United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
Patricia L. Dodge Magistrate Judge
reasons that follow, the Motion for Summary Judgment of
Defendant Darla Cowden (ECF No. 120) is denied.
Anthony Sides, is an inmate currently housed at SCI Pine
Grove. He is proceeding pro se in this civil action,
which he brings under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. During all
events in question, Plaintiff was housed at SCI Fayette in
its Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). He filed
j his Amended Complaint, which is the
operative complaint, on June 20, 2018. (ECF No. 31).
Defendant Cowden, who is a Physician Assistant at SCI
Fayette, is one of several defendants named in the Amended
brings two claims against Defendant Cowden. In his first
claim, he alleges in the Amended Complaint that she was
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in
violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment because
she denied and/or delayed medical treatment to him for his
fractured ribs. (ECF No. 31, ¶¶ 10-25).
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he fell from his bed on
May 19, 2017 and, as a result, he fractured his ribs and
exacerbated a preexisting injury to his back. (Id.,
¶¶ 10, 12). He alleges he informed Defendant Cowden
of how and where he injured himself on May 22, 2017 and that
she denied and/or delayed him medical care until X-rays that
were taken in late June 2017 (approximately 39 days after he
injured himself) confirmed that his ribs were fractured.
(Id., ¶¶ 13-25). In his second claim,
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Cowden violated the right to
privacy afforded to him by the Fourteenth Amendment because
information about his sexually transmitted disease
("STD"), and his treatment related to it, were
disclosed to other inmates and staff during the sick call
visits she conducted at his cell door. (Id.,
before the Court is Defendant Cowden's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 120) and supporting documents (ECF Nos.
121-122). Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to summary
judgment (ECF No. 141) and supporting documents (ECF No. 140,
141-1). Defendant Cowden opted not to file a reply.
(See ECF No. 146).
Summary Judgment Standard
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that: "The
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment may be granted against a
party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the
existence of any element essential to that party's case,
and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of
identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Once that burden has been
met, the non-moving party must set forth "specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" or the
factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party
and judgment will be entered as a matter of law.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Corp. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). An issue is genuine only if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In following this
directive, a court must take the facts in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all
reasonable inferences and resolve all doubts in that
party's favor. Hugh v. Butler County Family
YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 266 (3d Cir. 2005); Doe v.
County of Centre, Pa., 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir. 2001).
courts must hold pro se pleadings to "less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers," Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007), at the summary judgment stage a pro se
plaintiff is not exempt from his burden of providing some
affirmative evidence, not just mere allegations, to show that
there is a genuine dispute for trial. See, e.g., Barnett
v. N.J. Transit Corp., 573 Fed.Appx. 239, 243 (3d Cir.
2014) (holding that the pro se plaintiff was still
"required to designate specific facts by use of
affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to
interrogatories...sufficient to convince a reasonable fact
finder to find all the elements of her prima facie
case") (citation and quotation omitted); Siluk v.
Beard, 395 Fed.Appx. 817, 820 (3d Cir. 2010)
("[T]he right of self-representation does not exempt a
party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural
Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment Claim
Relevant Facts 
Monday, May 22, 2017, Defendant Cowden saw Plaintiff at his
cell door in response to a sick call request. In his
affidavit, Plaintiff states that it was during this visit
that he first informed her that he fell out of his bed,
injured his ribs, and aggravated a pre-existing injury he
sustained many years earlier as a result of a motor vehicle
accident. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Cowden did not
visually or physically examine him and accused him of
malingering and trying to get medication to get
high. He told her that that was not the case and
that he was in severe pain. (Pl's Aff, ¶¶
Cowden disputes Plaintiffs version of events and maintains
that he did not tell her that he fell out of bed or injured
his ribs until June 23, 2017. In her declaration, she states
that Plaintiff was not in acute distress when she observed
him during the sick call visit on May 22, 2017. (Def s Deck,
¶ 21). She did not record in her progress notes that he
told her he fell out of bed or that he complained of a rib
injury. Defendant Cowden did note, however, that Plaintiff
complained of neck and shoulder spasms which he stated
stemmed from the pre-existing injury he sustained during a
motor vehicle accident. (Def s Ex. A at 362-63; Def s Decl.,
¶ 21). She does not dispute Plaintiffs contention that
she suspected that he might be drug seeking. Her progress
notes indicate that she had that concern. (Id.)
response to the May 22, 2017 sick call visit, Defendant
Cowden prescribed Plaintiff Robaxin, which is a muscle relaxant,
500 mg. twice a day. (Id. at 355, 362). Plaintiff
was given the Robaxin from May 22, 2017 through May 26, 2017
as ordered by Defendant Cowden. (ECF No. 122, ¶¶
14-15, 17; ECF No. 140, ¶¶ 14-15, 17).
25, 2017, Defendant Cowden saw Plaintiff at his cell door
after he filed a sick call request. She recorded in her
progress notes that he was sitting on the floor and got up
with ease, and that he complained of back pain. (Def s Ex. A
at 362). On May 27, 2017, according to Defendant Cowden's
orders, Plaintiff was provided with a 10-day supply of
Motrin, 600 mg., to be taken orally three times a day with
food. (ECF No. 122, ¶ 20; ECF No. 140, ¶ 20).
