United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
FAWN KUZMINSKI, Administrator of the Estate of JAMES KUZMINSKI, Deceased, Plaintiff,
WARREN COUNTY, et al, Defendants.
PARADISE BAXTER United States District Judge
civil action was filed by Plaintiff Fawn Kuzminski
("Plaintiff), the administrator of the estate of James
Kuzminski ("Decedent"), as the result of events
that transpired while Decedent was incarcerated at the Warren
County Jail. The operative pleading is the Second Amended
Complaint ("SAC, " ECF No. 54). The named
Defendants include: Warren County; Warden Kenneth Klakamp;
Deputy Warden Jon Collins; Counselor Laura McDunn; Seneca
Medical Center, LLC ("SMC"); Norman K. Beals, III, M.D.,
who at all relevant times was SMC's Medical Director;
Children's Center for Treatment and Education d/b/a/
Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems, an affiliate of
Journey Health System ("Beacon
Light"); Ernesto Roederer, M.D., a psychiatrist
employed by Beacon Light; and John P. John, M.D., a
psychiatrist and Outpatient Clinical Medical Director for
Beacon Light. In her eight-count pleading, Plaintiff asserts
a variety of claims against the Defendants, including - in
relevant part - claims under 42 U.S.C. Â§1983 and state law
claims based on alleged professional negligence. The Court
has subject matter over these claims based on 28 U.S.C.
Â§Â§1331, 1343(a), and 1367(a).
before the Court are motions filed by Defendants SMC (ECF No.
55), Beals (ECF No. 57), and John and Roederer (ECF No. 59)
to dismiss the claims asserted against them. Defendant Beacon
Light joins in these motions (ECF No. 61). Also pending
before the Court is the Plaintiffs motion to further amend
her pleading so as to add nine individual defendants who were
employed as corrections officers at the Warren County Jail
during the time period in question (ECF No. 68). For the
reasons that follow, Dr. Roederer's motion to dismiss
will be granted in part and denied in part. In all other
respects the motions to dismiss will be denied. Plaintiffs
motion to amend will be granted in part and denied in part as
James Kuzminski was, at all times relevant to this lawsuit, a
Pennsylvania resident who suffered from Huntington's
Disease. SAC ¶¶ 6, 31. Huntington's Disease is
a rare genetic disorder that leads to the progressive
breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Id. 61. The
symptoms and/or sequelae of the disease can include
involuntary movement, difficulty swallowing and breathing,
cognitive limitations including memory loss and eventual
dementia, and psychiatric symptoms, including psychosis.
Id. ¶62. Hunger can be a significant cause of
behavior problems in persons with Huntington's Disease
because afflicted individuals generally require a higher
caloric intake, yet may be less able to identify or
communicate feelings of hunger; they may also have difficulty
consuming sufficient calories because of difficulties
swallowing, feeding themselves, or staying on task.
February 22, 2016, Decedent was arrested and taken to the
Warren County Jail (hereafter, "WCJ"), where he was
placed in isolation. SAC ¶¶29-30. On or about March
31, 2016, Decedent pled guilty to disorderly conduct, a
third-degree misdemeanor. Id. ¶59. He was
subsequently sentenced to a term of incarceration of 61 days
to one year. Id. ¶60.
to his incarceration, Decedent had been treated by Dr.
William Esper, a neurologist. SAC ¶83. Dr. Esper
prescribed Haldol - a psychotropic medication - to be
administered in liquid form, due to Decedent's difficulty
swallowing. Id. ¶83.
time of his initial confinement at WCJ, Decedent was fully
symptomatic and displayed obvious signs of impairment and
dementia. SAC ¶¶31, 65. Among other things,
Decedent was incontinent, could not communicate effectively,
and could not care for himself or feed himself without
assistance. Id. ¶¶9, 45, 48-49. As the
result of involuntary physical movements related to his
disease, Decedent required approximately 5, 000 calories
every day. SAC¶55.
following Decedent's incarceration, Plaintiff spoke at
length with Defendant McDunn, a counselor at WCJ, about
Decedent's diagnosis and his resulting limitations.
Id. ¶¶53-54. McDunn advised Decedent's
family members that she did not know how to handle an inmate
with Huntington's Disease; consequently, Decedent was
placed in solitary confinement. Id.¶33.
remained confined in isolation until his release from WCJ one
full year later. SAC¶¶30, 35. During this time, he
was treated "like a caged animal." SAC¶37. His
personal hygiene was extremely poor and he was often forced
to sit in his own excrement, sometimes for days at a time, as
prison staff rarely cleaned his cell. Id.
¶¶40-41, 50. The lights in his cell were left on at
all times. Id. ¶36. Decedent's hair, beard,
and nails were never trimmed, and he rarely got a shower.
Id. ¶¶39? 51. Jail staff hosed
Decedent down in the shower only infrequently, after which
they took him outside without a coat or hat, even in cold
weather. Id. ¶¶42, 46. Decedent would then
return to his cell, shaking from the cold, his hair and beard
frozen. Id. ¶46.
family members informed WCJ administrators about
Decedent's need for additional calories, food was
sometimes withheld from Decedent so that he would not make a
mess in his cell. Id. ¶34. At times he could be
heard crying out for food, and he consistently complained
about being hungry. Id. ¶¶ 43, 57.
14, 2016, Decedent was interviewed at WCJ by an outpatient
therapist with Beacon Light, the designated provider of
mental health services for WCJ inmates. SAC ¶¶20,
65. The therapist was unable to complete the intake process
due to Decedent's cognitive and verbal decompensation and
general inability to respond meaningfully to questions.
