “an action is timely so long as the last act evidencing the continuing practice falls within the limitations period[.]” Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted).[34] The exception does not toll the statute of limitations based solely on “the occurrence of isolated or sporadic acts.” Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). Instead, “[t]he Court must consider carefully the distinction between ‘continuing violations' and ‘discrete acts.'” Anders v. Bucks Cty., Civ. A. No. 13-5517, 2014 WL 1924114, at *4 (E.D. Pa. May 12, 2014) (quoting O'Connor v. City of Newark, 440 F.3d 125, 128 (3d Cir. 2006)). Thus, “[e]ach discriminatory act starts a new clock for filing charges alleging that act.” Hunt v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 289 Fed.Appx. 507, 509 (3d Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (citations and quotation marks omitted). For example, the “continuing violation” exception does not apply to a section 1983 deliberate indifference claim merely because the plaintiff continues to suffer pain from an initial failure to provide medical treatment. See Hickox v. Cty. of Blair, 591 Fed.Appx. 107, 110, 111 (3d Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (holding continuing violation exception to limitations bar inapplicable because it “refers to continual unlawful acts [by the defendants], not continual ill effects from an original violation[]” (alteration in original) (citations and quotation marks omitted)).

         Courts consider “at least three factors” when assessing whether the exception applies, namely:

(1) subject matter-whether the violations constitute the same type of discrimination, tending to connect them in a continuing violation; (2) frequency- whether the acts are recurring or more in the nature of isolated incidents; and (3) degree of permanence-whether the act had a degree of permanence which should trigger the plaintiff's awareness of and duty to assert his/her rights and whether the consequences of the act would continue even in the absence of a continuing intent to discriminate. The consideration of “degree of permanence” is the most important of the factors.

Cowell, 263 F.3d at 292 (citations omitted). To date, the Third Circuit has not applied this exception to an Eighth Amendment claim. See Hunt, 289 Fed.Appx. at 509 (“[N]either this Court nor the Supreme Court has ever applied the continuing violation doctrine outside of the employment discrimination context.” (citations omitted)).

         In the present case, after considering the three factors above, the court finds the continuing violation exception inapplicable to the case at bar. Pursuant to the first factor, at a very high level, the subject matter of Woodell's claims appears largely the same (i.e., medical professionals' failure to provide him with adequate medical treatment). However, at a granular level, the subject matter of each claim is distinct. See Frierson v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., Civ. No. 07-3857 (RMB/KMW), 2011 WL 3423930, at *9 (D.N.J. Aug. 4, 2011) (“Further, Plaintiff has failed to establish any connection between the alleged conduct of Hoey, Rosman, and Green in 2003, and Ifill in 2007. Not only did their alleged acts occur four years apart, but they also took place in different prisons: South Woods, where Hoey, Rosman, and Green worked, and Northern State Prison, where Ifill worked.” (citation omitted)), aff'd, 525 Fed.Appx. 87 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam); cf. Spencer v. Courtier, 552 Fed.Appx. 121, 123 (3d Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (finding “placement in the [Special Management Unit], the lack of psychiatric treatment, and the conditions of confinement” the same subject matter).[35] Here, Woodell alleges that different individuals, at separate institutions, denied him medical treatment for a variety of issues (e.g., panic attacks, seizures) over several years. See, e.g., Am. Compl. at ¶ 70 (asserting claims against “Defendant Nurses Jamie Link, Ann Lewis, Rich, Bob Grossman, Voltz, Defranseco, John/Jane Doe(s)”). As such, the subject matter of Woodell's claims is distinct.

         The second factor, frequency-while difficult to discern given Woodell's failure to plead a clear timeline-ultimately does not support tolling the statute of limitations because Woodell does not allege that the same individuals continuously violated his rights. Instead, he alleges a litany of complaints against numerous defendants related to his medical treatment at four different SCIs. See Ozoroski v. Maue, 460 Fed.Appx. 94, 97 (3d Cir. 2012) (finding no continuing violation, in part, because “[plaintiff's] claims against [defendant] rest on an equally isolated event-her refusal to permit an application for pre-release to be filed on [plaintiff's] behalf.”).

         Lastly, the “degree of permanence” is high. Woodell alleges that he knew the treatment plan proposed by the Rockview and Fayette Defendants failed to appropriately treat him and that he filed grievances and/or knew about these issues years ago. See, e.g., Am. Compl. at ¶ 60 (describing chronology of improper medical care from June 2012 through October 3, 2013 and stating that he filed grievance about said treatment); Id. at ¶ 20 (alleging he complained of “increasing and frequent panic attacks [and] seizures” from “March 25, 2005 to December 9, 2009”). As such, Woodell knew that he had claims against the Rockview and Fayette Defendants related to his medical treatment within the two-year limitations period. See Spencer, 552 Fed.Appx. at 123 (looking to date of plaintiff's administrative grievances as proof plaintiff knew of potential claims). Therefore, the continuing violation exception does not apply to Woodell's claims.[36]

