United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
JUSTIN J. ROBERTSON, Plaintiff,
ROBERT GILMORE, TRACEY SHAWLEY, ROBERT VALLEY, MICHAEL HICE, DR. AUTHOR SANTOS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
CYNTHIA REED EDDY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a civil rights action initiated under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
by pro se Plaintiff Justin J. Robertson, a prisoner
confined at SCI-Greene. Robertson's operative pleading is
the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 45).
gravamen of Robertson's Amended Complaint is that he was
denied adequate medical treatment for a spinal disc problem
in violation of the Eighth Amendment, specifically that
Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious
medical needs. The defendants are two individuals employed by
the Department of Corrections, Superintendent Robert Gilmore
and Grievance Coordinator Tracey Shawley; an employee of the
contract medical provider, Michael Hice; and two contract
medical physicians Robert Valley, M.D., the medical director,
and Arthur Santos, M.D. Robertson brings all his claims under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Eighth Amendment,
specifically he alleges that Defendants were deliberately
indifferent to his serious medical needs.
are currently four motions to dismiss pending before the
Court: (i) the motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Gilmore
and Shawley (ECF No. 52), (ii) the motion to dismiss filed by
Defendant Hice (ECF No. 58), (iii) the motion to dismiss
filed by Defendant Robert Valley, M.D. (ECF No. 60), and (iv)
the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Arthur Santos (ECF
No. 68). Robertson has responded in opposition to each
motion. (ECF Nos. 64, 65, 66, and 72). Dr. Santos filed a
reply brief to Plaintiffs brief in opposition (ECF No. 73),
to which Plaintiff filed a Sur-Reply. (ECF No. 77). For the
reasons that follow, the motions will be granted and this
case will be dismissed with prejudice.
about May 24, 2016, Robertson reported “severe pain in
his upper back (left) shoulder blade to Dr. Santos who
prescribed muscle relaxer which was ineffective.”
Amended Complaint, at IV(D). On June 30, 2016, Robertson
returned to Dr. Santos again complaining of pain. Dr. Santos
again prescribed a muscle relaxer and ordered an x-ray.
Robertson saw Dr. Santos again on July 12, 2016, and reported
that the prescribed pain medication had provided no relief.
Dr. Santos then prescribed a different medication.
26, 2016, Plaintiff underwent an x-ray, which revealed he had
arthritis in his back. (ECF No. 45-1, Ex. A). On July 28,
2016, Robertson began a course of prescribed physical therapy
with John Cushner, PT. According to Robertson, Mr. Cushner
believed that Robertson's pain was coming from a swollen
disc in his C-6 and C-7 spinal cord area possibly blocking
the nerve, and that a MRI would be needed to confirm this. On
August 30, 2016, Robertson informed Dr. Santos and Defendant
Hice about the physical therapist's recommendation, but
was told his x-ray was normal and a MRI was not needed.
Plaintiff also told Dr. Santos and Defendant Hice that the
physical therapy was making his pain worse, and requested
pain medications. His request was denied and Robertson was
advised to order “Motrin” from the commissary.
Plaintiff immediately wrote a request to Medical Director
Robert Valley asking for a MRI and filed a Grievance on
August 30, 2016. Id.
thereafter, Roberson was transferred to Dauphin County
Prison, where he was by its medical staff and then sent to a
specialist at Hershey Medical. The specialist found that a
disc in Robertson's neck had collapsed and advised him
that an MRI and “99% sure” surgery was needed.
Robertson was returned to SCI Greene on January 12, 2017,
prior to having the MRI.
return to SCI Greene, Robertson informed Dr. Valley and other
medical staff of his need for an MRI. No. action was taken.
Robertson's family contacted Dr. Valley multiple times,
again to no avail. Robertson's family then contacted
Hersey Medical and had his medical records sent to SCI
February 9, 2017, Plaintiff was informed that he was
scheduled for a MRI. However, he did not undergo the MRI
until July 14, 2017. Plaintiff underwent surgery on August 2,
alleges that by delaying his medical treatment, each of the
defendants was deliberately indifferent to his serious
medical needs. Defendants have filed motions to dismiss
asserting that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted against them.The matter is ripe
applicable inquiry under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) is well settled. Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8, a complaint must contain a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be
dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, 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)). A complaint that merely alleges
entitlement to relief, without alleging facts that show
entitlement, must be dismissed. See Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). This
“‘does not impose a probability requirement at
the pleading stage,' but instead ‘simply calls for
enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery
will reveal evidence of' the necessary elements.”
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234
(3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
Nevertheless, the court need not accept as true
“unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences,
” Doug Grant, Inc. v. Greate Bay Casino Corp.,
232 F.3d 173, 183-84 (3d Cir. 2000), or the plaintiff's
“bald assertions” or “legal
conclusions.” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch.
Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court's role is
limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to
offer evidence in support of his claims. See Scheuer v.
Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The court does not
consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See
id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a
plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See
Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d
Cir. 2000). In short, a motion to dismiss should not be
granted if a party alleges facts, which could, if established
at trial, entitle him to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 563 n.8.
generally consider the allegations of the complaint, attached
exhibits, and matters of public record in deciding motions to
dismiss. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol.
Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).
Factual allegations within documents described or identified
in the complaint also may be considered if the
plaintiff's claims are based upon those documents.
Id. (citations omitted). In addition, a district
court may consider indisputably authentic documents without
converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary
judgment. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d
Cir. 2004); Lum v. Bank of America, 361 F.3d 217,
222 (3d Cir. 2004) (in resolving a motion to dismiss pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally should consider
“the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to
the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that
form the basis of a claim.”).
the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
held that, in civil rights cases, a court must give a
plaintiff the opportunity to amend a deficient complaint
-regardless of whether the plaintiff requests to do so - when
dismissing a case for failure to state a claim, unless doing
so would be inequitable or futile. See Fletcher-Harlee
Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247,
251 (3d Cir. 2007).
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits
the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments,
” U.S. Const. amend. VIII, and requires that prisoners
receive access to basic medical treatment. Estelle v.
Gamble,429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Robertson faces an
exacting burden in advancing his Eighth Amendment claim