Turner v. Wetzel

Decision Date30 August 2021
Docket NumberCivil Action 4:18-cv-00361
PartiesWILLIAM D. TURNER, Plaintiff, v. JOHN E. WETZEL, Secretary of Corrections, et al.; Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania




This is a prisoner civil rights action. The pro se plaintiff, William D. Turner, is a state prisoner incarcerated at SCI Frackville, a state prison located in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. In his pro se amended complaint, Turner alleged that various defendants deprived him of his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. For years, the plaintiff suffered from a hepatitis C infection, and he alleges that the defendants refused to provide him with a particular course of medical treatment for this disease, in violation of his constitutional rights.

This action was commenced upon filing of the plaintiffs original pro se complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for Schuylkill County Pennsylvania, on January 19, 2018. (Doc. 1-1.) The action was timely removed from state court by a set of jointly represented medical defendants-Dr. Carl Keldie, Dr. Jay Cowan, and Correct Care Solutions, LLC-on February 13, 2018. (Doc. 1.) In addition to these medical defendants, the original complaint named several defendants employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (the "DOC") John E. Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections; Joseph Silva director of the DOC's Bureau of Health Care Services; Dr. Paul Noel, medical director of the DOC; Dr. MA Kuren, a physician and a member of the "Hepatitis C" committee at SCI Frackville; Ms. Kuras, a registered nurse supervisor at SCI Frackville; Karen Holly, corrections health care administrator at SCI Frackville; and Sharon Selbi, a registered nurse at SCI Frackville.

The medical defendants moved to dismiss the original complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Doc. 10.) On December 28, 2018, we recommended that the motion be granted in part and denied in part, and that the original complaint be partially dismissed. (Doc. 30.) We further recommended that the plaintiff be granted leave to amend his complaint to attempt to cure the pleading defects of the original complaint. On February 7, 2019, the court adopted our recommendation and dismissed the claims against the medical defendants without prejudice and with leave to amend. (Doc. 41.)

On February 19, 2019, the plaintiff timely filed his amended complaint, adding two new defendants: Dr. Haresh Pandya, a physician who treated Turner at SCI Frackville; and Nelson Iannuzzi, a certified registered nurse practitioner who treated Turner at SCI Frackville. (Doc. 46.) On March 12, 2019, the medical defendants-joined now by Pandya and Iannuzzi-filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 53.) That same day, the DOC defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint as well. (Doc. 55.) On January 13, 2020, we recommended that the motions be granted in part, the plaintiffs federal civil rights claims be dismissed for failure to state a claim, and the plaintiffs state-law claims be remanded to state court for further proceedings. (Doc. 75.) On March 18, 2020, the court adopted our recommendation in part and rejected it in part. (Doc. 79.) The plaintiffs claims against all but four defendants were dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, but claims against Kuren, Pandya, Iannuzzi, and Correct Care Solutions were permitted to proceed.

On August 31, 2020, the remaining medical defendants-Pandya, Iannuzzi, and Correct Care Solutions-filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 95). That same day, counsel for the remaining DOC defendant-Kuren-filed a separate motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 98.) On September 8, 2020, the plaintiff filed a pro se motion for preliminary injunctive relief. (Doc. 103.) All three motions are fully briefed and ripe for decision. (Doc. 96; Doc. 99; Doc. 100; Doc. 102; Doc. 104; Doc. 105; Doc. 106; Doc. 107; Doc. 108; Doc. 109; Doc. 110; Doc. 111; Doc. 112; Doc. 113; Doc. 114; Doc. 115; Doc. 116; Doc. 117; Doc. 120; Doc. 121; Doc. 124; Doc. 125; Doc. 126: Doc. 130; Doc. 131.)

I. Legal Standards

i. Rule 12(b)(1) Mootness Standard

The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the existence of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). See Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991). A defendant may challenge the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in one of two fashions: it may attack the complaint on its face or it may attack the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, relying on evidence beyond the pleadings. See Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000); Mortensen v. First Fed, Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). Where a defendant attacks a complaint as deficient on its face, "the court must consider the allegations of the complaint as true." Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. "In deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) facial attack, the court may only consider the allegations contained m the complaint and the exhibits attached to the complaint; matters of public record such as court records, letter decisions of government agencies and published reports of administrative bodies; and indisputably authentic' documents which the plaintiff has identified as a basis of his claims and which the defendant has attached as exhibits to his motion to dismiss." Medici v. Pocono Mountain Sch. Dist., No. 09-CV-2344, 2010 WL 1006917, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 16, 2010). However, when a motion to dismiss attacks the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiffs allegations," and "the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case." Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. This case falls into the latter category. See Sourovelis v. City of Philadelphia, 103 F.Supp.3d 694, 700 (E.D. Pa. 2015) ("A challenge for mootness is properly brought by a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, and constitutes a factual attack on the jurisdictional facts; thus, the court may confer evidence outside the pleadings."); Democracy Rising PA v. Celluci, 603 F.Supp.2d 780, 787 n.10 (M.D. Pa. 2009) (applying Rule 12(b)(1) standard to mootness arguments).

2. Rule 56 Summary Judgment Standard

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment should be granted only if "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). A fact is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is "genuine" only if the evidence "is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In deciding a summary judgment motion, all inferences "should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 512 (3d Cir. 1994).

The party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, " and demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant makes such a showing, the non-movant must set forth specie facts, supported by the record, demonstrating that "the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must first determine if the moving party has made a prima facie showing that it is entitled to summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331. Only once that prima facie showing has been made does the burden shift to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 US. at 331.

Both parties may cite to "particular parts of materials m the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for the purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). "An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). "Although evidence may be considered in a form which is inadmissible at trial, the content of the evidence must be capable of admission at trial." Bender v. Norfolk S. Corp., 994 F.Supp.2d 593, 599 (M.D. Pa. 2014); see also Pamintuan v. Nanticoke Mem'l Hosp., 192 F.3d 378, 387 n.l3 (3d Cir. 1999) (noting that it is not proper, on summary judgment, to consider evidence that is not admissible at trial).

3. Sua Sponte Dismissal Standard

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is obligated to screen a civil complaint in which a prisoner is seeking redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a); James v Pa, Dep't of Corr., 230 Fed.Appx. 195, 197 (3d Cir. 2007). The Court must dismiss the complaint if it "fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The Court has a similar obligation with respect to in forma pauperis...

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