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Talbert v. Correctional Dental Associates

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 8, 2019

CHARLES TALBERT
v.
CORRECTIONAL DENTAL ASSOCIATES, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          KEARNEY, J.

         Inmate Charles Talbert sues prison medical professionals Dr. Taylor, Dr. Reynolds, and Dr. Fowler for "deliberate indifference to a serious medical need that caused [him] an actual injury."[1] Dr. Taylor, Dr. Reynolds, and Dr. Fowler now filed notices of an intent to enter judgment of non pros against Mr. Talbert for failing to provide a certificate of merit under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1042.3.[2]

         Under Pennsylvania practice, a judgment of nonpros is effectively the same as dismissal without prejudice.[3] Rule 1042.3, a Pennsylvania procedural rule used in medical malpractice and professional negligence cases, provides,

"(a) In any action based upon an allegation that a licensed professional deviated from an acceptable professional standard, the attorney for the plaintiff, or the plaintiff if not represented, shall file with the complaint or within sixty days after the filing of the complaint, a certificate of merit signed by the attorney or party . ..
(b)(1) A separate certificate of merit shall be filed as to each licensed professional against whom a claim is asserted....
(d) The court, upon good cause shown, shall extend the time for filing a certificate of merit for a period not to exceed sixty days. A motion to extend the time for filing a certificate of merit must be filed by the thirtieth day after the filing of a notice of intention to enter judgment of non pros on a professional liability claim under Rule 1042.6(a) or on or before the expiration of the extended time where a court has granted a motion to extend the time to file a certificate of merit, whichever is greater. The filing of a motion to extend tolls the time period within which a certificate of merit must be filed until the court rules upon the motion."[4]

         This Pennsylvania Rule applies if Mr. Talbert pleads medical malpractice and professional negligence claims by professionals. Failure to adduce a certificate of merit may allow a Pennsylvania Prothonotary to enter judgment of non pros on the claim a professional deviated from the standard of care.

         Mr. Talbert admittedly has not adduced a certificate of merit. But he claims he does not need to. On November 5, 2019, Mr. Talbert judicially admitted he does not plead medical malpractice or professional negligence and limits his case to his Eighth Amendment claim.[5] We accept Mr. Talbert's judicial admission he is not claiming medical malpractice or professional negligence. Mr. Talbert may not argue a medical malpractice or professional negligence claim.

         The question then is whether Mr. Talbert may proceed on a deliberate indifference claim against prison doctors without a certificate of merit. In Boring v. Sanders, Judge Jones adopted Judge Carlson's Report and Recommendation holding the prisoner's negligence claims against prison medical officials must be dismissed for failure to adduce a certificate of merit.[6] He then held the failure to adduce a certificate of merit did not require we dismiss the deliberate indifference constitutional claim.[7]

         We agree with Judges Jones and Carlson. The certificate of merit addresses deviations from the professional's standard of care under Pennsylvania negligence law. This standard is not the constitutional standard of deliberate indifference. We cannot find a certificate of merit would affect the proof of the constitutional claim. It is no more a factor in defining the merits than in another type of tort case against a professional such as the fraud claims addressed by Judge Robreno in McElwee Group, LLC v. Municipal Authority of the Borough of Elverson.[8]Mr. Talbert judicially admits he seeks damages on a constitutional claim. Like Judges Jones and Carlson in Boring, we decline to dismiss at this preliminary stage because Mr. Talbert does not have or need a certificate of merit. Nothing in today's decision affects our analysis of whether Mr. Talbert otherwise states a claim.

         As he limits his claim to a claim for deliberate indifference, Mr. Talbert is not required to adduce a certificate of merit under Rule 1042.3. He needs to prove different elements than professional negligence. We deny Dr. Taylor's, Dr. Reynolds', and Dr. Fowler's requests for judgment of non pros.

---------

Notes:

[1] ECF Doc. No. 2 at 4, 6, 8. In his original Complaint, Mr. Talbert sued several defendants, including: Correctional Dental Associates, Dr. Schneider, Dr. Young, Dr. Patel, Corizon Health, Inc., Edward Bowman, Paden Hinds, Siddharth Sagreiya, Sigy George, Mental Health Management, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Reynolds, and Dr. Fowler. See ECF Doc. 2 at 1. Mr. Talbert is now prosecuting his "final ...


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