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Tolentino v. Xue

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 10, 2019

DR. XUE, et al., Defendants



         I. BACKGROUND

         Vincent Tolentino, a Pennsylvania state prisoner, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights with regard to the medical treatment prescribed for Tolentino's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments. (Doc. 1). Tolentino's claim stretches across several years and generally relates to prison officials either refusing to treat Tolentino, changing his medications, or refusing to believe his professed symptoms. (Id.). Tolentino has also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and, for screening purposes, that motion will be granted. (Doc. 11)

         Tolentino was diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 and prescribed Klonopin and Sinequan to treat his symptoms. (Doc. 1 at 19). Tolentino's PTSD manifested with symptoms of extreme fear and anxiety, sleep deprivation, racing thoughts, and difficulty concentrating. (Id. at 19-20). Several times in 2013 or 2014 unnamed nurses dispensed the wrong medication, causing Tolentino to collapse and injure himself. (Id. at 19). Nevertheless, the prescribed medications improved Tolentino's condition until Klonopin was abruptly discontinued by Nurse Vilhaldel in 2014, which caused a consistent “downward spiral” in Tolentino's mental health. (Id.).

         Around February 2018, Tolentino began to meet with Dr. Xue. (Id. at 12). When Tolentino began to cry during a meeting, Xue offered to place Tolentino in a psychiatric observation cell, and later informed a nurse that Tolentino was “playing a game to get Klonopin.” (Id.). In March 2019, Xue refused to alter Tolentino's medication regimen and, in April 2019, Xue began asking Tolentino about his criminal and educational background, purportedly for the purpose of falsifying Tolentino's medical records. (Id. at 13-14).

         In May 2019, Nurse Cousins adjusted Tolentino's medications and prescribed psychotropic drugs, despite Tolentino informing her that such medications had been tried in the past and had proven ineffective. (Id. at 20). Cousins also allegedly informed Tolentino that she believed he was addicted to Klonopin. (Id. at 21). In June 2019, Tolentino began suffering from an anxiety attack that required medication. (Id. at 21-22). Cousins recognized the need to treat Tolentino, but falsely stated that she did not have any fast-acting medications and instead prescribed different medications. (Id. at 22). In July 2019 Cousins again adjusted Tolentino's medications and provided a new medication that would take four to six weeks to take effect. (Id. at 24).

         In June 2019, Ms. Baldauf examined Tolentino and correctly identified the issue that was bothering him, but “refused to order adequate medicine to treat the underlying symptom of severe anxiety.” (Id. at 22). After refusing to meet with Tolentino for more than one week, Baldauf again refused to treat Tolentino and began forwarding sick call slips to Cousins. (Id. at 23).

         In June 2019, Nurse Amanda Flasher attempted to provide Tolentino with powdered medication, but Tolentino requested pills instead. (Id.). Flasher stated that she needed to speak with her supervisor, and later informed Tolentino that the supervisor instructed her not to give any medication to Tolentino, thereby depriving Tolentino of his diabetes, heart burn, cholesterol, and psychiatric medications. (Id.). It was not until several hours later-after Tolentino suffered from an anxiety attack-that other prison officials provided Tolentino with his medications. (Id. at 23-24).


         This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by plaintiffs who proceed in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This obligation requires that the Court dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Id. § 915(e)(2)(B)(ii). To determine whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief, this Court must “accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Alpizar-Fallas v. Favero, 908 F.3d 910, 914 (3d Cir. 2018).

         A. Procedural Bar

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that it is clear from the face of the complaint that some incidents underlying Tolentino's claim are barred from consideration by the applicable statute of limitations.[1] “The statute of limitations applicable to § 1983 claims in Pennsylvania is two years.” Wisniewski v. Fisher, 857 F.3d 152, 157 (3d Cir. 2017). “A § 1983 cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which his action is based.” Id. at 157-58 (brackets and internal quotation marks omitted). Tolentino filed this complaint, at the earliest, on July 17, 2019, [2] and the statute of limitations would therefore bar consideration of any events that occurred prior to July 17, 2017. Any allegations related to improper treatment in 2013 or 2014 (Doc. 1 at 19-20), are therefore barred by the statute of limitations and will be dismissed.

         B. Personal Involvement

         The court further concludes that several Defendants must be dismissed because Tolentino has failed to allege any personal involvement in the events described in the complaint. First, Mr. Suto and Correct Care are named as defendants in the caption of the case, but the “complaint does not mention these defendants at all, ” and they must therefore be dismissed from this action. Green v. New Jersey, 625 Fed.Appx. 73, 76 (3d Cir. 2015). Second, the only allegation against Mr. Diehl is that he “told [Tolentino] that staff believe[d] [he was] med seeking.” (Doc. 1 at ...

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