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Givens v. Naji

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 10, 2019

ISAIAH J. GIVENS, Jr., Plaintiff,
DR. MUHAMMAD G. NAJI, et al. Defendants



         Plaintiff Isaiah Givens is a longtime inmate in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ;system who has Buerger's disease, a condition that has caused circulatory difficulties leading to the amputation of one of plaintiff's toes and that may according to plaintiff cause more amputations in the future. Plaintiff alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to this serious medical need, committed professional negligence in their treatment of his condition, and denied him access to programs and services in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 121321.

         I recommend that the motion to dismiss of defendants Cantolina and Pearson, ECF no. 70, be granted as explained below.

         I recommend that the motion to dismiss of defendants Barnes, Correct Care Solutions, Nagle, Naji, Thornley, and Turner, ECF no. 68, be granted in part and denied in part as explained below. After three tries it would be inequitable to permit further amendment of the complaint.


         Plaintiff filed a civil complaint on November 21, 2017, ECF no. 1, amended on December 21, 2017, ECF no. 9, alleging the liability of various employees and contractors of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for their provision of allegedly inadequate medical care to plaintiff during his incarceration at S.C.I. Huntingdon and S.C.I. Houtzdale. In response to my Report and Recommendation addressing the first round of motions to dismiss, see the corrected copy of the Report and Recommendation at ECF no. 59 (that was adopted in part at ECF no. 74) plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint at ECF no. 64 that repeats and in some respects amplifies the first two versions of the complaint.

         Two preliminary comments: first, the Second Amended Complaint makes allegations against defendant Hardesty based on events that took place while plaintiff was incarcerated at Huntingdon during the 1990s. Except for noting the plaintiff's change in the date of the last relevant action by Dr. Hardesty from 1997 to 1999, the allegations do not need not to be discussed because Hardesty has been completely dismissed from this matter.

         Second, plaintiff names ten John/Jane Doe defendants. Plaintiff, beginning with Second Amended Complaint at ¶6, alleges that these unidentified defendants echoed exactly the actions of the named defendants. Since by definition these Doe defendants cannot have been served and do not have representation, no one challenges the adequacy of the Second Amended Complaint as to them. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), however, requires my independent screening of the adequacy of a complaint.

         Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires the plaintiff to name all the party defendants in the caption to the original complaint. There is no provision in Rule 10 or elsewhere that permits or prohibits the use of fictitious names for defendants. The customary rule is to permit John/Jane Doe defendants until the defendant is sufficiently identified to permit service of process. Often a time limit is placed on this process, and courts also hold that the use of a fictitious name for a defendant will not be permitted if ignorance of the defendant's identity is the result of lack of reasonable inquiry. Stratton v. City of Boston, 731 F.Supp. 42, 45 (D. Mass. 1989), citing 2A J. Moore, J. Lucas & G. Grotheer, Moore's Federal Practice ¶10.02 (2d ed.1989), and Saffron v. Wilson, 70 F.R.D. 51, 56 (D.D. C. 1975) . If after adequate time to conduct discovery a party cannot identify the Doe defendant, the complaint is properly dismissed without prejudice as to the Doe defendant. Scheetz v. Morning Call, Inc., 747 F.Supp. 1515, 1534-35 (E.D.Pa.1990), aff'd 946 F.2d 202 (3d Cir.1991).

         It should not require my pointing out that the reason for these customary rules is, as Fed.R.Civ.P. 1 commands, to do justice with a minimum of delay and expense, not to do precisely the opposite by allowing a plaintiff to create contingent defendants. A properly named Doe defendant is an entity (in this case a person who provided or denied medical services to plaintiff) whose existence is certain but whose identity is uncertain. Someone whose existence is not even certain is improperly put forward as an expense-adding and case-delaying (since no one can move to dismiss a complaint on behalf of a contingent party) Doe defendant.

         Since with one exception (discussed below) none of the ten Doe defendants in the Second Amended Complaint is alleged to have taken a single action distinguishable from those of the named defendants - or even from any of the other nine Doe defendants, see Second Amended Complaint at ¶2 0 - it should be obvious that (despite plaintiff's implicit assertion that there are ten of them) their existence is speculative. If they did exist, plaintiff's ability to describe (albeit in a conclusory fashion that echoes the alleged actions of the named defendants) the actions they took that injured plaintiff since his incarceration at Huntingdon in the 1990s coupled with plaintiff's ignorance of their identity for up to twenty years would be a textbook example of a lack of reasonable inquiry.

         The one exception to this class of nonentities is Second Amended Complaint at ¶62, where John Doe #1 allegedly informed plaintiff that his pain medication would expire if not renewed by November 14, 2017. But this incident is trivial and the allegations state no claim: the Doe defendant is not alleged to have done anything to cause the end of this treatment.

         Further, the PLRA's exhaustion of remedies requirement in the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C.§ 1997e(a), applicable here, provides:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted[, ] and, as I noted in my first Report and Recommendation, one of the requirements of the relevant administrative remedy process is that the grievant ...

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