Dukes v. Wood, Civ. A. 21-857

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtPATRICIA L. DODGE, United States Magistrate Judge.
Docket NumberCiv. A. 21-857
Decision Date14 February 2022



Civ. No. A. 21-857

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 14, 2022


PATRICIA L. DODGE, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Dukes, who is proceeding pro se, is a state prisoner housed at the State Correctional Institution (“SCI”) at Fayette. In his civil rights complaint, Dukes brings claims against Defendants EMSA HSA Stephanie Wood and Medical Provider Rachel Medlock in both their official and individual capacities. (ECF No. 1.) Along with his complaint, Dukes filed a motion for a temporary restraining order or for a preliminary injunction seeking certain medically prescribed glasses to help with his extensive vision issues. (ECF No. 2.) In so moving, Dukes explained that the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied him this same relief just five months earlier. (Id.)

Also pending before the Court are motions to dismiss filed by each of the defendants. (ECF Nos. 13, 21.) For the reasons below, both motions to dismiss will be granted, and Dukes' motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction will be denied as moot.


I. Relevant Procedural History

In his Complaint, Dukes alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, federal regulations governing patient medical records, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Specifically, he alleges: (1) an Eighth Amendment violation for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against Defendants Wood and Medlock; (2) a Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim against Defendant Wood in which he alleges that he was treated differently than another inmate due to his disability; (3) a claim against Defendant Wood for violating unspecified federal regulations governing medical records; and (4) a claim against Defendant Wood for violating the ADA because he was treated differently than another inmate because of his disability. (ECF No. 1, Basis for Jurisdiction, ¶ D.)

After service of his Complaint and motion for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, both Defendants separately moved to dismiss. Defendants argue, among other things, that a prior proceeding filed by Dukes in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania bars the present action. Alternatively, Defendant Wood argues that Dukes' Eighth Amendment claim fails for the same reasons cited by the Commonwealth Court, his Equal Protection claim does not plead how another inmate was treated differently, his claim for breach of federal medical records law does not identify the statute or regulation that was violated, and his ADA claim does not plead what program to which he has been denied access within the prison. (ECF No. 14.) Similarly, Defendant Medlock alternatively argues that Dukes' claim of deliberate indifference should be dismissed because he has not pleaded a sufficient factual basis to establish that claim. (ECF No. 22.) Additionally, because Defendant Medlock is not a medical provider, she argues that Dukes' Eighth Amendment claim against her fails as she did not possess the necessary scienter. (Id.)


In his response in opposition to both motions, Dukes asserts that res judicata does not bar his claims because his petition to the Commonwealth Court was part of the administrative grievance process and did not constitute a separate “action.” (ECF No. 28 at 2-3.) He also argues the decision to deny him medically prescribed glasses based on cost ipso facto demonstrates deliberate indifference. (Id. at 3-4.) Moreover, he clarifies that he believes Defendant Wood violated 28 Pa Code 115.31-33, because she misrepresented Dr. Russell's medical opinion. (Id. at 4.)

Dukes represents that he was never served with Defendant Wood's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 27.) Despite the Court having previously ordered Dukes to respond to Defendant Wood's motion by November 1, 2021 (ECF No. 15) and having extended the deadline to do so until December 29, 2021 (ECF No. 25), his response in opposition was the first time Dukes alerted the Court to the fact that he had not received the filing. Nevertheless, the Court mailed him a copy of Defendant Wood's motion and gave him until January 24, 2022 to respond. (ECF No. 29.) In a document filed on January 31, 2022, Dukes states that he will rely on his previous filings, which are an Answer in Opposition to both motions (ECF No. 27), and a Brief in Support of his Answer (ECF No. 28) and will not file any additional responses.

Thus, all pending motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

II. Relevant Factual Background

A. Facts Alleged in Complaint

In 2008, Dukes sustained a traumatic injury to his eye while playing basketball at SCI-Pittsburgh. (ECF Nos. 1, Statement of Claim, ¶ D1; 1-1 at 2.) Despite two surgeries, he continues to suffer from “persistent debilitating photophobia, traumatic mydriasis and glare.” (ECF No. 1, Statement of Claim, ¶ D5.) Dukes believes that to correct his visual disability he needs a prosthetic


contact lens as well as trifocal eyeglasses with a wrap-around frame and extra active transition. (Id. ¶ 3.) He further contends he is entitled to these glasses because the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) has a policy of providing one pair of medically necessary glasses to inmates, which can be “[s]ingle vision, bifocal, trifocal, or tint.” (Id. ¶ 4; ECF No. 1-5.)