22, 2016, Defendant Roederer performed a psychiatric
evaluation of Decedent and diagnosed "Huntington's
Chorea, Cognitive Disorder, Major Cognitive Neuro-Cognitive
Disorder due to Huntington's with behavioral disturbance,
Bipolar Disorder, unspecified." SAC ¶¶67, 68.
Roederer was unable to complete a formal mental status
examination but noted that Decedent "exhibit[ed]
significant agitation and [had] apparently exhibited
significant cognitive decline." Id. ¶69.
He noted that only 10 to 20 percent of Decedent's Haldol
medications were being administered and recommended that
Decedent's medication be converted from pills to elixir
due to Decedent's difficulty swallowing. Id.
¶¶71, 73. He also recommended an increase in
Decedent's caloric intake. Id. ¶71. For
reasons that are not spelled out in Plaintiffs pleading, Dr.
Roederer's report was allegedly not shared with the staff
of WCJ. Id. ¶67. In addition, Roederer
allegedly failed to consult with the prison physician
(presumably Dr. Beals) about Decedent's serious
deterioration and the need to transfer him to a more
appropriate facility. Id. ¶72.
this, Plaintiff also alleges that, following Dr.
Roederer's July 22, 2016 examination, WCJ's monthly
medication administration records for Decedent included the
PLEASE TRY TO GET THESE NEW MEDS INTO HIM[.] THE NEW DR. IS
TRYING TO EVENTUALLY GET HIM ON THE HALDOL INJECTION EVERY
THREE WEEKS SO HE WILL BE ABLE TO GO TO A BETTER FACILITY,
BUT HE HAS TO MAKE SURE HE TAKES THE MEDS AS DIRECTED[, ] SO
IF HE WILL NOT TAKE THE MEDICATION AT SIX AM[J THEN TRY AGAIN
AT 12:00[.] IF HE WILL NOT TAKE THEM AT BEDTIME[, ] THEN TRY
AT 1700[, ] BUT PLEASE TRY . . . THANK YOU.
September 19, 2016, Defendant John visited Decedent at the
WCJ for the purpose of rendering a second psychiatric opinion
in connection with efforts to force Decedent to take his
medications. SAC¶78. The SAC does not allege any details
concerning this examination. It is alleged, however, that Dr.
John faxed a letter to WCJ some three months after his visit,
on December 20, to order Haldol injections for the Decedent.
Id. ¶79. Conflicting jail records suggest that
Decedent's first inj ection occurred either in the last
week of December 2016 or in late January 2017. Id.
interim, Decedent was scheduled to be transported from WCJ on
October 19, 2016 to see Dr. Esper on an outpatient basis;
however, this visit did not occur, as Decedent had an
encountered with unspecified prison officials that resulted
in him sustaining injuries and being returned to his
isolation cell. SAC¶¶89-90.
conclusion of his maximum prison term, Decedent was
transferred to Warren General Hospital for involuntary
commitment. SAC ¶92. Eventually, Decedent was
transferred to Rosemont Care & Rehabilitation Center in
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where he continued to receive care
and treatment until his death on January 26, 2018, at the age
of 57. Id. ¶¶6, 95.
to the SAC, the Decedent's condition deteriorated during
the twelve months that he was kept in solitary confinement,
and he suffered physical and emotional injuries as a result.
SAC ¶¶82, 93, 98. While the Decedent was at the
WCJ, his weight was not monitored, no lab tests were ordered,
and his vital signs went unchecked. Id. ¶82.
Because no screening testi was ordered to assess his ability
to swallow, the Decedent's difficulties with ingesting
food and medication were allegedly prolonged, thus delaying
his transfer to another, more appropriate treatment facility.
on these alleged events, Plaintiff has asserted eight
separate causes of action against the various Defendants. For
present purposes, the relevant counts are: Count V, which
asserts claims of professional negligence against Defendants
Beacon Light, John, and Roederer (collectively, the
"Beacon Light Defendants"); Count VI, which asserts
claims of professional negligence against SMC and Beals
(collectively, the "Seneca Defendants"); and Count
VII, which asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against
both the Beacon Light and Seneca Defendants (collectively,
the "Moving Defendants"). Also relevant is
Plaintiffs prayer for punitive damages against all of the
their separate motions, each of the Moving Defendants
requests the dismissal of Count VII for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. They also seek to
strike Plaintiffs prayer for punitive damages on the grounds
that it is not supported by the allegations in the complaint.
Finally, they request that this Court decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the professional negligence
claims in Counts V and VI. Plaintiff has filed her opposition
to these motions and, consequently, the issues raised by the
Moving Defendants are sufficiently joined and ripe for
DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS
Standard of Review
motions are brought under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The latter rule provides a
defense for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. "When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we
accept all factual allegations as true, construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and
determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the
complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief."
Wayne Land & Mineral Grp. LLC v. Delaware River Basin
Comm'n 894 F.3d 509, 526-27 (3d Cir. 2018) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). In order to survive
dismissal, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Plausibility means "more than a sheer j possibility that
a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. "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." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556).
12(b)(1) recognizes a defense based upon a failure of subject
matter jurisdiction. Relevantly, when a facial attack on
subject matter jurisdiction is raised based upon a perceived
deficiency in the pleadings, the court must only consider the
allegations on the face of the complaint, taken as true, and
any documents referenced in the complaint, viewed in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Gould Elecs. Inc.
v. United States,220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000)
(citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan
Ass'n.,549 F.3d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977));
Turicentro, S.A. v. American Airlines, Inc., 303
F.3d 293, 300 (3d Cir. 2002). "The plaintiff must assert
facts that affirmatively and plausibly suggest that the
pleader has the right he claims (here, the right to