         Given that the court declines to apply the “continuing violation” exception, the court now addresses the timeliness of Woodell's claims on a facility-by-facility basis. Regarding Woodell's first two facilities, SCI-Rockview and SCI-Fayette, Woodell left their custody in 2009 and 2011, respectively. See Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 12 (alleging he remained at SCI-Rockview from 2005-2009 and SCI-Fayette from 2009-2011). Woodell does not allege that any individual responsible for providing him medical treatment, his conditions of confinement, or reviewing his grievances, at either of these two facilities encountered him after 2011. See, e.g., id. at ¶ 24 (alleging parties associated with SCI-Rockview committed violations from 2005-2009); id. at ¶ 43 (alleging SCI- Rockview staff transferred him to SCI-Fayette “without providing Plaintiff with needed medical treatment”); id. at ¶ 44 (alleging inhumane conditions at SCI-Fayette from “December 9, 2009 until his transfer to SCIG on December 20, 2011[]”). The court also knows that Woodell became aware of his claims within the limitations period because, at the latest, in 2010 (as to SCI-Fayette) and 2011 (as to SCI-Rockview), he filed grievances regarding his medical treatment and prison conditions.[37] Consequently, even with PLRA tolling, Woodell's claims against the Rockview and Fayette Defendants became ripe well before March 11, 2016. Thus, the court dismisses with prejudice Woodell's claims against the Rockview Defendants and Fayette Defendants.

         Woodell also alleges violations of his civil rights occurred at SCI-Graterford (now SCI- Phoenix) and that he fully exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to those claims. Id. at ¶¶ 30, 69. Woodell resided at SCI-Graterford from 2011 until July 2018 when DOC transferred him to SCI-Phoenix. Id. at ¶ 12.[38] The grievances arising from Woodell's incarceration at SCI- Graterford include: # 480049, # 484914, # 517371, # 559678, # 603733, # 631559, # 636041, and # 716882. Id. at ¶ 30.[39]

         In the attached grievances, Woodell makes various allegations related to his healthcare, namely:

Grievance # 480049: Woodell asserts that “Dr's. [sic] Platt, Lewis, Klemick, Baggio, Pamela, Balk, Gok, Mohata and Nurse's [sic] Louis, Dennis, Carl - including Nurse Supervisor Grossman[, ] RN's [sic] Joyce, Verana, McDonald, Tobin, Genie DeFranseco, Gio, Gossi, Kor[szn]ack and RN's [sic] March, Christina, Priscilla[, ] Chief Psychologist Martinez and Psy., King, and Dr. Felipe Arias” gave him inadequate medical treatment during an incident on September 23, 2013. Commonwealth Defs.' Mem., Ex. A at ECF pp. 18-19, Doc. No. 74-3. DOC denied this grievance by no later than August 15, 2014. Id. at ECF p. 3. Woodell had until August 15, 2016, to file this claim. As such, it is time barred and the court dismisses claims relating to this grievance with prejudice.
Grievance # 484914:[40] Woodell alleges that on October 27, 2013, he suffered because of unnamed SCI-Graterford medical personnel's “misconception[s]” of his condition. Supp. to Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss or in Alt. Mot. for Summ. J. (“First Supp.”), Ex. D at ECF p. 13, Doc. No. 66-2. He goes on to allege specific complaints about “Major Dohman” being rude to him when he asked for help with his treatment. Id. Next, he alleges that he suffered a seizure and awoke in a POC that lacked water, a working toilet, sheets, blankets. Id. at ECF p. 14. He further alleges that he was placed there in soiled clothing, that SCI-Graterford provided him “experimental medication[, ]” and that they punished him for having seizures by placing him in the “Restricted Housing Unit/Hole” (also referred to as “RHU” cells)[41] and POC. Id. DOC issued a final denial of his grievance on July 21, 2014. Id. at ECF p. 19. Woodell filed another response and DOC remanded the grievance. Id. at ECF pp. 20-21. DOC again denied the grievance on May 21, 2015. Id. at ECF p. 22. It appears that Woodell appealed that decision, id. at ECF pp. 23-25, and Varner (acting as chief grievance officer) denied the appeal on August 18, 2015. Id. at ECF p. 26. Based on this final denial date, Woodell had until August 18, 2017, to file this claim. Consequently, the court finds the statute of limitations bars this claim and dismisses it with prejudice.
Grievance # 517371: Woodell alleges that from May 31st to June 13th (presumably 2014 based on the date of the grievance), he suffered seizures and was not provided the appropriate medical care. First Supp., Ex. C at ECF pp. 4-5, Doc. No. 66-2. He again complains of the years-long “discrimination” from medical professionals, including WHC doctors and an unnamed “administrator” who believed he was “faking” it. Id. at ECF p. 4. In the affidavit attached to the grievance, another inmate (Waldemar Rosario) swears that he assisted Woodell in drafting the grievance related to an incident on June 26, 2014. Id. at ECF p. 6. On July 8, 2014, DOC denied his grievance because Woodell filed it late and the grievance related to a previously filed grievance (# 480049). Id. at ECF p. 3. Woodell had until July 8, 2017, to file claims related to this grievance. As such, the court dismisses these claims dismissed with prejudice as untimely.
• Grievance # 559678: Woodell alleges that he received improper treatment during February and March 2015 from the “Mental Health Department” and Dr. Martinez. Commonwealth Defs.' Mem., Ex. B at ECF pp. 5-6, Doc. No. 74-4. DOC denied this grievance on May 11, 2015. Id. at ECF p. 2. As Woodell had until May 11, 2017, ...

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