Dukes was sent to UPMC Eye &Ear for an eye exam, evaluation of prosthetic contact lenses, and a prescription for glasses. (ECF No. 1, Statement of Claim, ¶ D5.) He was prescribed progressive lenses, transitions extra active, and wrap around frame for glare control. (Id.)

Two months later, Defendant Medlock, an administrator in the medical department at SCI-Fayette, advised Dukes that the Correctional Industries could not provide the eyeglasses he was prescribed. (Id. ¶ 6.) A month later, Dukes was sent to UPMC, to be fitted for “wrap-around frames with rubberized insets for glare control management.” (Id. ¶ 7.) Dukes was informed his glasses would take up to fourteen days to make. (Id.)

Rather than providing Dukes with his glasses, in January 2019, Defendant Medlock informed Dukes that the glasses he was prescribed cost too much money and that the prison would not purchase them based on a belief that his need was cosmetic rather than medical. (Id. ¶ 8.) Later that month, Dukes was sent to UPMC for “[c]ontinued issues with glare and light sensitivity [and] [v]isually [s]ignificant issues with glare that impact functional ability.” (Id. ¶ 9.) Dukes' medical records include the following entry from Dr. Smith:

Patient needs transitional lenses to add additional coverage when outdoors on bright sunny days and decrease on less sunny days. Patient will also benefit from fit over lenses as well (wrap around frame). I would also recommend transitions extra active based upon patient['s] visual needs and sensitivity to light and glare

(Id. ¶ 9.)

On February 18, 2019, Dukes was informed by Defendant Medlock that he would be provided with the glasses as prescribed despite her knowledge that this was impossible. (Id. ¶ 10.)


Dukes was then taken to an optometrist, Dr. Barry Russell, who selected frames, which were not wrap-around like Dr. Smith had recommended, and Dukes was measured for trifocal lenses. (Id.) Six weeks later, he received his new glasses. (Id. ¶ 11.)

Almost immediately, Dukes completed an Inmate Request to Staff Member directed to Defendant Medlock complaining that his new glasses were “inadequate” because the reading and middle lenses were too narrow and the transition lens was too light. (Id. ¶ 11; ECF No. 1-10.) On May 9, 2019, Dukes was taken to UPMC and was again evaluated by Dr. Smith. (ECF No. 1, Statement of Claim, ¶ D12.) Dr. Smith recommended the following: (1) Dukes' glasses are to be worn along with contact lenses; (2) “[s]egment height is functionally too low to read comfortably”; (3) “[t]ransitions lenses evaluated outdoors, [t]int is not dark enough”; and (4) “transitions extra active recommended as medical necessity as well as frame with more wrap to shield light from top and sides.” (Id. ¶ 12; ECF No. 1-11.)

On May 28, 2019, Dukes submitted a second inmate request complaining that the eyeglasses remained inadequate. (ECF No. 1-17.) A month later, on June 17, 2019, Dukes was seen by Dr. Russell for his “traumatic mydriasis os glare photophobia.” (ECF No. 1, Statement of Claim, ¶ D13.) Dr. Russell recorded that Dukes' “new glasses aren't dark enough transitions, bifocal height needs changed[, ] and frames are too small this from to outside ophthalmologist.” (Id.) In light of his findings, Dr. Russell resolved to discuss the issues with Dr. Smith as well as the institutional eye care before plotting a course to remedy the situation. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Having not received a response from Dr. Russell since his June 17, 2019 visit, Dukes filed an Official Inmate Grievance, Grievance No. 83104, on October 21, 2019. (Id. ¶ 14; ECF No. 113.) In this grievance, he contends that “[m]edical professionals at SCI-Fayette o[r] medical providers . . . acted with deliberate indifference when they delayed or denied [him] prescribed


medical treatment for non-medical reasons, chose an ‘easier or less efficacious treatment' or continued a course of treatment they know is ineffective.” (ECF No. 1-13 at 1) (all capitals omitted.)

His grievance was denied on November 15, 2019 by Defendant Wood. (ECF Nos. 1, Statement of Claim, 15; 1-14.) There, she represented that after review of the medical records and a conversation with Dr. Russell, “Dr. Russell agrees that your glasses were made properly[, ] and you are not authorized to receive another pair at this time.” (ECF No. 1-14.)

Dukes appealed to the Facility Manager, who upheld the Grievance...

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