TALBERT v. CORRECTIONAL DENTAL ASSOCIATES et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 2/22/17. 2/23/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF AND E-MAILED.(jpd )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ASSOCIATES, et al.,
February 22, 2017
The pro se plaintiff in this case, Charles Talbert, brings various claims against
defendant Correctional Dental Associates (“Correctional Dental”) relating to dental care
he received while incarcerated at Philadelphia Industrial Correction Center (“PICC”).
Talbert’s complaint brings claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, and
Pennsylvania state law for negligence. 1
Correctional Dental filed a motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s
negligence claim. Correctional Dental argues summary judgment should be granted
because plaintiff failed to file a certificate of merit in support of his medical negligence
claim, as is required by Pennsylvania law. I will grant the motion.
Because plaintiff is pro se, I must “liberally construe his pleadings, and . . . apply the applicable
law, irrespective of whether [plaintiff] has mentioned it by name.” Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369
(3d Cir. 2003).
Plaintiff was incarcerated at PICC. According to plaintiff’s complaint,
Correctional Dental is a private corporation that provides dental care services to the
Philadelphia Prison System.
While incarcerated at PICC, plaintiff began filing “sick call” requests with
Correctional Dental employees regarding a tooth ache he had. (Id. ¶ 9). Correctional
Dental employees eventually x-rayed plaintiff’s tooth, which revealed an infection. (Id.
¶¶ 9–10). They then referred plaintiff to an off-site oral surgeon who performed an
extraction of the tooth. (Id. ¶ 11).
In the months that followed, various Correctional Dental employees told plaintiff
that Correctional Dental does not refer inmates off-site for oral surgeries. (Id. ¶¶ 12–14,
16, 18–20). These Correctional Dental employees also told plaintiff that the City’s
insurance did not cover off-site dental procedures for inmates. (Id.) In February 2016, on
two separate occasions, plaintiff was brought to the triage center at PICC where he was
treated for a tooth infection. (Id. ¶¶ 15–17). From June 2015 through March 2016,
plaintiff was prescribed “2 weeks worth” of antibiotics for his infection. (Id. ¶ 23).
Plaintiff’s infected tooth eventually “broke off,” prompting him to file several sick call
requests with Correctional Dental. (Id. ¶ 25). Plaintiff alleges Correctional Dental and its
employees failed to treat his tooth infection, despite knowing about it. (Id. ¶¶ 27–31).
One of the claims in plaintiff’s complaint is “for tortious behavior under
Pennsylvania state law.” (Id. ¶ 1). Plaintiff avers that he “invokes the pendent jurisdiction
of this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) to decide the asserted . . . tort claims.” (Id. ¶
On November 10, 2016, Correctional Dental filed a Notice of Intention to Enter
Judgment of Non Pros for Failure to File a Certificate of Merit. (Doc. No. 42).
Correctional Dental indicated its intent to file a motion for summary judgment if plaintiff
did not file a certificate of merit, within 30 days, in support of his negligence claims.
Plaintiff filed a response, conceding that his claims against Correctional Dental are
“based upon deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition, not negligence or
medical malpractice.” (Doc. No. 44 ¶ 2). 2 To this day, plaintiff has not filed a certificate
On December 23, 2016, Correctional Dental filed a motion for summary
judgment, seeking dismissal of all negligence-related claims because plaintiff failed to
file a certificate of merit. Plaintiff filed a response, again emphasizing he “filed a 1983
claim against . . . Correctional Dental Associates.” (Doc. No. 53 at 1).
Summary judgment is proper “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). A factual dispute is “material” only if it might affect the outcome of the
case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). For an issue to be
Plaintiff’s complaint explicitly sets forth claims for negligence under Pennsylvania law. Thus, it
is not clear whether his response to Correctional Dental’s Notice was a forfeiture of those claims or
whether plaintiff never intended to bring negligence claims in the first place. Either way, plaintiff
expressly concedes that his claims are constitutional in nature—for “deliberate indifference”—and not
based at all in state law. (Doc. No. 44 ¶ 2).
“genuine,” a reasonable fact-finder must be able to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Id.
A party seeking summary judgment initially bears responsibility for informing the
court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the assertion by citing relevant portions of the record, including
depositions, documents, affidavits, or declarations, or showing that the materials cited do
not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or showing that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut the
moving party’s argument that there is no genuine issue of fact by pointing to evidence
that is “sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court must draw “all justifiable
inferences” in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The Court
must decide “not whether . . . the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but
whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence
presented.” Id. at 252.
I must apply Pennsylvania substantive law to plaintiff’s state-law negligence
claims. Hunt v. U.S. Tobacco Co., 538 F.3d 217, 220 (3d Cir. 2008).
Plaintiff’s complaint asserts claims based upon dental malpractice. (Doc. No. 5 ¶¶
1–2, 28–35). In order to make out a prima facie case of professional malpractice,
plaintiffs must present expert testimony, from a licensed professional, opining that the
relevant standard of care was deviated from. E.g., Toogood v. Owen J. Rogal, D.D.S.,
P.C., 824 A.2d 1140, 1145 (Pa. 2003). More specifically, a person bringing a malpractice
claim must file an appropriate certificate of merit either with the complaint or 60 days
after the filing of the complaint. See Pa. R. Civ. P. 1042.3(a). 3
A federal court sitting in diversity must apply Pennsylvania substantive law
concerning issues regarding a certificate of merit. Nayak v. C.G.A. Law Firm, 620 F.
App’x 90, 94 (3d Cir. 2015); Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158–61 (3d Cir.
2000); Scaramuzza v. Sciolla, 345 F. Supp. 2d 508, 509–10 (E.D. Pa. 2004); Marshal v.
Lombardo, Civ. A. No. 06–215J, 2007 WL 1115227, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 13, 2007); see
also Schmigel v. Uchal, 800 F.3d 113, 124 (3d Cir. 2015) (holding Pennsylvania law
regarding a judgment of non pros is substantive and must be applied in federal court). A
plaintiff’s “pro se status is not a viable basis upon which to excuse compliance with Rule
1042.3 or the requirement of coming forth with expert medical testimony.” Peraza v.
Helton, Civ. No. 3:CV–12–1306, 2016 WL 6442254, at *7 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 1, 2016);
O’Hara v. Randall, 879 A.2d 240, 242 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2005) (“[I]n any action premised
A certificate of merit is a written statement from a licensed professional (in this case, a dentist)
indicating that “there exists a reasonable probability that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or
exhibited in the treatment, practice or work that is the subject of the complaint, fell outside the acceptable
professional standards and that such conduct was a cause in bringing about the harm.” Pa. R. Civ. P.
on allegation of malpractice by licensed professional . . . [a] pro se plaintiff shall file [a]
certificate of merit . . . within sixty days after filing of complaint.”).
Plaintiff filed his complaint nine (9) months ago, and he has not yet filed a
certificate of merit. Plaintiff appears to have forfeited any and all claims he originally
brought under Pennsylvania law. (Doc. No. 44 ¶ 2). A failure to file a certificate of merit
is properly addressed through a motion for summary judgment. Schmigel, 800 F.3d at
122. Plaintiff has failed to file a certificate of merit within the time allotted under Rule
1042.3. For all these reasons, I will grant Correctional Dental’s motion for summary
For all the foregoing reasons, Correctional Dental’s motion for summary judgment
An appropriate Order follows.
It is not clear, and the parties have not raised or briefed, to what extent Correctional Dental
Associates may be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
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