United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
KENNETH A. CARSON, Plaintiff
JEFFREY WETZEL, et al., Defendants
MEMORANDUM OPINION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT ECF NOS. 88 AND 98
Richard A. Lanzillo United States Magistrate Judge
Kenneth A. Carson commenced this §1983 action based on
allegations that Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC)
officials and medical personnel at the State Correctional
Institution at Forest, Pennsylvania (SCI-Forest) violated his
rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by
displaying deliberate indifference to his serious medical
needs. The remaining defendants in this action fall into two
categories: the "Medical Defendants" (Barry
Eisenberg, D.O., and Lisa Zupsic, C.R.N.P.), and the
"DOC Defendants" (Secretary of the DOC John Wetzel,
Superintendent at SCI-Forest Michael Overmeyer, and
Corrections Health Care Administrator Kimberly Smith). Each
group has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court will grant both
Relevant Procedural History
filed this lawsuit alleging that the Defendants violated
several of his rights during a series of incidents at
SCI-Forest, beginning on January 5, 2016. See ECF
No. 55. Carson's Complaint named nineteen individuals as
defendants, all of whom were employees of the DOC or medical
providers at SCI-Forest. By Order dated February 5, 2019, the
Court dismissed all claims against Defendants Dasily, Dicky,
Z. Gearhart, John Does 1, 2, 3, 4, Miller, Keri Moore, L.
Reeher, E.J. Sager, Stonebraker, and Dorina Varner for
failure to prosecute. ECF No. 78. This Order left only one
claim pending in this action, Carson's Eighth Amendment
claim against Defendants Eisenberg, Zupsic, Wetzel,
Overmeyer, and Smith.
discovery, the DOC Defendants and Medical Defendants filed
separate motions for summary judgment. At the request of the
Court, Attorney Alexander K. Cox agreed to represent Carson
for purposes of opposing the motions for summary
judgment. The matter has been fully briefed and is
ripe for disposition.
relevant times, Carson was incarcerated at SCI-Forest. On
January 5, 2016, around 1:29 p.m., Carson experienced a
"black out episode" while at triage and was subdued
by correctional officers. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 3; ECF No.
89-1, p. 183. During this incident, Carson injured his right
(dominant) hand. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 3. At triage, Carson
complained to staff members nearby that his hand was in pain
and possibly broken. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 3.' Dr.
Eisenberg entered a note at 4:00 p.m. on January 5, 2016,
indicating that he had examined Carson and recording, among
other things, that Carson had "abrasions of his right
fist , of unknown etiology." ECF No. 89-1, p. 134,
185. Dr. Eisenberg asserts that he ordered medical staff to
take Carson's vitals four times daily. Id.
Carson disputes this assertion. At 5:30 p.m. on January 5,
2016, RN Holser entered a note indicating that Carson
informed her that his hand hurt. Id. at 182.
Eisenberg examined Carson again the next morning (January 6,
2016) around 10:00 a.m. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 6; ECF 89-1, p.
134. At the time of this examination, Carson's hand had
swollen to the size of a "boxing glove." ECF No.
113-1, ¶ 6. Carson informed Dr. Eisenberg that he had
pain in that hand, that it might be broken, that he could not
make a fist, and that he needed an x-ray. Id. Dr.
Eisenberg wrapped Carson's hand in gauze. Id. RN
Hoffman noted that Carson would receive medication, and, on
January 6, 2016, Carson received one dose of ibuprofen. ECF
89-1, p. 182; ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 9.
made a sick call request for the pain in his hand on January
8, 2016. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 8. Four days later, on January
12, 2016, he was seen by Nurse Zupsic at the RHU cell door in
response to his sick call. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 12; ECF
89-1, pp. 134, 182. Nurse Zupsic noted the following
regarding Carson's hand: (1) circulation, sensation, and
motion were intact; (2) strength was 4/5; (3) Carson was able
to flex and extend his hand; (4) there was tenderness over
the metacarpal of fourth and fifth lateral aspect; and (5)
scabs were forming over his knuckles. ECF No. 89-1, pp. 134,
182. Following her examination at the RHU cell door, Nurse
Zupsic ordered an x-ray of Carson's right hand and
provided him with ibuprofen. Id.; ECF No. 113-1,
¶ 13. Carson disputes the accuracy of Nurse Zupsic's
diagnostic notes. Specifically, he contends Nurse Zupsic did
not perform a hand squeeze test or any other physical test at
the cell door evaluation. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 11-12. He
further contends that he was not in fact able to flex and
extend his hand, and that his hand strength was "far
from a 4/5." Id.
following day, on January 13, 2016, Carson underwent an x-ray
of his right hand. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 13. On January 15,
2016, Nurse Zupsic entered an order that Carson was to
consult "with ortho." ECF No. 89-1, pp. 130, 180.
On January 15, 2016, Carson made a sick call regarding pain
in his hand and to receive his x-ray results. ECF No. 113-1,
¶ 16. He was seen in response to his January 15 sick
call four days later, on January 19, 2016, by Nurse McKeel.
ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 17. Nurse McKeel was not aware of the
x-ray but saw the note "ortho consult" and provided
Carson with ibuprofen. She also wrapped and splinted
Carson's hand with an ace bandage "due to recent
fracture." ECF No. 89-1, pp. 130, 1320133, 180-181.
Carson requested a higher dose of medication, but this
request was denied by Nurse McKeel. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 19.
the January 19, 2016 sick call, Carson saw Dr. Eisenberg in
the hallway and spoke with him. ECF No. 113-1, ¶ 17-20.
Carson informed Dr. Eisenberg that his hand still hurt.
Id. Dr. Eisenberg responded that he thought Carson
had arthritis. Id. Dr. Eisenberg did not mention the
January 13 x-ray results. Id.
January 25, 2016, Carson was transported to Kane Community
Hospital for a consultation with Dr. Vasileios Kostopoulos,
an orthopedic surgeon, for a right-hand fracture. ECF No.
89-1, pp. 88, 94, 179. From his review of the January 13
x-ray, Dr. Kostopoulos noted the following: (1) fourth
metacarpal fracture without significant displacement; and (2)
80 degrees of angulation of the neck and head fractures of
the fourth metacarpal. Id. Following a physical
examination of Carson's right hand, Dr. Kostopoulos noted
the following: (1) wound over the third metacarpal head in
the healing process; (2) some deformity in the ring and
little finger with shortened metacarpals; (3) range of motion
was mildly diminished and Carson was nearly able to make a
full fist; (4) no evidence of overlapping or malrotation
during the range of motion; and (5) extensor tendons were
intact. Id. Based upon his examination, Dr.
Kostopoulus determined Carson to be a candidate for open
reduction and osteosynthesis with a K-wire. Id. That
same day, Dr. Eisenberg requested the recommended surgery as
well as a preoperative EKG and chest x-ray. ECF No. 89-1, p.
January 28, 2016, Carson underwent surgery upon his right
hand to address fourth and fifth metacarpal fractures. ECF
No. 89-1, p. 86-97, 93, 179, 188-190. The operation included
open reduction and osteosynthesis with K wires and surgical
pins for both fractures. Id. Following the surgery,
Carson was discharged with a prescription for Percocet and
Bactrim DS. Id. ...