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Reed v. Lackawanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2019

JAMES REED, Plaintiff
v.
LACKAWANNA COUNTY, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court is a report (Doc. 78) which recommends that the Medical Defendants’[1] motion for summary judgment (Doc. 51) be granted in part and denied in part. The Medical Defendants have filed objections to the report. (Doc. 79). Upon review, the report and recommendation will be ADOPTED IN PART AND NOT ADOPTED IN PART.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         By way of relevant background, on October 24, 2016, the plaintiff, a former pre-trial detainee at the Lackawanna County Prison, filed the instant counseled civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 challenging his medical treatment, or lack thereof, related to his colostomy while he was incarcerated at the Lackawanna County Prison from October 24, 2014 through November 20, 2014. (Doc. 1). After considering motions to dismiss, the following claims remain: Count I - Municipal Liability, Failure to Supervise, Failure to Train and Civil Rights Violations Caused by Policy; Count II -Individual Violations as to defendant Zaloga and John Doe Medical Defendants; Count III - Conspiracy, Failure to Intervene, Failure to Supervise, and Failure to Report as to Defendants Zaloga and John Doe Medical Defendants; Count IV - Supplemental State Law Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against Defendants Zaloga and John Doe Medical Defendants; and Count V - Supplemental State Law Claim for Civil Conspiracy Against All Defendants.

         On August 7, 2018, the Medical Defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 51). A supporting brief, (Doc. 54), and statement of facts, (Doc. 55), followed on August 14, 2018. The plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the Medical Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on August 28, 2018, (Doc. 72), along with an answer to the Medical Defendants’ statement of material facts and exhibits, (Doc. 71). A reply brief was filed by the Medical Defendants on September 10, 2018. (Doc. 74).

         In the meantime, on August 27, 2018, a notice of voluntary dismissal was filed with respect to the Lackawanna County Defendants.[2] (Doc. 65). An order was entered on the following day dismissing the Lackawanna County Defendants with prejudice. (Doc. 67).

         On February 12, 2019, the pending report was issued, which recommends that the Medical Defendants’ motion for summary judgment be denied as to the plaintiff’s deliberate indifference, state law civil conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, and granted in all other respects. (Doc. 78). On February 26, 2019, the Medical Defendants filed objections to the report. (Doc. 79). A brief in opposition to the defendants’ objections was filed by the plaintiff on March 19, 2019. (Doc. 82). On March 29, 2019, the defendants filed a reply brief in support of their objections. (Doc. 83).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When objections are timely filed to the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge, the district court must review de novo those portions of the report to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the standard is de novo, the extent of review is committed to the sound discretion of the district judge, and the court may rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. Rieder v. Apfel, 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D.Pa. 2000) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).

         For those sections of the report and recommendation to which no objection is made, the court should, as a matter of good practice, “satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), advisory committee notes; see also Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply Intern., Inc., 702 F.Supp.2d 465, 469 (M.D.Pa. 2010) (citing Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987) (explaining judges should give some review to every report and recommendation)). Nevertheless, whether timely objections are made or not, the district court may accept, not accept, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.31.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Medical Defendants first object to the magistrate judge’s report recommending that summary judgment be denied on the deliberate indifference claim arguing that the plaintiff did not have a serious medical need. Specifically, the Medical Defendants argue that the magistrate judge failed to consider that the serious medical need element “contemplates a condition of urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain.”

         “A colostomy is when one end of an individual’s large intestine is brought through a surgically-created hole to the outside of the abdomen and stitched down in order to allow the individual’s fecal matter to drain into a bag attached to the individual’s body.” Champion v. DiCocco, 2018 WL 4087482, at *5 (E.D. Va. Aug. 24, 2018) (quoting Jones v. Gaetz, 2017 WL 1132560, at *3 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 27, 2017) (citation omitted)). The use of a colostomy can constitute a serious medical need as there are obvious “risks inherent in a colostomy, including but not limited to, irritation, infection, and herniation. Without a doubt, a colostomy requires a doctor’s attention on occasion and significantly affects an individual’s daily activities.” Id. (citing Williams v. Erickson, 962 F.Supp.2d 1038, 1042 (N.D. Ill. 2013)). See Ferebee v. Cejas, 161 F.3d 2 (4th Cir. 1998) (unpublished) (alleged need for colostomy bags constitutes a serious medical need); Anderson v. Cty. of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1314 (9th Cir.1995) (“[L]ack of sanitation that is severe or prolonged can constitute an infliction of pain within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment.”); Anderson v. Cty. of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1314 (9th Cir. 1995) (plaintiff’s allegations regarding having his colostomy improperly maintained plausibly establishes a serious medical need). As indicated in the magistrate judge’s report, on the current record, there are material issues of fact as to whether the condition of the plaintiff’s colostomy and the need to maintain it constituted a serious medical need. Therefore, the court will overrule the Medical Defendants’ objections on this basis.

         The Medical Defendants further object to the report recommending denial of summary judgment on the deliberate indifference claim arguing that, even if the plaintiff had a serious medical need, he received adequate medical treatment. Here, the Medical Defendants argue that there is no evidence in the record that the plaintiff ever requested and was denied supplies for his colostomy bag. In fact, the Medical Defendants argue that the record demonstrates that the plaintiff received continual medical attention and monitoring. While there are indications in the record that the plaintiff received certain medical care on a daily basis, including the taking of his blood pressure and administration of various medications, as indicated in the magistrate judge’s report, there are disputed facts with regard to the treatment of the plaintiff’s colostomy. The plaintiff’s medical records reflect that on one occasion during his month-long stay, he was provided with a colostomy bag and bandage, after which there is a three week gap regarding the provision of colostomy supplies to the plaintiff. It is unclear whether during this time the plaintiff properly requested and was not given his colostomy supplies. The ...


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