Plaintiff also was provided with Flexeril, twice daily, which
he took through May 30, 2017. (ECF No. 122, ¶ 22; ECF
No. 140, ¶ 22).
2, 2017, Defendant Cowden prescribed Plaintiff Mobic, a
nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medication. The 30-day supply
of Mobic was to be administered to Plaintiff with
instructions to take one tablet orally twice daily with food
for pain. (ECF No. 122, ¶ 24; ECF No. 140, ¶ 24).
is no dispute that Plaintiff was complaining of rib pain by
June 19, 2017. Defendant Cowden recorded in her progress
notes for that day that he had placed a sick call request
regarding that issue. She also wrote that he was "out to
yard" during the sick call conducted on that date and
that he could re-sign up. (ECF No. 122, ¶ 25; ECF No.
140, ¶ 25; DefsEx. A at 361).
next day, on June 20, 2017, Plaintiff was scheduled for
X-rays. The "Release from Responsibility for Medical
Treatment" form signed on that date indicates that the
X-rays were to image his cervical and lumber spine, and that
Plaintiff refused the procedure because "he state[d] the
wrong X-rays were ordered" and that he needed X-rays of
the left side of his ribs. (Def s Ex. A at 347). Defendant
Cowden maintains she did not order the wrong X-rays. In
support, she cites the response that Plaintiff received to
Grievance #683299, in which he had accused her of negligence
and deliberate indifference. It indicates that Defendant
Cowden ordered the June 20, 2017 X-rays for Plaintiffs
"complaints of neck and back pain dating back to May
2017." (Id. at 237). Plaintiff counters that
there is nothing in either Defendant Cowden's progress
notes or physician order indicating when or for what purpose
the June 20, 2017 X-rays were ordered. (Id. at 354,
21, 2017, Plaintiff signed up for sick call complaining of
pain in his side and ribs. He was not seen by Defendant
Cowden that day. In her progress notes, she recorded that he
was "out to yard" during sick call and the he could
re-sign up. (ECF No. 122, ¶ 25; ECF No. 140, ¶ 25;
DefsEx. A at 361).
to Defendant Cowden, it was not until her sick call visit
with Plaintiff on June 23, 2017 that he first informed her
that he fell out of bed and injured his ribs. (Def s Decl.,
¶ 26; Def s Ex. A at 263, 360-64). As set forth above,
Plaintiff maintains he told her that information on May 22,
2017. (Pl's Aff, ¶ 8). In her declaration, and as
reflected in her progress notes, Defendant Cowden explains
that Plaintiff informed her during the June 23, 2017 sick
call visit that it hurt to take deep breaths and to lay on
his side, that he had no medication, and that he needed
something for his pain. Defendant Cowden examined Plaintiff
during this visit and determined that he was able to take
deep breaths with no guarding and he had no issues breathing.
She also determined that he was not guarding his left
shoulder and did not appear to have any restricted range of
motion. (Def s Deck, ¶ 26; Def s Ex. A at 360-61).
Cowden reviewed Plaintiffs medication records and noted that
he was given Motrin on May 27, 2017 through June 2, 2017 and
Mobic was ordered on June 2, 2017 through July 30, 2017.
Since his 30-day supply of Mobic was dispensed on June 3,
2017, Defendant Cowden determined that Plaintiff should not
be out of that medication if he had taken it properly.
Therefore, Defendant Cowden discontinued the order of Mobic
and prescribed in its place Tylenol, to be given under direct
observation, until July 2, 2017. She directed that Plaintiffs
prescription for Mobic would resume on July 3, 2017, and like
the Tylenol, it was to be given under direct observation.
(Def s Decl., ¶ 26; Def s Ex. A at 360-61).
same day, on June 23, 2017, Defendant Cowden ordered X-rays
for Plaintiffs left ribs and left shoulder. She discontinued
Plaintiffs current prescription for Mobic and prescribed him
extra strength Tylenol, which was administered to Plaintiff
from June 23, 2017 through July 2, 2017. (ECF No. 122,
¶¶ 28-29; ECF No. 140, ¶¶ 28-29).
27, 2017, Plaintiff underwent X-rays of his left shoulder and
left ribs. The X-rays of his left shoulder showed no fracture
or dislocation. The X-rays of his left ribs showed
"fractures of the left posterior approximately eighth
and ninth ribs displaced 2-3 mm that may not be acute."
(Def s Ex. A at 349; ECF No. 122, ¶ 30; ECF No. 140,
¶ 30). In her declaration, Defendant Cowden avers that
"[r]ib fractures are relatively common and can result
from activity as simple as strenuous coughing or even minor
traumatic injury. Most such non-displaced rib fractures like
those indicated in [Plaintiffs] X-rays do not require any
treatment other than analgesia for pain while ribs
heal themselves." (Def s Decl., ¶ 28) (emphasis
Cowden reviewed Plaintiffs X-ray results on June 30, 2017 and
visited with him at his cell that same day to explain them.
She advised him to continue to avoid strenuous activities and
that his ribs would take approximately six weeks to heal.
During this same visit, Defendant Cowden noted that Plaintiff
was able to take deep breaths, but said that it hurts, and
that he had no respiratory issues. She advised Plaintiff that
her plan was to continue to monitor him, repeat X-rays in