O'Neal v. Connection's Medical Care et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 4/26/2017. (nmg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
BRADLEY M. O'NEAL,
CONNECTIONS MEDICAL CARE,
) Civ. Action No. 16-1228-GMS
The plaintiff, Bradley M. O'Neal ("O'Neal"), an i~ate at the Sussex Correctional
Institution ("SCI"), Georgetown, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 1
(D.I. 3, 7.) He also requests counsel. (D.I. 11.) O'Neal appears prose and was granted
permission to proceed informa pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 5.) The court
proceeds to review and screen the complaint and amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
In June 2016, O'Neal began having groin pain. He submitted a sick call slip on June 28,
2016, and saw three different nurses on June 29, 2016, the last of whom diagnosed him as having
a hernia. O'Neal was in extreme pain and had swelling in the groin area. He was taken to the
infirmary on July 2, 2016, and immediately transferred from the SCI to the Beebe Medical Center
When bringing a§ 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege that some person has deprived him
of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
("Beebe") where he was admitted. Surgery was performed that day, and O'Neal underwent a
second surgery on July 4, 2016. O'Neal remained at Beebe for two weeks. He return to the SCI
infirmary on July 11, 2016, and transferred to general population the next day. O'Neal returned
to Beebe for a follow-up on September 7, 2016 and was told "it appears to be OK." (D.I. 3.)
On December 14, 2016, O'Neal notice a reoccurrence of the condition. He submitted a
sick call slip on December 15, 2016 and saw a nurse on December 16, 2016. He submitted
another sick call slip on December 18, and was seen by a nurse on December 19, 2016. On
December 20, 2016, he asked ifhe was on the list to see a physician, and he was not. He was
seen by a physician the next day, December 21, 2016. On the morning of December 22, 2016,
O'Neal began bleeding, was seen at the infirmary, and then transferred to Beebe. He was
admitted and surgery was performed the next day, December 23, 2016. O'Neal returned to the
SCI on December 24, 2016 and remained in its infirmary until December 27, 2016. O'Neal
complains of the pain he suffered when the packing used for the wound was removed on
December 25 and December 27, 2016. He alleges that "all of this could have been prevented if
they would have let him see the doctor a lot sooner than they did." (D.I. 7.) O'Neal seeks $5
million in compensatory and punitive damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions
of28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§ 1915A(b) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. :2013); see also 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (informa pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner
seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with
respect to prison conditions). The court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true
and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County ofAllegheny,
515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because O'Neal
proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).
An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and§ 1915A(b)(l), a
court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal
theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 32728; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see, e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67
F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison officials took an
inmate's pen and refused to give it back).
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and§ 1915A(b)(l) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule
12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under§ 1915(e)(2)(B)).
However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the court
must grant O'Neal leave to amend his complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or
futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114,(3d Cir. 2002).
A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell At!. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). A
plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has substantive plausibility. See
Johnson v. City ofShelby, _U.S._, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A complaint may not dismissed,
however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See id. at
Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court reviewing the
sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the elements the plaintiff must
plead to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions,
are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) when there are well-pleaded factual
allegations, the court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir.
2016) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the
facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "contextspecific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
O'Neal takes exception to the medical care he was provided and alleges that had he been
seen sooner, the procedures and pain from his condition could have been prevented. The Eighth
Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment requires that prison officials
provide inmates with adequate medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-105 (1976). In
order to set forth a cognizable claim, an inmate must allege a serious medical need and acts or
omissions by prison officials that indicate deliberate indifference to that need. Estelle, 429 U.S.
at 104; Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999). A prison official is deliberately
indifferent if he knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and fails to take
reasonable steps to avoid the harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). A prison
official may manifest deliberate indifference by "intentionally denying or delaying access to
medical care." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05.
However, "a prisoner has no right to choose a specific form of medical treatment," so
long as the treatment provided is reasonable. Lasko v. Watts, 373 F. App'x 196, 203 (3d Cir.
2010) (quoting Harrison v. Barkley, 219 F.3d 132, 138-140 (2d Cir. 2000)). Moreover,
allegations of medical malpractice are not sufficient to establish a Constitutional violation. White
v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 108-09 (3d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); see also Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332-34 (1986) (negligence is not compensable as a Constitutional
deprivation). Finally, "mere disagreement as to the proper medical treatment" is insufficient to
state a constitutional violation. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004) (citations
O'Neal's allegations do not rise to the level of deliberate indifference to a serious medical
need. Although "[a]cts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs" constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution, Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), merely negligent treatment does not give rise to a
constitutional violation, Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004). O'Neal's allegations
indicate that he was treated on multiple occasions (both for the initial condition and its
reoccurrence) and that he also received treatment from outside medical care providers. The
allegations are insufficient to state plausible constitutional violations. Id.; see also Norris v.
Frame, 585 F.2d 1183, 1186 (3d Cir. 1978) ("Where the plaintiff has received some care,
inadequacy or impropriety of the care that was given will not support an Eighth Amendment
claim.") (quotation marks omitted).
Therefore, the court will dismiss the claims as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and§ 1915A(b)(l).
For the above reasons, the court will: (1) dismiss the complaint and amended complaint
as the claims are legally frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 1915A(b)(l);
and (2) deny as moot the reqqest for counsel (D.I. 11). The court finds amendment futile.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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