United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
G. SMITH, J.
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).
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
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”). 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.
the complaint, Woodell identified numerous defendants in the
caption of the complaint. 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.
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.
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,
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. See Order at 1-2,
Doc. No. 44.
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”),  Barbara Ruminski
(“Ruminski”), Jeanne DeFrangesco
(“DeFrangesco”), Dr. Haresh Pandya (“Dr.
Pandya”), and Dr. Stephen Wiener (“Dr.
Wiener”),  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. Doc. Nos. 47, 48. Woodell filed a response
to the two motions to dismiss on July 2, 2018. Doc. No. 49.
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”),
Noel Ranker (“Ranker”), Carl Walker
(“Walker”), Eric Armel (“Armel”),
Brian Coleman (“Coleman”), Susan Berrier
(“Berrier”), Steven Gates (“Gates”),
Edward Manchas (“Manchas”),  Michael Zaken
(“Zaken”),  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. 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”) 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.
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.
filed an amended complaint on October 17, 2018. 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
(“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.” 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):
• 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,
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: King, Link, Dr. Martinez,
Dr. Mohata, Dr. Vonzemensky, Korszniak, Major Dohman
(“Dohman”), and Wenerowicz. Id.
at ¶¶ 13, 14, 17, 21, 60.
• 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. Id.
at ¶ 18.
• 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.
October 31, 2018, Wenerowicz, Varner, Galinski, Karpinski,
Banta, Ondrejka, Terra, Baker, King, Whitfield,
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”)
Defendants”). 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. Doc. Nos. 73, 75, 76.
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.
motions to dismiss and Woodell's two motions for
miscellaneous relief are now ripe for disposition.
Standard of Review - Motions to Dismiss Under Rule
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). 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)).
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.
Standard of Review of Complaints Under 28 U.S.C. §
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)).
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
Section 1983 Prerequisites
Bars to Suing State Employees and Entities Under Section
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
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)).
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)). 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.
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
Section 1983 Statute of Limitations
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
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). 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)).
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
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
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). 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.
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]
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.
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. 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
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. The
grievances arising from Woodell's incarceration at SCI-
Graterford include: # 480049, # 484914, # 517371, # 559678, #
603733, # 631559, # 636041, and # 716882. Id. at
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: 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) 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,